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Source: Review copy from the author

Allie Cresswell’s newest novel, Dear Jane, is the final installment of the Highbury trilogy, based on Jane Austen’s Emma. I can assure you that it’s a standalone novel, as I have not read the first two books yet (but definitely plan to) and was able to follow and enjoy the story just fine. Dear Jane fleshes out the backstories of Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill, whose childhoods away from their closest relatives in Highbury are mentioned in Austen’s novel but not covered in great detail.

What was it like for Jane to grow up with the affluent Campbell family, away from her impoverished grandmother and aunt, Mrs. and Miss Bates? What was it like for Jane to enjoy the love and acceptance of the Campbell family, plus the luxuries and opportunities afforded to her as their ward, while knowing that it wouldn’t last forever, and that she likely would have to go into service as a governess? Meanwhile, what was it like for Frank to live under his demanding and controlling aunt, to prepare to one day inherit their estate but be unable to enjoy the usual freedoms of young men — not to go to university as planned and not even visit his father, Mr. Weston, without doing so secretly?

Cresswell does a great job showing how difficult it was for them to navigate their situations, even while being given better lives and opportunities than they likely would have had in Highbury. She also gives readers an in-depth look at their meeting in Weymouth and the events that occur before we meet them for the first time in Emma.

I really enjoyed getting a chance to better know and understand Jane and Frank, beyond what is seen of them in the original novel, much of which is clouded by Emma Woodhouse’s opinions about them — her longtime rivalry with Jane and her infatuation with the young man everyone has talked about and fawned over for years before he finally arrives in Highbury. It is easy to dislike both of them in Emma, especially Frank, but seeing this side of their story gives readers much to think about.

Dear Jane is a fantastic look at some of Austen’s most intriguing secondary characters — with the addition of some very interesting original characters, like the infuriating Lady Sowerby — and getting to see Emma, Mr. Knightley, Miss Bates (whose babbling is perfectly captured by Cresswell; I could hear her dialogue in my mind like I was watching one of the movie adaptations), and the rest of the Highbury natives was a real treat.

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About Dear Jane

The final installment of the Highbury trilogy, Dear Jane narrates the history of Jane Fairfax, recounting the events hinted at but never actually described in Jane Austen’s Emma.

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. The velvet path of her early years is finite, however and tarnished by the knowledge that she must earn her own independence one day.

Frank Weston is also transplanted from Highbury, adopted as heir to the wealthy Churchills and taken to their drear and inhospitable Yorkshire estate. The glimmer of the prize which will one day be his is all but obliterated by the stony path he must walk to claim it.

Their paths meet at Weymouth, and readers of Emma will be familiar with the finale of Jane and Frank’s story. Dear Jane pulls back the veil which Jane Austen drew over their early lives, their meeting in Weymouth and the agony of their secret engagement.

Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

Allie Cresswell

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. Most recently she has been working on her Highbury trilogy, books inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma.

She has two grown-up children, two granddaughters and two grandsons, is married to Tim and lives in Cumbria, NW England.

You can contact her via her website at www.allie-cresswell.com or find her on Facebook.

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Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Dear Jane as part of the blog tour using this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

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