Jane and the Year Without a Summer by Stephanie Barron
Readers of historical English mysteries are invited to visit Cheltenham Spa in the summer of 1816, where Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra arrive to spend a fortnight so that Jane can drink the local mineral waters and relax. The summer is very cool and rainy after the volcanic explosion in Indonesia the year before. The sisters find the mineral waters unpalatable, and some of the fellow boarders at their rooming house are not relaxing company, including the invalid Rose Williams and the Garthwaites, who do not care to share the communal sitting room. Jane’s friend and admirer Raphael West (first introduced in the delightful mystery Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas) is in town and escorts the sisters to a costume ball where a fire breaks out and a body is found. Jane turns sleuth to solve the murder and tries to decide how to deal gently with her gentleman admirer. Delightful dialogue, appealing main characters, and an excellent sense of place make for enjoyable reading, even if Jane is not in the best of health. Readalikes include Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal, The Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunders, and Death Comes to the Village by Catherine Lloyd.