Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Blog Tour: Death of a Dowager by Joanna Campbell Slan (Guest Post)

About Death of a Dowager

In her classic tale, Charlotte Brontë introduced readers to the strong-willed and intelligent Jane Eyre. Picking up where Brontë left off, the year is now 1820, and Jane’s life has finally settled into a comfortable pattern. She and her beloved Edward Rochester have married and have a son. But Jane soon finds herself having to protect those she loves…

When the roof caves in at Ferndean, their country home, Jane and Edward accept an invitation from their friend Lucy Brayton to stay with her in London while repairs are being made. Jane is reluctant to abandon their peaceful life in the countryside, but Edward’s damaged vision has grown worse. She hopes that time in the capital will buoy his spirits and give him the chance to receive treatment from a renowned oculist.

Once in London, the Rochesters accompany Lucy to the Italian Opera House, where they encounter Dowager Lady Ingram, who had once hoped for Edward to wed her daughter, Blanche—and who’s still rankled by his subsequent marriage to Jane. In front of a group of society people, the aging dowager delivers a vicious social drubbing to Jane, enraging both Edward and Lucy. In an attempt to rebuild good will, Jane and Lucy decide to speak to the Dowager in private the next day. But the visit is cut short when the Dowager drops dead before their shocked eyes. Lucy is poised to take the blame—unless Jane can clear her friend’s name…

Author Guest Post

Diary of a Wimpy Writer

(From the Diary of Joanna Campbell Slan)

June 6, 2013

Dear Diary—

What a wimp I am. As Tropical Storm Andrea passes by Southern Florida, I’ve elected to postpone my trip to the post office and grocery store. I balk at walking ten feet in the rain to get into my car. That old beast of mine is my sanctuary, where heated seats and Sirius radio are just two of the wonderful creature comforts. But getting wet is so annoying! Instead I choose to sit at my computer and review my research for a trip from Yorkshire to London that Jane Eyre and her beloved husband Edward Rochester are making with their young son. Point of fact, I am cruel beyond belief to inflict such a journey on the Rochester family, but I have done just that in Death of a Dowager.

Imagine, dear Diary, sixty hours in a cramped stagecoach. With a toddler. I remember taking car trips and traveling by plane with my son when he was a small child. In fact, my stomach is twists into a knot thinking about it!

Even for adults, travel in the year 1820 was not for the faint of heart. In his book Early Days of the Nineteenth Century in England, William Connor Sydney writes, “Stage-coaches were to be avoided as much as possible.” A Frenchman of the time describes the vehicle en route to London as being “crammed inside and out with passengers of all ages, sex, and conditions.” Travelers who could afford the regular fare would be packed side-by-side on two facing bench seats. Their boots would rest on a floor. That surface was covered with straw to absorb mud from the road. The straw was not changed regularly, so it not only smelled bad, it also housed all sorts of vermin.

Less fortunate travelers who could not afford the full fare would “hang on” to the railing around the top of the coach. This, in fact, is the origin of two phrases we still use today. “Hangers on” refers to sycophants or parasites and references the penniless passengers clutching tightly to the coach. “Drop off” as in “to go to sleep” derives its meaning from the sad fact that those who fell asleep would “drop off” the stagecoach.

Of course, it’s more likely that riders would be “cast off” than “drop off.” The roads were rough, the wheels broke easily, and the coaches were top-heavy, making tipping over a common occurrence. When a coachman decided to drive at the dizzying speed of twelve miles per hour, the trip became even more treacherous. Stories were told of passengers who died afterward because of the stress such high speed put on the human brain. (I must remember this the next time my speedometer inches past seventy mph. Perhaps that’s a stress I can do without!)

Ah. The rain has slowed to a drizzle. Maybe I’ll go and run those errands after all.

Until later, dear Diary--



National bestselling and award-winning author Joanna Campbell Slan writes multiple mystery series. Her new book, Death of a Dowager, is a finalist for the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence and is the second entry in The Jane Eyre Chronicles. Continuing the story begun in Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel, these books refashion Jane into what Kirkus Reviews has called “a surprisingly canny detective.” Visit Joanna at www.JoannaSlan.com

Joanna Campbell Slan


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Join Joanna Campbell Slan on tour:

June 10, 2013 - Omnimystery
June 11, 2013 - Socrates Book Review
June 12, 2013 - Book Lady’s Book Notes
June 13, 2013 - A Chick Who Reads
June 14, 2013 - Melina’s Book Blog
June 15, 2013 - Mystery Playground
June 16, 2013 – Cozy Mystery Book Review
June 17, 2013 - Kaisy Daisy’s Corner
June 18, 2013 - Shelley’s Book Case
June 19, 2013 - Melissa’s Mochas, Mysteries & More


  1. Ohhh thrilling :D And Jane Eyre to boot

  2. Absolutely, Blodeuedd. She's my favorite heroine of all time, so I wanted to revisit her at a reader--and decided I could do the same as an author. I hope you'll check out the books. The first one in the series is Death of a Schoolgirl, a Daphne finalist, and Death of a Dowager is the second.

  3. Hey, Socrates, thanks so much for having me!

  4. Loved the post. I tweeted.

  5. Surely Rochester and Jane and family traveled in several private carriages? One for servants and another for trunks etc. while the baby and his nurse were sometimes with Jane and sometimes with the servants.
    The series does sound interesting.

    1. My book is set after Thornfield Hall burned to the ground and Edward Rochester has not yet replaced his private coach

    2. Because otherwise, they would have taken their own carriages for sure!

  6. I enjoyed the guest post--in diary form!

  7. Love the cover..Thanks for sharing it..

    1. teena3940, isn't the cover wonderful? My publisher did a fantastic job!

  8. I imagine riding in a carriage isn't as easy as a romance novel makes it seem. As you say, people crammed in and the rocky ride probably made some of them "carriage" sick. And what about pit stops? I'm glad I live in this time zone.

    1. Hey, Nancy. They would stop at coaching inns, but only at scheduled stops. None of this, "Could you pull off at the next exit" nonsense! I think we tend to over-romanticize that time period.

  9. I visited a stagecoach museum recently and marveled at how it must have been to travel with long dresses and lots of underclothing, without air-conditioning, comfortable seats, shock absorbers, rest stops, etc. We think we have it rough sometimes! Loved your post!

  10. Pauline, I visited a carriage museum in Virginia to do my research. You are right--it wouldn't have been fun. One of the carriages there actually had tipped over and nearly killed the occupants. After I heard that, I started looking at them more carefully and realizing how incredibly dangerous they were. Thanks for your interest.

  11. Excited for you to have a new release, Joanna, + recognition is such an honour!
    Luv the historical insights and relevance to our jargon =)


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