Review: Jane and the Year Without a Summer by Stephanie Barron

Description (from cover): “May 1816: Jane Austen is feeling unwell, with an uneasy stomach, constant fatigue, rashes, fevers and aches. She attributes her poor condition to the stress of family burdens, which even the drafting of her latest manuscript–about a baronet’s daughter nursing a broken heart for a daring naval captain–cannot alleviate. Her apothecary recommends a trial of the curative waters at Cheltenham Spa, in Gloucestershire. Jane decides to use some of the profits earned from her last novel, Emma, and treat herself to a period of rest and reflection at the spa, in the company of her sister, Cassandra.

Cheltenham Spa hardly turns out to be the relaxing sojourn Jane and Cassandra envisaged, however. It is immediately obvious that other boarders at the guest house where the Misses Austen are staying have come to Cheltenham with stresses of their own–some of them deadly. But perhaps with Jane’s interference a terrible crime might be prevented. Set during the Year without a Summer, when the eruption of Mount Tambora in the South Pacific caused a volcanic winter that shrouded the entire planet for sixteen months, this fourteenth installment in Stephanie Barron’s critically acclaimed series brings a forgotten moment of Regency history to life.”

My Thoughts:

**I have reviewed previous books in this series and you can find those reviews by clicking on the following links: Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas and Jane and the Waterloo Map.**

Jane Austen has always fascinated me and having found a series focused on murder mysteries being solved by her, is just the icing on the cake. While it has been some five years since I have picked up a book in this series, I knew that I would enjoy reading about Jane’s adventures again. It did take me a little while to remember what happened in past books and try to figure out who the characters were (mainly Jane’s family members and their backstories). I feel that had there not been such a long gap in between reading the books, that it might have been a little easier to follow along. I did struggle initially with this book trying to keep everything straight. The plot was a little slow and it took me some time to really get into this book.

Jane and her sister, Cassandra, have left home for some rest in Cheltenham Spa where they plan on taking the curative waters to help with their many health ailments. Life has been a little chaotic for the family lately and the sisters hope that getting away for a little bit will provide respite for them. Upon arriving in Cheltenham Spa, they find that their housemates aren’t quite what they appear to be and intrigue is afoot with mysterious happenings. Jane cannot help but find herself in the middle of everything and her inquisitive mind leaves her searching for answers. When other houseguests end up being murdered in strange circumstances, Jane uses her wits and her friends to help solve the murders before someone else is harmed or worse.

As I stated previously, it did take some time for me to really start enjoying this book. The plot started out very slowly, but then as the book progressed, it started to get better. While I wouldn’t say that this was my favorite book in the series, it was nice to read about Jane and her life again. I love how the author uses real details about Austen’s life in the books and incorporates them into her stories to make them seem more realistic. While we all know Jane Austen wasn’t known for solving murders, I really enjoy the thought of Jane being a detective and solving murders in Regency England. This series has long been one of my favorites and it was nice to read this newest installment, which will be released in February 2022. If you are a Jane Austen fanatic like me, I would recommend this series for a different spin on her life and adventures.

Overall Rating: 3 stars

Author: Stephanie Barron

Series: Jane Austen Mystery #14

Publisher: Soho Crime

Publication Date: February 8, 2022

Pages: 336

Genre: Historical Mystery

Get It: Amazon

Disclaimer: An advanced reader copy of this book was provided to me by the Publisher through NetGalley. I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Review: Scandal Above Stairs by Jennifer Ashley

Description (from cover): “A mystery of stolen antiquities has Kat Holloway setting aside her apron once again for the intrigues of the upper echelons of Victorian London.

Priceless artwork has gone missing from the home of a wealthy baronet, and his wife stands to take the blame. When Kat’s employer asks for help in clearing her friend’s name, Kat trades her kitchen for the homes of Mayfair’s wealthiest families. Soon antiques are disappearing not only from the extravagant households of connoisseurs and collectors, but from the illustrious British Museum.

As the thefts increase in frequency, Kat calls upon her friend Daniel McAdam, who has already set himself up in a pawnshop on the Strand as a seedy receiver of stolen goods. When a man is murdered in the shop, Kat must use all of her wits to see that the thieves are caught and justice is done.”

My Thoughts:

Kat Holloway is a cook in a wealthy household in London who has a penchant for solving mysteries and finding herself involved in dangerous situations. When her employer Lady Cynthia, asks for her help with clearing her friend’s name of theft of antiquities, Kat is eager to be of assistance. She uses her connections with the households of Mayfair and her mysterious friend Daniel McAdam to investigate the thefts and finds herself promptly in the middle of a murder investigation. Using her connections and her bright wits, she must help her friends and solve the case before someone ends up getting hurt or worse.

This is the second installment in the Below Stairs mystery series and there is a lot of potential for this series. I have come to love the characters, however, the ending of this book left much to be desired. I felt the ending was a little rushed and was confusing. Everything didn’t come together as smoothly as I would have hoped and I was left scratching my head at the head trying to figure everything out. The author did provide some character development in this book, as the reader is not entirely sure of Daniel McAdam’s mysterious past. The author gave us some clues into his past, but did not give away everything. That alone keeps me hooked on this series.

While this wasn’t my favorite read, it wasn’t absolutely horrible either. I really enjoyed the author’s attention to historical details and her knowledge of food and cooking. As a cook and foodie myself, I found that to be very interesting. I am not quite ready to give up on this series and will see what the future of the series holds. As of the writing of this post, there appears to be five books in this series. As this is only book two, I am hoping that the series shows some improvement. The characters are really what brings me back to this series and I am curious to see what the author has planned for them in the other books. If you have read this series, let me know your thoughts in the comments. I am eager to see how others feel about this book and this series.

Overall Rating: 2.5 stars

Author: Jennifer Ashley

Series: Below Stairs Mystery #2

Publisher: Berkley

Publication Date: July 3, 2018

Pages: 316

Genre: Historical Mystery

Get It: Amazon

Disclaimer: This book was selected by myself at the library, and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.