Friday, February 11, 2022

Jane and the Year Without a Summer Book Tour (excerpt only)

 Jane and the Year Without a Summer (Being a Jane Austen Mystery Book 14) \
By Stephanie Barron 
Published by Soho Press 
Blog Tour Dates: February 7-20, 2022 

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. 

The intelligent reader of gossip-sheets and scandal-rags will be wondering, I am sure, why Cheltenham, and not the far more celebrated watering hole of Bath, has been our object. Were Cassandra and I as determinedly bent on pleasure as I took pains to suggest to my brothers, the concerts and card-parties of the far more ancient town, as well as the delights of the Abbey and the Pump Room, the shops of Pulteney and the paths of Sydney Gardens, must have been unrivaled by any attractions Cheltenham Spa may offer. The latter is to Bath what a heedless country maid is to a dowager; lacking in refinement and dignity, and prone to a good deal of untempered noise. 
And indeed, as we achieved the outskirts of the town late on Saturday, our carriage side-windows streaming with wet, Cassandra remarked on the differences from Bath: the crescents of new houses, girded with stone paving not yet mellowed by time; the raw mud splashed on foundations and walls; the fresh roadways branching from the High Street, where a once-modest village has in recent decades swelled to something greater. … 
But neither my sister nor I have any deep love for Bath, where we resided for some years. Bath must be forever associated in our minds with the loss of our home—and of Papa, too, as he passed from this life in our lodgings at Green Park Buildings. 
But I have another reason, one of considerable delicacy, for wishing to avoid the place; there is a widowed gentleman of my acquaintance presently residing there, in the company of his daughter, whom I hesitate to meet. 
Mr. Raphael West—who claims as parent the celebrated artist, Mr. Benjamin West—is a valued acquaintance, tho’ our friendship is of recent formation. Possessed alike of an excellent understanding and a distinguished countenance, he is fully capable of engaging any woman’s heart. At the mere thought of him now, I felt a warmth steal over my frame and my pulse quicken—a sharp longing for his gaze that felt as deep as hunger. But it would not do; I closed my eyes and resolved that it would not do. 
 When I was last in his company… Mr. West earnestly informed me of his intent to visit Bath, and his hope that I might do the same. There was that in his looks and manner that suggested I was dear to him—that our friendship was viewed on his side, at least, as capable of something more. But the sad events of this winter, the collective misfortunes of my brothers, and my dubious health, for a period of months put travel beyond my power. 
Moreover, the lowering weeks of relentless rain, confining me within-doors, and the oppression of my own thoughts, urged me to confront certain truths: I am over forty years of age. My mother, my beloved sister, and our companion Martha Lloyd look to me for support in our collective household, where the modest earnings of my pen contribute greatly to the comforts of each. With every financial calamity gathering over Chawton Cottage and its defenceless inhabitants this year, the mite of income I supply is surety against future want. Could I be so selfish as to run away to Bath and the attractions of Mr. West’s society, abandoning duty and the claims of those who rely upon me?
I cannot. 
And a glance in the mirror confirms what my flagging energy and vanished appetite already apprehend: the few charms remaining to my person are swiftly waning under the influence of ill-health. My countenance is sallow and dull, my eyes shadowed, my cheeks gaunt. I feel the jut of my hip bones with gloved fingers through the cambric of my traveling gown. 
I should be ashamed for Raphael West to see me as I now am. Indeed, my lips compress with mortification when I consider the picture: a hag-ridden spinster descending upon Bath, to parade the Pump Room in hopes of a chance encounter with the darkly handsome Mr. West. The gentleman, at first surprized and distressed, recovering to lift his hat and offer an introduction to his daughter—only to move on in a matter of moments, with the words, “Poor creature! She is sadly altered since I saw her last!” 
Chapter 4, pages 26-28

 Advance Praise:
“Outstanding...Barron fans will hope Jane, who died in 1817, will be back for one more mystery.”— Publishers Weekly (starred review) 

 “No one conjures Austen's voice like Stephanie Barron, and Jane and the Year Without a Summer is utterly pitch-perfect.”— Deanna Raybourn, bestselling author of the Veronica Speedwell Mysteries 

“…a page-turning story, imbued with fascinating historical detail, a cast of beautifully realized characters, a pitch-perfect Jane Austen, and an intriguing mystery. Highly recommended.”— Syrie James, bestselling author of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen 

“Jane and the Year Without a Summer is absolute perfection. Stephanie Barron expertly weaves fact and fiction, crafting a story that is authentically Austen in its elegance, charm, and wit. The characters and setting will enchant you, and the mystery will keep you guessing to the last page. This Regency-set gem is truly a diamond of the first water.”— Mimi Matthews, USA Today bestselling author of The Siren of Sussex

Purchase Links: 

About the Author: 
Francine Mathews was born in Binghamton, New York, the last of six girls. She attended Princeton and Stanford Universities, where she studied history, before going on to work as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. She wrote her first book in 1992 and left the Agency a year later. Since then, she has written twenty-five books, including five novels in the Merry Folger series (Death in the Off-Season, Death in Rough Water, Death in a Mood Indigo, Death in a Cold Hard Light, and Death on Nantucket) as well as the nationally bestselling Being a Jane Austen mystery series, which she writes under the penname, Stephanie Barron. She lives and works in Denver, Colorado.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Until Leaves Fall in Paris by Sarah Sundin


Until Leaves Fall in Paris 
By Sarah Sundin 
Published by Revell Books 

As the Nazis march toward Paris in 1940, American ballerina Lucie Girard buys her favorite English-language bookstore to allow the Jewish owners to escape. Lucie struggles to run Green Leaf Books due to oppressive German laws and harsh conditions, but she finds a way to aid the resistance by passing secret messages between the pages of her books. 
Widower Paul Aubrey wants nothing more than to return to the States with his little girl, but the US Army convinces him to keep his factory running and obtain military information from his German customers. As the war rages on, Paul offers his own resistance by sabotaging his product and hiding British airmen in his factory. After they meet in the bookstore, Paul and Lucie are drawn to each other, but she rejects him when she discovers he sells to the Germans. And for Paul to win her trust would mean betraying his mission. 
Review: This book was fabulous from start to finish! I was hooked from the very beginning, and my interest never waned; I was just captivated by everything, from the terrific characters to the plot to the historical details. Everything about it just drew me in! I really liked seeing the contrast between serious, business-minded Paul and artsy, creative Lucie and how they complimented each other. I adored sweet Josie and her stories. I am not a book-crier--I just don't cry when reading books very often at all--but this one got me! I was just invested in the story and the characters who felt so real. This book is easily one of my picks for the best books of 2022 and the one I've enjoyed most so far this year. 
5 stars.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.