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Book Review

Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Miss Aurelie Rosette Harcourt, called Aura Rose, stands outside of a debtors' prison, waiting for her father's sister, Aunt Eudora, to come for her. She has never met the woman in all her 20 years of life at Shepton Mallet Prison with Papa, Woolf Harcourt. After Woolf's death, she has been told that her aunt will fetch her.

Mr. Silas Rotherham arrives to pick up Woolf's things and is surprised to find Aura Rose waiting with two trunks. Aunt Eudora had no idea that her brother's things included a niece. Aura Rose is taken to Aunt Eudora's home, Lynhurst Manor. She is given a room in the family section of the mansion but is not introduced as a niece, only a relative.

Woolf was a storyteller and had been writing serial installments of fiction under the name Nathaniel Droll. Aura Rose was his scribe. Nathaniel Droll's most recent serial, which was being printed by March House Press, was only halfway completed when he died. Aura Rose realizes that her father left her the legacy of the name Nathaniel Droll, and she chooses to continue sending story installments to March House Press after his death.

The fictional story is about the disappearance of Lady Jayne from Lynhurst Manor 20 years earlier. Her mother's name was Jayne, and she disappeared from Lynhurst Manor 20 years earlier, too. Using the people at Lynhurst Manor as characters, though giving them different names, Aura Rose continues a fictionalized account of the story. Unfortunately, some of what she writes causes those staying at Lynhurst Manor, her aunt, Silas, her cousin and her cousin's family to recognize themselves. They begin to suspect everyone around them of being the elusive Nathaniel Droll.

At the same time, Aura Rose tries to find out what happened to her mother. She explores the house and asks questions. Silas is also searching for Nathaniel Droll. Though they don't share their explorations, they do share their faith with each other and spend time together. Slowly they begin to fall in love.

Juliette, who is Aunt Eudora's granddaughter, wasn't around when Aura Rose's father lived at Lynhurst. But she is lively company for Aura Rose and helps her fit in to the family. Her brother, Kendrick, visits the country home, but seems somewhat disinterested in Aura Rose. Silas is Kendrick's friend, and most think he is trying to court Juliette.

Aura Rose makes a friend in Nelle, the family's dressmaker, and visits the Grupp family, who live not far from the prison. Though the father of the Grupps has always been helpful, allowing his address to be used by Woolf as his publication contact, Jasper, his son, is an angry young man. He threatens to expose Aura Rose's upbringing unless she pays him with the money she received as Nathaniel Droll. Jasper uses the money to dress like those in upper-class society and begins courting Juliette.

Aura Rose warns Juliette against Jasper, but Juliette doesn't heed her advice. And Aura Rose can't reveal how she knows Jasper without revealing her past. So she uses Nathaniel Droll stories to reveal more about Jasper.

Eventually, Aunt Eudora takes Aura Rose to visit her mother, who is still alive, in London. She is married to a well-to-do man. The girl does not receive a warm reception. Jayne Windham originally was married to the steward of Lynhurst Manor, and they had a son, Kendrick. She had an affair with Woolf, who was the son of the owner, and they had Aura Rose. Jayne disappeared of her own free will and reinvented herself.

The steward had her declared dead after many years. He then married Aunt Eudora's daughter, becoming the father of Juliette. He brought his young son, Kendrick, into this marriage.

Woolf was a gambler. He lost all his money and some of Aunt Eudora's money when Aura Rose was still a baby. Aunt Eudora knew her brother was in debtors' prison, but she didn't know he had kept his child. She thought he'd found a good home for his baby. She sold her town house to pay his debts, but she refused to sell more than that.

Aura Rose eventually admits to her newfound family that she is Nathaniel Droll. This causes Kendrick, her half brother, to come after her. In a rage, he had murdered her father because Woolf had revealed too much about Kendrick's mother in his fictionalized story. The family saves Aura Rose from Kendrick, and Kendrick goes on the run.

Finally, Silas learns that Aura Rose has fallen in love with him. He reveals that he loves her also.

Christian Beliefs

Aura Rose is a Christian. When scared while standing outside the debtors' prison, she relies on the first line of the 23rd Psalm to comfort her. Throughout the book, this psalm is placed in small increments, so by the end, it has been told in its entirety, a line at a time.

Aura Rose often cries to God for help. She finds Aunt Eudora in the family chapel late at night. She also prays for the right husband for her friend Nelle and likens the shadow of death to the debtors' prison.

Silas and Aura Rose talk about being created by God for a purpose. She later struggles with not telling a lie but not telling the whole truth. Aura Rose spends time away from others to talk with God. She acknowledges His sovereignty and wonders how she can serve Him better. She also prays for her own needs and the needs of her friends and family. God answers Aura Rose a number of times by reinforcing that she is to serve others through her writing.

Aura Rose quotes James 1 and asks God for His wisdom in the situation with Jasper Grupp. There is a mention of attending a service on Sunday. Aura Rose and Silas talk about how God answers their requests and may be working on answers before they even know to ask.

Other Belief Systems

There is a hint that the ghost of Nathaniel Droll might be helping Aura Rose, but eventually that thought is discounted. Still, there is a line that says that ghosts are real and that one of them won't die.

Authority Roles

Aunt Eudora loved her brother, but she let him remain in debtors' prison because he didn't know how to stop him from gambling and seducing women. She is stern and mean now from her years of being hurt. She takes out her disappointment on those around her.

Aura Lee's father was a fun and warm parent, who wrote tales and loved his daughter well. He didn't support her well, though; they lived in a debtors' prison her whole life. She didn't know anything about her father's gambling problems or affairs until after he died.

Glenna, who is older than Aura Lee, but is her first cousin, often puts Aura Lee in situations that will show her in a bad light, such as when she insists that Aura Lee play the piano for guests even though the girl had never taken a lesson. It is uncertain whether this is done to put down Aura Lee or help her own daughter, Juliette, be shown in a favorable light. Glenna and her husband are overindulgent parents to Juliette.

The jailor of the debtors' prison is proud that he buys grain that isn't fit for cattle and clothing too old to be of value to the inmates. He was an authority over Aura Lee and her father, and he abused his power in any way he could to make money. Woolf bribed him with the money from his writings to get one of the best rooms in the prison.

Jayne Windham sees her children as inconveniences that can be raised or disposed of by others. Her sole motivation is her love for Aura Rose's father and a life of ease with a rich husband. When she learns of Woolf's death, she leaves Aura Rose, no longer interested in her daughter.


Jasper grabs Aura Rose's arm and yanks her so she hits the wall of the stable. He threatens her, and she pays him off. The second time he threatens her, he tries to force her to never tell Juliette that he is not a part of landowning society.

Aura Rose tells a story about ducks luring another duck into a hunter's trap. Kendrick hits Aura Rose's father over the head with a heavy object and kills him. He threatens Aura Rose when she discovers his secret, but others in the family keep him from hurting her.


Nelle has a child born out of wedlock. Aura Rose and Silas kiss and hug a few times.

Aura Rose's mother and father have an affair while she is married. She leaves her husband and child to be with her lover. Then when she has a child, Aura Rose, she leaves to start a new life. She eventually remarries without getting a divorce.

Jayne visits Aura Rose because she wants to see her lover again.

Discussion Topics

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Additional Comments/Notes

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

16 and up


Joanna Davidson Politano






Record Label



Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group


On Video

Year Published





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