Review: Suspiciously Reserved

Mar 5, 2014 by

In June of 2012 Indie Jane reserved the novel Suspiciously Reserved by Samantha Adkins. We are re-posting that review as part of our Emma Event. You can enter to win a copy of Suspiciously Reserved on Samantha’s guest post earlier this week.

 

 

Samantha Adkin’s novel Suspiciously Reserved is a modern-day telling of how Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill (originally from Jane Austen’s Emma) fall in love.

The story focuses on Jane as she first meets Frank on a seaside vacation. Though Frank is precipitously called away by his aunt, he promises Jane they will keep in touch. The two correspond primarily via letter, a charming throwback to an era in which Jane feels more comfortable. They finally meet again in Tugaske, Adkins’ adaptation of Highbury, where Frank and Jane face the constant burden of their secret love that we know so well from Jane Austen. And, as we also know, that secret eventually comes out and we are in for a happy ending.

There are many great parts of Adkins’ adaptation of this story. She focuses on the similarities between Jane and Frank as orphans. Adkins shows how the lovers have a mutual understanding of what it’s like to lose parents and be foisted upon someone else’s family and how there is a sense of obligation toward the happiness of the family, even at the expense of personal contentment. I found this aspect intriguing as I had never truly thought about this as a reason that Jane and Frank are drawn together.

And Adkins does have great fun creating modern quirks for her characters. One I found particularly enjoyable is that our dear Mr. Elton regularly goes for spa treatments! I laughed aloud at that and thought it fit him perfectly. Once we get to Tugaske, it is fun to see all our favorite characters from Emma in their new setting.

All of these delightful smaller details, though, could not entirely shake my nagging frustration with Jane and Frank. Jane is a bookish, shy girl who sometimes comes off as too shy and undemanding. In the few times they are alone together, Jane hardly protests at Frank’s wishy-washy treatment of her. He generally fobs her off with a kiss and a few pretty words. Granted, Adkins makes it clear that Jane is not at home in the “modern world,” but one might expect a little more fight out of her, especially since there is a strong and consistent parallel drawn between Jane Fairfax and the heroine of her favorite book, Jane Eyre. I longed for Jane Fairfax to have the spark that Jane Eyre does to stand up for herself against mistreatment.

And I also longed for Frank Churchill to be more of a sympathetic hero, for him to have more of a chance to explain himself. Instead, I felt that Frank remained just as distant from my understanding (and esteem) as he does in Emma.

Overall, Suspiciously Reserved is an enjoyable story that offers some insight into Jane Fairfax’s complicated relationships with family, but, in the end, does not quite convince me to give up the prejudice I share with Mr. Knightley against Frank Churchill.

3.5 of 5 stars

*****

Samantha Adkins is a writer and teacher living in Alberta, Canada.  She has published Expectations: A Continuation of Pride and Prejudice, Suspiciously Reserved: A Twist on Jane Austen’s Emma, Subgirl, Subgirl Returns, Not As They Appear, and What’s It Like to Grow Up in Banff?  All of her books may be found on amazon.  You can find out more about Samantha on Twitter, @austengurl, or on her blog www.austengurl.blogspot.ca

1 Comment

  1. Kimberly did a wonderful job in this review. Thanks for reposting it! Sam

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