Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates—a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.
But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie—not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.
Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past—or his—catches up to her?
With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?
In another installment of “ARCs I Should Have Reviewed Literally Years Ago,” we have The Wife Upstairs. I loved Rachel Hawkins’ Rebel Belle series, so I was excited to see an adult novel from her. In the interest of full disclosure, I have never read Jane Eyre, nor do I really know what it’s about aside from the most basic plot summary, so I can’t comment too much on the retelling aspect of this book and I’ll be looking at it just on its own merits.
And, on its own merits, it was good. Not great, but definitely good. I was hooked from the beginning and wondered how Jane, having grown up poor and in abusive situations, was going to assimilate into this culture of super rich women whose biggest concern is the landscaping of their neighborhood. As Jane seems to effortlessly transform into your stereotypical rich housewife, it also becomes clear that there’s a lot more than just landscaping problems going on in this neighborhood. There’s a thread of unease that starts running through her interactions with the once perfect Eddie, and then there’s the whole unsolved mystery of Eddie’s wife Bea’s disappearance.
The book is told from both Jane’s and Bea’s perspective, which provides a lot of tension as we’re just waiting for Jane to catch on to what’s really happening. There are a lot of twists and turns as we get to the ending, some of which I liked and others that I felt were a little over the top. Again, I have not read Jane Eyre so I’m not sure how much of that was inspiration from the original and how much was brand new from the author’s imagination, so I’m not really sure how judgy to be about some of those twists.
Overall, this was a really fun book. though I can’t say I 100% loved this book, I flew through it and it made me want to go read some of Rachel Hawkins’ backlist.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the free ARC of The Wife Upstairs in exchange for my honest review.
Previously: Rebel Belle • Miss Mayhem
Have you read The Wife Upstairs? What’s your favorite modern retelling?
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