I have been really looking forward to the final part in this Highbury trilogy, following the characters we know from Jane Austen’s Emma, set before the well loved novel begins. I really enjoyed both Mrs Bates of Highbury and The Other Miss Bates – you can read my reviews by clicking on those titles. This book takes a closer look at Jane Fairfax and the story overlaps with the familiar story of Emma itself.
In this book we see once again the social circling as many of the characters attempt to find an appropriate marriage partner. Appropriate meaning in terms of status, wealth, charm and accomplishments. Love rarely, if ever, is taken into account for most of the people who inhabit this book. If love grows after the match, then that is considered serendipitous.
We meet many characters in this book who we have encountered before either in the original Jane Austen novel or in Allie Cresswell’s Highbury novels. Over the course of a few years, there are the Branthwaites, the Moseleys, the Coxes, the Eltons, the Westons, the Churchills, the Knightleys, the Bates, The Campbells and, of course, Emma Woodhouse and Jane Fairfax. Despite what looks like a very long list of characters, Allie Cresswell makes each character so distinctive that there is no difficulty keeping track of who is who and where they all see each other in the social scale.
Although she’s not a main player in this book, I do have a soft spot for Hetty – The Other Miss Bates – I just love her as a character. She’s so open with her thoughts and feelings and let’s everything just flow out. I feel sorry for her when people are dismissive or cutting in their comments about her but then, I’ve not had to listen to her witter on!
The focus on this book though is firmly on Jane Fairfax. Jane and Rowena Campbell are the greatest of friends. Rowena is the daughter and therefore true heir of the Campbells whereas Jane, although brought up almost as her sister, is only their ward. Rowena is less accomplished than Jane, less beautiful, more socially awkward and feels very aware of this. The girls have always been the close confidantes but now as potential suitors appear on the scene, there is the beginning of a gentle rivalry between them.
As the book progresses, parts of the story overlap with Jane Austen’s Emma and we read about familiar scenes from a different character’s perspective. I enjoyed reading all the footnotes which explained how the story ties in with Emma and that is something which has been a delight about all these books. They don’t deviate from the classic but feed into it and dovetail beautifully. I have enjoyed all three of Allie Cresswell’s Highbury novels and I think Miss Austen would have approved of her imaginings of her characters’ earlier lives.
My thanks to Rachel and Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in this tour and for arranging a review copy of the book. Dear Jane is available now in ebook or paperback formats. Purchase links are below.
From the back of the book
The final instalment of the Highbury trilogy, Dear Jane recounts events hinted at but never actually described in Jane Austen’s Emma; the formative childhood years of Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill, their meeting in Weymouth and the agony of their secret engagement.
Orphaned Jane seems likely to be brought up in parochial Highbury until adoption by her papa’s old friend Colonel Campbell opens to her all the excitement and opportunities of London. Frank Weston is also transplanted from Highbury, adopted as heir to the wealthy Churchills and taken to their drear and inhospitable Yorkshire estate. Readers of Emma will be familiar with the conclusion of Jane and Frank’s story, but Dear Jane pulls back the veil which Jane Austen drew over its remainder.
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.
Dear Jane is her ninth novel.
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