Bantam, June 2003, 24.95, 294 pp.
It has been over two years since Jane Austen has last seen Lord Harold Trowbridge, the second son of the fifth duke of Wilborugh. Most of the realm sees him as a rakehell and a rogue, but Jane knows that is his public persona. Behind the scenes he works for the government as a spymaster looking for ways to defeat Napoleon. In 1808 in the port town of Southampton, Lord Harold asks Jane to spy upon the new woman into town.
Sophia Challoner, a woman he believes is a spy for Napoleon, left the besieged town of Oporto, Portugal to reside in Netley Lodge. While Jane watches the home, someone sets fire to the docks and the new ship that was ready to be put to sea. While Harold thinks the culprit is one of Sophia's agents, Jane isn't so sure because she has come to know and like the woman. When a local servant is killed, someone sets up Harold to take the blame. Before a jury can judge his guilt, Harold's servant, who is supposed to give evidence diappears and he is afraid that his valet is Sophia's latest victim.
Fans of historical novels, Regency readers and espionage thriller buffs are going to find JANE AND THE GHOSTS OF NETLEY very much to their taste as the heroine finally acknowledges her true feelings for the Duke's son while readers see why Harold might reciprocate. She is an independent free thinker who doesn't always play by society's rules. The first person narrative allows the audience to understand how the heroine feels about the restrictions placed upon women and how she gently maneuvers events to do what she wants. Stephanie Barron has written an exciting cerebral mystery thriller that will keep readers turning the pages until they uncover the identity of the spy.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner