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Mrs Rochester: The Sequel to Jane Eyre by Hilary Bailey (1997)

Book review: Mrs Rochester: The Sequel to Jane Eyre by Hilary Bailey (Simon & Schuster Ltd. Pocket Books, 1997)

‘To be your wife is, for me, to be as happy as I can be on earth’ – Jane Eyre’s words on accepting Edward Rochester’s proposal.

But how long can any earthly paradise last?

In the sequel to one of the greatest love stories in the English language, Hilary Bailey looks beyond the ten blissfully happy years Edward and Jane have already spent together towards a future that is already clouded with doubt.

From the ashes of the tragic fire that killed his first wife, Edward has recreated the splendour of his ancestral home. But the return to Thornfield brings Jane closer to the despair she once felt there as a young governess.

Closer to the nightmares that still haunt every room…

Mrs. Rochester is a brilliant new recreation from the author of Frankenstein’s Bride, the sequel to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Rarely do I throw a book away from me in disgust – well, unless they contain a spider – but this one got hurled from the bathroom into the hallway, much to Mr T’s surprise: “What was that?” he said. I replied passionately, “A crime of fiction!” And then proceeded to take it with me to bed to finish the book suffering once and for all.

Dear, oh dear.

“Is it really that bad?” you ask. Primarily yes. I didn’t have to keep a pen and paper handy to jot down all the inaccuracies in order to keep track of them, and it didn’t have me cringe straight away. In fact, I could live with Jane’s uncharacteristic behaviour up until about page 50 when it started to get a bit too overbearing.

The book starts at Ferndean, where the Rochesters have lived their Happily Ever Afters for the past decade. Then Mr Rochester decides to rebuild Thornfield Hall, so they can move there instead. Immediately, Jane turns into Mrs Angst because she never liked the place and it brings back sooo many dreadful memories, and angst angst angst, she prefers staying at Ferndean, where she’s got a little garden with a veg patch going on.

Let’s make this perfectly clear: Jane loved Thornfield. Yes, Bertha was a downside, but as Thornfield was the place where she finally felt like she was home and had friends, it never was a place that she would have dreaded returning to. Remember the bit in the original about sneaking up on a sleeping lover only to find out they were dead? That’s not an “OMG I hate to return, but I have to because I miss my lovely Edward”, it’s a “soon I will be reunited with my beautiful home and my lovely Edward and – OMG IT’S A BLACKENED RUIN!” No. Screw you, Bailey!

Jane and Edward have a son, Jonathan, and he stays with some friends around there, because they have a tutor, and Jane is pregnant. And despite her being overbearingly anxious about moving back to Thornfield, they do. And it’s downhill from there.

If you’re bothered about spoilers, you should probably stop reading now. On the other hand, my sincerest recommendation is that you refuse to read this book, in which case, it won’t matter. Read the bits below to see exactly why you shouldn’t suffer the pain it would cause you. I’ve read this book so that you don’t have to.

Meanwhile, a mysterious French lady arrives in Britain, and she takes up residence in Hay, the village nearest to Thornfield. I thought this would be Céline Varens, but alas, it isn’t. It’s much, much worse. Madame Roland is a friend of Céline’s, but she’s also – get ready to cringe – a previously totally unknown (and sane) sister of Bertha and Richard Mason. If that’s not bad enough, she’s come to get money off Rochester – because there was some sort of pre-nuptial agreement that if Bertha were to die without leaving a heir, her dowry would go back to the Mason family. Seeing as how Bertha died childless and under Suspicious Circumstances (Rochester is accused of having started the fire himself, and he keeps on being very fuzzy on the subject whenever it’s brought up, which doesn’t help) and the Masons happen to have come into financial difficulties, they’re trying to get their money back, and Rochester ain’t giving.

I seriously doubt any arrangement of the sort would have been made, and I even doubt the very possibility of something like that would have been lawful back in the day, when women immediately forfeited their money upon marriage. It was no longer theirs, it was their husband’s.

Second Third issue I have with it is that Rochester is gone for most of the novel, and when he shows up, he’s a cold brute. This is the same man who is so passionately in love with a woman he’d commit bigamy to be with her? It doesn’t add up. There’s only like one scene in the book where he’s anywhere near what he realistically should be like as the loving husband of his soulmate. And then he buggers off again without a word to say where he’s going!

Bailey makes Hay out to be full of suspicious paupers who have very little sympathy for the Rochester family. Even though the original says they’re “well liked”. Bah.

One of the things that angsty Mrs Angst goes into a hissy-fit about is the fact that Mr Rochester happens to come across Grace Poole on the streets of Manchester, and as she’s basically homeless and in a right state, he takes her back to Thornfield and appoints her the position as housekeeper, seeing as how Mrs Fairfax is old and retired and all that. Jane hardly dares speaking with Grace Poole, and she’s even bloody frightened of the woman. I never got the impression that Jane was ever actually scared of her. Weary, yes; frightened, no. She was worried by the mysterious laugh, but FFS, Jane’s a gutsy woman! She might be small, but she’s not a scared mouse who wants to cry and run into hiding just because they share the same roof.

Jane eventually ends up firing Grace Poole, on one of those occasions where Mr Rochester’s away, and as she’s walking through the snow to the church and is on the brink of exhaustion, someone familiar comes to her aid. My reaction to that was “don’t tell me that’s St John Rivers! Hang on … yup, it is, WTAF”. He decided to come back to Britain and has popped by to say hello. So, basically, his declining health and implied death are null and void. Not to mention his stubborn piety and cold personality. No, here he’s rather sympathetic and not despotic or anything. Godsdamnit! Gaaahhhh!!

What about little Adèle? OH THE HUMANITY! The little French girl hated Jane (HUMBUG, Bailey!) and for quite some time, I thought this would go the same way The French Dancer’s Bastard did, because the plots were very similar in parts. Adèle (in both books) is longing for her Maman and wants her to come back and marry Mr Rochester so they can be a proper family. (Not like they told her Céline had gone to the “Holy Virgin” in the book …)

Adèle has been to school in Switzerland and has come back, and she’s bored. Jane is as dull as ever, and Adèle prefers the company of the much more intriguing Blanche Ingram – who’s now the mistress of some big mansion because she’s married a wealthy man. Adèle wants to come with Blanche and her husband to London, and then she does actually go with them or something? Or runs away? One of those. She meets with Rochester and Céline (who’s in town because she’s all famous now), and they play happy families for a bit, which Jane finds out about (through Blanche) and goes incredibly broody over to the point of making me want to gag.

Adèle was never pleased when Jane came along all those years ago, especially not when she discovered she’s in the way of her Happily Ever After. Bertha, however, is the real problem. She’s Rochester’s wife, and if Rochester’s married, it means he can’t marry Céline Varens. So she has to be removed from the equation somehow … sooooo: Guess who set fire to Thornfield! Go on, have a guess. Take a wild stab at it. Bertha Mason Rochester? You’ve set the bar too high, try again. Adèle Varens? Mais oui, certainement! *bangs head on desk*

And Rochester knew this! That’s why he’s been so fuzzy every time the subject came up! Céline Varens shows up in the end, only to find the true daughter of Paris on her death bed, because she’s only tried to set fire to Thornfield once again. *bangs head on desk again*

It’s absolutely DREADFUL!

The writing as such isn’t bad, but Hilary Bailey has got the characters completely wrong – ALL of them – and the story is so implausible if you look at who the characters in the original are and what they would do that Mrs Rochester should make any Jane Eyre purist want to cry. I felt physical pain reading the bloody thing, and hurling it across the landing didn’t quite make up for it.

The whole “the sequel to” bugs me. THE sequel? For that, it would have to be written by Charlotte Brontë, or at least it would need to fit in as a logical extension of the original, and it doesn’t. It clashes with it terribly, nauseatingly, offensively and a bunch of other similar adverbs you might care to throw in there. It’s just WRONG.

As a book, fair enough, it’s alright. As a Jane Eyre sequel, let alone “the” sequel? Hell no. It would make Charlotte Brontë cry with despair over how her darling characters were treated. Hilary Bailey, I’m afraid you deserve to be locked in the Red Room for life, with only the ghost of Uncle Reed to keep you company.

1 out of 5 cuddly St Johns.


An easily distracted and over-excited introvert who never learns to go to bed at a reasonable time. Enjoys traveling (when there's not a plague on), and taking photos of European architecture. Cares for cats, good coffee and Boardwalk Empire. A child of her time, she did media studies in school and still can't decide what she wants to be when she grows up.

20 thoughts on “Mrs Rochester: The Sequel to Jane Eyre by Hilary Bailey (1997)

  1. Hahahaha, fabulous review! I have a rather lame obsession with Bronte sequels (aka fanfic, if we’re to be brutally honest). Have you read the Wuthering Heights one (well, it’s not exactly a sequel, more “hidden backstory”) where Heathcliff chops off one of Linton’s balleaux? Semi-gelds the poor fella in the stable block. My GAWD. I can’t decide if that’s as bad as “Charlotte Bronte: Murderer” or not. :-/

  2. Thank you! 🙂 No, I’ve not read the WH one, as I don’t really like the original well enough, to be brutally honest. Is the one with the half-gelding incident also by Hilary Bailey or someone else?

    JE is another matter – LOVE IT! – which is why I get very upset when people are trying to mess with it. I mean, have the decency to get the basic facts and personalities right, PLEASE! That’s why I tend to stay away from fanfic of any kind, and only started reading JE ones because of being, ahem, slightly obsessed by JE. And because I found one done from Rochester’s perspective. Which was … umm … an experience. Strangely enough, it’s probably my favourite so far, although I have to say, Jane Slayre is looking pretty good! Not that far in, though, so that opinion might change.

    Charlotte Brontë … murderer? Erm, whaaat? Seriously? *googles* Would that be The Crimes of Charlotte Brontë? Read what Google threw at me, and OH. FOR. THE. LOVE. OF. GOSH. It sounds so awful and distanced from the truth that I feel offended on behalf of the Brontë family! Because consumption, opium addiction, alcoholism, poor living conditions and atrocious sanitation, cancer and what was probably Hyperemesis Gravidarum wasn’t enough to kill them off one by one, they had to murder one another? Good grief!

  3. Sadly there are more writers in the world who are rather awful besides Hilary Bailey. *shudder* I can’t remember the name but… oh crap, I think the book’s called H: Heathcliff’s Journey back to Wuthering Heights. Something like that.

    Yup – that’s the one. It’s absolutely offensive! How it was ever published I can’t imagine. The idea is that they didn’t die of illnesses but were instead bumped off, and in the end Arthur Bell Nicolls runs off with the maid (who did in fact work in his house in Ireland, so it’s not such a bizarre idea, but still…), who helps him poison Charlotte. Crazy.

  4. There is a problem with a modern writer trying to write about Jane Eyre and that is that no one understands Jane anymore. No one has a constant moral compass in this age of relativity and Jane sort of did. I can’t believe that you actually made it through this book. If I had had the misfortune of purchasing it, it would have gone in the “books that are so bad they can’t even be given away because I don’t want to be responsible for someone else reading it” category. Incidentally, it’s 3AM here, I really should be sleeping and I’m fascinated by your blog. Nice work!

  5. Thank you, Anonymous! 🙂 I agree – I can’t pass the book on because I don’t want anyone else to have to pay for it, and at the same time, I wouldn’t want to inflict the pain on someone by giving it away either! I guess it’ll have to stay in the bookcase as a constant reminder of how NOT to write a Jane Eyre sequel! I also agree on the morals – it’s strange, though, because her reasons for leaving are made perfectly clear in the book. She loves him dearly, she even DESIRES him, but she knows she can’t have him because of his wife and she won’t stoop to being his mistress (tempted though she is) because it wouldn’t be right. Not right spiritually or morally, but also not right on her, because she knows she would, in time, be despised, much like Céline and the other mistresses. And for that matter, the whole mistress thing with Rochester – something people today turn up their noses at and scorn him for. Back in the day – not exactly uncommon behaviour. Something perhaps to frown upon, and perhaps a bit scandalous even then, but I still feel it would be different. Difficult to express exactly what I mean but hopefully you know what I’m trying to say! 🙂

  6. OK, this is officially a problem. Anonymous here, and this is the first time, EVER, I have made a return visit to anyone’s blog. You are now bookmarked! I have to say that, although I would say I’m a bit priggish by today’s standards (can I just say that no matter how many times I take the “Austen heroine” quiz I come up as Elinor Dashwood every time–that should give you some idea), Rochester’s affairs didn’t bother me as I considered it just another part of his dark, tortured character. I like complicated characters with a dark past because the story becomes one of redemption, which, as you know, are the very best kind.

  7. Hello again! 🙂 I’m glad you’re back – and honoured you’ve bookmarked “me”! Thank you!

    With today’s standards – it’s weird, because in some ways, I’m a real prude and in others, quite the opposite. With the book Rochester, for instance – I didn’t mind the sex bits, but I really minded the sex bits at the same time! Didn’t mind them as such, but they didn’t fit in with the characters at all and wanted something a bit more chaste. When they’re finally married – go for it! But before? Nooooo!!

  8. Hi,
    I would just like to say “Thank you” because I was just about to buy this book second hand at a rather high price…but I definitely won’t bother now! I usually don’t read fanfic type stuff but I occasionally make an exception for Jane Eyre and I thought this one looked interesting…obviously I was wrong! I hate it when people rip off characters from classics and distort them like this – I would definitely have been hurling this one across the room like you.
    Thanks – great review and great blog 🙂

  9. Thank you! Glad to be of service! 🙂 I’ve decided to read all of them and give a sort of short summary because all the lists of JE-related books tend to just be titles+authors. Better to have a short guide to say what they’re about and – crucially – if they’re any GOOD! Bailey’s writing was fine, but the actual story wasn’t, because it goes against the original characters and their whole personalities too much. I think I bought mine for about a penny. Any price above £/$/€1 would really not be worth it!

  10. I know I’m coming in dreadfully late, but I wanted to say OH MY GOD.

    I enjoy an occasional sequel, but it has to be done VERY well. “Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife” is just the right combination of imitation-Austen and having-fun-being-completely-unlike-Austen, and it’s good for a laugh without making you go “Darcy would NEVER say that!!” which totally ruins it.

    I would have hoped that something like Mrs. Rochester would be in the same vein, but apparently not! It sounds more like Wide Sargasso Sea which I had the urge to set fire to, despite the fact that I consider all books to be precious vessels.

  11. Hmm better or worse than WSS … tricky! I agree, Bailey doesn’t seem keen on Rochester either. If anything, I think it’s a rare case of Team St John. *shudders* I agree with you, fan-sequels need to be done well and they REALLY need to be in line with the original. Not necessarily mimicking the original author’s style, but at least being true to the rules the original author set out, and that’s where WSS fails and this fails spectacularly. At least it’s not as bad as the book whose review that’s about to be posted … *shudders again*

  12. I have recently read Jane Eyre for the first time and I loved it! When I found out about a sequel, though not written by Bronte, I thought that I must read it. Of course, I wanted to find out more about the book and stumbled upon your blog. I must say, after reading it I have been completely turned off and believe I will be narrow minded and refuse to even picking it up. From your description it is quite a monstrosity.

  13. Hi Anon, thanks for stopping by and commenting! 🙂 If you want a sequel that’s actually really good, look for Tara Bradley’s “Jane Eyre’s Husband”. At the moment, only available as an eBook (Kindle, but you can download a program for your computer or mobile device to read it), but it’s really worth it!

    1. Update about Tara Bradley’s “Jane Eyre’s Husband”:

      In addition to the KINDLE version, “Jane Eyre’s Husband” is now available in PAPERBACK from Amazon in the USA & in Europe as well!

      And it’s also available as a NOOK e-book.

      Read on, Team Rochester!

      1. Hi Traxy! You make rivetting reading but all true, I myself threw ,Heathcliffs the missing years and that Sequel to Jane Eyre across the room myself lol, as an avid Reader and loves all things Bronte i so hoped only someone who had studied their works would dare to print a sequel! I will definatly be reading the one you suggested to the person above,Thanks ..

  14. I remember reading this review last year, but obviously I never commented. Came back to remedy that. Thanks for the heads up. I’m about to purchase some sequels for my daughter who adores Jane Eyre, and I’m so glad I didn’t get this one and thanks for the recommendation of Tara Bradley’s book.

  15. Bradley’s book can now be got in print as well, btw. It’s the best one I’ve come across, but then I’m also very partial to Mr. Rochester, of course! 😉

    Check out the “Everything Eyre” label (under “Special Features”) for all the reviews of Jane Eyre sequels and spin-offs I’ve done so far.

  16. Ohmigod! I won’t get over this, ever…

    First I’m gonna ask you not to care of those numerous misspellings that I will, no doubt, do. I’m a Finn with no language skill, so try to endure… :O

    For many years I have wanted to read “Mrs. Rochester” in Finnish. Unluckily, the book isn’t available in my own language. So… I’ve been waiting for that book to come to my library so that I could read it. For almost two years now, because I’ve got no possibility of buying it from abroad or anything like that. I’ve also been chasing the book for about a year from my friends shelves, from all sorts of antiquarian bookstores… and exciting excpectation is half the fun, you know. After too many wasted weeks and months and years I realized that I can google the plot to satisfy even a trifle of my thirst for knowledge about “Mrs Rochester”. (I’m no genius so this was the case.) Yeah, right. I, declared fan of Brontë-books, surfed on the Internet, browsing websites through. The tension was at it’s peak.

    I found your writing… gobbled it up at once… and… Oh my God. Oh my dear God. This can’t be true. This simply can’t be true. Cannot be!

    After excpectation and tension of years. This! Oh. My. God.

    In its own way, I would have wanted to read the book myself. Of course I had waited for a rosy description of the happy years after Jane and Edward’s wedding. In my dreams they got many children, spent time together, met their old friends, loved each other… and so on. I know you understand my feelings, when I say I was thunderstruck. I can’t imagine what on Earth was in the author’s mind when she wrote “Mrs Rochester”. Nothing but rubbish. Rubbish! Thanks a million, Hilary Bailey…

    Gosh! Right now I H-A-T-E her. Wicked old hag, she had no rights to ruin my sweet castles in the air, no! She shouldn’t have been born, at least not written her gross stupid book. 😀 *Bitterness*

    On the other hand I’m infinitely thankful to you for reading the book on behalf of me… I don’t have to so coldly face the fact that the my favourite book – not the original one, thank God, but you got the idea – is spoiled with ruthless rubbish.

    I can’t forgive this. If I only could, Hilary Bailey, I would force you to totally and perfectly rewrite your insane writing. *Rage and grief*

    After this tirade, I wanna say that I like this blog very much. I always read these texts again and again, sometimes every day.


  17. Terve Julia! Don’t worry, you’re doing fine! 🙂 Thanks for your comment, and for reading.

    Really sorry to “burst your bubble”, as they say. It seems that you had very high hopes about this book. I would say “you can have my copy!” but I’m not sure I want to subject you to such a thing. Sure, it’s a well-crafted book, so don’t be too harsh on her. Writing a book is still an accomplishment. The problem is that the characters and everything about them is completely wrong. If she had used different names for them, it would have been a whole different thing. I might have even enjoyed it. But as a Jane Eyre sequel? No. No no no no no.

    I bought it off Amazon Marketplace for £4.71 + postage in 2010. Price is now around £20. Unbelievable. Amazon UK have three reviews, three 1-stars, saying it’s awful and one 4-star that sounds like she’s a friend of the author. Uck.

    And now I need to go update my “Everything Eyre” list again, found another book to add …

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