Nov 2 2012 11:04am

Jane Eyre Laid Bare: A Sexual Exposé

Jane Eyre Laid Bare by Charlotte Bronte and Eve SinclairMany authors have taken inspiration for their books from classics. The inspiration can range from using a name or a setting, to using entire scenarios from the originals, albeit written in a different way. It's similar to fan fiction, but not always quite as derivative (not meant in a pejorative way, just a description of how most fan fic reads).

Of course most have at least heard of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, where Seth Grahame-Smith inserted the undead into Jane Austen's classic story. Jane Slayre is a P and P and Zombies-style tweak where Jane is a vampyre-slayer. And authors are inserting (pun intended) certain types of content into books that lacked it—at least overtly—before.

New release Jane Eyre Laid Bare is an erotic retelling of the Bronte classic. As the blurb says, the original story simmered with sexual tension, but never actually revealed the action—it was written in 1847, after all. But there are so many sexual indicators throughout the original, from Jane's first meeting with Rochester, when he's seated on top of a huge black horse, to their discussions by the fire at Thornfield.

From the spirited discussions we've had here at Heroes and Heartbreakers, including Team Heathcliff or Team Rochester, we know Rochester is a romantic hero in the Alpha male vein. He's dominant, arrogant, stubborn, ruthless, and while not handsome, his features are nonetheless compelling.

He is the 19th century version of the contemporary billionaire we've seen in so many recent books. Jane is the innocent, but still feisty, 19th century version of the more recent Ana and Eva. 

Rebecca by Daphne Du MaurierJane Eyre Laid Bare and the paranormal additions to classic novels are only a sliver of what the classics, specifically Jane Eyre, has inspired. Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca, a Gothic novel, has many similar elements: The heroine is unassuming with a wildly charismatic husband. Instead of the mad woman in the attic, however, Rebecca's heroine is haunted by her new husband's first wife, whom she believes he has never fallen out of love with. Mary Stewart's Nine Coaches Waiting, another Gothic novel, makes explicit reference to how the heroine's situation—that of an orphaned governess to a young charge—is similar to Jane's. 

There have been  homages specifically to Jane Eyre's story in romance novels also; Elizabeth Hoyt's The Raven Prince features a broody, arrogant earl whom the heroine meets on the roadway when she is out walking in the road. His horse is startled by his presence, and he falls off:

“I do hope you are not damaged by your fall,” she said instead. "May I assist you to rise?” She smiled through gritted teeth at the sodden man.

He did not return her pleasantry. “What the hell were you doing in the middle of the road, you silly woman?”

The man heaved himself out of the mud puddle to loom over her in that irritating way gentlemen had of trying to look important when they'd just been foolish. The dirty water beading on his pale, pockmarked face made him an awful sight. Black eyelashes clumped together lushly around obsidian eyes, but that hardly offset the large nose and chin and the thin, bloodless lips.

Sharon Shinn by Jenna StarbornJane took a science fiction trip within Sharon Shinn's Jenna Starborn, where the titular character takes a job as a nuclear reactor maintenance technician. She is hired by Everett Ravenbeck, and works at the remote Thorrastone Park.

Until now, there hasn't been an explicit erotic retelling of Jane, but that's not to say there haven't been erotic retellings of classics before this; any Jane Austen fan has doubtless come across at least one of the many books that take readers into Darcy and Elizabeth's bedroom. Author Colette Gale has written erotic retellings of The Count of Monte Cristo, The Phantom of the Opera, and Jane in the Jungle. Anne Rice's Sleeping Beauty trilogy is, of course, a retelling of the awakening (in this case, sexual awakening) of the famous somnolent princess.

In surveying all the retellings, tweakings, and fan-fiction versions of the classics out there, the only question that seems to remain is, what other books are ripe for revising? Do you want to see your favorite heroines beyond the realm of what their original creator intended for them? 


Megan Frampton is the Community Manager, Romance, for the HeroesandHeartbreakers site. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and son, and cites Rochester as one of her favorite ever romance heroes.

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1. Bookish37
April Lindner's Jane resells the story with Rochester as a rock star. I felt it was very similar to Jenna Starborn, though Jane has a contemporary setting. I think it is classified as a YA novel, so no explicit sex.
2. lkayme
I enjoy the attempts although they are not always successful: Dorothy Sayers is hard to live up to, although I enjoy the new additions. However, a novel that attempted to make Rebecca a heroine was sacrilege!
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