Thanks for dropping by to read my thoughts on Jane & Edward: A Modern Reimagining of Jane Eyre by Melodie Edwards. It’s a just-released contemporary romance from publisher Berkley.
I’m including a content guide at the end of my review with my blog audience in mind. I mostly review and feature inspirational or CBA fiction, so I want to give my readers a head’s up that this is a general market book with some mature content, detailed below. The context of my review focuses on the story merits and the content is something I consider separately. The content note also highlights a few mild story spoilers.
This powerful reimagining of Jane Eyre, set in a modern-day law firm, is full of romance and hope as it follows the echoing heartbeats of the classic story.
A former foster kid, Jane has led a solitary life as a waitress in the suburbs, working hard to get by. Tired of years of barely scraping together a living, Jane takes classes to become a legal assistant and shortly after graduating accepts a job offer at a distinguished law firm in downtown Toronto. Everyone at the firm thinks she is destined for failure because her boss is the notoriously difficult Edward Rosen, the majority stakeholder of Rosen, Haythe & Thornfield LLP. But Jane has known far worse trials and refuses to back down when economic freedom is so close at hand.
Edward has never been able to keep an assistant–he’s too loud, too messy, too ill-tempered. There’s something about the quietly competent, delightfully sharp-witted Jane that intrigues him though. As their orbits overlap, their feelings begin to develop–first comes fondness and then something more. But when Edward’s secrets put Jane’s independence in jeopardy, she must face long-ignored ghosts from her past and decide if opening her heart is a risk worth taking.
I really, really loved Jane & Edward as a retelling of Jane Eyre set in present day Toronto. The plausible workplace romance situation and fitting history of the characters are high points, but what really gets me about the themes and feel of the original are the emotional revelations and depth of the characters, especially the empathy stirred for “Rochester”.
Jane is immediately likable. Reading her point of view throughout is an experience in watching her grow into herself with confidence and expression of her personality. Her childhood in the foster system is an appropriate background for her emotional state and emphasis on self-reliance, making it all the more poignant as she learns to navigate a new workplace, a few genuine friendships, and a romantic attraction to her boss, Edward.
Edward’s mercurial behavior and snarky humor are depicted in such a way that the reader can understand his magnetism (I can practically hear his voice calling for Jane from his office!). His past, too, holds tragedy and contrasts with Jane’s — both of them have struggled to overcome, and both of them tackle life and problems in different ways. Their chemistry is almost immediate, and as their professionalism gives way to friendship and a tentative romance, it’s a bittersweet experience to read of their joys and know his secrets threaten to upend Jane’s world.
Author Melodie Edwards has impressively brought timeless concepts from the original classic of trust, ethics, and faithfulness, into a modern framework and it works! Her authorial voice is unique and she paints the characters as her own, too, with their own personalities and dreams. It is not a derivative or a direct retelling, but a what-if modern imagining that highlights the best parts of its basis text and brings to light aspects of Jane and Rochester one might notice in a different light upon reading Jane Eyre or watching a movie adaptation again.
Content guide: the book does have a love scene, but it is handled in text as an almost closed door scene (kissing and just a little more are hinted at before it fades to black). There is a moderate amount of explicit language throughout, including use of the f-word and a few instances of pairing God’s name with a swear word. Per the story’s source and basis (Jane Eyre), a man does withhold the truth/the existence of a wife, in effect participating in an adulterous relationship.
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the review copy. This is my honest review.