From the desk of Sophia Rose
Reader, I must confess that I went into this book totally blind. No blurb, no captions, and a mere glance at the cover. This is because I spotted the title and the author, and it was all over. I needed a gender swapped Jane Eyre-Dracula mash up to quench my insatiable curiosity and wonder over such a combo. Some authors might have difficulty pulling off such a feat, but I did not have a doubt in the world that in Mimi Matthews’ capable hands that John Eyre would dazzle.
John Eyre arrives at his new place of employment on a cold, rainy, and foggy night. He barely catches a glimpse of the new Yorkshire countryside or Thornfield Hall. His mind is weighed down by the past and his head aches dreadfully. He craves the laudanum that he has been using to dull his memories and pain. But it is not long before natural curiosity for his peculiar new charges, his absent employer, and his new surroundings rouse him. Thornfield Hall might be remote, creak with odd noises, and the Yorkshire environs bleak, but John Eyre starts to settle in and feel a modicum of peace. Then Mrs. Rochester arrives.
Mrs. Rochester is changeable, direct, capable, and very much in charge. He senses there is great mystery from this well-traveled world-weary woman. She challenges him and his notions of women, and the world he has barely experienced in his humble circumstances. His very stolidity and sureness appear to be a challenge to her as well as they slowly become friends. That is until a well-known man of her own status arrives and rattles his confidence in their relationship. Nonetheless, he stands pat when events transpire that Mrs. Rochester requires his unquestionable and discreet trust. And he freely gives it. In the end, his love and trust are challenged, and he is faced with the irrational and incredible.
John Eyre is a tale that could be described as gothic literature—a combination of a gothic romance, classic literature, and supernatural horror. infused with atmospheric descriptions and hair-raising moments, this mash-up of two beloved classics stays in the mild to moderate horror range depending on your sensibilities and balances more toward the Jane Eyre story than Dracula.
The book is divided into dual time threads: the present with John Eyre doing the narration and the past in epistolary form from Bertha’s perspective. Matthews has cleverly switched genders from the original classic. Bertha Mason Rochester is now the heroine instead of Mr. Rochester as the hero. The supporting characters are also part of the swap and some scenes and situations from both of the original classics are left out or combined to make the story work better. That said, each of the two classics are clearly and beautifully represented in the story.
John had most of the limelight, though Bertha’s strong personality was always present. John is retiring in many ways though he has a keen mind and inner strength that supports of his employer and friend. This dynamic worked because she has been through so much and just needs someone on her side to believe her in the end. Bertha is intelligent, independent, and dominant in a time when that was not attractive in a woman, but she is also adventurous and is willing to buck society and go it alone. John Eyre is the first person to quietly accept her for her true self and back her up when all reason tells him that he should run. Their scenes, particularly near the end, were electrifying together.
Reader, I loved it. Matthews has crafted a compelling and addictive tale that I was tempted to immediately click back to begin reading again. Those who enjoy classic retellings, gothic lit, and the fun of gender swaps should add this to their reading list.
5 out of 5 Stars
- John Eyre: A Tale of Darkness and Shadow, by Mimi Matthews
- Perfectly Proper Press (July 20, 2021)
- Hardcover, Trade paperback, eBook, & Audiobook (364) Pages
- ISBN: 978-1736080221
We received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Cover image compliments of Perfectly Proper Press © 2021; text Sophia Rose © 2021, Austenprose.com