Review: Fair Ellen by Jayne Davis (2024)

Posted June 2, 2024 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

Every book by Jayne Davis is a joy to read and this is no exception. Wonderful, well-rounded characters, a plausible plot and a writing style that’s both literate and authentic; what’s not to like?

Here’s the premise: when Ellen Barnes’ childhood friend, Duncan Grant, returns from five years in the army to manage his inherited farms, Ellen realises that both she and Duncan have grown up. She sees him now in a very different way, and perhaps, in time, he’ll start to see her differently, too? But before that can happen, he meets her beautiful cousin, Harriet, and he’s smitten. He pursues Harriet determinedly, and before too long, they’re betrothed. Ellen must learn to accept the inevitability of their marriage, even though she knows Harriet to be a spoilt and wilful girl, devoted only to herself, and not at all worthy to marry a good man like Duncan.

But an incident at a ball leads to a rupture with Harriet. Duncan can’t understand why Harriet appears to have turned against him, and enlists Ellen’s help to restore him to Harriet’s favour. Poor Ellen! Against her better judgement, she does try to help, even though she hopes Duncan will finally understand how shallow Harriet is. And even if he does, will he ever turn to Ellen instead?

Of course, readers know the answer to that. Duncan is a smart cookie, and I loved his highly original method of finding out the truth about the incident at the ball, and thus the truth of Harriet’s character. After that, it’s but a small step to appreciating Ellen’s good qualities.

This is a beautifully written story, as always with this author, and really, there’s only one thing wrong with it – it’s too short. Being novella length, certain parts of the story seemed rushed. Both Duncan’s courtship of Harriet and his realisation of Ellen’s true worth were either skipped altogether or were too fast to be entirely believable. I wasn’t convinced that Duncan could be steadfastly in love with Harriet, and then switch his affections to Ellen within a week or two, and the only reason I can accept it is because they’re such good friends to start with. I would have loved this to be a full-length book, but even so, I enjoyed it so much it’s definitely a five star read.


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