George Knightley, Esquire: Lend Me Leave, Barbara Cornthwaite
This is book 2 in Ms. Cornthwaite's series in which she retells Austen's Emma from the hero, George Knightley's eyes. I read book 1 several months ago (you can read my review here) and I have been anxiously waiting for book 2 to be published! I ordered as soon as it came out, it arrived on a Saturday, I picked it up to start it on Sunday evening (I was trying to finish another book but finally couldn't wait any longer!), and finished it around 1am Monday morning. It was fantastic!
Book 2 picks up right after Frank Churchill leaves Highbury at his aunt's command and the ball is postponed and continues until the end of the novel and we see Mr. Knightley and Emma leave for their wedding trip. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how the author continued the story and filled in the gaps that Austen left. We continue to see Mr. Knightley performing his duties as local magistrate (and it is still amazing to me that these gentlemen were expected to do so much with so little training!) and his increasing agony as he feels he has lost Emma to Frank. I could almost feel his panic and despair as he watched the two of them together at the Box Hill party. The side stories that Ms. Cornthwaite weaves in to fill the gaps left in the original (in regards to how Mr. Knightley spends his time away from Hartfield) are quite believable and quite interesting and really throws some light on another side of life in Regency England. The humor is still there as well and I again got some laughs out of Knightley's letters to and from his brother and his talks with Madam Duval. One of my favorite laugh out loud moments was at the very end when John was writing to George and describing what was going on in Highbury in his absence. I won't spoil it for anyone but the last sentence was fantastic (and gives me hope for the author continuing telling Knightley and Emma's story)! In the first book I was thrilled with the humor the author brought to the story; in book two I was thrilled to finally get some of the passion I wanted to see between Mr. Knightley and Emma. Towards the end, once Knightley has declared himself and been accepted we finally see something between the two of them besides a deep and true friendship and I absolutely loved this! I didn't feel any of it was out of place or wrong for something based on Austen. As in the first book the writing style, descriptions, and character dialog are spot on; Ms. Cornthwaite does a fantastic job of recreating Austen's style but yet keeping it from being too wordy and confusing for the reader (which I feel is what some people have a problem with in Austen's works). Her characters are wonderful and seem more developed than Austen's originals. It is obvious that the author took her time and did her research in order to give the reader not only a wonderful story but a very accurate look at the time period. This is where I think she excelled even beyond Austen - she is able to describe the customs, manners, life styles, etc, in such a way to make it very easy for readers to visualize this world of strict etiquette. Austen, of course, did not have to include all the little details because she was writing for people who were living in this almost foreign world - there was no need to describe everything - and I feel that can sometimes make it difficult for readers to understand all the aspects of her stories. Ms. Cornthwaite fills in all those gaps beautifully.
I can, again, highly recommend this novel to any Austen fan. Make sure to read the first in the series so that you can enjoy the author's wonderful story even longer! I sincerely hope that Ms. Cornthwaite will take up her pen again and continue the story; I have yet to be satisfied with any Emma sequel I've come across and I think she is the one to pick up where Jane left off. I truly think Jane would approve!