Lynhurst Manor is a house built on secrets . . . and the arrival of Aurelie Harcourt might reveal them all.
When Aurelie Harcourt’s father dies suddenly, he leaves her just two things: his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll, and his wealthy family–who want very little to do with her.
As Aurelie struggles to find a home with her father’s family and learn the rules of society, she relishes in his parting gift–the beginning of his last story. The story she always wanted to hear, about her mother’s mysterious disappearance from the home where she now lives. To complete the novel, she’ll have to extract clues from relatives–and one enigmatic houseguest–who often seem reluctant to give them up.
This sounds an intriguing title from a debut novelist. The back cover copy doesn’t mention the particulars of Aurelie’s father’s death, but retail sites state it was in a debtor’s prison. Having grown up in England, this is a familiar concept to me. York Castle Museum, which I visited on a recent trip back home, is partially housed in a former debtor’s prison. Charles Dickens wrote about them, using his remembrances of when his father was sent to Marshalsea debtor’s prison in London.
On a dark and rainy night in 1861, Aurelie Harcourt is released from a debtor’s prison and picked up by a carriage sent by a mysterious aunt. This scene is described in Aurelie’s own words, casting her as a romantic and fanciful writer following in her author father’s footsteps. Yet she has no formal education and lacks the social graces required of her for her future. Her actions become a source of disparagement for her cousin who believes the younger woman should have no place in the family. It’s no surprise that Aurelie’s closest friend should be the family seamstress, who has secrets of her own.
An alternate perspective of Aurelie’s story comes from Silas Rotherham, a family friend. Here the narrative switches to third person and, while it reveals useful information, feels slightly out of place. I suspect this is because the prologue sets up the story as though Aurelie is telling it to a publisher. How would she know what Silas was doing and thinking while not in her company? More jarring to me, however, is the naming of the prison and how it is referred to throughout. In the book, it is called Shepton Mallet Prison in an area called Glen Cora and referred to as The Mallet. In actuality, there is a former prison in the town of Shepton Mallet, Somerset, and it was sometimes known to as Cornhill because of its location in town. Each time someone referred to Shepton Mallet, or The Mallet, in the book my mind went to the town whereas they meant the prison. This was a personal problem, however, and readers unfamiliar with the area will most likely not experience it.
Overall, Lady Jayne Disappears is a bit of a gothic melodrama. It contains mysteries in an imposing, brooding, mansion, and over the top characters such as Aurelie’s cousin and that woman’s daughter. There are several twists and turns to keep the reader guessing, and plenty of Victorian scandal. I did find the ending a bit too abrupt for my liking, however, and had a couple of questions for which answers were not to be had.
Thank you to Revell for my complimentary copy of Lady Jayne Disappears.
Have you read Lady Jayne Disappears? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.
Publisher: Revell (a division of Baker Publishing)
Publication Date: 03 October 2017
Page Count: 416