Review: The Other Mrs. Bates
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.
This is rapidly becoming one of my favorite series. The author has done an impeccable job of matching storylines and ambiance to the beloved novel, Emma, by Jane Austen. The characters hold true to their appearances in that novel while expanding the universe to give us glimpse into stories only hinted at in the classic work.
The story of Lieutenant Weston and Jane Bates is a shocking scandal that rocks Emma's life in the novel. Because it happens outside the focus of the story (and because it breaks our heroine's heart), the gossip can be taken for good or ill. I've often wondered if Weston is a creep or a hero. Each movie version has a slightly different take on Weston's secret courtship of the over-hyped Jane Bates. In Ms. Cresswell's version, there's a lot more to the story than the too-sugary version of Jane told by Miss Bates and Emma's instant loathing of the girl that's worsened by Emma's heartbreak over losing the dashing Weston. But we also learn more about Lt. Weston. In Emma, we are given only gossip about people that Emma uses to draw conclusions (an essential part of the plot and character) but here we get to explore the characters as we pull back the curtain on a story only told by others and heard by a rather unreliable (and selfish) heroine.
The pacing of this book was a little more predictable than the first and I found that the pages flew by quickly despite the use of colloquial, mid-18th century language forms. It's the kind of book I could read again and a worthy companion to a book I've loved since girlhood.
Author Bio –
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
Social Media Links – www.allie-cresswell.com