Friday, November 5, 2010
Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron by Stephanie Barron
"The restorative power of the ocean brings Jane Austen and her beloved brother Henry to Brighton after Henry's wife is lost to a long illness. But the crowded, glittering resort is far from peaceful, especially when the lifeless body of a beautiful young society miss is discovered in the bedchamber of none other than George Gordon--otherwise known as Lord Byron. As a poet and a seducer of women, Byron has carved out a shocking reputation for himself--but no one would ever accuse him of being capable of murder. Now it falls to Jane to pursue this puzzling investigation and discover just how "mad, bad, and dangerous to know" Byron truly is. And she must do so without falling victim to the charming versifier's legendary charisma, lest she, too, become a cautionary example for the ages."
(from the publisher)
Since meeting Stephanie Barron at a book event this summer, I've had a few of her books on my TBR list, including some of the Jane Austen mystery series and The White Garden. I'm so glad I finally made time for Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron (although it is actually the tenth book in the series) as it is a clever mystery rich with authentic period detail. Fans of Jane Austen will enjoy Barron's depiction of the author as an intelligent and competent sleuth when she is not busy penning her popular, anonymous works.
Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron begins on a tragic note in April of 1813 -- the family has lost Eliza de Feuillide, Henry's wife and Jane's dear friend. Not wanting to allow her brother to suffer too long with grief, Jane makes a suggestion that Henry readily accepts.
"Our sister Jane has a decided inclination to visit the sea. She believes that a period of exposure to the salt air is as essential as balm to a wounded heart...I have consented to bear her company on an expedition to the seaside."
Expecting refreshment from a change in surroundings, Jane packs up her work-in-progress manuscript of Mansfield Park, and the brother and sister head to Brighton.
Written as journal entries, the reader begins to learn of Austen's experiences and thoughts about the trip. Almost immediately upon setting out on their journey, they make a very frightening discovery -- while stoppng to change horses, Jane hears moans coming from a nearby carriage, and is horrified at what she finds. This discovery sets off a chain of events, eventually culminating in a murder. All the evidence of the murder points to Lord Byron, the "mad, bad" poet who is notorious for his multiple paramours and drunken debauchery. Mingling with the glittering haut ton of Brighton, the still-in-mourning spinster Jane must remain discreet and use her keen observation skills and powers of deduction as a sleuth to put all the facts together and find the truth...and in the process, discovers for herself the powerful and charismatic aura of Lord Byron.
Title: Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron (#10)
Author: Stephanie Barron
genre: historical mystery