They never fumbled a hand clasp or mis-timed a dos-a-dos: they anticipated each other’s movements. For this moment they were in complete harmony. It was the first time they had danced together; it might very well be the last, too, but he would enjoy it to the full.
(from Lend Me Leave, pages 75-76)
Lend Me Leave is the second of two books by Barbara Cornthwaite about George Knightley, the hero of Jane Austen’s Emma. It picks up right where Charity Envieth Not left off in retelling Emma through Mr. Knightley’s eyes. Beware of possible spoilers from the first book.
Mr. Knightley is determined to win Emma Woodhouse’s heart, but he is crushed when he believes she has succumbed to Frank Churchill’s charms. He isn’t sure what those glances between Churchill and Jane Fairfax are all about, but he fears his beloved Emma is headed for heartbreak. Mr. Knightley resorts to quietly wooing Emma — so quietly that his attempts go unnoticed.
Only Mr. Spencer, the curate at Donwell, knows Knightley’s pain. He understands it, too, given his failed attempts to win over the widow Mrs. Catherwood, whose kindness stole his heart. The two men decide there is little they can do but watch their beloveds marry other men and try to move on with their lives. Although Knightley spends his evenings agonizing over Emma and pouring his heart out to his cat, Madam Duval, he spends his days trying to solve a rash of thefts in the village and figure out what to do about a mentally ill woman living with one his tenants.
If you read my review of Charity Envieth Not, you know how much I love Mr. Knightley and how I delighted in getting to see into his thoughts. I think I loved him even more in Lend Me Leave and thought his talking to the cat was both sweet and funny. Cornthwaite proves that you don’t need sex in a novel to show the passion between two characters, as evidenced in Knightley’s thoughts about the dance he shares with Emma at the ball. When I read Emma, I longed to know what was going on in Knightley’s head. He seemed so solid, so strong, so sure of himself, and Cornthwaite gives readers a chance to see how he goes from self-assured to anxious mess on the inside, which makes him even more endearing to me.
I really loved these two books and really hope Cornthwaite will revisit Knightley and Emma in the future. Her love and respect for Austen’s characters really shines through, and her original characters fit into the book so well. I can definitely see myself re-reading them down the road.
Disclosure: Lend Me Leave is from my personal library.
© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.