Review copy was received from Publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Mrs. Rochester's Ghost by Lindsay Marcott
Published by Thomas & Mercer on August 1, 2021
Genres: Life Fiction, Mystery
Jane has lost everything: job, mother, relationship, even her home. A friend calls to offer an unusual deal—a cottage above the crashing surf of Big Sur on the estate of his employer, Evan Rochester. In return, Jane will tutor his teenage daughter. She accepts.
But nothing is quite as it seems at the Rochester estate. Though he’s been accused of murdering his glamorous and troubled wife, Evan Rochester insists she drowned herself. Jane is skeptical, but she still finds herself falling for the brilliant and secretive entrepreneur and growing close to his daughter.
And yet her deepening feelings for Evan can’t disguise dark suspicions aroused when a ghostly presence repeatedly appears in the night’s mist and fog. Jane embarks on an intense search for answers and uncovers evidence that soon puts Evan’s innocence into question. She’s determined to discover what really happened that fateful night, but what will the truth cost her?
The spooky Yorkshire moors, a crazy woman in the attic, an ambiguous brooding hero, and a stalwart, plain featured and plain spoken heroine made Jane Eyre a popular classic and, by calling on these gothic tones and winning formula, a new author has sparked my interest once again with a modern retelling of the classic.
Janie has lost everything from mother to boyfriend to career as TV story writer and it is in these dismal straights that old friend Otis catches her ready to move across country, take up the job of tutor for a teenager, and do this in the isolated coastal estate of a wealthy man under investigation for murdering his wife.
Mrs. Rochester’s Ghost had the immediate advantage of being set along the California central coast just south of Monterey, which is a lovely, very familiar location for me so I can testify that the cool, coastal foggy mists could act on the imagination if one lived in an atmosphere of secrets and mystery that permeated Thorny Bluff, Evander Rochester’s estate.
The author cleverly wove winning elements from the classic into this modern domestic thriller so there was much for a Jane Eyre fan to recognize and appreciate while also getting to savor fresh elements to plot and characters.
I will say this story struck me as one of those that will be appreciated with varying degrees depending on how one sorts it out genre-wise. I had to get this clear in my own mind. If I treated it like a romantic suspense which is how it felt at times, I wouldn’t care for it because I simply didn’t see a good romance build up and there was the cheating aspect. However, if I viewed it as a domestic thriller (which is how it is described) with romance elements, I fared much better because there was much more care taken with that than the romance.
Speaking of the thriller side, I’m still on the fence about having the duo narration threads. Janie told the current storyline and Beatrice McAdams, the wife who Evan said drowned, though others think he killed her for her money, narrated the details of that last day she was alive. Beatrice is the quintessential unreliable narrator with her delusions and manic thoughts and behavior because she was off her meds. Her narration was intriguing as something different from any previous Jane Eyre retellings and variations I’ve read, but it was also somewhat distracting and took away from the suspense element in Janie’s storyline.
I did feel the story lagged somewhat after the initial introductions and set up, but it picked back up for me after the midway point. I could see the need of where the author was going with all that and it wasn’t just filler, with character and relationship development needed as well as a slow build of certain plot pieces, but I was impatient to get things moving.
Janie was a typical gothic tale heroine to me. She was susceptible to atmosphere and her imagination was her own worst enemy while at the same time, she was impulsive and gutsy to go nosing about when she suspected she was being watched, followed, and odd things were happening around her not to mention she was living in what she believed was a murder scene and falling in love with a murderer. I shook my head a few times, but ended up just going with it. The original Jane had a different personality that I appreciated more, but it was still fun to see Janie scared, but still detecting away.
For the longest time, I had no idea if this book was going to follow the original Jane Eyre story through its twists and reveals to the end or if it was going to surprise me with a variation on the ending. This is to say, I had my suspicions about Beatrice McAdams’ death, but I was also unsure if I was reading Evan all wrong. Simply, I had no idea and had to wait until the big reveal.
So, all in all, this was an entertaining, atmospheric modern retelling that did a good job. It definitely had the feel of the classic, but also translated moderately well into a fresh modern domestic thriller. The crowds who enjoy both modern retellings of classics and domestic thrillers that lean toward the old-style gothic are the target audience.
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