“Perhaps,” I said unwillingly, “they are mere caricatures, and thus demand nothing more.”
“Your Darcy is no caricature,” he retorted. “Nor is Willoughby. I have met that gentleman’s like on countless occasions, in the gaming hells and ballrooms of London — petted, indulged, weak, and subtle. That is where you excel, Miss Austen — in the subtleties.”
(from Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas)
Quick summary: Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas is the 12th book in Stephanie Barron’s Being a Jane Austen Mystery series. I can vouch for it being a standalone novel because it’s the only book in the series I’ve read so far. It’s Christmas 1814, and Jane Austen, along with her sister, Cassandra, her mother, and the family of her brother, James, are invited to spend the holidays at The Vyne, the lavish estate belonging to her old friend, Eliza Chute, and her husband, William, a member of Parliament. They are barely into the celebrations leading up to Twelfth Night when an accident occurs that Jane and another guest, the artist Raphael West, suspect to be murder. The stakes are high, given that the Treaty of Ghent — which is intended to end the war between the British and the Americans — has gone missing, and the fact that The Vyne is snowed in means that the murderer is a fellow guest.
Why I wanted to read it: I’ve heard such good things about this series, and I can’t resist a novel with Jane Austen as the heroine.
What I liked: Barron’s portrayal of Jane Austen felt real to me. She is 39 years old, celebrating the success of Mansfield Park, and currently working on Emma. Readers see varied opinions about her career, with Mr. West obviously a fan of her novels and her brother scoffing at her success. Barron also portrays her as a loving and fun aunt, playing billiards with her nephew and spoiling her niece with gifts for her new doll over the twelve days of Christmas. We also see a Jane who is not afraid to speak her mind and whose powers of observation enable her to write realistic characters and piece together seemingly small details to solve a complicated crime. The characters at The Vyne are all intriguing, and while I had my suspicions about them, I was happy that I hadn’t figured it all out on my own. I enjoyed all the twists and turns of the mystery and was happy to just go along for the ride.
What I disliked: There were a few places where the narrative slowed down a bit, and it was hard to keep track of all the characters at first, but neither of those issues prevented me from enjoying the novel.
Final thoughts: Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas was a fun novel, with some dark characters, some ridiculous characters, plenty of historical details, and even a bit of a love story. Jane’s astute observations of the people she encounters make her the perfect sleuth. I definitely plan to work my way through the rest of the series.
Disclosure: I received Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas from Soho Crime for review.
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