Saturday, January 12, 2013
Jane and the Wandering Eye by Stephanie Barron
About the Book:
As Christmas of 1804 approaches, Jane Austen finds herself "insupportably bored with Bath, and the littleness of a town." It is with relief that she accepts a peculiar commission from her Gentleman Rogue, Lord Harold Trowbridge—to shadow his niece, Lady Desdemona, who has fled to Bath to avoid the attentions of the unsavoury Earl of Swithin.
But Jane's idle diversion turns deadly when a man is discovered stabbed to death in the Theatre Royal. Adding to the mystery is an unusual object found on the victim's body—a pendant that contains a portrait of an eye! As Jane's fascination with scandal leads her deeper into the investigation, it becomes clear that she will not uncover the truth without some dangerous playacting of her own....
I'm bound and determined to work my way through Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen mystery series.....but so far it's been a bumpy ride. Barron does such a wonderful job of portraying the beloved author as a slueth that you are almost convinced that she really was a detective in her time.....I just wish the plot had been more compelling. While Jane was finding herself "insupportably bored with Bath," I was "insupportably bored after a few chapters." And that's a shame. With Harold Trowbridge, Jane's roguish sidekick, back on the scene and the fascinating world of the theatre, it should have been a fun ride.
I found this installment to be the most challenging to get through -- a very promising beginning soon dragged and lost my interest early on -- but there's always some little nugget of research or historical tidbit in her books that makes the whole effort worthwhile. Barron's attention to the details of the period are fascinating, and although the mysteries are fictitious, the timeline the stories follow align with what is known about Jane Austen's actual life and the history of the period.
In this case, I was fascinated by the clue that was left at the murder scene which takes place right at the beginning of the story...an eye portrait. I must admit, I was not aware of the historical significance of this tiny piece of art until reading this book, and the story behind these portraits is very interesting.
Barron describes the tiny portraits as a "love token" for illicit lovers. The origin of the portrait is attributed to the Prince of Wales when he commissioned a miniature eye portrait of his mistress, Maria Fritzhebert. Since the entire face is not seen, it is difficult to identify the person in the portrait! Secret lovers could wear the tiny pin close to the heart without too much concern about the person being identified.
Although this is the third mystery in the series, I've actually read 5 of the books to date. Next up, Jane and the Genius of the Place.
Title: Jane and the Wandering Eye
Author: Stephanie Barron
genre: historical mystery; Austenesque
*This book is from my personal library.