Jane Steele and her lovely French mother live in the guest house at Highgate instead of the main house. Jane's mother believes that Jane is the rightful heiress since her father was the older son, but Highgate has been usurped by her overbearing aunt and odious cousin. When her mother dies unexpectedly, Jane is placed more firmly under the thumb of her aunt who insists that Jane's rebellious grief stop. When Jane continues to frustrate her, the aunt sends her away to a dreadful school where she is in fear of her life.
Jane escapes from the school and lives a desperate life in London where she learns to use the knife she carries. Then she hears that her aunt is dead and Highgate has a new master who is seeking a governess. Jane applies and finds herself faced with romance and mystery.
The plot of this novel has many parallels to Jane Eyre. However, Jane Steele is a much different character. Jane Eyre criticized her society but her behavior was passive. Jane Steele is different. She acts and sometimes with murderous intent to right wrongs. I liked this active version of Jane.
The early chapters of the book reminded me of Dickens' scenes of the London underworld. The pace is fast and filled with strange characters. The second half of the novel focuses on the romance between Jane and Charles Thornfield, the new master of Highgate. The romance is well done and there is the mystery of Thornfield's past, but I found the opening chapters more interesting.
If you enjoy Victorian novels, or are a fan of Dickens and Bronte, this is a good read. Many interesting characters, a complex plot, and a heroine who isn't afraid to act.
I received this book from Net Galley for this review.