Release Date: March 22, 2016
Publisher: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: G.P. Putnam's Sons
"Reader, I murdered him."
A Gothic retelling of Jane Eyre.
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?
Who can resist a Jane Eyre retelling?! Not this girl! This sort of adaptation is tricky because Lyndsay Faye's got big shoes to fill. But the blurb! Oh the blurb promises that it'll be darker than Brontë's classic gothic romance story so I had high hopes that LFaye will have me worshipping at her alter by the end of this novel...
JANE STEELE is some sort of a memoir/confessional from our anti-heroine, Jane Steele. Like in the blurb, Jane opens the novel with a murder confession followed by a few more. The first half is exactly what I expected the story to be: dark, thrilling, and page turning. Jane is an intriguing character, a sociopath who related her spiral to serial killer status in a very cold, matter-of-fact, unconscientious, almost trivial way. I'm almost convinced that the girl has no heart if not for her extreme loyalty and love for those people who mattered to her. Her frustrating situation somewhat justifies Jane's meanness too so it became a matter of becoming a monster to beat an even bigger and meaner monster. Suffice to say that I love Jane's deviousness at this point and I look forward to more.
Last Two-Thirds: The Little Princess
Jane then finds herself back at Highgate House where her painful odyssey began and suddenly it feels like I'm reading a brand new novel. Jane's darkness retreated in the shadows as she assumes the role of a governess to the new owners of her childhood home. Jane said as much that she wanted what's hers back so I expected Jane to come up with a cunning and beastly plan to get back Highgate House and redeem herself in the most dramatic way. That didn't happen maybe because she fell in love with Charles Thornhill that had her turning a new leaf? I don't really know, the signs were subtle is any, Jane just did a complete 180 without much preamble that there was a complete departure from the old Jane to this new Jane with zero transition.
And this is where JANE STEELE flatlined for me and finishing the novel turned into a tedious chore. I got so very bored because I lost what intrigued me the most about Jane Steele in the first place. What happened to our clever murderess?! Where's the dark gothic feel? Moreover with the novel turning more "romantic" whatever happened to the angsty love affair similar to Jane Eyre? There's a big missed opportunity here IMO because the set is staged for that and LFaye didn't follow through with it.
Where is Jane Eyre?
I don't know, but her spirit doesn't reside in JANE STEELE. The novel is divided in three parts with the first one very disjointed from the rest. Jane Steele's redemption was unsatisfactory; She basically got away with murder but not in a cunning impressive way; The resolution for the various plot threads are very convenient and glazed over; And the romance sorely lacked in tension.
JANE STEELE did not work for me all and failed to deliver what its advertising. A dark and devious gothic romantic tale this is not. Jane would often quote Jane Eyre, took it out of context to justify her actions or loosely relate her current situation with Ms. Eyre and aside from being governesses, Jane Steele and Jane Eyre are nothing alike.
If LFaye split the story, lengthened the first third into a full novel, developed Jane's darkness then wrote a sequel with her HEA, I think JANE STEELE would've fared with me better.