Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Review: Death of a Dowager by Joanna Campbell Slan

Blurb: In her classic tale, Charlotte Brontë introduced readers to the strong-willed and intelligent Jane Eyre. The Jane Eyre Chronicles pick up where Brontë left off, with Jane married to her beloved Edward Rochester and mother to a young son. But Jane soons finds herself having to protect those she loves…

While extensive repairs are being made to Ferndean, their rural home, Jane and Edward accept an invitation from their friend Lucy Brayton to stay with her in London. Jane is reluctant to abandon their peaceful life in the countryside, but Edward’s damaged vision has grown worse. She hopes that time in the capital will buoy his spirits and give him the chance to receive treatment from an ocular specialist.

Once in London, the Rochesters accompany Lucy to the Italian Opera House. But there is more drama in the audience than on stage—Jane not only unexpectedly finds herself in the presence of King George and his mistress, Lady Conygham, she also encounters an old nemesis in the form of Lady Ingram (whose daughter, Blanche, once hoped to wed Edward herself). The aging dowager deals both Jane and Lucy a very public snub; hoping to mitigate the social damage caused by this, Lucy insists on visiting the Ingrams the next day. The visit goes poorly from the start—and ends with Lady Ingram dropping dead in the midst of taking tea. It soon becomes clear that the dowager’s death was an unnatural one, and Jane must set her considerable intelligence to the problem of solving it—and why the throne appears to have an interest …

My Review: I'm ashamed to admit that I've never read Jane Eyre. I also haven't read the first book in Joanna Campbell Slan's Jane Eyre Chronicles, but that didn't keep me from instantly being drawn into early 1800s England and becoming completely immersed in the lives of Jane, Edward, and Lucy. This is a smart, sophisticated, compelling read that is a must read for lovers of historical mysteries.

Circumstances have forced Jane and Edward to vacate their country home for the summer, and they accept the invitation of their friend Lucy to stay at her London home. Jane isn't eager to live in the city, but as Edward's eyesight gets worse and he has the chance to see an ocular specialist, she agrees it's for the best. They also plan to interview a new doctor for their village and prepare Lucy for the arrival of her husband's illegitimate child whom she plans to raise.

Once in London a visit to the Opera brings Jane into contact with King George and his mistress, as well as Lady Ingram and her two daughters, one of whom had hoped to marry Edward. A public snub requires Jane and Lucy to take tea with the difficult threesome the next day, during which the dowager dies after sipping her coffee. A death at first attributed to a weak heart moments later appears to be murder when a dog dies after licking the spilled coffee.

I enjoyed the pacing of this story; the dowager's death came just far enough into the book for the reader to have time to get to know her and really dislike her! Clues to the killer, as well as the secondary story of political intrigue involving King George IV, are cleverly laid out making this an absorbing novel. A wonderful escape for those of us who love to visit England via the pages of a book.

I received a copy of this book from the author with the request for a review.

Joanne Campbell SlanAbout Joanna Campbell Slan:
Joanna Campbell Slan was born in Jacksonville, Florida, but she grew up in a small town in Indiana. After graduating from Ball State University with a degree in journalism, she worked as a newspaper reporter, a newspaper ad salesperson, a television talk show host, a college teacher, a public relations professional, and a motivational speaker. In that capacity, she was named by Sharing Ideas Magazine as “one of the top 25 speakers in the world.”

When her son, Michael, got his driver’s license, Joanna was freed from carpool duty and finally able to pursue her dream of writing full time. She has since written eighteen books, eleven non-fiction and seven fiction.

Joanna’s newest series—The Jane Eyre Chronicles—began with Death of a Schoolgirl (Berkley) and continues with the release of Death of a Dowager. The series features Charlotte Brontë’s classic heroine Jane Eyre as an amateur sleuth.

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Joanna Campbell Slan said...

So glad you liked it, Melissa. Thanks for having me!

Unknown said...

I had to read Jane Eyre in 7th or 8th grade. The teacher was not pleased when I announced that I thought the first 1/2 of the book was a waste. The second half I divided into thirds: first third, fine; second third, another waste;last third, fine.
I'm glad to have read this review because now I'm more likely to read these books.
Thanks for clearing my mental palate.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Libby, that's fine. You know, we all come to books with different needs and mindsets. You might still think part of the book is a waste, or you might like it now. My take on the classics reads a bit faster and there's a mystery to solve, so that might be more fun for you.

Unknown said...

Undoubtedly. I intend t try it.