Review: John Eyre: A Tale of Darkness and Shadow by Mimi Matthews

Mimi Matthews is an auto buy author for me. I love all of her books and always make room for them on my calendar. She never disappoints and when I saw she was going to write a novel that was a little darker and more gothic than her standard feel good historical romances made me elated!

I couldn’t say yes fast enough to this one! I know that some times when an author branches out of their typical genre to try something new, there is always hesitation that it won’t be well received, but she is such a talented writer that I knew this was going to be another outstanding read. You can tell it’s a retelling of Jae Eyre based on the title and I think a number of readers will be thrilled to pick this one up and give it a go.

In the last book I read by Matthews, Gentleman Jim, she did a bit of a twist on The Count of Monte Cristo, so I couldn’t wait to see how this retelling would develop. And you guys know I am a huge fan of gothic romances so this book was practically made for me! While I am not a huge Jane Eyre fan, I appreciate the story and couldn’t wait for Matthew’s take on this classic gothic tale!

Summary

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? (summary from Goodreads)

Review

This is the glorious book baby that happened when the Brontes and Dracula came together. Dracula is one of my all time favorite classics and books so seeing it’s influence in this Bronte retelling was thrilling and really caught my attention. I loved how both of these stories came together to create this larger new story. Matthew’s picked the best parts of both stories and incorporated them into this lovely read. I thought it was brilliant and interesting. But there was also something that was nagging at the back of my mind. It took me a few days of ponding what exactly was off for me in this one to fully articulate it. While I liked this book and thought it was an excellent retelling, that was interesting and true to the classics……there was also something off for me and I couldn’t figure out what for a few days.

Matthew’s is an incredibly talented writer and her stories always feel original and there’s so much natural chemistry between the characters that it’s hard to forget them. In this one, things felt a little constrained, like she was limited or bound to the classic and it didn’t really allow for the characters to become uniquely their own. To be honest, I would have liked to have seen her ditch the retelling aspect from both books and let the stories of John and Bertha shine and grow more organically throughout the book. I felt at times there were moments where Bertha or John might have acted in a different way, but were limited to the confines of the classic Jane Eyre story and respective characters, that this story didn’t allow a way for them to become uniquely their own. The same happened with the villain Mr Rochester. Because he was a reimagining of Count Dracula, it felt that he too was limited by the classic character within the story. I think he could have been more menacing if he could have taken on a life of his own rather than being restricted to the reimagining of Count Dracula.

So where does that leave me in this book? It’s a hard one for me to review. On one hand I loved it and enjoyed the clear influence of the classic novels and I loved seeing the role of Jane being played by a man. I loved the book, but in this case I think Mathews could have actually had a retelling that was more loosely based on the characters than this one was. It was still a wonderful read and I gave if 4 stars, I think she is a marvelous writer with a true talent for romances and I think this segaway into the gothic was so exciting and I hope she writes more gothic romances—-but ones that are maybe separated a little more from the classics.

Book Info and Rating

Format Kindle Edition

Expected publicationJuly 20, 2021 by Perfectly Proper Press

Free review copy provided by publisher, Perfectly Proper Press in partnership with Austen Prose Blog Tours, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.

Rating: 4 stars

Genre: historical fiction

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