Series: The Lady Janies #2
Published by HarperTeen on June 26th 2018
Source: Publisher, Netgalley
Genres: Historical, Young Adult, Romance, Suspense, Paranormal
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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.
I came into My Plain Jane with super high expectations, as I adored its predecessor My Lady Jane (which you can find my review here!). Keep in mind that these books are not connected at all, except through the focus of a woman named “Jane” and the authors writing it. You don’t need to read MLJ to enjoy this one! The thing about My Plain Jane is that we add another narrative to the story so we’re looking through the POV’s of THREE characters. Instead of a book about Jane Eyre, there is much more of a focus of Charlotte Brontë, a writer who’s at the same school as Jane. Horrible love interest thing + three POV’s = not exactly a retelling of Jane Eyre. It’s definitely a remake, as there are still similar elements. But not a linear retelling. The authors’ originality stays true as they add fun supernatural twists to create an explanation for everything that happened in the story, twisting towards a happy ending.
The book switches through the POV’s of Jane Eyre, a teacher at the Lowood school, Charlotte Brontë, a student there, and Alexander Blackwood, the star agent of the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits. The authors write the gothic atmosphere very well, especially with the integration of ghosts and a flare of the supernatural. Basically, if you die briefly and come back (due to trauma, etc), you have the ability to see ghosts. The ghosts that haunt are usually relocated by the Society. Jane and Alexander can both see ghosts, and Jane is even more important as a Beacon – an entity that can command ghosts. These were interesting twists to Jane Eyre that I think readers will really enjoy.
While Jane is a bit on the quiet and mysterious side (albeit having lots of opinions), Charlotte is quite forward and quick-thinking. Alexander is has his moments as well, much of it being blatantly scandalized by the girls’ actions and hoping for revenge for his murdered father. The authors have their customary witty critiques of the customs of the time, including how broody heroes like Mr. Darcy are the ideal type and the acts of impropriety that seem like nothing in this day and age. It’s pretty hilarious, but for some reason I got a bit tired of it as the book dragged on. The charm from MLJ was lost a bit in this one, as I found the digression of conversations tiring and the deliberately obtuse actions of the characters boring.
‘I am no one special,’ Jane said. ‘I am just a girl. I can see ghosts, yes, but it has only ever brought me trouble!’
While Alexander tries to employ Jane in his supernatural Society, Jane becomes a governess and falls in love (quite instantly) with the brooding and temperament Mr. Rochester. From there, the plot changes from the original Jane Eyre. Mr. Rochester is suspicious af, and something else is brewing within the Society, although the characters don’t know what. They have to rely on each other’s different skill sets to get to the bottom of what’s going on.
The book was just so long and repetitive after a while. Readers figure out the answer to the mystery well before all the characters do, which is a bit tiring. And when the characters do figure it out, they have silly banter that kind of wastes time and page space. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the hilarious quips once in a while, but it got too much after a while. Again, this style of writing is great at first but I would prefer it in short bursts to savor it, rather than coating the whole story in it. (Which is just a style thing. The authors’ voices are woven seamlessly in the story and overall I really commend their originality that is both refreshing and fun.) Also, for a book named after “My Plain Jane,” she didn’t have a lot of page time.
What surprised me was the light and small side romance in this one. I expected something swoony, but romance was not central at all in this book (interestinggg). There still is a little, but so very light. I enjoyed the exploration of the different kinds of love that the authors explore and how they are found both in life and death. It’s very cathartic, actually, and really matches the storyline and atmosphere. Again, the authors also add their own remarks on how romance during the time came like a *snap* because of tradition.
Death could not stop true love, whether that love was paternal or platonic or romantic. Love extended across worlds.
While My Plain Jane was enjoyable, it didn’t have the shine and charm as its predecessor. It’s a great remake of Jane Eyre, but by no means a retelling. The refreshing twists give a great resolution to all the characters, as readers find out how Charlotte Brontë exactly wrote the story of Jane Eyre. It’s diverting and entertaining, especially with the ghost elements. If readers didn’t like the writing style of the first book, skip this one. If they did, then this one is for you! Historical fantasy readers should definitely consider this series.
Content Warning: child abuse
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Thank you Edelweiss and HarperTeen for the review copy!