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Jane and the Stillroom Maid

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Jane Austen as sleuth continues to delight in her latest adventure (after Jane and the Genius of the Place), which sheds new light on the author's travels in 1806. While enjoying a ramble in the Derbyshire hills near Bakewell (a town Eliza Bennett visits in Pride and Prejudice), Jane discovers the mutilated body of a young man. Jane's suspicions are roused when her escort, Jane Austen as sleuth continues to delight in her latest adventure (after Jane and the Genius of the Place), which sheds new light on the author's travels in 1806. While enjoying a ramble in the Derbyshire hills near Bakewell (a town Eliza Bennett visits in Pride and Prejudice), Jane discovers the mutilated body of a young man. Jane's suspicions are roused when her escort, Mr. George Hemming, prefers to remove the unidentified corpse to Buxton, rather than Bakewell, and they increase when the body proves to be that of a woman dressed in men's clothing. Moreover, the corpse is identified as Tess Arnold, a servant at one of the area's great houses, whom Mr. Hemming should have recognized. As the compounder of stillroom remedies, Tess had a reputation as a healer, until accused of witchcraft. Rumors of ritual murder by Freemasons-who include most of the neighboring gentry-excite the local populace and jeopardize the investigation of the justice of the peace, himself a Mason. When Mr. Hemming disappears before the inquest, Jane and the justice turn for help to Lord Harold Trowbridge, a guest at the nearby ducal house of Chatsworth. Barron catches Austen's tone amazingly well. Details of early 19th-century country life of all classes ring true, while the story line is clear, yet full of surprises. The "editor's notes" that punctuate the text and old cures for various ills that open each chapter add to the charm. (Aug.)


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Jane Austen as sleuth continues to delight in her latest adventure (after Jane and the Genius of the Place), which sheds new light on the author's travels in 1806. While enjoying a ramble in the Derbyshire hills near Bakewell (a town Eliza Bennett visits in Pride and Prejudice), Jane discovers the mutilated body of a young man. Jane's suspicions are roused when her escort, Jane Austen as sleuth continues to delight in her latest adventure (after Jane and the Genius of the Place), which sheds new light on the author's travels in 1806. While enjoying a ramble in the Derbyshire hills near Bakewell (a town Eliza Bennett visits in Pride and Prejudice), Jane discovers the mutilated body of a young man. Jane's suspicions are roused when her escort, Mr. George Hemming, prefers to remove the unidentified corpse to Buxton, rather than Bakewell, and they increase when the body proves to be that of a woman dressed in men's clothing. Moreover, the corpse is identified as Tess Arnold, a servant at one of the area's great houses, whom Mr. Hemming should have recognized. As the compounder of stillroom remedies, Tess had a reputation as a healer, until accused of witchcraft. Rumors of ritual murder by Freemasons-who include most of the neighboring gentry-excite the local populace and jeopardize the investigation of the justice of the peace, himself a Mason. When Mr. Hemming disappears before the inquest, Jane and the justice turn for help to Lord Harold Trowbridge, a guest at the nearby ducal house of Chatsworth. Barron catches Austen's tone amazingly well. Details of early 19th-century country life of all classes ring true, while the story line is clear, yet full of surprises. The "editor's notes" that punctuate the text and old cures for various ills that open each chapter add to the charm. (Aug.)

30 review for Jane and the Stillroom Maid

  1. 4 out of 5

    Carole (in Canada)

    My Rating: 4.5* "There are moments in life that should justifiably live long in memory - moments of experience so deeply felt, whether pain or pleasure, that they mark the human soul even unto the grave." (quote from the book) I am slowly working my way through this series. I had hopes of reading at least one a month, but I am lucky if I even read one a year! Don't get me wrong, I am really enjoying this series. There are just so many books out there! This fifth book is my favourite so far though! My Rating: 4.5* "There are moments in life that should justifiably live long in memory - moments of experience so deeply felt, whether pain or pleasure, that they mark the human soul even unto the grave." (quote from the book) I am slowly working my way through this series. I had hopes of reading at least one a month, but I am lucky if I even read one a year! Don't get me wrong, I am really enjoying this series. There are just so many books out there! This fifth book is my favourite so far though! Jane, Cassandra and her mother are visiting various family members before settling down with her brother, Captain Francis Austen, and his wife in Southhampton. This time they are in Derbyshire the land of 'Mr. Darcy' and Chatsworth! What's not to love? They are visiting their cousin, Mr. Cooper, his wife and eight children. When the children become sick from whooping cough, Mr. Cooper takes the Austen ladies to visit Bakewell in Derbyshire so they may see the beauty of the Peak District. There were definite shades of 'Mr. Collins' in Mr. Cooper. "The waters of the Wye lapped at our feet; a curlew called in the crags somewhere above; and off in the distance I caught the clatter of crows. It was a distinctly mournful sound, rife with dispute and acrimony; and for an instant, a shade was thrown over the brightness of the summer day." (quote from the book) However, Mr. Cooper is an avid angler. and it is on one outing with Mr. Cooper, and a long time friend he hasn't seen in years, Mr. Hemming, that Jane goes walking up a craggy peak. What she doesn't expect to find when she nears the top is the dead body of a young gentleman shot in the head, along with other atrocities. And so our mystery begins. "There was trouble here in Paradise, something greater even than the grief of mourning; the anxiety behind all their looks revealed it." (quote from the book) There are many characters and threads involved in this story that kept me engaged. With the clues slowly revealed, I still knew who the murderer was. But I so enjoyed Jane's observations and how she connected all the threads. I also enjoyed having Lord Harold return in this one to assist her. "...he was formed in intrigue, schooled in calculation, and took the cynic's breath with his mother's milk." (quote from the book) I do recommend this well written and well researched series.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Laurel

    Touring the Derbyshire countryside in the summer of 1806, Jane Austen, her mother, sister Cassandra and cousin Rev. Edward Cooper are staying at the Rutland Arms in Bakewell, in the Peak District. While on a day excursion out into the country with Mr. Cooper and his friend Mr. Hemming, the gentleman enjoy angling along the River Wye and Jane pursues her passion for a country walk, shortly ending in a disturbing discovery. A young gentleman is found “foully and cruelly” murdered on a crag near Mi Touring the Derbyshire countryside in the summer of 1806, Jane Austen, her mother, sister Cassandra and cousin Rev. Edward Cooper are staying at the Rutland Arms in Bakewell, in the Peak District. While on a day excursion out into the country with Mr. Cooper and his friend Mr. Hemming, the gentleman enjoy angling along the River Wye and Jane pursues her passion for a country walk, shortly ending in a disturbing discovery. A young gentleman is found “foully and cruelly” murdered on a crag near Millers Dale with a bullet in his head, his entrails torn from his body and his tongue cut out. Jane and Mr. Cooper are tourists to the area and the victim is unknown to them. Mr. Hemming, a local solicitor also claims not to recognize the young man. All three are deeply disturbed by the grisly discovery, but Mr. Hemming strangely acts out of character insisting that the body be transported a distance to Buxton and not to Bakewell the town under proper jurisdiction to the local Justice of the Peace and Coroner. After some uneasy discussion, Mr. Hemming reluctantly concedes to allow the corpse to be taken Bakewell, but Jane cannot help but notice that he is acting like a man burdened with guilt. The local surgeon Mr. Tivey is summoned from his blacksmith duties and examines the deceased. He recognizes the victim immediately, suspecting some kind of evil mischief afoot. The young gentleman is no gentleman, he is a lady, one Tess Arnold, the stillroom maid of Penfolds Hall, the country estate of Mr. Charles Danford near Tideswell, only one mile north of where the body was discovered. Tivey is quick to spread the shocking details among the villagers of the vicious extent of her wounds. He claims it is a ritual killing related to an act of revenge conducted by the Freemasons when one of their own is betrayed. The local Justice of the Peace, Sir James Villiers, arrives and interviews Jane and her cousin Mr. Cooper. The Coroner’s Inquest will be called in three days. Run by the disgruntled Mr. Tivey who has been very liberal with his derogatory opinions of the murder by the Freemasons after they rejected him as a member. The “evil weight of a jealous tongue” has turned the villagers into an angry mob who want justice. Sir James entreats Jane to remain in town and relay her story of discovering the mutilated corpse. At the Coroner’s Inquest, the parties connected to the young victim Tess Arnold are called to be questioned. Jane and her cousin relay their story, but oddly, the third witness in the discovery, Mr. Hemming, does not appear when called. We learn more about the victim and her duties as stillroom maid, and, her disreputable character. Her former employer Charles Danforth, who is in mourning the recent death of his wife and child, recognizes the clothing found on the corpse as his own, but cannot explain how she had possession of them. His personal connection to the victim is scrutinized by the coroner and he storms out of the proceedings. The Housekeeper is questioned and reveals that Tess had been dismissed on the same day as her death. Feigning heart trouble, or is it purposeful swooning, the proceedings for the day are stopped to assist the housekeeper. As the inquest disperses, Sir James invites Jane for nucheon to discuss her opinions on the case and an old friend unexpectantly arrives. 'At that moment, the rustling in the passage increased and the parlour door was thrust open. I turned, gazed, and rose immediately from my chair. A spare, tall figure, exquisitely dressed in the garb of a gentleman, was caught in a shaft of sunlight. He lifted his hat from his silver hair and bowed low over my hand “It is a pleasure to see you again, Miss Austen. We have not met this age.” Nor had we. But I must confess that the gentleman had lately been much in my thoughts. “Lord Harold,” I replied a trifle unsteadily. “The honour is entirely mine.” Page 86 What a grand entrance for the Gentleman Rogue! Bathed in sunlight like a God? LOL! What? No twinkling stars in his eyes and blinding white teeth? Jane and the Stillroom Maid is the fifth Jane Austen mystery, and for those unfamiliar with this series, the narrative is from a fictional diary written by Jane Austen and discovered in 1992 in a Georgian manor house near Baltimore. Inspired by actual events in Jane Austen’s life, historical fact and cultural detail, each of the novels has Jane Austen using her keen observational skills of human nature as a sleuth in a murder mystery. This narrative is set in Pemberley country, that palatial country estate of Mr. Darcy, the hero of Austen’s famous novel Pride and Prejudice. Well, we don’t really know where in the county of Derbyshire the fictional Pemberley estate is, but we do have some clues from Austen that it was near Bakewell, where Jane and her family are staying in his story. It has long been suspected that Jane Austen modeled Pemberley after the famous Chatsworth House, the seat of the Duke of Devonshire and the Cavendish family since 1549. It lies only three and a half miles from Bakewell. The fact that Lord Harold is a guest at Chatsworth and takes Jane there as his guest to be served ratafia, route cakes and rumors of indiscretions, that may of lead to murder, is a delicious coincidence. It is delightful to imagine that Jane Austen could have toured the Peak District in the summer of 1806 and visited Chatsworth and modeled her Pemberley after it. Each of the chapters is prefaced by a recipe from the Stillroom Book of the victim Tess Arnold. Stillroom maids were a combination of herbalist, apothecary and food preserver on large estates. Because of their skill at curatives and elixirs, stillroom maids were often accused of being witches, even in Jane’s time during the early 1800’s. Some of the recipes are disturbing to modern sensibilities: adding brains of four cock sparrows or mourning doves into a fruit tart to give someone courage, ew! But the recipes added to the charm of the era and brought home how far we have evolved with modern medicine and education. The mystery was intriguing, but I think I figured out whodunit too soon. It did not spoil one moment of my enjoyment. Barron excels at historical detail, early 19th-century language and fabulous characterization. Her portrayal of Jane Austen is so natural and engaging that I lose myself in the character and forget that this is just fiction. Jane’s friendship with Lord Harold is exciting and tragic. I want them to be a couple, but realize that his being the second son of a duke and she an impoverished gentleman’s daughter, that it cannot happen. I also enjoy finding allusions to Jane Austen’s own characters in Barron’s own and laughed-out-loud at her interpretation of Mr. Edward Cooper, Rector of Hamstall Ridware, Staffordshire, Jane’s first cousin, supercilious singing toad and Mr. Collins knock-off. His reaction when being interrupted while fishing by Jane’s announcement of a murder is hilarious: “A corpse?” Mr. Cooper exclaimed, with a look of consternation. “Not again, Jane! However shall we explain this to my aunt?” page 31 Laurel Ann, Austenprose

  3. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    Rereading for my Jane and the Year 2020 Challenge to read entire series. Love this one because Jane goes to Chatsworth. - 2020 Intended to read before our trip to England. Actually glad now that I didn't get to it. Meant so much more now having actually been to Chatsworth. Originally purchased on the cheap at used bookstore. Print was way to small so I purchased on Audible. Narrator is excellent. I read first in series years ago. Thinking I might go back and read/listen to whole series for Auste Rereading for my Jane and the Year 2020 Challenge to read entire series. Love this one because Jane goes to Chatsworth. - 2020 Intended to read before our trip to England. Actually glad now that I didn't get to it. Meant so much more now having actually been to Chatsworth. Originally purchased on the cheap at used bookstore. Print was way to small so I purchased on Audible. Narrator is excellent. I read first in series years ago. Thinking I might go back and read/listen to whole series for Austen in August 2018. It really is quite fun. Actual Stillroom Recipes/Treatments is interesting bit of trivia.

  4. 4 out of 5

    John

    Being a fan of Regency-era mysteries, as well as Kate Reading's narration, I decided to try the first available audiobook in the series. Turned out a smart move! Not being a Jane-ite, I suppose I'm spared the inevitable comparison with her work and life details. Biggest takeaway for me was seeing her as rather an extrovert, when somehow I'd felt her as more reclusive? As far as book itself is concerned, my only real issue was that I had trouble keeping straight who was who among the upper class Being a fan of Regency-era mysteries, as well as Kate Reading's narration, I decided to try the first available audiobook in the series. Turned out a smart move! Not being a Jane-ite, I suppose I'm spared the inevitable comparison with her work and life details. Biggest takeaway for me was seeing her as rather an extrovert, when somehow I'd felt her as more reclusive? As far as book itself is concerned, my only real issue was that I had trouble keeping straight who was who among the upper class characters at times.

  5. 4 out of 5

    The Bursting Bookshelf of a Wallflower

    2.5 stars rounded up to 3 I read this book in the French version; entertaining enough, but nothing to remember for long.

  6. 5 out of 5

    QNPoohBear

    Mrs. Austen and Cassandra are still making a tour of various relatives before settling down with Frank in Southhampton. This time they are visiting cousin Edward Cooper. The Cooper family becomes afflicted with whooping cough so Edward must take his relations off on a tour of Derbyshire. Jane heads off to explore the peaks while the gentlemen fish and Mrs. A and Cassandra rest at the inn. While exploring, Jane comes across her most gruesome murder yet. She discovers the body of a young gentlema Mrs. Austen and Cassandra are still making a tour of various relatives before settling down with Frank in Southhampton. This time they are visiting cousin Edward Cooper. The Cooper family becomes afflicted with whooping cough so Edward must take his relations off on a tour of Derbyshire. Jane heads off to explore the peaks while the gentlemen fish and Mrs. A and Cassandra rest at the inn. While exploring, Jane comes across her most gruesome murder yet. She discovers the body of a young gentleman with a bullet hole to his forehead and a badly mutilated body. Cousin Edward's friend Mr. Hemming lends his assistance in bringing the body back to town. The locals believe the crime is the work of the local branch of Freemasons based on rumors and superstition of devil worship and Satanic sacrifice. When the coroner/surgeon examines the body it is found to be that of a young female named Tess Arnold who worked as a stillroom maid at the home of Mr. Charles Danforth, a grieving widower with a club foot. The locals all fear Mr. Charles Danforth is cursed or worse since his entire family has recently deceased. They believe he is the murderer and want him hanged. Jane is disturbed by the grisly murder and determined to see justice done. Lord Harold, her gentleman rogue, shows up in Derbyshire to mourn the loss of Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire. His niece, Desdemona is also there and desires to see Jane again. Jane heads off to the luxe Chatsworth estate and finds herself socializing with the scandalous Cavendish set. At Chatsworth Jane discovers an unhappy situation and fears that the clues may lead to the murder of the maid. With the help of the maid's stillroom book, Jane manages to solve the murder but not before more death and unhappiness visit the area. This story is the best mystery yet. It introduces the murder and suspects right away. Just when the answer seems obvious, the story takes twists and turns. The motive and murderer were pretty obvious but the clues left me in doubt until all was revealed. I liked having an intimate glimpse of Chatsworth and the Duke's family whom I know a little about from the Keira Knightly movie The Duchess. I was happy to have Lord Harold return to help Jane solve the investigation but I did not like that she loses her heart to him and nearly succumbs to the desire to live the life of the ton. That does not fit with the Jane that is depicted in the previous books and very unlike the real Jane. I absolutely loved the stillroom recipes included at the end of each chapter. There was very little knowledge about medicine in those days and even the descriptions of the doctor's care are cringeworthy. An editor's afterward names the sources of stillroom medicine from Jane Austen's time and explains what happened to the Duke of Devonshire and family after the events of the novel. (view spoiler)[I believe that the doctor killed the family unknowingly with all that bleeding. That subject was never addressed in the editor's afterward. (hide spoiler)]

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

    Another wonderful Jane Austen mystery. :) I really enjoy reading this series. The mystery was interesting and I had no clue who the killer was until Jane revealed it. But, it all made sense after her explanation. I would love to see something happen between Jane and Lord Harold, but alas, I know it can't be. I can't wait to read the next one in the series and highly recommend this series to all who like Jane Austen. Another wonderful Jane Austen mystery. :) I really enjoy reading this series. The mystery was interesting and I had no clue who the killer was until Jane revealed it. But, it all made sense after her explanation. I would love to see something happen between Jane and Lord Harold, but alas, I know it can't be. I can't wait to read the next one in the series and highly recommend this series to all who like Jane Austen.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lollyletsgo

    This one of the series is/was so well done. I'm not sure why, but both the A and B storylines were both so fulfilling as a reader. My words are failing me, but the interweaving and the duplicity/misdirection were so much fun to wander through with Jane. This one of the series is/was so well done. I'm not sure why, but both the A and B storylines were both so fulfilling as a reader. My words are failing me, but the interweaving and the duplicity/misdirection were so much fun to wander through with Jane.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Virginia B

    Good grief! That took some figuring out on someone’s part, certainly not mine. Jane was able to unravel a very involved family plot with many twists, and scheming relations, who came to a sad and bad end. The singing cousin was a very good touch. I just wish poor Jane was able to reap some reward, aside from having the satisfaction of solving a mystery.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Gordon

    Meh. The setup was intriguing - discovery of a body, which turns out to be a murdered woman dressed as a man. The voice - I’m guessing that Barron has read through Austen’s personal correspondance more than once - is moderately convincing though it does try a little too hard at times, especially in the opening. But it just went on. And on, without much developing, at least in my eyes. The interspersed excerpts from a stillroom book (collection of recipes and instructions for a housewife) were a Meh. The setup was intriguing - discovery of a body, which turns out to be a murdered woman dressed as a man. The voice - I’m guessing that Barron has read through Austen’s personal correspondance more than once - is moderately convincing though it does try a little too hard at times, especially in the opening. But it just went on. And on, without much developing, at least in my eyes. The interspersed excerpts from a stillroom book (collection of recipes and instructions for a housewife) were a welcome relief, though they felt rather like “see, I did do my research” reminders. And yeah, that research? Barron somehow missed a major, major aspect of Regency England. It was as Protestant as possible to be. It is completely unbelievable that educated English people of the middle-to-upper class would cross themselves like ‘Papists’ (a derogatory English term for Roman Catholics). I doubt that lower-class or peasants would do so, either - they might ‘make horns’ or other apotropaic folk-gestures, but crossing oneself? Nope nope nope. Somewhat secondarily, it’s also rather eyebrow-raising that these educated English gentry apparently believe in witches enough to openly make warding signs against them. The witch-hunts were a century ago, in a time of great unrest and fear, and even then the educated classes were arguing against the superstition. If someone wants a hit of pseudo-Austen narrative, I guess they could go to this series. Just don’t assume that you’re getting any reliable insight into the time and place. Author also likes to have Jane hob-nobbing with notable Regency characters she probably was never in the same Assembly room with.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mindy

    Hooray for a book I loved! The concept sounds a little funny... Jane Austen as a accidental detective, but it worked. She was obviously a witty and bright woman so the thought of her curiosities being peaked to the point of investigation didn't seem so far fetched to me. The author must be a Jane Austen historian because many of the characters/dates/locations are accurate accounts of Austen's life - what Stephanie Barron does is takes unaccounted time lapses of her life and fills them in with mys Hooray for a book I loved! The concept sounds a little funny... Jane Austen as a accidental detective, but it worked. She was obviously a witty and bright woman so the thought of her curiosities being peaked to the point of investigation didn't seem so far fetched to me. The author must be a Jane Austen historian because many of the characters/dates/locations are accurate accounts of Austen's life - what Stephanie Barron does is takes unaccounted time lapses of her life and fills them in with mysteries. There are even interesting author's notes about Jane's (I can call her that, right? ;)) real life along the way. She does a bit of "Finding Neverland" take on it as well - you find many a supposed inspiration for Pride and Prejudice. The mystery was enthralling - I was in suspense the whole time. There were hints all along, which I picked up on, but never enough to put all the pieces together. There were twists and turns, complicated plot lines, humor (appropriately Austen's sardonic style), and random things that I found even educational (ex. info on Free Masonry, stillroom maids, Whigs and Torreys, highwaymen). I love Jane Austen romances, but this was a fresh breath of air... written in her style but with mystery and intrigue? Sold. There are several in this series and now I intend to read them all!

  12. 5 out of 5

    StillReadingBooks

    A couple of years ago, I really jumped into this series. I do not consider myself a mystery reader, but I really enjoyed these books. Perhaps it is because the main character is Jane Austen, and I have been known to enjoy an Austen book or two. Jane, her mother, sister, and cousin are on a trip to Derbysire (which is beautiful country, I must add). On an afternoon of visiting the countryside, Jane discovers a dead, and mutilated body. It turns out that while on first appearing like a man, the tru A couple of years ago, I really jumped into this series. I do not consider myself a mystery reader, but I really enjoyed these books. Perhaps it is because the main character is Jane Austen, and I have been known to enjoy an Austen book or two. Jane, her mother, sister, and cousin are on a trip to Derbysire (which is beautiful country, I must add). On an afternoon of visiting the countryside, Jane discovers a dead, and mutilated body. It turns out that while on first appearing like a man, the truth is shared that it is the Stillroom maid from a local estate. Naturally, Jane , with the help of Lord Harold, begin to uncover clues as to the murder of this less than admirable woman. There a web of falsehoods and lies, they discover the truth and save the person that appears to be taking the blame. I must admit, I had a hard time getting into this book. So if you have liked the others, but find this one slow going in the beginning: stick with it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Miriam

    I think this book is a return to form after the last one, which was a bit of a disappointment. This book had a much more engaging cast of characters, who this time seemed like actual fleshed-out people instead of cardboard cutouts, and a compelling, suspenseful mystery. I didn't find out the murderer until Jane revealed his identity and the solution made a lot of sense to me in hindsight. I especially liked the inclusion of the epigraphs, and the way in which they paralleled Jane's progressive t I think this book is a return to form after the last one, which was a bit of a disappointment. This book had a much more engaging cast of characters, who this time seemed like actual fleshed-out people instead of cardboard cutouts, and a compelling, suspenseful mystery. I didn't find out the murderer until Jane revealed his identity and the solution made a lot of sense to me in hindsight. I especially liked the inclusion of the epigraphs, and the way in which they paralleled Jane's progressive towards the truth. I will definitely be reading the next book in the series. Added on 2019 re-read: Having totally forgotten the solution to the mystery, I enjoyed the book just as much as on my first read. This book is a quick read, but really fun and engaging, with plenty of suspense to keep my interest until the solution of the mystery.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    A rather heartbreaking addition to the JA Mysteries series, on multiple levels. This was nevertheless another wonderful read- taking the reader to Derbyshire and engaging in complex domestic drama. It will be particularly appealing to those with an interest in the life of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, because though set shortly after her death, there are extensive scenes featuring the family members that survived her.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    This Jane Austen mystery is a good cozy with a satisfying ending. Also has recipes for interesting "old-time home medicines" sprinkled throughout - including how to conceive a boy and how to get rid of freckles :) This Jane Austen mystery is a good cozy with a satisfying ending. Also has recipes for interesting "old-time home medicines" sprinkled throughout - including how to conceive a boy and how to get rid of freckles :)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joanne

    Pretty good book. It was kind of hard to get into.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marci

    This fifth mystery Jane Austen has to solve is a wide-open bloodbath in the crags of Derbyshire, unlike the locked-room variations of her first, third, and fourth mysteries. Spoilers ahead, so beware! (view spoiler)[ Tess, the eponymous stillroom maid, has a penchant for learning secrets along with dispensing her medicines. She knows that Andrew Danforth wants his brother’s lands and position; she helps by murdering Charles Danforth’s three children and his wife and has begun to poison Charles him This fifth mystery Jane Austen has to solve is a wide-open bloodbath in the crags of Derbyshire, unlike the locked-room variations of her first, third, and fourth mysteries. Spoilers ahead, so beware! (view spoiler)[ Tess, the eponymous stillroom maid, has a penchant for learning secrets along with dispensing her medicines. She knows that Andrew Danforth wants his brother’s lands and position; she helps by murdering Charles Danforth’s three children and his wife and has begun to poison Charles himself with arsenic. She thinks Andrew will marry her and she will be the lady of the manor. She also has had ambitions of becoming a surgeon and had roped the local blacksmith-surgeon, Michael Tivey, into helping her by allowing her to share in his nocturnal anatomisations (autopsies) of recently-dead corpses. She’s used to wandering around in men’s clothing, as that way she can more safely meet Tivey wherever necessary. It helps her in her secret meetings with Andrew as well. But Andrew realizes that she’s become a liability, and since he wants to marry the Duke of Devonshire’s daughter, Lady Harriet Cavendish, he summons Tess to meet him in the crags above Miller’s Dale, and there he lies in wait, and he shoots her when she arrives. Michael Tivey finds her body and cuts it up in a semi-ritualistic way to throw the blame on the Masons who have rejected his application to join. The next day Jane Austen comes across the body while her cousin the Rev. Edward Cooper (who has brought Jane, her sister and her mother to Bakewell in Derbyshire) and his friend George Hemming are fishing, and she is taking a walk to pass the time. The only fish running in this tale are the red herrings! Lots of people are suspected of parts of the crime, and the crime turns out to be a series of crimes, committed by several people. It’s a properly convoluted and satisfyingly surprising tale as it unfolds. Solicitor George Hemming confesses to the crime to keep the Danforths (his clients) from suspicion, but they are suspected anyway. George Hemming, it turns out, is Andrew’s natural father, so Andrew, who was supposed to be Charles’s younger half brother by a second wife, is not blood kin to Charles after all and couldn’t inherit if it were known. Charles, weighed down with grief for his children and wife, is so silent and morose as to make the common people think that he is the guilty party. He has no alibi for the time of Tess’s murder, and he is suspected of having done away with his children and wife himself so that he could inherit her fortune and be eligible to court and marry Lady Harriet Cavendish. Michael Tivey incites a mob to lynch him, and Charles is narrowly saved by Jane and Lord Harold Trowbridge, along with members of the Cavendish party from Chatsworth. But later, Charles confesses to killing Tess to save Andrew, whom he believes killed Tess in revenge for her killing his family. In the end, Andrew shoots Charles at the site where Tess was killed. Over at Chatsworth, Jane meets Lady Harriet Cavendish’s younger brother, Lord Hartington, the heir to the Dukedom, a volatile-tempered boy of fifteen who suffers from partial deafness and is surly to all. He hates Tess. Since Hart rides around at all hours and is suffering greatly from grief over his mother’s death, he is a suspect, if not of the gunshot, then of the mutilation. It turns out that Tess had been dosing him to cure his deafness, and of course there was no change, and Hart discovered after a few months that Tess was selling all sorts of things to someone who dosed his mother before her death. Did his mother die from Tess’s potions? Lady Elizabeth Foster, the late Duchess of Devonshire’s best friend (and the Duke’s mistress), has been buying potions from Tess for all sorts of problems, and all the potions seem to contain increasing amounts of morphia. Did she help the death of Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire? Hart thinks so, and it is strongly hinted that this lady is ruthlessly ambitious to take over the late Duchess’s place at Chatsworth, even to the point of publicly usurping Lady Harriet’s place in the usual order of precedence in the household. Did she somehow do away with Tess as well, as Tess was by then well known for blackmail? Meanwhile, a strong thread running through this novel is that of the gradual descent of Jane Austen into despair. She tips gently over the precipice from friendship into unrequited love for Lord Harold Trowbridge in the course of the novel, never admitting it outright but employing the contrast between her happiness at being with him as they cover the ground of the crimes for several hours one day, and her heartbreak in the closing scene as Jane enters the carriage to be borne away from him. Her devastation is skillfully and subtly expressed: “But it was a considerable period before I could utter a word, or appear sensible to my mother’s cries of delight as the carriage slipped south with the autumn leaves; and of Mr. Cooper’s voice lifted fulsomely in hymns of praise, I heard not a syllable. The image of a silver head and a whipcord form—of one last, serious parting look—were all that filled my sight.” The symbol of the autumn leaves is the dying of her hopes, and the idea of her being struck nearly deaf and dumb is poignant in the extreme. But because this is a series, and because Lord Harold Trowbridge has so far been in every novel, we readers have not lost hope. He must appear again. Add to that, that he has traveled into his own heartbreak in this novel, and add still further that he has allowed Jane to know not only that he had been in love with Lady Harriet Cavendish himself, but that he had realized that he was simply substituting Lady Harriet for his real loss, that of Georgiana herself, over whom he had despaired many years before. That he takes Jane so far into his confidence, and that he and Jane undergo parallel journeys on this theme gives us further reason to hope. Lord Harold is going to be free to see Jane more clearly. It is a bittersweet hope, of course, knowing as we do that Jane never married. But we still want her to have her true romance, and this novel, with its nadir at the end, must be the clearing of a path leading upward. (hide spoiler)] I loved this novel. I think it was one of the very best of the series.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    This is a fun one, though a bit dark, almost Gothic with the imposing stone edifice of Penfolds Major, the treacherous peaks, the "anatomization" of corpses. It is also, I think, the most political of the series so far, with Jane finding herself with the family of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, as they mourn her death. The mystery itself was nicely convoluted, and if you enjoyed nineteenth century medical creepiness, this is definitely the installment for you. I did not correctly guess the mu This is a fun one, though a bit dark, almost Gothic with the imposing stone edifice of Penfolds Major, the treacherous peaks, the "anatomization" of corpses. It is also, I think, the most political of the series so far, with Jane finding herself with the family of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, as they mourn her death. The mystery itself was nicely convoluted, and if you enjoyed nineteenth century medical creepiness, this is definitely the installment for you. I did not correctly guess the murderer, though I did guess the motive. The blending of the great (the Marquess, the Earl) and the low (the surgeon, the maid) in social discourse and in potential culpability made for a varied reading experience. I found the side characters and their potential romances very compelling in this one - Lady Harriet, the Danforth brothers - it just stuck out to me as having a particular pathos. I'm not invested in Jane/Lord Harold, so I found the exposition on that relationship here trying, but it didn't dominate the whole story. Overall, I enjoyed this one actively. It's hard to "recommend" or not "recommend" a book in a series, either you're reading through the series or you're not, but this one is not a slog, I'll say that!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Julie Kreutzer

    Regency England Mystery Extraordinaire Regency England is a fascinating place since this mystery has as its context, England facing Buonaparte, as a naval and trading Titan. The politics and class system are fascinating. Set as a jewel in all this is Jane Austin, solving mysteries. This one takes us to a stark and beautiful part of the English countryside where the inner workings of great and noble families are fascinating and yet, a bit shocking. Jane is insightful and deeply interesting as a fe Regency England Mystery Extraordinaire Regency England is a fascinating place since this mystery has as its context, England facing Buonaparte, as a naval and trading Titan. The politics and class system are fascinating. Set as a jewel in all this is Jane Austin, solving mysteries. This one takes us to a stark and beautiful part of the English countryside where the inner workings of great and noble families are fascinating and yet, a bit shocking. Jane is insightful and deeply interesting as a female detective at a time when respectable young women were wives, mothers and not thought to be capable of more than virtue, charm, hopefully good looks and respectability. One admires her and sympathizes with her at the same time. The plot is intricate and not easy to figure out while the characters are complex. Jane’s wit is dry and her powers of perception, along the lines of Sherlock Holmes.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    "Jane Austen is enjoying August, 1806, among Derbyshire's craggy peaks, sparkling streams, and cavernous gorges. That is, until she discovers the corpse of a young gentleman whose blond curls and delicate features suggest the face of an angel. More shocking still is the coroner's revelation: the deceased is no man but a maidservant -- clad in the garb of her master, Mr. Charles Danforth of Penfolds Hall. Tess Arnold had ruled the stillroom at Penfolds for many years -- until she was labeled a wi "Jane Austen is enjoying August, 1806, among Derbyshire's craggy peaks, sparkling streams, and cavernous gorges. That is, until she discovers the corpse of a young gentleman whose blond curls and delicate features suggest the face of an angel. More shocking still is the coroner's revelation: the deceased is no man but a maidservant -- clad in the garb of her master, Mr. Charles Danforth of Penfolds Hall. Tess Arnold had ruled the stillroom at Penfolds for many years -- until she was labeled a witch and dismissed for indiscretion. Was Tess the prey of a madman loose in the hills, or perchance the cast-off impediment to a gentleman's marriage? As usual, Jane's acute perception and her nose for trouble place her supremely at risk -- from a killer who may strike as violently by day as he once did by night ..." ~~back cover A solid little mystery, with successive confessions -- none of which are true. Or is one?

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    This entire series is FAB! The ultimate reading for mystery readers who also adore Jane Austen and history. Barron entwines Jane in mysteries set in the exact location where Jane was at that time. Each mystery 'could' have occurred. The research into Jane's personal life, rules and habits of the time, real locations at that time, etc, make these books so realistic, and so enjoyable. Jane comes to life and showcases her superb mental faculties in these books. Read them ALL--and in order!!! I'm re- This entire series is FAB! The ultimate reading for mystery readers who also adore Jane Austen and history. Barron entwines Jane in mysteries set in the exact location where Jane was at that time. Each mystery 'could' have occurred. The research into Jane's personal life, rules and habits of the time, real locations at that time, etc, make these books so realistic, and so enjoyable. Jane comes to life and showcases her superb mental faculties in these books. Read them ALL--and in order!!! I'm re-reading them again after a couple of years and it's just as enjoyable--almost more enjoyable than in the first reading. Pull up Google Maps while reading and zoom in on the real landscape, buildings, and cities. Much of where she lived and visited is still there--again one of the pleasures of the books, fitting into reality of Jane's life and time.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mary Pat

    This one was okay. You learn a little about the "home remedies" of the period, but this one does not have a lot of extra historical lessons... nor is the mystery particularly mysterious. Compared to other books in the series, this one seems like it was slapped together (other than the research into the "simples" of the stillroom maid's book.) Some ideas were not developed, that it seemed like Barron wanted to -- perhaps she was rushed, or perhaps the editor cut it short to get to publication. If This one was okay. You learn a little about the "home remedies" of the period, but this one does not have a lot of extra historical lessons... nor is the mystery particularly mysterious. Compared to other books in the series, this one seems like it was slapped together (other than the research into the "simples" of the stillroom maid's book.) Some ideas were not developed, that it seemed like Barron wanted to -- perhaps she was rushed, or perhaps the editor cut it short to get to publication. If you're new to the Austen mysteries, this is not a good one to start on. You don't have to start with the first of the series, but you'd probably want one a little more developed in terms of the historical info and plot.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Marfita

    Perhaps I'm getting a little tired of these, but still mostly enjoy them. Here we have transvestism, attempted lynching, drugs, witchcraft, Freemasonry ... and an overabundance of family misfortune. Lord Harold Trowbridge is back. Always good to see someone who appreciates Jane's abilities, but the historical knowledge that the real Jane never married and died fairly young makes his appearances heartbreaking. Will continue to read these. Perhaps I'm getting a little tired of these, but still mostly enjoy them. Here we have transvestism, attempted lynching, drugs, witchcraft, Freemasonry ... and an overabundance of family misfortune. Lord Harold Trowbridge is back. Always good to see someone who appreciates Jane's abilities, but the historical knowledge that the real Jane never married and died fairly young makes his appearances heartbreaking. Will continue to read these.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Adria

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The murder was decidedly gruesome. The Whig nobility were portrayed in a convincing manner. All in all, the book was difficult to put down. But I couldn't quite follow the long line of guilty characters. And the Justice of the Peace was a bit of a stock character, he would simply show up after others, Jane and Lord Harold snooped around and ferreted out the more culpable characters in this mixed bag of so called nobility. The murder was decidedly gruesome. The Whig nobility were portrayed in a convincing manner. All in all, the book was difficult to put down. But I couldn't quite follow the long line of guilty characters. And the Justice of the Peace was a bit of a stock character, he would simply show up after others, Jane and Lord Harold snooped around and ferreted out the more culpable characters in this mixed bag of so called nobility.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kristin Mack

    Very descriptive, easy to read, kept my interest. There are a lot of characters in the web to keep track of but they turned my attention as the suspect. Although you may figure it out from the beginning of the story. I have never read any of these and the historical fiction and mystery was really fun for me. I'm definitely going to read the other novels. Very descriptive, easy to read, kept my interest. There are a lot of characters in the web to keep track of but they turned my attention as the suspect. Although you may figure it out from the beginning of the story. I have never read any of these and the historical fiction and mystery was really fun for me. I'm definitely going to read the other novels.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie

    I really do not (as a rule) care for fictional books using real characters but I find these books charming. I love the slow pace, the language and the story itself. But in my mind, "Jane Austin" is not THE Jane Austin but a regency woman who just happens to have the same name as a favorite author. I really do not (as a rule) care for fictional books using real characters but I find these books charming. I love the slow pace, the language and the story itself. But in my mind, "Jane Austin" is not THE Jane Austin but a regency woman who just happens to have the same name as a favorite author.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sydney

    I know these novels are being written in the 21st century, so historical elements may be brought into sharper focus or elevated in importance to serve a 21st century writer's imagination. Yet, I find myself so completely immersed in the world created in and by these novels that the social aspect, the implied social critique, really touches me. That phenomenon was especially strong in this novel. I know these novels are being written in the 21st century, so historical elements may be brought into sharper focus or elevated in importance to serve a 21st century writer's imagination. Yet, I find myself so completely immersed in the world created in and by these novels that the social aspect, the implied social critique, really touches me. That phenomenon was especially strong in this novel.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Chuck

    Jane and the Stillroom Maid is another great story in an overall fabulous series. More than the others in the series this is a charmingly good cozy mystery, including recipes for some period home remedies. The mystery features lots of misdirection and quite a few potential suspects. I was unable to figure it out until the final reveal! The story is a bit dark but features beautiful English countryside and descriptive takes on the mores and values of both the titled and common people. I would sugge Jane and the Stillroom Maid is another great story in an overall fabulous series. More than the others in the series this is a charmingly good cozy mystery, including recipes for some period home remedies. The mystery features lots of misdirection and quite a few potential suspects. I was unable to figure it out until the final reveal! The story is a bit dark but features beautiful English countryside and descriptive takes on the mores and values of both the titled and common people. I would suggest you start reading the series in order, but each book works as a stand-alone.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Meri-Lyn

    Another good mystery with Jane and family as well as some familiar and some new characters. I enjoyed it because I wasn't sure about the murderer until the end although I had the Maid figured out pretty early on. Light, easy and entertaining. Another good mystery with Jane and family as well as some familiar and some new characters. I enjoyed it because I wasn't sure about the murderer until the end although I had the Maid figured out pretty early on. Light, easy and entertaining.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Priya

    2.8 stars. Too convoluted! So many details - and so old English dialogues. The postscripts from the Stillroom book were the only entertaining parts! And can we just find a replacement for the repetitive use of "Countenance" ?? PLEASE! Not continuing the series. 2.8 stars. Too convoluted! So many details - and so old English dialogues. The postscripts from the Stillroom book were the only entertaining parts! And can we just find a replacement for the repetitive use of "Countenance" ?? PLEASE! Not continuing the series.

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