The Wife UpstairsThe Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 5, 2021
Pages: 304
View Title on Goodreads
Bantering Books Rating: four-stars

A delicious twist on a Gothic classic, Rachel Hawkins's The Wife Upstairs pairs Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Megan Miranda.
Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.
But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.
Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?
With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?

Bantering Books Review

Never have I longed to read Jane Eyre as much as I do at this very moment.

It’s not that I haven’t ever wanted to read it. It’s more that I haven’t ever wanted to read it enough. Enough to where I would actually pick the novel up and turn to the first page.

But now, The Wife Upstairs, Rachel Hawkins’ fresh reimagining of Charlotte Brontë’s gothic tale, has instilled a yearning inside of me to do just that. Actively, I am planning and plotting, trying to determine when I can squeeze Jane Eyre into my jam-packed reading schedule. All because I enjoyed Hawkins’ sharp and suspenseful novel so, so much.

Having recently moved to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane takes a job walking dogs in Thornfield Estates, one of the ritziest communities in the area. There, surrounded by gossipy housewives and all the bright, shiny trinkets and toys money can buy, Jane hopes to not be noticed.

She hopes that no one will notice that Jane isn’t her real name. And she hopes that no one will notice their missing valuables.

Jane’s luck takes a turn for the better, however, when her path crosses with Eddie Rochester. Newly widowed, Eddie is the center of all the chatter in Thornfield Estates, as his wife, Bea, and her best friend recently drowned in an unfortunate boating accident.

For Jane, Eddie is an opportunity – an opportunity for both unimaginable wealth and protection from her past.

Yet as Jane and Eddie become more enamored with one another, Jane finds herself unable to fully step out of the shadow of Bea’s legacy. And she wonders whether she and Eddie will truly find their own happiness together, as the ghost of Bea is always haunting. Always watching.

I feel it’s important that I take a minute to stress that The Wife Upstairs is a retelling of Jane Eyre. And while I am unable to knowledgeably compare the two novels, I am familiar enough with the premise and gothic nature of Brontë’s classic to know that Hawkins’ novel is strikingly dissimilar in tone.

Whereas I imagine Jane Eyre to be dark, brooding, and filled with an undercurrent of dread, The Wife Upstairs is not. It’s lighter and brighter. Frothier, almost. It’s more of a snarky, feminist, Southern soap opera – one that snaps and bites sharply at the hands of men, the wealthy, and the privileged.

And oh, is it fun. The novel is entertaining and addictive, with a brisk and never-boring pace. The chapters are short and quick to read, making it seem as if the pages turn by a magical will of their own. It’s suspenseful, mysterious, and intelligently witty.

Hawkins’ writing is also incredibly engaging. She writes smoothly, with a style that gently flows and reads easily, skillfully drawing you almost immediately into the story. By the end of the first chapter, Hawkins had me baited – hook, line, and sinker.

And the characters are just as engaging as the story. Which is surprising, since not a single one of them is wholly sympathetic. Not Jane. Not Eddie. Not Bea. But they all possess a certain charm – a flawed relatability, of sorts, that allows us to enjoy them despite their immoral ways.

All in all, The Wife Upstairs is a fantastic read. It’s crafted so amazingly well and with such care by Hawkins. And I think it will appeal to both devoted Jane Eyre fans and indifferent non-fans, like me, who have yet to read the gothic classic.

I highly recommend it. With great enthusiasm.

My sincerest appreciation to Rachel Hawkins and St. Martin’s Press for the physical Advance Review Copy. All opinions included herein are my own.