Score: 90/100 (9.0 out of 10)
If you are a fan of Jane Austen and her timeless classic, Emma, then My Dearest Miss Fairfax is the book for you!
We were pleasantly delighted and surprised to finally get to read a quality example of Jane Austen fan-fiction! Austen's following and fandom is rivaled by few in literary history, and her characters are truly timeless—up there with those of Shakespeare, J.K. Rowling, and Stephen King. Like the characters of those novels, their very names evoke a feeling and emotion associated with them.
So, does Jeanette Watts do justice to Austen's iconic characters? Yes, she does!
That starts with the language of the book, which mirrors, matches, and meshes with Austen's. The characters talk similar to how they talked in Emma. Now, with that said, that might catch a lot of uncultured, modern readers off guard. Let's face it, for this newer generation of readers, hearing people talk like they're in 19th century England can seem kinda silly. However, we didn't find it to be a problem at all. If anything, it makes the book seem and feel more authentic and true to the time.
This book also features the romance, letters, carriages, and parties that were a huge part of Emma.
Those unfamiliar with Jane Austen or Emma may find themselves a bit lost, especially since a lot of characters are presented in a matter-of-fact manner (as if you already should know who they are). However, for those who've already read Emma, that shouldn't be a problem at all. It would be like reintroducing Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader to Star Wars fans. They really need no introduction.
This book features many of the favorites from Emma including the heartthrob, Mr. Knightly, as well as the Campbells, the Eltons, and the Bates. However, this book primarily focuses on the relationship between the titular Jane Fairfax and her squeeze, Frank Churchill.
This is rather interesting because, as you recall, in the middle of Emma's meddling, Jane and Frank had actually gotten engaged off-screen or in the background. So, this book explores what on earth happened in the background with all of that.
Jane, in a sense, is the Boba Fett of the Austenverse. She was a character who didn't really say or do very much in the grand scheme of Emma, yet she served as one of Emma's chief foils in the novel and a character who endeared herself to the Austen fan base because of the mystery and charisma that she put across in her short time on page. This book really humanizes and fleshes out Jane in a way that just wasn't possible in the source material. In this book, you get to hear/see Jane think, hope, dream, worry, and even get emotional and cry at times. She has a depth to her that wasn't obvious in the source material.
Frank, similarly, is given a lot more time for the reader to get to know. He is a loving nephew and someone who obviously cares about Jane.
Now, the author is kinda forced into a tough spot by default. Like we said, if you haven't read Emma or forgot what happened in it, you might find yourself lost. On the contrary, if you read Emma and/or are a big Jane Austen fan, then you already know what's going to happen between Jane and Frank. You also know the fate of Frank's aunt.
However, remember, Emma wasn't privy or smart to everything, which was partly the point of the book. Emma was highly intelligent and rich, but she really underestimated people like Jane and Robert Martin because they weren't as rich or as high up the social ladder as she and the Eltons were. Emma also wasn't aware of what was really going on with Frank and Jane as she was preoccupied with getting Harriet and Frank together.
So, this book is really good at filling that gap and exploring the mysteries in Emma.
Check it out on Amazon!