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Mrs. Bates of Highbury by Allie Cresswell - Book Tour

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Mrs Bates of Highbury

The new novel from Readers' Favourite silver medalist Allie Cresswell. 
Thirty years before the beginning of 'Emma' Mrs Bates is entirely different from the elderly, silent figure familiar to fans of Jane Austen’s fourth novel. She is comparatively young and beautiful, widowed - but ready to love again. She is the lynch-pin of Highbury society until the appalling Mrs Winwood arrives, very determined to hold sway over that ordered little town.
Miss Bates is as talkative aged twenty nine as she is in her later iteration, with a ghoulish fancy, seeing disaster in every cloud. When young Mr Woodhouse arrives looking for a plot for his new house, the two strike up a relationship characterised by their shared hypochondria, personal chariness and horror of draughts.
Jane, the other Miss Bates, is just seventeen and eager to leave the parochialism of Highbury behind her until handsome Lieutenant Weston comes home on furlough from the militia and sweeps her - quite literally - off her feet.
Mrs Bates of Highbury is the first of three novels by the Amazon #1 best-selling Allie Cresswell, which trace the pre-history of Emma and then run in parallel to it.

It is clear in ‘Emma’ that Mrs Bates lives in circumstances much reduced from her former estate. George Knightley tells Emma that at one time it would have been an honour for her to be noticed by them. We also know that Mrs Bates’ husband had been the vicar for at least twenty seven years, a job usually reserved for the younger sons of monied families. Coming up with a rationale for their relative penury and explaining how they have managed to live since, on no visible income, was just one challenge I had to face. Here, the young George Knightley brings the matter to his father’s attention and suggests a scheme which will aid the unfortunate widow and her daughters.
‘Papa,’ said George at last, ‘I wonder if we could not do something to assist Mrs Bates.’
Mr Knightley stirred himself, uncrossed his legs and reached down absent-mindedly to stroke a dog’s muzzle. ‘I esteem Mrs Bates very highly,’ he said. ‘I have rarely met such a genteel, lady-like lady who, at the same time, has such simple, delightful, unaffected manners and practical good sense. She makes herself agreeable wherever she goes. The loss of her husband, at her comparatively early age, is a grievous blow, but I should think it very probable that she will marry again.’ The squire, at this time a sprightly sixty-two years of age, had been a widower for only the last of them, and was by no means confirmed in that state for perpetuity. It would have been unseemly, so early in Mrs Bates’ bereavement, to have thought of her in any matrimonial context whatsoever, nevertheless he spoke from the heart, with a warmth George had not often heard in his father’s voice unless in connection with a particularly fine bull or a prodigiously good crop of barley.
‘To be sure, Sir,’ George replied. ‘But in the meantime, I gather, there is a little difficulty. Without the vicar’s stipend, they have no income, and, of course, they must quit the vicarage.’
The squire roused himself a little more, and gave his son a keen look. ‘No income? What? None whatsoever?’
George shook his head. ‘Reverend Bates has family, I believe, well-provisioned, but they have declined assistance.’
‘Absolutely declined?’
‘Yes, Sir. Jane came today to help me with my lesson, you know…’
‘A bright girl. Pretty too. She’ll marry well, I have no doubt.’
‘No doubt, sir,’ said George, warmly, wishing himself ten years older, ‘but she is very young, and even if she does marry advantageously, there is still Mrs Bates, and Miss Bates…’
‘Ah yes, Miss Bates. Well she’s a different case altogether.’
‘Exactly my point, Sir.’
‘Well, George, I am very pleased with you for taking this proper, paternal interest in these worthy people. It is just what the future squire ought to do. And what do you suggest?’
George squirmed a little in his seat. He had not expected to be called upon provide a solution to Jane’s problem, only hoped that, by raising it, his father might do so. But he took a deep breath and answered his father stoutly. ‘Sir, if I were squire, I would make discreet enquiries amongst the better-off gentlemen of the town, and I could see what could be done between us to provide Mrs Bates and her daughters with a modest home and a small income.’
Mr Knightley nodded. Encouraged, George went on, ‘It is the duty of those who have much to provide for those who have little. The Bible tells us so, as well as good sense and common decency.  I understand she has served us - the parish, I mean sir - for twenty odd years, and now it is time for us to repay in kind. For myself, if I had a vacant cottage somewhere on the estate, I would happily give it over to her use. Although it might be more rustic than she has been used to, and she might not like the remoteness from the village, it would be something. I would be happy to contribute to a fund which would provide them with an income. Many of us here about have orchards, flocks, crops and good things in abundance, sometimes in over-abundance. Our own supplies of rhubarb and spinach this year seemed never-ending; I was heartily sick of both in the end. There is no reason why the surplus could not be offered to them if they will do us the kindness to take it off our hands.’
‘And what if Mrs Bates declined to be the recipient of the charity of her neighbours? Some people might find it demeaning.’
‘I do not think Mrs Bates has that kind of pride, Father, but I suppose the money could be offered in such a way as to keep its source a secret?’
‘My goodness, George, my boy,’ Mr Knightley burst out, ‘what a Solomon you are! If only men twice - nay, three or four times - your age had your sense and innately charitable heart, the world would be a better place indeed. It is a pity that I need you to take over the estate when I am gone. To be sure, I think I had better begin training John to do it for I see that you will be wasted here. Your place is in politics!’
George blushed. He had rarely heard such praise from his father. ‘Thank you, sir,’ he stammered.
Mr Knightley reached for his pipe. ‘Now, off to bed with you sir, before you shame me into giving succour to every poor widow-woman in the county!’
George stood up. ‘Good night then, sir. But, as for Mrs Bates..?’
‘Yes, yes, I will look into it. Good night now, son.’


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 and two grandsons, is married to Tim and lives in Cumbria, NW England.
You can contact her via her website at or find her on Facebook

Social Media Links –

For the duration of the blog tour, Allie Cresswell has five hard copies of Game Show and five hard copies of Tiger in a Cage, all signed, available for £5 plus p & p to UK addresses. If you are interested then please get in touch.

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