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....

My thoughts:

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 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.

3/5 stars

Title: Jane and the Wandering Eye
Author: Stephanie Barron
genre: historical mystery; Austenesque

*This book is from my personal library.


Kimberlee said...

This is one of my favorite series!! I have the same reservations as you do about this series, but I stuck with it because I simply love the idea of a sleuth Jane Austen. Hope the series gets better for you and you stick with it!! Happy reading!


Joanne said...

Glad you like this series, Kimberlee. Some have been better than others, but I'm forging ahead and determined to finish the series!

Kimberlee said...

Unfortunately, I think that the books towards the end of the series aren't as good as the first ones, but that could just be me.


Shoshanah said...

I've never heard of eye portraits either. But it's such a interesting concept, and makes sense if you wanted to carry a picture of someone without letting others know who it was.

Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

I read one of these (and I can't remember which one?) a few years back and it was marginal at best.

Good luck finishing the series!!!

Aarti said...

Ha, I know the feeling of starting a book or series because of its potential to be amazing and then being disappointed with it in the end - I'd probably give up on this series in your place!

Staci said...

I totally love the history behind those tiny portraits!! I want to read this series at some point!

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