I thoroughly enjoyed Mrs Bates of Highbury by Allie Cresswell earlier this year (review here) and jumped at the chance to read the second in this trilogy which forms a prequel to Jane Austen’s Emma. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t read the first or indeed if you haven’t read Emma, though I would urge you to read both. If anything, I enjoyed this book even more.
The Other Miss Bates focuses on Jane Bates, who we only know as the late Jane Fairfax in the original Emma. She has travelled to Brighton to take up a position as companion to a wheelchair-bound widow named Mrs Sealy. The world of Brighton offers new and exciting social opportunities and Jane is delighted to find that Lieutenant Weston will be there with his regiment. She hopes to rekindle their attachment, but someone else has designs on him too. We also encounter a wonderful villain in Arthur Sealy, a character to rival Mr Willoughby (from Sense & Sensibility) although certainly without his initial charm.
Allie Cresswell has again captured perfectly the style of Jane Austen’s work. The way her characters speak and act with each other takes you right into Georgian Regency Britain. The concerns of women, particularly those in, as Austen would say, ‘distressed circumstances’ are foremost in the book. Jane is a wonderful character and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about her relationships with Mrs Sealy, Dr Fairfax and especially the way she responded so genteely to the rather snobbish Mrs Churchill. Although not in Brighton, we do get to hear the effusive thoughts of her sister, Henrietta, through her enthusiastically long letters from Highbury. Although sometimes imparting the most serious of news, they did make me smile!
As Allie Cresswell says in her introduction to the book, she will end up on the same page as Jane Austen eventually so afficionados need not fear. Inevitably, this means a rather melancholy epilogue as we find out the fates of many of the characters we have met throughout this book. But it does set the reader up rather nicely for the final book in the trilogy which will focus on young Jane Fairfax and lead us nearer to encountering Emma.
The Other Miss Bates was such a joy to read. I truly felt like I was reading words which could easily have flowed from the pen of Miss Austen herself. I can’t wait for the third part in the trilogy and really hope the author turns her hand to more of Jane Austen’s works (Sense & Sensibility please!).
My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for my copy of the book and the invitation to take part in the tour. The Other Miss Bates is available now as an ebook or in paperback and you can order a copy online here: The Other Miss Bates
From the back of the book
Jane Bates has left Highbury to become the companion of the invalid widow Mrs Sealy in Brighton. Life in the new, fashionable seaside resort is exciting indeed. A wide circle of interesting acquaintance and a rich tapestry of new experiences – balls at the Assembly rooms, carriage rides and promenades on the Steyne – make her new life all Jane had hoped for.
While Jane’s sister Hetty can be a tiresome conversationalist she proves to be a surprisingly good correspondent and Jane is kept minutely up-to-date with developments in Highbury, particularly the tragic news from Donwell Abbey.
When handsome Lieutenant Weston returns to Brighton Jane expects their attachment to pick up where it left off in Highbury the previous Christmas, but the determined Miss Louisa Churchill, newly arrived with her brother and sister-in-law from Enscombe in Yorkshire, seems to have a different plan in mind.
About the Author
Allie Cresswell was born in Stockport, UK and began writing fiction as soon as she could hold a pencil.
She did a BA in English Literature at Birmingham University and an MA at Queen Mary College, London.
She has been a print-buyer, a pub landlady, a book-keeper, run a B & B and a group of boutique holiday cottages. Nowadays Allie writes full time having retired from teaching literature to lifelong learners.
She has two grown-up children, two granddaughters, two grandsons and two cockapoos but just one husband – Tim. They live in Cumbria, NW England.
The Other Miss Bates is her eighth novel and the second in the Highbury series
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