Like the heroine of the novel she adores, Jane Steele suffers cruelly at the hands of her aunt and schoolmaster. And like Jane Eyre, they call her wicked – but in her case, she fears the accusation is true. When she flees, she leaves behind the corpses of her tormentors.
A fugitive navigating London’s underbelly, Jane rights wrongs on behalf of the have-nots whilst avoiding the noose. Until an advertisement catches her eye. Her aunt has died and the new master at Highgate House, Mr Thornfield, seeks a governess. Anxious to know if she is Highgate’s true heir, Jane takes the position and is soon caught up in the household’s strange spell. When she falls in love with the mysterious Charles Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him – body, soul and secrets – and what if he discovers her murderous past?
What I Thought:
The first thing I read about Jane Steele was that it was a retelling of Jane Eyre, but I don’t really think that that is accurate. The Jane in this novel is inspired by the lead character of her favourite book and certain threads of the story bear similarities but, where Jane Eyre shows he mettle in an unassuming way, Jane Steele’s is fully on display for the reader as she goes about righting wrongs – by way of murder.
Although Jane is upfront about her – unfortunate – sideline in killing, it’s very important that you understand her reasoning and that the people who feel her wrath are by no means undeserving of their fate – whether this is giving unwanted sexual attention, or domestic abuse her victims will be very little missed by the world. I know, I know, it’s not really her place to take this into her own hands, but it is very hard to care very much about her victims.
When Jane discovers that her early life may not be all it appeared, she finds herself back at her childhood home, attempting to find out if she is the true heir – only to be comsumed with love and respect for the new inhabitants.
This second section of the book is rich with details of the British in India and their devastating wheeling and dealing and bloodshed as Jane finds out what grief lies behind Charles Thornfield’s devotion to his young ward, who captivates Jane.
So, as I said, not really a retelling of Jane Eyre, but you can see the bones of that novel and Jane Steele is directly guided by the novel as she goes about her life; she find solace in Charlotte Brontë’s heroine and her quiet dignity.
I very much enjoyed the book and the tantalising grey areas of Jane’s life. Jane Steele is such a compelling character and she is a very modern woman in a historical context. When she finds love, she’s not afraid to pursue it as, indeed, she is not afraid to pursue murder where it is needed. Based around some of the characters and elements of this story, I did wonder if this would become a series, with Jane and Thornfield investigating murders together as that is a series that I would relish reading!
Jane Steele is published by Headline.
Please note: I received a review copy of this book via Netgalley. All opinions are, as ever, my own.