I read and reviewed this author’s first book in her Eyre Hall Trilogy, hesitant because I was not a fan of Jane Eyre and also because I had found reading adaptive continuations of fiction written during that era to be boring and a slog. I was pleasantly surprised! I liked All Hallows at Eyre Hall; it was meticulously researched and a worthy continuation of Jane Eyre’s story. With Twelfth Night, Ms. Gray gets further from the original, but also establishes herself as solid writer of historical romance.
A little back story: In All Hallows, which begins twenty-two years after Jane’s marriage to Edward Rochester, Jane is coping with the imminent death of her bedridden husband, whose lifetime of infidelities has profoundly changed their relationship. Richard Mason, brother of Rochester’s mad first wife, returns from Jamaica, bringing with him Annette. Annette is unaware she is Rochester’s daughter by Mason’s sister. This vile man tells Annette that Jane – limned as the devil by Mason – will provide for her education and a dowry and find her a suitable husband. Mason believes Jane played a role in the death of his sister and plans vengeance on Jane. As a widow and chatelaine of the Rochester estate, Jane is truly a good person, concerned about her family, especially her son John, the welfare of the servants, and the poor children in the villages, Despite her wishes to be above reproach, Jane falls deeply and sensually in love with a most inappropriate man, Michael Kirkpatrick, many years her junior, and a valet to her husband before his death. In an effort to preserve Jane’s reputation, Michael leaves the estate and Jane is blackmailed into marrying the detestable Mason.
In Twelfth Night, all of the main characters return, with the introduction of several new ones, including some who had hovered at the edges in the first book. Again, the story is told from several points of view, which normally might confuse a reader, but here provides depth and richness to the story. Jane is recovering from a long, unstated illness and Annette, who has come to appreciate Jane, has developed romantic feelings for Jane’s son, unaware he is her half-brother. Now a Navy lieutenant, Michael returns to discover Jane’s marriage to Mason. In addition, Jane is now a published author, under a male pseudonym. When Mason returns to the estate, he immediately resumes his sexual predation of the Hall’s younger female servants, unknown to Jane. This is just a brief introduction to the web of complex relationships among the people who will reside at the Hall during the holidays. Ms. Gray draws us into their lives and the social strata, with its attendant bigotry, greed, ignorance, repressed sexuality, and superstition – all of the little gems of a great Gothic novel. I was sufficiently captivated by the story to put the book down only when I absolutely had to.
There are wonderful historical touches throughout the book, such as the introduction of a sin eater and the visit of Charles Dickens with Jane. The author has done her research well, which is what makes the book a rich treat. While some historical romances drown in detail and reading them is like plowing through mud, the pacing and descriptions in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall is robust and full of twists and turns. And the cover is an eye-catcher!
I strongly recommend Ms. Gray’s second outing with Jane Eyre and look forward to reading the third book in the Trilogy.
I purchased this book for review. It can be found on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Twelfth-Night-Eyre-Hall-Trilogy-ebook/
and Goodreads: http://www.amazon.com/Twelfth-Night-Eyre-Hall-Trilogy-ebook/
About the author
Luccia Gray was born in London and has a degree in Modern Foreign Languages. She now lives in southern Spain with her husband and dotes on her three children and three grandchildren. When she is not writing, she teaches English at an Adult Education Center and is an English Language tutor at the Spanish Distance University.
She can be found at her blog, Rereading Jane Eyre: http://lucciagray.com/, Facebook and Twitter: @ LucciaGray