Based on how much I enjoyed My Lady Jane, I immediately pre-ordered the follow up novel, My Plain Jane which tells the true story of Jane Eyre. The last novel included an apology to England for what the three authors were about to do its history while this one started with an apology for what they would do to its literature.
Like the previous novel, this one is fun, irreverent, and hilarious. However, I preferred the previous novel. This might simply be because of my love for English history while Jane Eyre is one of those books I feel like I should have liked but was mostly ambivalent or apathetic about. (I’ll take Austen over the Brontes any day). Since I don’t have a great love of the base material (maybe I should use my next Audible credit for a revisit), I may not have appreciated the alternate approach as much. Of course, I would also argue that shape shifting magic is always more fun than ghosts so that might be part of it.
As it turns out, King George III was not crazy: he could see ghosts so it sometimes looked like he was speaking to trees when he was simply conversing with ghosts. However, being viewed as crazy was not a good thing so King George III funded a ghost hunting society. His successors have reduced the budget to the organization, so what was once a very prestigious organization has been severely downsized. Not just anyone can join the society – they must be able to see ghosts. Usually, it takes temporarily dying to activate the ability though it is no guarantee.
The novel starts out very familiar to the known version except that Jane Eyre can see ghosts. Being at a miserable school for girls with a sadistic director, there are quite a few ghosts around for Jane to interact with, too, including her deceased best friend Helen – turns out death was only a minor set back in their friendship. Charlotte Bronte and her sisters are characters as fellow attendees of the school, and Charlotte plots a few intricate schemes at various points in the novel, showing her developing writer’s creativity. She is not afraid to withhold information or use minor extortion to get her way, either.
Alexander, one of the remaining ghost hunting society members, recognizes Jane’s abilities early in the novel while on a mission near the school, and he spends much of the novel trying to recruit Jane even following her to her new position as a governess with Charlotte and Branwell Bronte in tow.
Just like in the published novel, Jane falls in love with Mr. Rochester due to an unfortunate susceptibility to tall, dark men based on the literature of the time and her complete lack of previous interaction with men. This is where Helen really ended up shining – she was the reader stand in, constantly questioning Rochester’s action to Jane, and trying to beat some sense into her.
Overall, I enjoyed the novel and the spin the authors took on Jane Eyre. As I said, I am not sure if my preference for My Lady Jane was simply that the subject matter appealed to me more or if it was due to the raised expectations for this book created by My Lady Jane, but I am definitely looking forward to future collaborations between the three authors. Also, there is a very slight call back to Lady Jane Grey that I appreciated. Now that they have set the matter straight with regards to English history and English literature, I am curious to see what they might explore next!