Secrets in the Snow: A Novel of Intrigue and Romance
SECRETS IN THE SNOW, an installment in Michaela MacColl’s mystery series about literary authors in their teens, follows an exciting period of Jane Austen’s life during her youth.
After Jane visits her older brother Edward with her sister Cassandra, she overhears an upsetting meeting of Edward’s with a War Office member in respect to the war between France and England. The meeting regards Jane’s beloved cousin, Eliza, the Comtesse de Feuillide, who married a Frenchman who died from the guillotine in France. After the War Office intercepts a suspicious letter from one of Eliza’s servants, they are convinced that Eliza now spies for France. Jane, outraged at her brother for doubting the trustworthiness of her cousin, refuses to follow his plan of bringing Eliza to his estate as a visitor in order to keep an eye on her.
"MacColl presents a fascinating and engaging fictionalized account of Jane Austen’s youth....drawing upon her experience writing historical fiction to make Austen’s life come alive to her readers."
Instead, Jane goes to visit Eliza at the inn she is staying at, using the carriage that Eliza sent for her. On the way, Jane and Jacques, Eliza’s servant, are held up at gunpoint by a mysterious man hoping to gain information on Eliza’s whereabouts. As the mystery surrounding the masked gunman deepens, Jane and Eliza return to the countryside home of the Austens, ignoring Edward’s demands to bring Eliza to him. At home, Jane surprises herself by taking a liking to the ill-mannered Mr. Tom Lefroy, who might possibly change her path to old maidhood.
MacColl presents a fascinating and engaging fictionalized account of Jane Austen’s youth, providing insight into her life and her relationships. MacColl writes a compelling novel, drawing upon her experience writing historical fiction to make Jane Austen’s life come alive to her readers. The details MacColl includes paint an intricate picture within her readers’ minds, demonstrating life during the Regency period. MacColl places emphasis upon the limitations women face within society, reminding readers that Jane cannot rent a carriage and travel unless a male relative accompanies her. MacColl also examines how the adventures of Jane’s youth lent ideas to her novels, making references to the seed that could have possibly sparked Jane’s inspiration for PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.
The relationship between Mr. Lefroy and Jane adds spirit to the novel and inspires young women to do what they think is right, as Jane refuses to change her beliefs in order to please Mr. Lefroy.
SECRETS IN THE SNOW contains all of the elements a budding Austen fan will enjoy: an unconventional heroine, a ball, an intriguing love interest, and a bit of mystery. The representation of Jane as a spunky and wild heroine will entertain younger readers, and might also inspire them to explore Jane Austen’s own novels. For older fans of Jane Austen, MacColl’s novel offers a quick and fun read following the life of the treasured Jane Austen.
Reviewed by Janine Chouinard on October 13, 2016