Title: My Plain Jane
Author: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Series: The Lady Janies #2
Genre: YA, Retellings
Published: June 26th, 2018 (HarperTeen)
Synopsis: You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)
Or does she?
Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.
“This brings us to the real start of our story: northern England, 1834, and the aforementioned penniless, orphaned girl. And a writer. And a boy with a vendetta.
Let’s start with the girl.
Her name was Jane.”
The Lady Janies are finally back! My Lady Jane was historical fiction (by the loosest definition), and I absolutely loved it when I read it two years ago, never mind that that particular time period in history is one of my regular favourites. I have to admit though, I was a little apprehensive going into this novel because well, Jane Eyre is a classic and the story is one most dedicated readers are atleast familiar with.
This is Jane Eyre as we’ve never seen it before. An orphan girl named Jane journeys to take up a position as governess in the household of a mysterious employer. But this Jane possesses the ability to see and speak to ghosts. Not only this, but Jane is a Beacon, someone whom ghosts will obey. Enter Alexander Blackwood, star agent for the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits, an organization past its heyday. Blackwood sees in Jane the opportunity to save the fast failing Society and offers her a job – but Jane, content at Thornfield Hall and (more importantly) in the company of her beloved Mr Rochester, refuses. Alexander, rather reluctantly, accepts the help of Jane’s best friend, Charlotte (yes, Charlotte Brontë), an aspiring writer just waiting for the opportunity to leave Lowood School behind, in convincing Jane to change her mind.
While My Plain Jane still holds on to the main points of the story (albeit by a thread), it was surprisingly the deviations from the tale that I liked best. Strangely enough, the inclusion of the paranormal, basically ghosts, did not feel one bit out of place in this witty narrative that frequently sent me into laughter starting right from the dedication.
Personally, I’m not all that attached to the original novel, so I rather enjoyed this as much of the book pokes fun at the story. However, readers who love Jane Eyre might be hard pressed to accept the liberties taken with the text. Jane as a character has been changed into little more than a girl obsessed with handsome boys. And then there was Charlotte, a character in her own book, which was definitely a refreshing concept. Alexander and Charlotte really stole the show in this one, but Jane was not as prominent as I would have liked. Jane was just overwhelmingly dull, mostly because she is the sole character in the novel who seems to be sticking to the script. I did appreciate the numerous pop-culture references (not forgetting of course, Mr Darcy), but several of these felt rather out of place for the setting and time period of the book. In that sense, the Shakespeare references in My Lady Jane were so much more fitting.
While the signature humour was definitely present, the spark and adventurous feel to the novel were missing. All in all, not quite up to the mark of My Lady Jane (it is rather hard to beat a historical comedy after all), but hilarious and entertaining nonetheless!
Other reviews in this series: