Book review: My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • GoodreadsTBD
Publication Date: June 26, 2018
Source: Borrowed

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.

First things first, I feel like I should say two things:

  1. I absolutely adored My Lady Jane, and
  2. I have not read Jane Eyre.

I don’t think that not reading Jane Eyre really had any impact on my feelings about this book. The authors really did a great job of retelling the story in a way that doesn’t rely on any prior knowledge of the book. But adoring My Lady Jane? I think that made my hopes a little too high.

You see, MLJ was a nearly 500-page book that I finished in (if I remember correctly) two nights. I flew through it, laughing and smiling and swooning over a man who randomly turns into a horse. MPJ took me about two weeks to finish despite being a little shorter.

I think the biggest thing for me was that, despite more or less enjoying the plot, I just didn’t feel any connection with the characters. Sure, Jane and Charlotte and Alexander were all great, but I always felt like they were at a distance. I never really felt immersed in their story, which meant that I never really felt like picking it back up and reading more.

I don’t have a ton of things to say about this book. It was a pretty solid four for me until the last quarter or so, when it seemed to drag a bit and I had to force myself to keep reading.

#killingthetbr: 6 months on shelf
#ps19: a retelling of a classic
#romanceopoly: memory lane

Have you read My Plain Jane? Have you read any good retellings recently? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Top Ten Tuesday: New-to-me authors of 2017

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!  Today’s theme, which is pretty fitting for the first Tuesday of a new year, is the top ten new-to-me authors I read in 2017. I read a lot of new authors last year, but here are the ten that came to mind first. (They are in no specific order)

1. R.S. Grey
❤︎ The Fortunate Ones: Goodreads || review
💜 Scoring Wilder: Goodreads || review
💚 The Allure of Julian Lefray: Goodreads || review
💙 The Allure of Dean Harper: Goodreads || review
💛 The Foxe & the Hound: Goodreads || review
🖤 Anything You Can Do:  Goodreads || review

2. Angie Thomas
❤︎ The Hate U Give: Goodreads || review

3. Cindi Madsen
💜 Operation Prom Date: Goodreads || review
💚 Nailed It: Goodreads || review

4. Author trio: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
💙 My Lady Jane: Goodreads || review

5. Christina Lauren
💛 Roomies: Goodreads || review

6. Maggie Ann Martin
🖤 The Big F: Goodreads || review

7. Andie J. Christopher
❤︎ Break of Day: Goodreads || review

8. Rachel Van Dyken
💜 Fraternize: Goodreads || review
💚 Infraction: Goodreads || review

9. Natalie D. Richards
💙 We All Fall Down: Goodreads || review

10. Tristina Wright
🖤 27 Hours: Goodreads || review

Book review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows

Goodreads   Amazon

The year is 1553.  King Edward VI has fallen ill, and his trusted advisor has recommended changing the order of succession to ensure that Edward’s cousin, Lady Jane Grey, become queen in the event of his death.  That Lady Jane has been recently engaged to said advisor’s son is, of course, simply a coincidence.

Jane has no desire to be queen.  (No desire to be married, either, but sixteen was a bit spinstery for the day.)  No, Jane would much rather spend time with her books.  She’s rarely found without a book in hand, and can hardly get through a conversation without referencing some sassily titled book:

Poisonous and Nonpoisonous Berries of the WIld: the Joys of Surviving England on a Budget

The Kiss: It’s Not Just About the Lips

The Proper Treatment of Wounds on the Battlefield During the War of the Roses: A History

Jane has a love of reading that rivals even mine.  And that love of reading comes in handy as she’s forced to assume a throne she never wanted.  When she has to thwart a rebellion.  When she finds out that she’s married to a very handsome horse.

Oh, yes, that’s right.  This is a magical retelling of Lady Jane Grey’s story, and while it’s based in truth, our narrators have done a bit of research to uncover the “truth” behind Jane’s life.  It turns out that there was quite a conflict in Jane’s day between the shapeshifters (Eðians) and non-shapeshifters (Verities).  Edward V was an Eðian, able to shift into a lion and devour his opponents.  Edward VI’s grandmother was also an Eðian, able to turn into a skunk and spray those who might try to offend her.  Turns out that Jane’s husband, Gifford Dudley (call him G, please), is rather incapable of controlling his Eðian nature and transforms into a horse every day from dawn until dusk.

Can I just talk about G for a minute here?  Of all the ways this book could have gone, I was so happy that G was a supportive husband for Jane.  While their marriage was arranged, and neither of them were particularly excited about it, they come to care about each other and trust each other and it just made my heart so happy.  The book doesn’t leave out the patriarchal attitudes of the 16th century, but the narrators (and Jane!) often call out the male characters when they insinuate that women are less capable than men.  And, for G’s part, he turns out to be pretty enlightened by the end of the book.

Another thing that I loved about this book was all of the pop culture references.  The French Taunter from Monty Python and the Holy Grail shows up as the insult “Your mother was a hamster and your father stank of elderberries” is thrown around willy-nilly.  A character mentions an invitation to “The Red Wedding.”  Jane, at one point, finds the only weapon available to be a heavy frying pan. And, of course, I can’t forget the references to Shakespeare:

Shall I compare thee to a barrel of apples?
Thou art more hairy, but sweeter inside.
Rough winds couldn’t keep me from taking you to chapel,
Where finally a horse could take a bride…

This book isn’t going to be for everyone.  It has a special kind of Monty Python-style humor, so if you aren’t a huge fan of their sketches, you might not enjoy this book.  But while many teenage girls would sneak out to see boys, steal their parents’ alcohol, or, at the very least, marathon something like One Tree Hill, when our parents were out of town, my best friend and I would stay up all night watching old Monty Python skits on PBS.  Such wild children, I know.  But the point of me telling you this is that I have always loved this sort of silly humor, so this book was right up my alley.  And not only is it a silly retelling of the Renaissance era, it’s also delightfully well-written and highly entertaining.

I have not yet read anything by any of these three authors individually, but I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more of their work.  And, great news: they’ve announced that they’re releasing more retellings of other Janes!  Personally, I can’t wait.

Final rating: ★★★★★

#mmdreading: a book about books or reading