Jane and the Man of the Cloth (Jane Austen Series #2)

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Jane Austen and her family are looking forward to a peaceful late-summer holiday in the seaside village of Lyme Regis. But on the road thither, a fearful storm and an overturned carriage lead the shaken travelers to seek refuge at High Down Grange. And there, in a dismal manor house wrapt in an air of malevolent neglect, Jane meets the darkly forbidding yet strangely attractive master of High Down Grange, Mr. Geoffrey Sidmouth. What murky secrets does the brooding Mr. Sidmouth hope to preserve behind his fierce ...
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Jane and the Man of the Cloth (Jane Austen Series #2)

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Jane Austen and her family are looking forward to a peaceful late-summer holiday in the seaside village of Lyme Regis. But on the road thither, a fearful storm and an overturned carriage lead the shaken travelers to seek refuge at High Down Grange. And there, in a dismal manor house wrapt in an air of malevolent neglect, Jane meets the darkly forbidding yet strangely attractive master of High Down Grange, Mr. Geoffrey Sidmouth. What murky secrets does the brooding Mr. Sidmouth hope to preserve behind his fierce glower? And who is the exceedingly lovely young woman dressed in peasant garb who shares his home? Once settled in town, Jane seeks to learn the answers. Yet common gossip is soon forgotten when a man is found hanged from a makeshift gibbet by the sea. Only the day before, Jane had observed this same man in a heated exchange with Mr. Sidmouth. Still, the worthies of Lyme are certain the labourer's death is the work of "the Reverend," the notorious ringleader of the midnight smuggling trade. The Reverend's identity is the paramount mystery of Lyme Regis. And Jane, who can never resist a puzzle, is determined to solve this one. But to her dismay, she must soon admit that she harbours a strange sensibility for a man who could very well be a murderer. And then a second mysterious death draws her into a perilous scheme to entrap and expose Geoffrey Sidmouth. From the drawing-rooms of the cultured and the devious to secret caverns and coarse haunts, her mission will take her far from a lady's proper venue...until even so canny a student of character and valiant adventurer must ask herself: "Is the prize worth the risk - to my heart as well as my person?"
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Nearly as wry as Jane Austen herself, Barron delivers pleasure and amusement in her second delicious Jane Austen mystery (Jane and the Unpleasantness of Scargave Manor, 1996). While headed to Lyme Regis for a seaside holiday in 1804, the Austen carriage overturns and Jane's sister Cassandra is injured. The family finds shelter at High Down Grange, home of sardonic Geoffrey Sidmouth and his beautiful cousin Seraphine LeFevre. The narrative is structured as a journal in which Barron's Jane notes her distress at finding herself attracted to the sensuous Sidmouth. The Austens' trip is historically accurate but sparsely enough documented to allow Barron great latitude in creating a tale that makes the most of the period when the Napoleonic Wars raged and the coast was rife with smugglers. At the local Assembly dance, Jane gathers gossip from the Crawfords, Barnewalls, Lucy Armstrong and Captain Percival Fielding, an injured naval officer, who hints that Sidmouth is the "Reverend," a notorious smuggler. When Fielding is murdered and Sidmouth arrested, a customs agent asks Jane to conduct an undercover investigation. She eagerly agrees. With indefatigable daring and intelligence, Jane discovers the true natures of her new acquaintances and the meaning of heroism. While Austen denied that her characters were based on real people, Barron cleverly turns to characters from Austen novels as models for her own: Mrs. Bennet for Mrs. Austen, Willoughby for Sidmouth, Elizabeth's relationship with Darcy for Jane's with Sidmouth. Worthy of its origins, this book is a delight. (Jan.)
School Library Journal
YAFollowing Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor (Bantam, 1996), this book again places Jane Austen in the role of detective. As the Austen family travels to the town of Lyme Regis for a seaside holiday in the summer of 1804, their carriage overturns in a wild storm and Jane's sister Cassandra is injured. They are forced to seek shelter in nearby High Down Grange, the home of the mysterious and sensuous Geoffrey Sidmouth. A few days later, after the Austens are settled in their cottage, Jane witnesses menacing events and hears local gossip that rouses her curiosity. The remote village has become a destination for smugglers and Sidmouth is implicated as the notorious leader, the "Reverend." When his accuser, Captain Fielding, is found murdered, Jane uses her sleuthing abilities to unravel the puzzles of human relationships and ominous events. Like Jane Austen, Barron fuses drama and ironic wit to enable her heroine to maneuver effectively through society's restrictions. Jane is troubled by her conflicting feelings for Sidmouth and her need to get to the bottom of the mystery. Her wry observations, intelligence, and self-awareness will please Jane Austen fans as well as readers who enjoy intrigue blended with social commentary and history.Susanne Bardelson, Wheat Ridge Public Library, Jefferson County, CO
J. Ashley
The plot of this story was interesting, the writing good, the characters amusing....So, the book is a fairly enjoyable read about smuggling and seaside resort towns in the English Regency period, with some melodramatic romance thrown in. If you want a decent read to kill time, fine. If you're a rabid fan of Jane Austen the novelist, you may be disappointed.
Mystery Magazine Online
From the Publisher
"Eat your heart out, Charlotte Bronte!...Jane's narrative voice stays coolly crisp and witty, never losing its clarity of style and authenticity of tone, even in nerve-racking moments of excitement...Captivating...Delightful...Ms. Barron's skillful rendering of Austen's style, attuned to picking up the most delicate fluctuations in social behavior, reveals it to be an ideal vehicle for the classic cozy murder mystery. Who knew?"—The New York Times Book Review

"The words, characters, and references are so real it is a shock to find that the author is not Austen herself."—Arizona Republic

"Delightful...captures the style and wit of Austen.... A real charmer."—San Francisco Examiner

"There's plenty to enjoy in this crime-solving side of Jane....[She] is as worthy a detective as Columbo."—USA Today

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780708939963
  • Publisher: Ulverscroft Large Print Books, Ltd.
  • Publication date: 11/1/1998
  • Series: Jane Austen Series , #2
  • Edition description: Large Print Edition
  • Pages: 496

Read an Excerpt

Bath being unbearably hot this August, and my father's health indifferent, we determined to exchange our rooms in town for more salubrious ones along the coast. We had little inclination to try the bustle and vulgarity of Ramsgate [1], though my brother Edward would take a large establishment there; Brighton was not even to be spoken of; and so to Dorsetshire we would go, and to Lyme Regis in particular, having made a several-weeks' trial of its delights the previous autumn. No coaching inn should be good enough accommodation on the present occasion, however; none of your Three Cups or Golden Lions would do for us--no, the Austens of Bath should travel in style, and take furnished lodgings. A cottage on the water, where my mother might gaze at the sea, and consider her Naval sons, and my father might indulge his passion for botany in walks along the shingle, should do very well. Cassandra and I meant to be happy with frequent turns about the Cobb [2], and even more frequent dances in the town's pretty little Assembly Rooms; our memories of the place were so cheerful, in fact, that the plan met with immediate approval. Bath was forgotten; Ramsgate consigned to those of little sense or taste; and Lyme become the object of all our fondest hopes.

Being possessed of a fortune that no longer admits of a private carriage, but finding ourselves above the meaner conveyance of mail coach and stage--the former being adjudged too swift and precarious for my father's temper, and the latter too crowded and vulgar for my mother's--we were forced to adopt the only alternative, a post chaise initiating in Bath, with horses changed daily en route. Having descended towards the southerncoast by way of Shepton Mallet, Somerton, and Crewkherne, as recommended by Paterson's [3], we were even yet embarked today upon the final stage of our journey, with a new postboy, hailing from Lyme, mounted before; when the appearance of a murkiness upon the horizon gave rise to general alarm. Our fears were rewarded, as such fears generally are, with the sudden convergence of a gale above our heads; and the fierceness of the wind and rain that then ensued was indescribable.

Though it was not much beyond six o'clock, the light had failed utterly, leaving the interior of our coach in a gray dimness through which the faces of my sister and mother, seated opposite, shone palely Cassandra, who is ever indisposed by the motion of a carriage, and who, after long days of travel, was at the last extremity of her endurance, was in very ill looks; and her temper could hardly be improved by the proximity of my mother, whose general alarm at the fearful neighs of the horses, as the storm built wrathfully above our heads, and the postboy's resultant curses, had taught her to seek comfort in a fierce pinching of Cassandra's hand within her own. I observed the whitened knuckles of her grip, and silently thanked the force of chance that had placed me beside my father.

"We shall be overturned! I am sure of it! Overturned, Mr. Austen!" my mother cried.

"Now, my dearest," my father said, in a tone of gentle reproof, "you must not give way to womanly fears. The Lord looks after His own."

"Then He must be looking after them in town," my mother replied, in some exasperation, "for He is assuredly not along the Lyme road at present. We shall be overturned, and all of us killed, and I should like to know what you will say then, Mr. Austen! I am sure you shall be very sorry you did not listen to your wife!"

"Now, my dear," my father said again, and took up once more his book. A fearsome jolt then occurring, I was thrown abruptly against the coach window, and seized my chance to gaze out upon a storm-tossed world. The pitted road, but poorly maintained in the best of times, was awash in muddy water; the adjacent trees lashed into silvery indistinctness by the combined effects of wind and rain; and no relief apparent in the lowering density of cloud. I drew back to the relative comfort of the coach's interior, and attempted to calculate the distance remaining. We were some hours removed from Crewkerne, where we had spent the previous day and evening, not being prone to Sunday travel; [4] and should even now be breasting the long hill into Up Lyme. Was not the carriage rising? But as this very thought struck, a yet more bone-rattling shudder seized the coach's frame, as though a great beast had taken us up in its jaws and tossed us about for sport. I cried out, and was rewarded with a look of terror from my mother and a squeak of pain from Cassandra, whose hand was no doubt suffering under the effects of her companion's anxiety.

"Overturned, Mr. Austen!" the good woman cried, and half-stood as though to throw herself upon her husband's lap.

A great crash from the road ahead, and a lurching of the carriage; then the screaming of horses, and a tumult that could only be due to chaos within the traces. For the world to revolve a hundred degrees, was required but a moment; and when I found the courage to open my eyes, the floor was become the coach's ceiling. A most ludicrous position, particularly when viewed through a quantity of muslin, the result of one's skirts being tipped over one's head. I lay an instant in utter silence, feeling the rapid patter of my heart and the laboured nature of my breathing; and was relieved to find that both continued in force.

A grunt from my father roused me.

"Sir!" I cried, endeavouring to secure him amidst the murk and confusion, "May I be of assistance?"

At that, the coach's nether door was seized and opened--by the postboy, no doubt--and my father, whose main support the door had been, tumbled from the vehicle. Hardly a dignified antic for a clergyman of three-and-seventy, but followed by the still less-seemly exit of his younger daughter, her skirts in a tangle about her knees. The relief, however, at being freed from such a world gone topsy-turvy, was beyond every indecorous attempt to achieve it; I drew a shaky breath and tested my limbs, heedless of the fierce rain that pelted my cap. My father, having been helped to his feet by the postboy (a burly fellow of some five-and-thirty, one Hibbs by name), was seized with a coughing fit. The poor man's senses were little assisted when Hibbs thought to pound upon his back, and I hastened to intervene.

"Father," I said, taking him by the arm, "I trust you are not injured in any way?"

"Only in complaisance, my dear," he replied, with the ghost of a smile, "and that has been decidedly shaken. I shall be forced to attend your mother's every warning, by and by--a triumph, I fear, that she shall not know how to sustain."

My mother! I turned in an instant, and peered back within the carriage's depths--and oh! What a scene I then descried!

My beloved sister lay wan and lifeless, in a heap of crushed muslin against the coach's farthest wall--the wall that had received all the force of impact in the conveyance's upheaval. My mother was attempting to shift Cassandra towards the open door--which, given the tossing of the coach, was well above her head; but the poor woman lacked the strength for it, and was reduced to tears as a consequence.

"Stay, madam," I cried, and leapt for the postboy.

The man Hibbs saw the necessity in a moment; and lifted Cassandra to safety so swiftly and gently that I was all but struck speechless; the condition of the poor sufferer being of paramount importance, however, I offered broken thanks and turned to her comfort, overcome by nameless dread. So much lively beauty, reduced to deathly silence! It was not to be borne. My beloved sister was carried to the shelter of a tree, and my father's cloak propped on a few sticks above her, in an ineffectual attempt to shield her from the rain.

My mother's wails declared her incapable of use; my father was consigned to comfort her; and I turned to Cassandra to see what ill I might find.

A great bruise o'erspread her temple, and in feeling about her scalp, I was rewarded by a grimace of pain flitting across her countenance, and a warm trickle of blood upon my fingertips. I chafed her wrists, and called her name; implored her, in desperation, to awake; but she continued insensible, lying at the verge of the road like so much cast-off clothing. The horror that seized me then! I shudder to recall it. I was the closest to despair I have been in all my life--and so resolved upon action. To do, when one is very nearly past hope, is the sole means of relief. I turned from Cassandra and looked for the postboy.

"Hibbs!" I shouted. The tumult of the storm continued unabated, making all attempt at conversation a dubious affair.

"Yes, miss," the man rejoined, turning from the wreckage of his rig.

"My sister cannot remain here."

"Don't know as she 'as much choice, beggin' yer pardon, miss. The horses be gone, and the coach a fair wreckage. Then there's the matter of o' that there tree " he said, tossing a look over his shoulder.

I regained my feet and peered ahead into the tempest. A massive trunk indeed lay full across the road, barring further passage. How unfortunate that it should be before us, rather than behind. But I comprehended, now, the reason for the horses' terror and flight. We were any of us fortunate to be alive.

"We cannot hope to shift it?"

Hibbs shook his head in reply, "And with the nags run off--"

"Then we must fetch assistance from some neighbouring farm," I said with authority, and peered about me into the gloom. Misfortune could not have chosen a more desolate place to befall us. As far as the gaze might reach, the high downs rolled unimpeded to he sea. But wait--"

"Is not that a light, away there in the distance?"

The postboy shrugged, and his brows lowered. "Happen it is. But you'll not be finding help for the young lady at the Grange."

"And why ever not?"

"They're queer folk."

"Queer or no, they cannot refuse to help a lady in such distress," I replied firmly, and turned to my father. Heedless of the rain that had completely soaked his hat, he stood at a little distance from my mother, who was bent over Cassandra in an attitude of despair. My sister's condition, I saw at a glance, was unchanged. With such burdens of infirmity and age parcelled out among them, they should none of them be left too long in darkness and storm.

"Sir," I called, crossing to my father, "the postboy and I intend to seek aid from the farm whose lights you espy at a little distance. We shall hasten to return."

"But, Jane--my dear--had not I better go?" my father enquired doubtfully, and when I would insist, he added in a lowered tone, "For it cannot be proper to send you off into the night in the company of such a man. A complete stranger, and a hapless one, I fear; only look to what an impasse he has brought us!"

"But thankfully, Father, he calls this country home; and may be of service in appealing to the inhabitants of the farm. And as to going yourself--would you leave three women alone and unprotected, on such a road, in such a state? Better that you should stand with my mother, and comfort her when you may."

I turned from him before he could reply--for, in truth, help should be long in coming, did my father go in search of it. He is an elderly gentleman whose pace is slow on the smoothest of roads, and in the best of light; and I paled to think of him attempting the downs in the present hour.

"Come along, Hibbs," I called to the postboy, who stood muttering under his breath over the ruin of his harness. "To the Grange it is, as fast as our feet may carry us "

Editor's Notes:

1. The Austens had visited Ramsgate during the spring or summer of 1803 prior to their first visit to Lyme that September. Jane disliked Ramsgate intensely and when she wished to place a fictional character in a compromising position, she often sent her to Ramsgate. Georgiana Darcy was nearly seduced by Wickham there, in Pride and Prejudice, while in Mansfield Park, Maria Bertram endured a loveless Ramsgate honeymoon before her adulterous affair with Henry Crawford.

2. Jane refers here to Lyme's Marine Parade, known in her day simply as The Walk; it ran along the beach fronting Lyme's harbor, and out along the ancient stone breakwater, both of which are called the Cobb.

3. Paterson's British Itinerary was the road bible of the traveling gentry from 1785 to 1832. Written by Daniel Paterson and running to seventeen editions, it detailed stage and mail routes between major cities, as well as their tolls, bridges, landmarks, and notable country houses.

4 In Austen's time, traveling on Sunday was considered disrespectful to the Sabbath.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 12 of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2000

    19th Century Nancy Drew

    This second in the 'Jane' series is by far my favorite. It has everything a good mystery needs: murder, scandal, humor, and unexpected twists. The footnotes add to the probability of Jane Austen's excellent sleuthing abilities. I have recommended this book to both my family and friends. The entire series has been thoroughly enjoyed by myself and many friends.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 5, 2012

    Highly Recommend

    If you LOVE Jane Austen and a murder mystery then you will LOVE this series

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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