Lovers' Perjuries

Or, the Clandestine Courtship of Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill
A Retelling of Jane Austen's Emma

by Joan Ellen Delman

Paperback - 299 pages
Domestic Virtues Press;  2006 

         Review by Linda Waldemar on September 18, 2006
As promised in the subtitle, this is a retelling of EMMA from the perspective of Jane Fairfax. The first chapter gives a brief history of Jane Fairfax; her parents and her being taken in by the Campbells. This first chapter is told somewhat in the ironic style of the beginning of Northanger Abbey.

Colonel and Mrs. Campbell, their daughter, Helen, her fiancÚ, Edward Dixon, and Jane Fairfax remove from London to Weymouth for the summer months. There, also, go Mr and Mrs Churchill and their nephew and heir, Frank. A little of Frank's history is also explained.

There are several new characters introduced; Lady Paget, the very wealthy local landowner, the unmarried Rector, Stephen Devere, his sister, Margaret, and Mary Lodge, a local resident. To improve the Church, Lady Paget engages James Hammond to do a painting for it.

The early chapters follow the society of this party of friends. Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill are attracted to each other very quickly. Frank is often not with them as he is so much in demand by his aunt. She is frequently ill and cannot bear to be without him when she feels unwell.

Frank and Jane are thrown together when an infirm lady to whom she has brought a message from London turns out to be Frank's old governess. This interaction tends show Frank Churchill to be a very thoughtful and good-hearted person.

Before the Churchills leave Weymouth, Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill are mutually attached. Frank talks a reluctant Jane into the secret engagement because he cannot bear that they not even be able to write one another when their chance of next meeting is unlikely.

Most of the remaining chapters describe the events in Highbury when Jane returns there. Although told from Jane's perspective, the story does not depart from Jane Austen's Emma. We get to see how the secret torments Jane and are also privy to Frank's feelings. The final chapter is told much as JA would, a quick wrap-up of the futures of the major characters.

The author was able to show all the characters in a favorable or sympathetic light without making them completely one-dimensional. Unlike other stories from Jane Fairfax's perspective, Jane is sympathetic without putting Emma into a negative light.

I found this book to be a very enjoyable read and I recommend that you try it.