In Elizabeth Newark's Jane Eyre's Daughter, the famous parents leave for the West Indies while their daughter Janet attends finishing school. With school behind her and no sign of her parents' return, Janet and her companion, Laura, move in with her guardian, Colonel Dent. Dent's an older man whose idea of womanliness does not match Janet's. While exerting her independence she finds herself falling for Dent's mysterious secretary, Roderick Landless and fending off the advances of Sir Hugo, tenant of Thornfield.
When I began reading Jane Eyre's Daughter I had to remind myself that Newark is not a Bronte. In fact, the book is quite different from Jane Eyre and it's being associated with that work is more of a hindrance than an asset. First, much of the first few chapters could have been cut. Chances are if you are reading this book then you have read Jane Eyre, if not***drop this book and read Jane Eyre at once!***. I didn't see the need to rehash the lives of Jane and Edward. It was needless backstory. There was a lot of telling and not showing why Janet felt unloved by her mother. Which brings me to how I felt about that: I couldn't reconcile the Jane Eyre who loved Adele and had such tender feelings towards children with the cold mother portrayed here. It's Newark's Jane, I suppose, but she treads on dangerous ground and lovers of Jane are apt to be critical. Speaking of parental relationships... There are plenty of women in love with Mr Rochester, his daughter should not be one of them. Her feelings about him were just creepy and every time it was mentioned I found it intrusive and jarring. Luckily, as the novel progresses this comes up less and less.
Despite a rocky start, this was an enjoyable book to read. I was happy that Newark gave Janet her own personality and not just a Jane Eyre wannabe. Janet's love of riding and fashion are what I'd expect from a wealthy, educated girl of her time. Her character is also what I'd imagine a girl with such unconventional parents to be. She is an independent and strong protagonist with a good head on her shoulders. The cast of characters was a nice touch. I loved them all, Laura, Annie, Albert, Roderick, even the creepy siblings. The plot is perfect for a Gothic romance: stormy weather, secrets, forbidden love, even though I sometimes felt like my favorite book was being pilfered for plot devices (midnight laughter, collisions on dark lanes). That's nothing new though. The action and pacing were perfect. I stayed up until 2 am just to finish it. The writing and attention to detail were spot on; in fact, I'd love to see what Newark can do without using famous literary characters in her novel. Jane Eyre's Daughter is a book that can stand on it's own as a fun piece of romantic fiction. Nice job!
Available from Sourcebooks, September 2008