About the Book:
From USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews comes a supernatural Victorian gothic retelling of Charlotte Brontë’s timeless classic.
Yorkshire, 1843. When disgraced former schoolmaster John Eyre arrives at Thornfield Hall to take up a position as tutor to two peculiar young boys, he enters a world unlike any he’s ever known. Darkness abounds, punctuated by odd bumps in the night, strange creatures on the moor, and a sinister silver mist that never seems to dissipate. And at the center of it all, John’s new employer—a widow as alluring as she is mysterious.
Sixteen months earlier, heiress Bertha Mason embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Marriage wasn’t on her itinerary, but on meeting the enigmatic Edward Rochester, she’s powerless to resist his preternatural charm. In letters and journal entries, she records the story of their rapidly-disintegrating life together, and of her gradual realization that Mr. Rochester isn’t quite the man he appears to be. In fact, he may not be a man at all.
From a cliff-top fortress on the Black Sea coast to an isolated estate in rural England, John and Bertha contend with secrets, danger, and the eternal struggle between light and darkness. Can they help each other vanquish the demons of the past? Or are some evils simply too powerful to conquer?
Bertha Mason certainly never wished her parents dead, but she always chafed at their restrictions. Now that she’s her own boss, she begins to travel to exotic places she’s dreamed of. Marriage is something that wasn’t a priority, but when she meets the seductive and charming Edward Rochester, she finds herself wed. After the initial honeymoon period, her husband has become extraordinarily interested in Bertha’s English estate, and urges her to sign legal documents which would make the property his. When Bertha refuses, her charming husband shows his true colors, and Bertha realizes that she has made a drastic error. Not only is Bertha’s inheritance in danger, but her very life is in peril.
John Eyre is mourning the loss of his dear friend, Helen Burns. Though Helen wanted more from their relationship than being just friends, John respected her marriage and rebuffed her overtures. Now he feels the need to leave his job as schoolmaster and make a new start. His inquiries have led to his new position as tutor to two young boys at an estate called Thornfield Hall. John finds the boys sickly, pale, scared, and unwilling, or unable, to speak. The boys’ guardian, Mrs. Bertha Rochester, is away from home, as she often is, and John is left to pursue the path he feels will be most beneficial for the boys.
John’s kindness and patience have made the boys a little easier around him, though they still haven’t spoken. His changes to their diet, as well as his encouraging outside play, have much improved the boys’ appearance. When Mrs. Rochester unexpectedly returns, she takes exception to John’s flouting her strict rules, and some sparks fly. Though it’s clear the boys, Stephen and Peter, are in better shape, John may have just lost his position due to his outspokenness. Mrs. Rochester reconsiders, and the two manage to come to a compromise. Over time, their respect for each other grows, as does their affection. Eventually they plan to marry, until an awful secret is revealed on their wedding day.
Jane Eyre is my all time favorite book, and Mimi Matthews is one of my favorite authors, so I was very eager to read her creation, which mashed up a gender reversal version of Jane Eyre with another classic – one the author doesn’t want revealed. The story is successfully told from John’s point of view in the present, and from Bertha’s point of view from past letters to her friend. I admit to being surprised at the path this story traveled, as it’s a whole different direction from Mimi Matthews’ usual tender romances. JOHN EYRE is edgier, with supernatural elements, but, nonetheless, captivating. The writing is clever, and the plot is certainly unique. I enjoyed this homage to two classic novels, and I’d be happy to read more books in this vein from Mimi Matthews, as well as her excellent Victorian romances. ~Rose