When Aurelie Harcourt’s father dies in debtor’s prison, he leaves her just two things: his wealthy family, whom she has never met, and his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll. Her new family greets her with apathy and even resentment. Only the quiet houseguest, Silas Rotherham, welcomes her company.
When Aurelie decides to complete her father’s unfinished serial novel, writing the family into the story as unflattering characters, she must keep her identity as Nathaniel Droll hidden while searching for the truth about her mother’s disappearance–and perhaps even her father’s death.
Author Joanna Davidson Politano’s stunning debut set in Victorian England will delight readers with its highly original plot, lush setting, vibrant characters, and reluctant romance.
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First off, I simply must mention how much I love this book (if you have read any of my recent posts, you may not be shocked by this). I first read, and reviewed Lady Jayne Disappears a couple of years ago. I remember deeply enjoying the story, but finding it slightly confusing. The second time through, I fell wholeheartedly in love with this story from its first pages, and by making sure that I was focusing on the story (by that I mean: not skim reading) I had no problems following the story.
To begin, Politano’s writing is beautiful and almost poetic at times. Her use of words paints vivid pictures that bring the story to life, without assaulting the reader with unnecessary details and descriptions. Reading through Lady Jayne Disappears was a bit like a treasure hunt, that required little hunting. I underlined countless pieces of the story and I am honestly still in awe of the fact that Politano managed to fit so many memorable pieces of writing into one story.
“Too often we cut away essential elements of ourselves to fit into a mold and discover those elements were vital to who we are, and our improvements have only made us more ordinary.” -LJD
The first pages of Lady Jayne Disappears transport the reader to the office of March House Press in London, England, where we first meet our lovely main character, Aurelie Harcourt. As Aurelie tells her story, we visit Shepton Mallet Prison, a sad, dark place, before we land at Lynhurst Manor. Lynhurtst is beautiful, with lovely gardens and outdoor spaces, crumbling ruins and a mysterious tower.
As is typical of Politano’s settings, Lynhurst is at the center of the story and also typical of Politano’s settings, Lynhurst often seems alive, a character in its own right. Not only does Lynhurst hold the abundant secrets of its inhabitants, it plays a part in all of them.
“For a writer, revenge was best saved for an empty notebook where the pen was, indeed, a mighty weapon against her foes.” – LJD
The characters of Lady Jayne Disappears were lovely, but I found that they simply did not fascinate as the characters of the Love Note did. I must also say that I found Nelle quite disappointing. She is not a bad character, she simply seems a bit rushed in her development, perhaps. In addition, I felt that her relationship with Aurelie deepened far too quickly, and this undoubtedly influences my disappointment with her character.
Despite what I said earlier, Aurelie Harcourt is exceptional. She manages to be an unusual young woman, without checking the boxes of a not-like-the-other-girls character. Aurelie is lovely and bright, a storyteller and writer. Her love for words is passionate and quite honestly inspiring. Aurelie’s words may cause endless amounts of trouble, but in the end, they begin to fill in the cracks in her broken family.
“No one understood her love of reading, but to Lady Jayne, fiction was far better than real life – it always had to make sense, and real life seldom did.” – LJD
Silas Rotherham, Aurelie’s love-interest, is interesting, and much like Aurelie, a lover of stories and words. He is quiet and a deep thinker, as well as kind and loving. I honestly wish we got to know him a bit better.
To end this review, I must share my one complaint, a matter of pure personal preference. Throughout Lady Jayne Disappears there is a strong thread of emphasis on men being the protectors of the women in their life. This surfaces in various ways that felt, to me, to emphasize traditional gender roles. Obviously for many readers this will pose no interference with their general enjoyment of a beautiful story, but I couldn’t help but be slightly irritated by it.
“The best books draw the curtains back on a person’s life and allow the reader to glimpse each part and understand it fully.” – LJD
Have you read LJD or any of Politano’s other books? What have you been up to lately? Anything new or exciting?