After reading Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor, I was enthralled by Stephanie Barron's cunning way of capturing Jane Austen's writing style and her creativity in imagining historically correct mysteries. Barron incorporates footnotes into the story to explain certain terms and customs, which enhances the authenticity of her stories.
However, this second installment, Jane and the Man of the Cloth, is weak. It is 1804, and the Austen family is traveling to Lyme on holiday, but on the way there, they encounter very bad weather and their carriage overturns, injuring Jane's sister Cassandra. Jane must trek through darkness and rain to find help from the nearest dwelling, which happens to be owned by one very surly Geoffrey Sidmouth, and we learn straight away that this is a very strange household.
Where is SpecOps when you need them? Obviously, some outlaw page-runner from Wuthering Heights is trying to create chaos and confusion among the Jane Austen and Emily Bronte fans.
But seriously, even though Barron does her homework* on the region and the time, she has Austen doing unbelievable things. I am actually pretty good at suspending my disbelief, but a woman such as Jane Austen would not be sneaking out at night or visiting dangerous places all alone--this is not in her character and simply out of place for this time period. Besides that, the plot was not bad, but not compelling, either.
I hope the third one is better.
* Among Barron's references is A Short History of Lyme Regis, by the late John Fowles.
Next up: The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss, who, incidentally, is married to Jonathan Safran Foer. I've been in a bit of a reading slump, but can already tell that this will be a good one!