Winding elements of classic literature with modern awesomeness, authors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows return to their Lady Janies series with My Plain Jane, an homage to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre in which ghosts are real…and so is Jane.
Having never read the original story of Mr. Rochester and Thornfield Hall, Jane and her journey there, and whatnot, I wasn’t sure whether this story would further serve to bamboozle me. Truth be told, I’ve only read retellings (side note: check out The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde). However, if you’ve never read it or if you thought yourself maybe uninterested in classics, fret not because the writing style of My Plain Jane was entirely enjoyable, whether you read it physically, as an e-book, or listen to the audiobook.
Published: 26 June 2018
Category: Young Adult/Historical Fiction/Fantasy/Retellings
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.
Rating: 5 Stars
To start, Fiona Hardingham as a narrator was an inspired choice. I’ve heard her perform before in everything from And I Darken by Kiersten White to An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, so I’m confident in saying her range is well displayed from society to action, whether it be swordplay to society scenes.
Some of the vocals for the girls were a bit high pitched for my liking, but I think that is because she was playing to stereotypes of the period novels/film adaptations of those novels rather than because those are her natural choices for those characters.
Now, the narrative. One of the things I loved most was the authors’ asides. Some readers who have also read The Princess Bride by William Goldman may recognize a similar style, which was a nice touch, particularly given that W.G. passed away shortly before I read this book. My Plain Jane had several instances of its own asides which ranged from ones that gave me a smile to ones that, at times, did have me howling at my desk while listening, just picturing the scene being painted for me. Picture, if you will, this relocation of a ghost:
Instead he raised the pocket watch high into the air and bopped the ghost on the head with it. (We understand, reader, this is an extremely pedestrian way to describe something, this “bopping on the head.” But after numerous revisions and several visits with a thesaurus, that really is the most adequate description. He bopped it on the head.)
There were also clever word plays:
“What are you working on?” Alexander asked. “The story about murder from before?” “Not this time.” She patted the leather cover. “This one is about ghosts and the people who bust them.”
Commiserations with the reader:
(But she was a writer, so while she did get this moment of thinking herself somewhat brilliant, it would soon be offset by a crippling doubt that she had a gift of words at all. Such is the way with all writers. Trust us.)
“My name is Alexander Blackwood. You killed my father. Prepare to—”
“He keeps it locked in a room guarded by a three- headed dog, which drops into a pit of strangling vines, followed by a life- or- death life- size game of chess, which opens into a room with a locked door and a hundred keys on wings, and then there’s a mirror. . . .”
These were just some of my favorites, especial ones that caught my note. I think upon further reading there’d be more to highlight, considering I’d be switching back and forth between two editions. I know there was at least one Lord of the Rings reference the King of England made that had me shaking my head.
To read the characters, going back and forth between Charlotte, Jane, and Alexander’s points of view, was interesting because the authors managed to make their personalities largely a combination of their pre-Victorian reality (or, at least, what Charlotte would likely have been) and some modern sensibilities, particularly regarding the events that were inspired by the events of Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre. There is commentary on toxic masculinity, trust, expectations of women, fashion, and why men are so resistant to be forthcoming with answers in a time of need.
The supernatural elements were fascinating. They provided a source of humor, not least of which because it gave a reason for our characters to become an early version of the Scooby Squad/Ghostbusters. There was also a deeper level of interest regarding the philosophy regarding ghosts and what makes them stay, how they’re relocated, when and if they move on, that sort of thing. This is made especially poignant because one of the secondary characters, Helen aka Jane’s best friend, is a ghost. Also because, through one thing and another, the ghostly element leads to an Easter Egg for readers of Lady Janies Book #1 (My Lady Jane).
This was a fun novel that felt like it was over too soon. It’s combination of classic elements with current methods of storytelling made for such a good book that I was sad to see it go, though that ending did have me chuckling so at least the last page was a happy one. 🙂 What a way to leave off until book 3.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.
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