ARC Review: Mrs. Rochester’s Ghost by Lindsay Marcott

Summary: Jane has lost everything: job, mother, relationship, even her home. A friend calls to offer an unusual deal—a cottage above the crashing surf of Big Sur on the estate of his employer, Evan Rochester. In return, Jane will tutor his teenage daughter. She accepts. But nothing is quite as it seems at the Rochester estate. Though he’s been accused of murdering his glamorous and troubled wife, Evan Rochester insists she drowned herself. Jane is skeptical, but she still finds herself falling for the brilliant and secretive entrepreneur and growing close to his daughter.

And yet her deepening feelings for Evan can’t disguise dark suspicions aroused when a ghostly presence repeatedly appears in the night’s mist and fog. Jane embarks on an intense search for answers and uncovers evidence that soon puts Evan’s innocence into question. She’s determined to discover what really happened that fateful night, but what will the truth cost her?

Genre: mystery, thriller
Rating: 4/5 stars

Mrs. Rochester’s Ghost is the third Jane Eyre retelling I’ve read in under a year (The Death of Jane Lawrence and The Wife Upstairs being the other two – both worth reading for different reasons), and despite knowing the general plot of this and having read it twice recently, this book still completely reeled me in. I couldn’t shake it, and when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it. Maybe it says something about me that I’m currently fascinated with this trend of seductive white men having maybe murdered their wives, but Mrs. Rochester’s Ghost scratched all the itches for me.

It’s difficult for me to review this book without comparing it to the others I mentioned, although I don’t know that I could choose a favorite, either. In some ways this is weaker than its contenders, but I wouldn’t say this was a bad book in the slightest. Quite the opposite: I really enjoyed this. There are some strong parts to this story that make it stand out against any similar books, and I commend it for that.

The first is the alternating chapters of Beatrice, Evan Rochester’s wife. Jane learns early on that Beatrice was mentally unstable, and the chapters from her point of view are genuinely terrifying. Marcott did an excellent job of capturing Beatrice in her psychosis, as she stops taking her medication, begins hurting herself, hearing voices, and thinking people in paintings come alive.

Typical versions of this story are swayed to make the reader believe the husband killed his wife, but Beatrice’s mental illness is crafted so beautifully that you begin to truly believe everything she says, which makes the plot even more unsettling. After seeing a situation unfold through Beatrice’s eyes, the following chapter gives the reader Evan’s explanation. We’re given two options when we listen to Evan: believe what he says, a pretty non-answer explanation to soothe Jane and win her over, or see straight through his maybe lies. I loved the back and forth here. There aren’t many shocking twists or crazy turns in this story, but that was enough to make me lose my balance and stumble back and forth until I got dizzy in the search for the truth.

I also loved the relationship between Jane and Evan’s daughter, Sophia. Both girls come from totally different worlds, and it was heartwarming to watch them adapt to one another over time despite their differences and temperaments. I found their relationship to be more heartfelt and realistic than the romantic relationship between Jane and Evan.

Truthfully I didn’t understand the appeal of either of these two. Jane was an average, dull character with nothing much to offer while Evan was a wealthy man so disconnected from his home life that he didn’t even know what was going on there most of the time. Just because he had a private jet and a haunted mansion didn’t make him swoon-worthy (well, maybe a little bit for the haunted mansion part). Did I find these two so unlikeable that I thought they deserved each other? No, but I also felt like there was zero real chemistry between them, that it was all forced for the sake of the story.

Of course the trope of a wealthy man scooping up a woman who has lost everything has been done a dozen times before, but here it just wasn’t as believable as I would have liked to see. Maybe if their relationship had more time to get fully fleshed out I would have enjoyed it more.

For that reason, I didn’t find any of Jane’s final choices to be smart or realistic. I fell through most of the story rooting for her, wanting her to solve the mystery of Beatrice while safely, albeit narrowly, escaping for her life. Instead, this is a safer story, following its inspiration and giving us a happy ending. I think this would be enjoyable for those who have read Jane Eyre, but for those of us who haven’t, it was an underwhelming ending to an overwhelmingly tense story.

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