'My Plain Jane' Is The Twisted Jane Eyre Retelling You Didn't Know You Needed & You Can Start Reading Now

Two years ago, My Lady Jane brought readers into a oddball, anachronistic world that re-told the history of Lady Jane Grey, the notorious "Nine Days' Queen" of England. This month, Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows are teaming up again to give us their take on the story of another famous Jane: Jane Eyre. Can't wait until June 26 for My Plain Jane's book release? We don't blame you. Bustle teamed up with HarperTeen to give you an exclusive excerpt, below!

My Plain Jane centers on Charlotte Brontë's titular, fictional heroine, but this is definitely not the story you know and love from the original novel. Instead, the trio of authors bring their super-fun, tongue-in-cheek style to a madcap, Gothic ghost story (and yes, it has their witty commentary, just like in book one).

Now, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë is friends with Jane Eyre, who can see ghosts. Charlotte pushes Jane to take a job at the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits, but Jane has fallen for the patriarch of Thornfield Hall, Mr. Rochester, and doesn't want to leave. (And don't worry, some of Rochester's more sexist habits get their ribbing—via a ghost that almost no one can see or hear, but still.) Add in supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood, and you've got a supernatural adventure that clearly pays homage and respect to Jane Eyre, but isn't afraid to poke a little fun at it, either.

Courtesy of HarperTeen

Read on below the (awesome) cover for an exclusive excerpt of My Plain Jane. (Hint: Jane Eyre is introduced to Thornfield Hall and meets her storied beau.) For the rest, you'll have to wait until it drops June 26!

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows, $14, Amazon

My Plain Jane

It became clear from the moment she arrived: something was amiss at Thornfield Hall.

First of all, no one from the estate had come to meet Jane at the train station. She’d needed to hire a carriage, which became so full that Helen insisted on riding up front next to the driver. (Ghosts didn’t like to be permeated by humans. They considered it most inappropriate, crossing all sorts of boundaries of pre-Victorian propriety.)

Secondly, when Jane and Helen had exited the carriage, the driver sped away without payment.

“How strange,” Jane had said, befuddled but happy to hang on to any extra shillings.

Thirdly, though it was well into evening, the house seemed empty. Thornfield Hall was massive. The turrets loomed. The darkened windows gaped black beyond the entrance, and the spires at the east and west wings rose upward as if the house were raising its arms to grab the sky.

Helen shivered next to Jane. “Perhaps we should return to Charlotte. She probably misses us.”

“Us? Charlotte doesn’t know you exist.”

“Well, if she did, she would surely miss me.”

Thornfield Hall was massive. The turrets loomed. The darkened windows gaped black beyond the entrance, and the spires at the east and west wings rose upward as if the house were raising its arms to grab the sky.

“Come, now.” Jane dragged her trunk to the entrance. The door was rounded at the top, and in the middle of its thick oak facade sat a large, ornate knocker that Jane wasn’t sure she’d be able to lift. Not that there was anyone inside the house who would be around to hear it.

“It’s haunted. It’s haunted,” Helen said, pacing back and forth. “It’s so obviously haunted. If we looked up ‘haunted’ in that one book . . . what is it?”

“The dictionary?” Jane guessed.

“Yes. If we looked up ‘haunted,’ there would be a painting of this house.”

Jane sighed. “You’ve been around ghosts your whole life— er—afterlife. What are you afraid of?”

Helen shook her head. “I think it might be haunted by the living.”

“If that were the case, every house would be haunted.”

“Every house is haunted.”

Jane closed her eyes and blew out a breath. She had never quite understood Helen’s fear of unfamiliar live people. “The living don’t haunt,” she said, opening her eyes just as a backlit shadow crossed behind the window of the uppermost room in the east turret. Darkness returned before Jane could figure out what exactly it was she had seen, but the fleeting glimpse sent a cold chill down her back. She tried to keep her face blank, for she didn’t want to upset Helen, but she did make a mental note to ask Mrs. Fairfax about ghost activity at Thornfield Hall. She desperately hoped there was none. She didn’t want anything to draw the attention of the Society and their dangerous pocket watches.

Helen shook her head. “I think it might be haunted by the living.”
“If that were the case, every house would be haunted.”
“Every house is haunted.”

Jane lifted the giant knocker and let it fall.

“No one’s coming,” Helen said. “They’re probably all dead.”

“Give them a chance,” Jane said pragmatically. “It’s a large house. Who knows how many rooms one must pass through to get to this door?”

Helen shrugged and turned away, muttering, “I’m not sure I want anyone answering the door anyway.”

“What, you want to set up a tent on the porch?” Jane ribbed, hoping to lift Helen’s spirits.

Footfalls sounded from inside, followed by a flicker of light under the door.

“Someone’s coming,” Helen lamented.

“Well, which way do you want it?” Jane said. “Someone coming or no one coming?”

With a loud creak, the door opened, and there behind the light of a candle was a pleasant face belonging to a plump woman in a black uniform with a white cap. She held a candelabra.

“Can I help you?”

“Good evening,” Jane said, her heart racing. “I’m Jane Eyre. I answered the advertisement for a governess position here.”

“Miss Eyre! My, you’re plain.” She held the candle closer to Jane’s face. “No rosy cheeks,” she observed.

Jane put a hand to her face. “They tend to get rosier when it’s cold. But I don’t have warts. And I am proficient in French—”

“Never mind the rest. I am glad you’re here. Please, come inside. Your note said you weren’t to arrive until tomorrow.”

If Jane had been the type of young lady who cursed, she would have. In her haste to leave Lowood (and the RWS Society), she must have written the wrong date. “I do apologize, Mrs. Fairfax. I hope we’re not causing too much trouble.”

“We?”

“Uh—” She didn’t usually let things slip like this; it must have been nerves. “Forgive me. I haven’t slept or eaten much.” For her whole life.

“Of course. Cook shall prepare something at once.” Mrs. Fairfax rang one of the several bells that lined the wall. “Come, come.”

Not quite half an hour later, Jane was sitting comfortably by the fire in a spacious but cozy kitchen, sipping tea, surrounded by a dozen servants, from Mrs. Fairfax down to a young soot-covered boy, who was in charge of lighting fires in bedchambers. Cook placed a large bowl of hot stew beside Jane.

“Do eat,” Mrs. Fairfax said.

Jane tried to be as ladylike as possible as she shoved spoonful after spoonful into her mouth. It was the most delicious stew she’d ever had. It was the only stew she’d ever had.

“Well, Miss Eyre, this is the entire house staff, and were Adele not asleep, I would introduce her as well. I know you must be tired, but would you please tell us a little about your background? From where do you come?”

Jane was about to answer, but then an eerie scream pierced the air.

Jane and Helen both startled. No one else moved.

“What was that?” Jane said.

“What was what?” Mrs. Fairfax said.

“That scream!”

“What scream?”

“The one just now,” Jane exclaimed.

“The one that pierced the air!” Helen added.

“Oh, that would be the wolves,” Mrs. Fairfax said cheerily, as if a bloodcurdling scream from a wolf wasn’t only slightly less terrifying.

“That did not sound like an animal,” Jane said.

“Oh, well, then it was the wind. Come along, dear. Everyone, time for bed.”

“But . . .” Jane glanced around the room, confused at the utter lack of alarm. “But shouldn’t we make sure no one is hurt?”

“Oh, that would be the wolves,” Mrs. Fairfax said cheerily, as if a bloodcurdling scream from a wolf wasn’t only slightly less terrifying.

“Why, dear? The entire household is here. So, you see, it couldn’t have been a human. And if it were a human, they would probably scream again. But no, there was just the one scream.”

“What if they can’t scream again?” Jane said with a tone of dread.

“Well then, there’s not much to be done about it is there?” She headed for the doorway. “We should all turn in. Thank you, Miss Eyre, for delighting us tonight. Isn’t it a prodigious thing indeed for someone so plain to be so clever?” Mrs. Fairfax held open the door. “Now, off to bed!”

Mrs. Fairfax instructed the soot-covered boy to start a fire for Miss Eyre. A scullery maid then led Jane and Helen to a bedchamber on the third floor. The room was big and warm, and the bed was comfortable, and after everything that had happened that day, all Jane could focus on was climbing under the covers and going to sleep.

“You might want to lock your door,” the maid said on her way out.

“Why do you say that?” Jane asked.

“It’s nothing to alarm you, miss. Grace Poole sometimes wanders the hallways.” With that, she shut the door.

“I don’t remember a Grace Poole among the servants, do you?” Jane asked Helen.

“Maybe she’s a ghost.”

“I’m sure the servant would have mentioned that small detail.” Helen frowned.

“I told you this place was haunted.”

Jane rubbed her forehead. “Grace Poole is probably on night watch. And the sound could have been a wolf,” she said mid-yawn.

“And I might be the Queen of England,” Helen said.

“Hush, dear,” Jane whispered. Helen went quiet.

Jane slept restlessly that night, stirring at the softest of noises. At least Helen was sprawled out beside her. Because the bed was that big.

****

The next day, Jane tried to ask Mrs. Fairfax again about the scream, but the woman wouldn’t have it.

“There’s an entire house and all of its quirks to learn,” she said. “No time for speculating.”

But Jane couldn’t help speculating as Mrs. Fairfax ushered her from room to room. The estate probably could’ve housed ten Lowood schools, it was so big. The only part of the house they didn’t tour was the east wing, which Mrs. Fairfax said was boarded up for restoration. When the tour ended it was mid-morning. And time for tea in the kitchen.

“There’s an entire house and all of its quirks to learn,” she said. “No time for speculating.”

“When am I to meet Adele?” Jane asked.

“Tonight,” Mrs. Fairfax answered.

“And Mr. Rochester?”

“Who knows when the master will return. He often stays away for months at a time.”

“Hmpf,” came a grunt from the doorway of the room. Jane startled and turned. In walked a woman wearing servant’s clothes. Her apron sash sat askew on her hips, and her hair looked like it had barely survived a windstorm. A strong jaw and extreme eyebrows gave her a menacing appearance, which intensified when the candle by the doorway lit her features in such a way to cast a long shadow up her forehead. She strode over to the teapot, poured herself a cup, and strode back toward the doorway all the while making very little noise.

Jane considered this to be very strange behavior, but Mrs. Fairfax didn’t even glance up from her tea.

“Who was that?” Jane asked.

“Grace Poole,” Mrs. Fairfax said. “She works in the east wing.”

“But I understood it to be boarded up for restoration?”

“Never mind about Grace Poole. Do you have any further questions for me, Miss Eyre?”

Helen raised her hand. “What do you mean she works in the east wing? Is she doing the restoration?”

Jane tried her best to ignore her friend. “Yes, what can you tell me about Mr. Rochester?”

“Oh, well,” Mrs. Fairfax said. “He is a very good master, if somewhat unpredictable of mood. He is loyal and he pays our wages in a timely fashion, which makes it easier to forgive his sometimes dark manners and mostly rare but sometimes often outbursts of anger.”

Jane could not figure out if Mrs. Fairfax liked her master or feared him.

“Now, Miss Eyre, if you could possibly post these letters.” She grabbed a stack of envelopes from the table and thrust them toward Jane. “It’s just down the road.”

Jane had the distinct feeling she was being summarily dismissed.

Mrs. Fairfax ushered her out of the kitchen and toward the servants’ entrance.

“But I’m unfamiliar with the area,” Jane said.

“I’m sure you’ll figure it out,” Mrs. Fairfax said.

And with that, Jane and Helen found themselves out the door. Alone. On a dirt road. Which was blanketed in a thick fog.

“This is going so well,” Jane said.

“We’re all going to die,” said Helen.

****

They walked in silence for a long time. For Jane’s part, she was quiet because she didn’t want to alert anyone (or anything) to her presence. But she’d never admit that to Helen, who was next to her, shaking uncontrollably.

“These woods are haunted,” Helen said.

Jane forced a smile. “I’ve decided to believe Mrs. Fairfax. It was probably a fox.”

“She said it was a wolf.”

“Right. That’s what I meant.”

Helen looked skeptical. It wasn’t Helen’s fault she was holding on to this fear. Wayward ghosts always held on to feelings longer than necessary. It was how they became wayward in the first place.

Maybe she just needed a distraction.

“Helen, tell me the story of the first time we met,” Jane said.

Wayward ghosts always held on to feelings longer than necessary. It was how they became wayward in the first place.

“You don’t remember?”

“Of course I do, but I love to hear you tell it.” Helen smiled.

“Well, I couldn’t wash my hands that morning, for the water was frozen. Miss Scatcherd called me to task for it, and struck my neck with a bundle of sticks.”

“Not that part!” Jane hated that part.

“But it’s the reason you came and spoke to me that day, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Jane allowed.

“So I will never resent that memory,” Helen said simply.

The living Helen had been such a good person. Better than Jane. And though the ghostly Helen could be a bit precocious and paranoid, she was still a better person than Jane.

“You told me that day that it was not violence that overcomes hate, nor vengeance that heals injury,” Jane said. “And it’s a good thing you did, because I had formulated a plan to escape Lowood and beat my aunt Reed with a very large stick.”

“No!” Helen exclaimed.

“No, of course not,” Jane said. She would never. Not with a large stick.

Suddenly, they heard galloping hooves coming from somewhere deep in the fog.

“What is that?” Helen said, alarmed.

“Probably just a horse,” Jane said in a trembling voice.

“What if it’s a Gytrash?” Helen asked.

Jane sighed. She shouldn’t have told Helen about the Gytrash, a northern ghost that appeared as a horse or a very large dog. Helen hadn’t stopped pacing for days after that story.

“Gytrash aren’t real,” Jane said. But her voice wavered.

“You said Bessie told you about it and you said you believed her!” Helen said.

“That was a long time ago.”

“That was last week.”

The sound of hooves was getting louder. Jane’s pulse quickened. Maybe Helen had a point.

“The legend also says no one rides the Gytrash, so if this horse has a rider, we know it’s not a Gytrash.” There, that should soothe Helen’s nerves. Wild, unbridled horses were rare in this part of England.

To prove her point, Jane faced the sound of hoofbeats, just as a huge dog shot out of the mist and barreled toward her.

“Gytrash!” Jane exclaimed.

The dog was followed by a large black horse, with a large dark rider.

“Unfamiliar human!” Helen exclaimed. Her terror was so great that—for a moment—she appeared in the middle of the road, looking as solid and alive as Jane.

The horse neighed and skidded, but couldn’t stop in time. He raced right through Helen, then reared up and bucked. The rider dropped to the ground.

Helen turned translucent again.

“Damn!” The rider sat on the ground a few meters away, his back to Jane.

Jane rushed forward. “Sir, are you hurt?” He groaned and grabbed his ankle.

“Sir, can I be of help?”

“You mean, helping me with something other than throwing me from my horse at very great speeds? What are you, witches?”

Oh, no. Witches. Plural. He’d seen Helen.

Helen mouthed, I’m sorry.

Jane turned toward the man, who had been watching her, and promptly forgot what she was going to say, because she caught sight of his face, and it was easily the most handsome face she’d ever seen. Pale and oval in shape, sideburns all the way down to his pointed chin (which would technically make it a beard) and framing the most perfectly tiny lips she’d ever beheld.

Oh, no. Witches. Plural. He’d seen Helen.
Helen mouthed, I’m sorry.

“Witches,” he snarled again. He was even handsome when he was calling her names.

“Sir, I believe you mean witch in the singular. There is no one here but me.”

He frowned. “So you admit to being a witch?”

“No. I just meant if I were a witch, there would be just one of us. Of me. Sir, if you cannot move, I can fetch someone from Thornfield Hall. I live there.”

At this, he raised his eyebrows.

“I do. My name is Jane Eyre. I can get help.”

“You live at Thornfield Hall, witch?”

“I’m not a witch; I’m a governess. I’m employed by Mr. Rochester.”

“Ah,” he said. “Do help me up.”

Helping him up would require more height and girth than Jane had. She looked left and right, hoping by some miracle that someone more muscular than she would appear. No one did.

Helen shrugged. “He doesn’t look so hurt.”

Jane shot her a look.

“All you must do is stand by my side and help me to my horse,” the rider said. Helen put a hand on her hip. “How are you supposed to do that? He’s twice your size.”

“Um . . .”

The man frowned. “Conversely, you could bring the horse to me.”

Jane glanced at the dark beast. “No, let’s try it your way.”

The large dog bounded toward the rider again and licked his face. “Down, Pilot.”

“Aw, he’s such a cute puppy,” Helen said

Granted, he wasn’t as scary as before, but Jane would hardly call him a cute puppy.

The man climbed to his feet and draped an arm around Jane’s shoulder; he smelled of brush and pipe smoke. It was quite nice, not at all like the sour stench of the drunken louts in the Tully Pub.

She blushed. This was the closest she’d ever been to a man, besides the unconscious barkeep, and we promise she was only using him for a shield. Had this extremely handsome man not been wounded, their contact would have been considered very inappropriate.

Jane helped him to his horse.

“Are you acquainted with this Mr. Rochester?” he asked.

“No, sir, I’ve never met him.”

“What do you know of him?”

“He is loyal and pays his staff in a timely fashion, and the bursts of anger are rare. Mostly.”

At this, he tilted his head. And his hair flopped. She’d never seen a man’s hair flop so adorably. Admittedly, she’d never seen a man’s hair flop before, but surely this was something special. Jane’s cheeks flushed.

“Sir, if you are recovered, I should return to Thornfield.”

“As you wish,” the rider said. He hoisted himself onto the beast. “Farewell, Miss Eyre, if that is indeed your name.”

“Why on earth would that not be your name?” Helen asked.

The strange man kicked his horse and the beast galloped away, trailed by the dog.

“Goodness,” Helen murmured, “he was . . .”

“Tall? Dark? Brooding?” Jane filled in. He was just like the men in the great romances. He was just like Mr. Darcy. “I agree.”

“I was going to say angry,” Helen said.

“Well, he had a right to be. He was spooked by a couple of witches!” Jane replied.

Helen gave her a quizzical look. “Did you hit your head as well?”

“Tall? Dark? Brooding?” Jane filled in. He was just like the men in the great romances. He was just like Mr. Darcy. “I agree.”

Back at Thornfield, Jane removed her muddy shoes and scurried past the master’s study. The door to the study had been shut the night before . . . but now it was wide open. And there was a fire. And a large dog.

“Pilot!” exclaimed Helen. The dog whipped his head toward her. “He heard me!” Helen clapped.

Jane threw a hand over Helen’s mouth, hitting—of course— nothing but air. What was the rider’s dog doing here? Unless . . . it was at that moment that the rider—Mr. Rochester, it must be!— stepped through the doorway of the study.

“Miss Eyre,” he said.

Jane froze with her arm out at a strange angle, still covering Helen’s mouth.

“You’re Mr. Rochester,” Jane said in disbelief, slowly lowering her arm.

“Don’t you think it’s a bit strange that he didn’t mention the fact that he was your employer back there on the road?” Helen said. “I mean, it would’ve saved us a lot of mystery.”

Jane shot her a look.

But Helen kept talking. “Four words: ‘Mr. Rochester? That’s me!’ Then you could’ve been introduced and had a laugh about it.”

“Shut it,” Jane said through gritted teeth.

“Pilot will agree with me, won’t you, boy?” Pilot whined and trotted over to Helen’s feet and flipped onto his back.

“That’s strange,” Mr. Rochester commented. “First, you bewitch my horse. Now you’ve bewitched my dog.”

Helen smiled widely. “Maybe we are witches!”

“Pilot!” Mr. Rochester barked. The dog reluctantly returned to his master. Between the sudden reveal of Mr. Rochester, and Helen’s commentary, Jane was at a loss for words.

“You are much quieter than you were earlier,” Mr. Rochester said.

“Maybe that’s because you’re suddenly Mr. Rochester,” Jane said.

“It’s not so sudden for me,” he said. “It’s been coming on for quite some time.”

Jane laughed nervously. Handsome and witty. She glanced down at her fidgeting hands and forced them to be still.

“Well, Miss Eyre. Good day.”

“Good day, sir.” He shut the door, and Jane walked slowly on.

“Are you all right?” Helen asked.

“I am more than all right. I feel as though I have just had the most exciting day of my life.”

Helen frowned. “You didn’t find him to be—”

“Quite possibly the most intriguing person I’ve ever met?” Jane interrupted. “Yes, my dearest friend. I did.”

For more, pre-order My Lady Jane, out June 26.