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My Dear Charlotte (2009)

von Hazel Holt

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914238,242 (3.84)16
A British Regency murder mystery/romance set in 1815, written "with the assistance of Jane Austen's letters." Balls, visits, courtships, gossip (and murder, of course!).
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    Murder Most Welcome von Nicola Slade (GeraniumCat)
    GeraniumCat: A thoroughly entertaining Victorian murder mystery, and a heroine with a past!
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I am well disposed towards Hazel Holt due to her editing work on Barbara Pym's novels. This romance-cum murder mystery is the first of her own books which I have read. It is a somewhat mixed bag. Perhaps the most complimentary thing one could say is that it is better than P D James' dire 'Death Comes to Pemberley' - although Holt's plot is not exactly complex. The book does well, I think, to give us characters who are clearly modelled on Austen's but are different, so we do not feel traduced at their treatment. This is an epistolary novel, couched in the form of letters from our spunky heroine to her shadowy sister. There is a feeling of flagging somewhat in the middle of the book and perhaps some pages could usefully be removed. The details of life in Lyme and other places referred to in the letter are well drawn.

The letters include quotes from Jane Austen's own correspondence, woven into the text. Some of these stand out a lot, others less so. It is a bit of a gimmick, despite the claims made in the highly pretentious foreword written by an Eng. Lit academic. ( )
  ponsonby | Jul 28, 2021 |
This is an epistolary novel written in the style and circumstances similar to Jane Austen's. As a rule I do not like epistolary novels as they are often too contrived and unrealistic (I'm ploughing through Clarissa at the moment) but this one was delightful. The author did not force in too much information merely to move the plot along and the writing style was such that, while it would be awkward for modern day writers, I can believe that people would have written like this then, possibly because letters were their only form of communication over a distance. So, although enough important plot information was included, it didn't overload the letters and the almost throwaway domestic details were just as important and interesting. ( )
2 abstimmen CDVicarage | Sep 14, 2012 |
This is a delightful book. Hazel Holt (Barbara Pym's biographer - a recommendation in itself - and author of the Mrs Malory series of mysteries) has taken Jane Austen's letters and used extracts to create an entirely new and original story. Her heroine, Elinor Cowper writes from her home in Lyme Regis to her sister Charlotte in Bath, chatty letters full of domestic news and comment. Anyone who knows Austen's letters will be aware that some of her comments can be acerbic, to say the least, and Elinor has, of course, a dry sense of humour and a lively wit. We learn the Bath news, too, as Elinor reflects on her sister's letters, arranges purchases of desirable additions to her wardrobe - all the delicious and entertaining detail that Jane and Cassandra discussed in the real letters finds a home here but, in case you wanted anything else, Holt adds a murder mystery. Elinor's curiosity is piqued by the sudden death of a neighbour. Her investigation has to be decorously conducted, but she pursues it with determination.

A must-read for Janeites and fans of Hazel Holt, this will also appeal to readers of Georgette Heyer, or of Nicola Slade's historical mysteries. ( )
2 abstimmen GeraniumCat | Jan 29, 2011 |
My Dear Charlotte is a British Regency mystery set in the early 1800s and infused throughout with the actual language of Jane Austen, one of the world’s great stylists and comic writers. Hazel Holt has published 19 Mrs. Malory mysteries in the tradition of Barbara Pym and has admirers around the world. My Dear Charlotte is a departure from her other work. It is a novel-in-letters written “with the assistance of Jane Austen’s letters.” From the Introduction by Jan Fergus:

"Of course, you don’t have to love Austen to love this book. If you enjoy detective novels, you will find here a completely satisfying murder mystery, coupled with a romance (or more than one, in fact). My Dear Charlotte gives you, in addition to mystery and romance, a portrait of the world of the English gentry at around 1815, immediately after the defeat of Napoleon—its manners and its moral certainty. As in Austen, Napoleon is not directly mentioned, but his shadow is there: one brother of the heroine is a sailor and the other a junior diplomat at the Congress of Vienna. It’s the social world at home that is central, however, with its balls, visits, courtships, gossip, and of course murder, underlining the tensions and rifts within that apparently civilized society.

But it’s readers of Jane Austen who will get the most pleasure from My Dear Charlotte. It is in my opinion the only successful attempt to re-create the world of Austen’s novels, better even than the best of Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances. Holt does much more, though: she has chosen to write a novel-in-letters, which allows her to incorporate witty quotations directly from Austen’s letters into her novel, quotations about persons, occasions, the minutiae of daily life from housekeeping and shopping to the weather and human nature."

Fans of Sharon Lathan, Georgette Heyer and Barbara Pym will love this new mystery. ( )
2 abstimmen beidlerp | Aug 24, 2009 |
My Dear Charlotte has flown beneath a lot of Janeites’ radar, probably because it was published by a very small indie publisher and doesn’t have the marketing machine behind it that other books can command; but when you have an Austen scholar who commands the respect of Jan Fergus writing your introduction, and you are the author of a series of well-regarded cozy mysteries, you’re off to a pretty good start; and the reader finds herself all anticipation, an anticipation that is not misplaced in this charming work.

It is not Austen paraliterature as most of us understand it, and that is what perhaps brought Professor Fergus’ approval: while it has a distinct flavor of Jane Austen’s work, it does not build directly upon any of her novels and uses none of her characters directly, though there are echoes of both. It is an epistolary novel, and the authoress has incorporated tidbits of Austen’s letters throughout. In hands less skilled, such insertions would be out of place, but Ms. Holt weaves them in judiciously.
 
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A British Regency murder mystery/romance set in 1815, written "with the assistance of Jane Austen's letters." Balls, visits, courtships, gossip (and murder, of course!).

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