Title: My Plain Jane (The Lady Janies #2)
Author/s: Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton
Publication Date: June 26, 2018
(Digital ARC provided by the publisher thru Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review)
I’ve read My Lady Jane a year ago and it was a riot! It was unexpectedly good – funny and witty and magical. I loved how Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows and Brodi Ashton “re-wrote” history and gave the tragic (and victimized) Lady Jane Grey a happy ending, one she rightfully deserves. I thought it was a one-off, so when I heard that the trio of authors will be releasing not one but two more books for the Lady Janies series, I was ecstatic.
My Plain Jane is the first of these two Janies books, and just like in MLJ, the trio of Hand, Meadows and Ashton re-wrote another famous Jane’s story – this time picking a beloved classic Jane Eyre.
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.
Reader, it amused!
My Plain Jane mashes up parts of Charlotte Brönte’s life and the general plot of her classic novel to make an interesting new story that sort of looks more like the lovechild of the all-female Ghostbusters movie and the source material. MPJ, like the book it follows, is still funny, outrageous and ridiculous, full of witty asides and authorial comments on literay and cultural norms.
The focus on strong female friendships is this book’s best asset. Jane’s friendship with Helen (Pst…she’s still dead here just like in canon but she’s still best friends with Jane. Go figure how that one works. I won’t spoil it for you.) and Charlotte is the best asset of this story. I love how both Helen and Charlotte support Jane, how they call her out when she does something not so smart and how they are still there for her even after she made mistakes. It’s a picture of healthy female friendship, something I wish I see more in YA.
The additional characters also hold their ground in this book, making things a bit more complicated for our beloved Jane. There’s Alexander Blackwell, the star agent of the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits, who pursues Jane to offer her employment with the Society. Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington and also the apparent leader of the Society, a man who has stood as Alexander’s father figure but hides a sinister side. And, oh, have a I mentioned that Charlotte’s younger sisters and brother also join the show?!?
While being familiar with Jane Eyre will definitely make some of the jokes and puns make better sense, reading it is not a requirement. I actually haven’t read JE, yet I still enjoyed reading this book. I actually think it helped more that I don’t know the source novel that much as it was easier for me to suspend my disbelief. I think the only criticism I have against MPJ is its pacing. It moved a bit too slow for my liking in the first dozen or so chapters but it picks the pace up around halfway through the book.
Pacing issues aside, My Plain Jane is still a thoroughly enjoyable read. I definitely recommend this for readers who are looking for something light and fun (and funny.) Readers who love a little supernatural in their romance will also like this book.