I recently read a new novel written by a friend of mine, Joanna Davidson Politano. The book, Lady Jayne Disappears, is part mystery, part intrigue, part romance, and all-together hard to put down until the last page. (My children were thrilled the evening I was so absorbed in this book that all plans for supper were thrown out of the window and we ordered pizza!)
Set in Victorian England, this novel looks beyond the placid shell of gentry life—which so many Victorian novels focus on—and touches the darker side of Victorian culture in the debtors’ prisons, classism, and the consequences of reckless action. What would it have been like to grow up in a prison because of your parents? What would it be like to then leave such a place and to find yourself living among relatives who know nothing of your life, and don’t care to find out? As the heroine, Aurelie, struggles to find her place in their world, she works to untangle the secrets that surround her parents. She also begins to discover a new life outside the walls of the prison she’s known all her life, and it is a hard change. The struggle requires Aurelie to dig down into the faith her father had shown her during their years together in prison. (I won’t tell you too much, because that would be cruel. I hate when a story is told before I have the chance to read it!)
I love that the characters in this novel are flawed, one way or another. There is a humanness to them, quirks in their nature, that add to their depth and create interesting complications…much as we do in our own lives. Yet throughout the book, I genuinely liked the main characters, “warts and all.” I’ve found more than a few books—books that critics tell me are wonderful!—in which authors focus on making their heroes and heroines so UN-likeable, that mid-way through the story I put it away, utterly uninterested in how the story ends. This is not the case here. As the novel progressed, I found myself liking the various characters more and more.
Lady Jayne Disappears has more than a few twists and turns, not leading readers to an obvious conclusion. How many books have I read that, at the end of the first paragraph, I can guess the final paragraph? This novel is different. The varied strands of narrative are woven together in a beautifully told story of grace and strength. It is definitely worth your time to pick it up.
You can find it online at Amazon or ask for it at your local library!