Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor (Jane Austen Series #1)

Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor (Jane Austen Series #1)

by Stephanie Barron

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307486516
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/16/2009
Series: Jane Austen Series , #1
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 28,648
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Stephanie Barron is the author of eight previous Jane Austen mysteries. She lives in Colorado, where she is at work on the next Jane Austen mystery.


From the Paperback edition.

Read an Excerpt

Journal entry, 11 December 1802, written in the small hours


"What do you make of it, Jane?" The Countess of Scargrave asked. Her fingers gripped my elbow painfully.

I gazed at the recumbent form of her husband with dismay. Frederick, Lord Scargrave, was decidedly unwell--so unwell that I had been called to his bedside an hour before dawn, an indiscretion the Earl would never have allowed while possessed of his senses. I pulled the collar of my dressing gown closer about my neck and placed my free hand over the Countess's.

"I believe that your husband is dying, Isobel," I told her.

Her fingers moved convulsively under my own, and then were still. "Dying. Were I to hear it so declared a thousand times, I still should not believe it possible."

I surveyed my friend with silent pity, uncertain how to answer such distress. The transformation wrought upon her husband's agonized countenance was indeed extraordinary--and had required but a few hours to effect. That very evening, the Earl had led his Countess down the dance in Scargrave's ballroom, revelling in the midst of a company come to toast the fortunes of them both. Despite his eight-and-forty years, he shone as a man blessed with second youth, elegant and lively, the very charm of his race crying out from every limb. And tho' he had complained of dyspepsia before, this illness came upon him of a sudden--and with a violence one may hardly credit to an overfondness for claret and pudding.

"Had he taken aught to eat or drink in the past few hours?" I asked.

My friend shook her head. "Only a milk toddy and some sweetmeats the maid brought to him upon retiring. But I do not believe he had long consumed them before the sickness laid him prostrate."

The stench of the Earl's illness rose from the fouled sheets the maids would not change for fear of paining him further. His breath was caught thick within his throat, and his strength worn down by dizzyness and a violence of puking such as one usually sees under the influence of a purgative. His eyes were rolled back in drowsy oblivion, his skin was pallid, and his features were bloated. It was a trial merely to observe such suffering; to endure it must have been fearsome.

As I watched with Isobel by his bedside, awaiting the doctor summoned in haste from London, the Earl gave forth a great moan, rose up shuddering from his sheets, and clutched his wife's hand. "Blackguards!" his shattered voice cried. "They would take me from within!" Then he fell back insensible upon his bed, and spoke no more.

Isobel was all efficiency; a compress she had in a moment, and ministered to her troubled lord, and the violence of feeling that had animated his poor body but an instant before, troubled him not again.

I am no stranger to death--I have sat watch over too many unlovely ends by the side of my clergyman father, who believes the company of a woman necessary to sustain him in the most mortal hours of his ministry--but this was a sort of dying I had never witnessed.

A chill draught wafted through the chamber door from the great hall below. I turned my head swiftly, in hope of the doctor, and saw only Marguerite, Isobel's maid.

"Milady," the Creole girl whispered, her eyes stealing from her mistress's face to the more dreadful one of the Earl, "the doctor is come." Her countenance was pale and frightened, and as I watched, she made the Papist sign of the cross hurriedly at her brow, and ducked back through the doorway.

I cannot find it in me to scold the maid for such foolishness. She is a simple girl from Isobel's native Barbadoes, who accompanied her mistress upon Isobel's removal to England two years ago. Marguerite has sorely missed her sleep tonight--it was she who fetched me hastily before dawn to the Countess's side. But even I, a child of cold-blooded England less susceptible to horrified fancy, must confess to sleeplessness these several hours past. For the Earl has uttered such moans and cries that none may shut out his agony, and all within Scargrave's walls are robbed of peace this night.

"Lady Scargrave," the physician said, breaking into my thoughts. He clicked his heels together and bowed in Isobel's direction. A young man, with all his urgency upon his face.

"Dr. Pettigrew," the Countess replied faintly, her hand going to her throat, "thank God you are come."

How Isobel could bear it! Married but three months, and to lose a husband one has but lately acquired would seem the cruellest blow of Fate. Yet still she stood, composed and upright, and waited with the terrible fortitude of women for the result of so much misery.

Dr. Pettigrew glanced at me and nodded, brushing the snow from his greatcoat and handing it to Marguerite, who bobbed a frightened curtsey and ducked out of the chamber. As the physician hastened to the Earl's bedside, I strove to read his thoughts; but his eyes were hidden behind spectacles, and his mouth held firmly in a line, and I could divine nothing from his youthful countenance. He reached for the Earl's wrist, and poor Lord Scargrave moaned and tossed upon his pillow.

"Leave us now, my dear Jane," Isobel said, her hand cool upon my cheek; "I will come to you when I may."


1. A brief explanation of English titles and modes of address may be helpful to American readers, who lack Jane's easy familiarity with both. Isobel Collins married Frederick Payne, the Earl of Scargrave, and as such became the Countess of Scargrave. She would be addressed as Lady Scargrave, but because she is a commoner by birth, she would never be addressed as Lady Isobel; that would be a courtesy title conferred on the daughter of a peer. The Earl is usually addressed as Lord Scargrave, taking his name from his title, rather than as Lord Payne, his family name, which in this account denotes his heir Fitzroy, Viscount Payne. --Editor's note.


From the Paperback edition.

Table of Contents

Reading Group Guide

The Jane Austen Mysteries by Stephanie Barron place a beloved nineteenth-century author in an unfamiliar role: that of amateur detective. The series follows Austen’s life from the age of 26, in 1802, up to the year of her first novel’s publication in 1811. The questions offered below are intended to spark conversations among interested readers.

1. Jane Austen was born in 1775, on the eve of England’s war with the American colonies, and died in 1817, two years after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo. Her life was in many ways defined by warfare. How might this have shaped Austen’s attitudes toward men? Toward women’s traditional roles?

2. In Barron’s novels, Jane Austen is regarded as a gentlewoman–a person of good birth and social standing–who unfortunately has no money. Her desire to write novels is partly motivated by a desire for financial independence and a life beyond the narrow domestic roles accorded to women in her day. Is this struggle different today?

3. The fictional Jane of this mystery series walks a fine line between knowledge of the broader world and its evils–murder, adultery, jealous, scheming, avarice, political treason–and a sharp awareness that a lady of her period was expected to know nothing of any of them. Is Jane a hypocrite? Is she unusual in her knowledge of the world? How does her compromise between experience and the limits of social convention surface in her fiction?

4. Lord Harold Trowbridge holds an immense attraction for Jane in these novels. What does he represent in her life–the desire for power? For deep emotional and physical experience? The desire to save him from himself? Or merely Jane’s yearning to be known for who she truly is? Is Jane more honest with Lord Harold that with others in her life?

5. Jane lavishes affection on her elder sister Cassandra. Is Cassandra worthy of it?

6. Jane’s involvement in the lives of others suggests the possibility that she a) an insufferable busybody; b) has too much time on her hands; or c) is extraordinarily perceptive about human nature–which allows her to map the motivations behind (occasionally criminal) actions. Discuss. Is Jane a perceptive person? Is this evident in her novels as well as her detective adventures?

7. In an era when women were expected to marry and have children, Jane did neither–publishing books instead. Was she a rebel? How did she make the best of a social fate she neither chose nor controlled? Which qualities make it more or less likely that she would enjoy the challenges of amateur detective?

8. Jane’s fictional women usually triumph by the power of their wits and the energy of their actions. Does this reflect Jane’s real life? Is it a hopeful view of existence? Do you think Jane was a content person? An ambitious one? A wise woman or a blind one?

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Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor (Jane Austen Series #1) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Kimberly_Book_Addict More than 1 year ago
Author Stephanie Barron's friends, the Westmorelands of Maryland, find a trunk of letters and journals during a renovation of their estate. One rainy Saturday, Barron and the Westmorelands begin sifting through all the paperwork, thinking it's old family documents. To their surprise it's journals and letters left behind by the Westmorlands's distant relative Jane Austen!! These letters and journals are supposedly the pieces of the puzzle that is Austen's life post 1801. It is this fictitious "editor's note" that sets the tone for Barron's charming series about a sleuthing Jane Austen. Scargrave Manor, the first in the Jane Austen mystery series, follows Jane on a trip to Scargrave Manor to visit her newly married friend Isobel Payne. During Jane's residency at the manor, a ball is thrown to celebrate the nuptials between Isobel and new husband Frederick, Earl of Scargrave. It is during the ball that you are introduced to a slew of characters that one can guess have such a lasting effect on Jane that she chose to immortalize their characterizations in her own novels. Shortly after the Earl toasts his new bride and their guests he begins experiencing pain that unfortunately leads to his untimely end. Thinking it was just a flare up of his stomach dyspepsia gone awry they begin making arrangements for the Earl's funeral. Isobel soon comes to Jane's room with a mysterious note she received which threatens to go public with her infidelity to the Earl and her part in his murder! It may plese you to think that you are free of the soupcon, milady, you and the tall lord who is so silent and who looks thru me; but the hanging, it is too good for you. I must keep myself by the side of my Saviour, and no one is safe in your company; and so I have gone this morning and you shanll not find me out ware. The next leter, it will go to the good Sir William; and then we will see what becomes of those who kill. Jane quickly figures out that the note is written by Marguerite, a servant, due to the crude spelling and language. Jane promises Isobel that she will do everything she can to prove Isobel's innocence and bring the real killer to justice. With a house filled with suspects and more murders, it's up to Jane to figure out the real culprit and motive. The first time I read this book I didn't see the little note that the "editor's note" was really fictitious and I read almost half the book thinking that it really was based on Jane's lost journals. (HAHA you can all laugh at me) This series is one of the most creative Austen fan fiction junctures that I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Barron is truly fantastic at keeping true to Austen's writing style. Her writing flows with such eloquence and beauty, it's hard not to be drawn into the story. Barron's characters are remarkably layered. Just when you think you've figured out whodunnit a character begins showing another layer. Barron writes such a controlled story you really are kept guessing as to who the murderer is until the final pages of the book. These are the types of mystery books that I love reading; intelligent ones that are meant to keep you searching for clues and connections the entire time. There are now 11 books in the series and I cannot wait to gobble them all up. Kimberly (Reflections of a Book Addict)
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the best book I have read in a long time!! It kept my interest until the end. A must read for any fan of Jane Austen.
1946-ReadingLense More than 1 year ago
I admit I was skeptical, but intriged by the audacity of Stephanie Barron. She won me over in short order. Jane Austen's style, thought processes, and linguistics came to life in Ms Barron's hand. Jane Austen as a sluth, the perfect characterization. The plots are naturally intriguing, with plenty of suspense, twists and turns to the end. I discovered phrases picked out of Miss Austen's actual writings. They were like old friends, so familiar and welcome. I really enjoy the summations. Well done!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a nice period piece and gives the true feel of a real Jane Austen novel. The characters and footnotes appealed to me as mush as the mystery itself.
Romonko on LibraryThing 20 days ago
In the end I really enjoyed this book. It is not the first time that an historical mystery is told in the form of supposedly found lettes and documents. The one that does this extremely successfully is Elizabeth Peters in her Amelia Peabody series, which happens to be be a huge favourite of mine. Jane Austen in the role of sleuth is not that big a stretch since we already know that the lady was intelligent and had a keen wit. I enjoyed the way Ms. Barron portrayed her in this book, and she was interesting enough to make me want to read more in this series. There were a few loopholes in the plot though, and some "flights of fancy" that seemed to come from nowhere. The historical detail is also not perfect, but these small flaws don't destroy the story. I think the genre for this book is more historical cozy than historical mystery, so keeping this in mind, the flaws do not seem so important and the story is lots of fun.
bookheaven on LibraryThing 20 days ago
Written in the style of Jane Austen. Fun mystery.
shaunnas on LibraryThing 20 days ago
I have purposefully shunned all of the fake "jane" books out there until I saw this one. I was looking for something light and fun and this fit my need. I really liked this book. The characters were well drawn. I loved the bits of humor. The author really has captured the essence of the real "jane". I will be reading on in the series.
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing 20 days ago
I'm a big fan of Jane Austen, but that caused me to bristle a bit at the start of this pastiche with every allusion or near quote. I'm generally not a fan of the professionally published Austen fanfic, since they just doesn't bear comparison to the original. However, I have greatly enjoyed Carrie Bebris' mysteries with Darcy and Elizabeth of Pride and Prejudice as sleuths--they're like spending time with old friends, and set within an entirely different genre, the comparisons don't feel so invidious, so I gave this a try. Purported to be a lost manuscript of Austen's journals and letters, Barron's novel tells of Austen's sleuthing of a murder mystery at Scargrave Manor, where she is spending the Christmas holidays at the invitation of the newly wed Countess, who is about to become suspected of her husband's murder. Told with a stab at Austenesque style (characters are often "all amazement" at developments) the novel comes complete with footnotes about the life and times of Jane Austen by the "editor." Disgruntled as I might have been at the beginning, I confess the author gradually won me over. The mystery kept me guessing and I was impressed with the obvious research brought to bear on Regency England, that took in everything from the economics, politics and fashion of the time to the intricacies of its legal process (at the time no presumption of innocence, no cross-examination by the defense) to details like suicides being buried at the crossroads with a stake through their heart. Little by little, Barron won me over, and I just allowed myself to have fun and got sucked into a diverting world and mystery for a few hours that went by all too quickly. I still prefer Bebris though, because when reading her mysteries I often let myself believe I was reading about Darcy and Lizzie--while Barron's Jane never really convinced me.
jannief on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I thought the writing was well done and the story believable. The fact that it's supposed to be Jane Austen was not even noticed. There were some lines that came right out of Pride & Prejudice that I did notice but as the book progressed, either it was toned down or I didn't pick up on it. All in all, a fun book to read and I'm looking forward to reading more in the series.
justine on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Jane Austen solves mysteries and comments on her contemporary world, what could be better?
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If you are a Jane Austen fan, you will enjoy this book told in her own words. She becomes involved in a murder trial as she tries to save her dear friend from sent to the stockade. It starts a bit slow, but picks up as you go. It is a great read.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am an avid reader, and I find this series of books amazing. Not only does each book keep you on the edge of your seat, but each book is historically accurate and so much fun to read! I am a huge fan of Jane Austen, and I really feel that the author captures what you would imagine her personality and thought process to be, beautifully! Also, I find the social interactions between the characters and Jane's commentary fascinating. Kudos to Stephanie Barron - WONDERFUL work!!
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