Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It's Christmas time, and Jane Austen, her sister Cassandra, and their mother are on the way to visit their brother James and his family for the holidays. They have a mishap enroute, thanks to their brother's parsimony, and end up meeting a handsome stranger on his way to the home of mutual friends, which eventually leads to an invitation for the whole family to join the house party at The Vyne. Unfortunately, a young man dies while they are visiting, and Jane determines it was murder.
She's not alone in her sleuthing this time, for the handsome stranger turns out to be Raphael West, an artist and government agent, and the two of them work together to solve the crime. Jane isn't completely sure she can trust Mr. West, despite their mutual attraction, but she has few options, especially when a second person dies under suspicious circumstances.
I loved all the historical details in this volume--from James' wife Mary's hypochondria to the 12 outfits Cassandra and Jane sewed for their niece's doll as gifts for each of the 12 nights of Christmas. These elements really made the story come alive for me. If Stephanie Barron's Mary Austen is anything like the real Mary Austen was, it's a miracle no one smothered her in her sleep. She is so utterly self-absorbed, she makes for good comic relief, though!
Unfortunately, I struggled to keep straight the names and relationships between a few of the secondary characters, and it slowed down my reading tremendously when I had to stop and go back to look up their connections to each other. This was partly due to my only having time to read during lunch breaks, which wasn't Ms. Barron's fault at all. However, since those characters ended up being central to the mystery, it made for some rough going some of the time.
The other thing that frustrated me was that Jane seemed to ignore some rather obvious clues, which is unusual for this series. I kept wishing I could be like Tuesday Next in the Jasper Fforde Eyre Affair series and jump right in to the book and talk to the characters. I felt like Jane could have wrapped up the case faster if she had paid more attention. On the other hand, the resolution felt somewhat hasty and unsatisfying, albeit realistic.
Bottom line? It's a fun historical cozy mystery, worth the read, but not the best in the series. Still, I'm sad that there can't be many more of these books to come, given that Jane died in her early 40s.
For readers' advisors: setting and story doorways. No sex, bad language, or onscreen violence.
I originally was approved to read a free eGalley copy through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review, but I didn't download it soon enough, so in the end I checked out a copy from my library. Same review, though. :)
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