The Hapless Milliner by Jessica Bull

March 20th, 2024 Kimberly Guest Post, Review 10 Comments

20th Mar

Sophia Rose is here with a review of the first novel in the Miss Austen Invetigates series by Jessica Bull. Miss Austen investigates a murder in The Hapless Milliner. Grab a spot of tea and check out Sophia’s thoughts.

The Hapless Milliner by Jessica Bull
The Hapless Milliner
by Jessica Bull
Series: Miss Austen Investigates #1
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Source: Publisher
Purchase*: Amazon | Audible *affiliate
Rating: One StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

A witty, engaging murder mystery featuring Jane Austen as an intrepid amateur sleuth—the first in a series.
Jane Austen—sparkling, spirited, and incredibly clever—is suddenly thrust into a mystery when a milliner’s dead body is found locked inside a cupboard in the middle of a ball. When Jane’s brother Georgy is found with some jewelry belonging to the deceased, the local officials see it as an open-and-shut case: one which is likely to end with his death. Jane is certain that he is innocent, and there is more to the murder than meets the eye. Her investigations send her on a journey through local society, as Jane’s suspect list keeps on growing— and her keen observational skills of people will be put to the test to solve the crime and save her brother.

Featuring the same lively wit, insightful social commentary, and relatable characters that have made Jane Austen books into perennial classics, this first entry in the Miss Austen Investigates series is perfect for anyone who enjoyed The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl or other historical mystery books based on real people, as well as fans looking to add to their Jane Austen collection.

Sophia Rose’s Review

When a young Miss Jane Austen is attending a ball on a neighborhood estate and encounters a murdered woman whom she knew in life, the future novelist lays aside her pen to do some detecting. 

I am a ready fan of historical mysteries set in the world of Jane Austen’s novels and in her own life.  I was eager to take up a new to me author’s debut effort with Austen as detective in her home neighborhood.

Miss Austen Investigates: The Hapless Milliner begins at the time of Jane Austen’s life when she’s fresh and nineteen.  Her head is full of romantic thoughts about a dashing Mr. Tom LeFoy who is visiting family in the neighborhood.  Jane is portrayed as a winsome girl untried and ripe for romance or adventure.  What she gets is a murder that the authorities have decided to pin on her sweet, innocent older brother who has disabilities, George.  To clear George of the crime of theft and murder, Jane is determined against opposition for a young lady involving herself to find the real culprit.  She’s well-placed as someone who is familiar with many of the people who were at that ball as coming from her own neighborhood.

I was immensely curious how the author would do with a very familiar world to me.  Jane Austen is a favorite author and I’ve read much on her life and the times she lived in.  I was pleased to see from the first chapter that the author had done her homework.  Oh sure, she interpreted the real life people’s characters in her own way including Jane herself and yes, there were occasional modern phrases slipping in now and again, but there was an establishing of Jane and the cast of characters, dialogue and actions in an historical setting that was done well.

The first half of the book was slow going and I confess that I struggled.  The author had a written grammar style that I found distracting.  I’m not sure exactly what, but the issue is related to tense and it seemed like Jane who is narrating is also referring to herself as Jane.  Though, I do think authors should be able to write a character the way they wish, this can get tricky when the character is a real person.  This Jane’s character was immature to me and more heedless of convention in the mode of a modern teenager at times which was also a distraction.  It took a bit for me to settle into the book as a result.  The last half portrayed an engaging mystery.  I had no idea who was behind it all or why, but I did enjoy Jane’s sleuthing efforts and arriving at the mystery and I enjoyed Jane’s surrounding family being involved and being such colorful characters. 

I think this was a good series opener and that the series will get stronger as it goes.  Those who enjoy cozy mysteries set in historical eras and real life people made into fictional characters should give this one a go.

Amazon | Audible

About Jessica Bull

Jessica Bull

Jessica Bull lives in South East London with her husband and two daughters. A former librarian and communications consultant, she studied English literature at Bristol University and information science at City, University of London. Miss Austen Investigates, The Hapless Milliner is her debut novel.

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About Sophia Rose

Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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About Kimberly
Kimberly is a coffee loving book addict who reads and listens to fictional stories in all genres. Whovian, Ravenclaw, Howler and proud Nonna. She owns and manages Caffeinated PR. The coffee is always on and she is ready to chat. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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10 Responses to “The Hapless Milliner by Jessica Bull”

  1. Katherine

    To bad this was a bit of a slow start and an immature Jane. I’ll wait to watch how this series develops before I pick one up. I’m not a fan of an immature main character.

  2. Lover of Romance

    I can see how this book would be the perfect fit for those who enjoy historicals and cozy mysteries. A good sleuth can be fun to follow along with.

    Great review!

  3. Sophie

    A written grammar distracting? I get why it made for a slow beginning but I am happy you still enjoyed the book!

    • Sophia Rose

      Yeah, I’m not a grammarian so I can’t point definitively to the issue, but something was a little off. But, yes, not enough to push me away from the story. 🙂