I’m delighted to be one of the stops kicking off the tour for Dear Jane, I’ve read and loved the other two books in the series Mrs Bates of Highbury and The Other Miss Bates so my expectations for this book were high.
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.
It is definitely a bitersweet moment when you come to the end of a series you are enjoying, on the one hand you are getting to invest yourself back into a group of characters that you know and love and on the other you realise that it’s all about to come to an end. I admit that I had high expectations for this book and I had a moments panic that I would maybe end up disappointed but I’m really glad to say that my panic was for nothing.
It was so nice to be immersed back into the world of these characters that I am so fond of, it was great to be back in Highbury as things are starting to more and more resemble the Highbury in the original Austen story. Emma makes her first appearance and is of course starting her schemes of matchmaking, George Knightly is squire at Donwell and chastising Emma for being careless with her comments, so the story has that familiarity.
Of course this is just a side note to the story that I have been avid to get my hands on, that of Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill, what is merely hinted at in the original Emma is developed beautifully in this book and as ever it meshes so brilliantly with how the characters were portrayed in Austen’s book.
I liked getting a closer look at Jane, she is a character that you hear so much about but don’t really get to know her that well, she always seemed a little stand-offish to me, but getting to see from her perspective really changed my outlook. Frank was a character that was always a bit michievous and enigmatic and I’m glad he still has that even though I sometimes felt really sorry for his situation.
As I’m sure I must have mentioned in the reviews for the first two books it was nice to get to know the characters that are only hinted at from the original story; the Campbell’s and Frank’s aunt in particular; and as we get further into the story, being involved with very familiar scenes but from an alternate perspective.
This was a very fitting end for the series and has made such seamless transtitions throughout each book, it feels like a natural prequel and one I’m sure many Austen fans will adore. I absolutely love this series and even though I’m sad it’s over I’m glad that Allie Cresswell breathed new life into these wonderful characters, her Highbury is well worth a visit.
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.
Reviews of other Allie Cresswell books