The wonderful Mills & Boon Modern author, Julia James has written a letter to readers, detailing the writing journey of her new book Cinderella in the Boss’s Palazzo which was inspired by Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Read on to find out more, including the similarities between new hero Evandro, a wealthy Italian and Mr. Rochester.
When my editor asked if I’d like to have a go at ‘updating’ one of the great classic novels of English literature – Charlotte Bronte’s immortal Jane Eyre – I wasn’t sure whether to bite her hand off in eagerness to ‘have a go’ …. or run away in terror at the prospect of ‘meddling with a masterpiece’!!
However, longing overcame terror, and the result is Cinderella in the Boss’s Palazzo.
It’s been an immense pleasure – and incredible privilege – to be ‘let loose’ on such a wonderful, unforgettable classic novel that is an immortal part of our culture and heritage. Obviously my first duty is to pay tribute to Charlotte Bronte’s genius, and to offer due respect both to her mighty literary reputation, and to her shade, by hoping above all that my attempt is seen as homage not insult!!
What I’ve sought to do is re-cast the story in the frame of a contemporary Mills and Boon/Harlequin romance, which I hope succeeds within that context. Of course all the ‘deep’ interpretation I have had, perforce, to leave to the literary masterpiece that is the original, but I have hoped that the core story itself can be viewed through the lens of the modern romance genre to give pleasure in a new, albeit highly modified, way.
Although updated to the current time, and following the Modern/Presents tradition of having dashing ‘Latin lovers’ as heroes, the heart of the story remains – a young woman, whom life has not treated kindly, falls deeply in love with a man whom life has also not treated kindly, seeking to find a happiness with him that his past cruelly prevents. How they triumph over that malign past is the journey they both make.
Though the setting has changed – Yorkshire’s stone-girt Thornfield Hall has become an elegant Italian palazzo – my hero, I hope, captures Mr Rochester’s unique blend of ‘masterliness’ and sardonic humour and, most important of all, his recognition that in ‘my’ Jane ….Jenna ….he has found not just a woman who meets him as an equal, despite the differences in their respective backgrounds, but someone who can free him from his tormented past….and whose quiet, understated appeal draws him more and more to her……
The most obvious departure from the original I’ve had to make has been in respect of the first Mrs Rochester. Because the 19th century law barring insanity as a ground for divorce no longer applies, the barrier to my ‘new’ Jane and Mr Rochester’s happiness now becomes the malignity of his ex-wife. The little girl that ‘my’ Jane comes to the palazzo to tutor is no longer the daughter of Mr Rochester’s former mistress, but the custody-contested child of his first marriage.
Some characters, however, have remained the same – Thornfield Hall’s kindly housekeeper, Mrs Fairfax, has become the palazzo’s equally kindly Signora Farrafacci, and fans of the original Jane Eyre will, I hope, be pleased to find that the detestable Blanche Ingram – surely one of the most disliked female characters in English literary fiction! – appears as the equally detestable Bianca Ingrani, as eager to catch ‘my’ Mr Rochester in her lustrous toils as was the original Blanche. Little Amelie – ‘my’ Adele – remains as sweet-natured and fashion obsessed as her original! (And ‘my’ Mr Rochester just as resignedly scathing about her enthusiasm!)
Some characters, however, are conspicuous by their absence. Though ‘my’ Jane’s cruel aunt, Mrs Reed, is recast as her unloving stepmother, there is no Lowood school – nor, too, does ‘my’ Jane find her unexpected cousins when she flees the palazzo. Some readers may miss the virtuous (if deadly, deadly dull!) presence of St John Rivers….but to my mind he is, sadly, Jane’s truly lucky escape….and I’m glad not to have to include him in the first place!!
Finally, I have sought to reprise perhaps the most memorable metaphor in the original – the dreadful ‘foreshadowing’ storm that breaks when, as in the original, ‘my’ Mr Rochester presumes to defy fate in claiming Jane for his own…which presages only the misery and destruction that will be wrought upon him for his presumption.
And one lighter note! In little Amelie’s ‘last word’ she makes the declaration that all fans of Jane Eyre will recognise all too well – my own take on ‘Reader, I married him’ …..
So, there it is. I hope that both those who know and love the original will find a wry enjoyment in this adaptation, and, perhaps, that those who have not yet read Bronte’s masterpiece will be enthused to do so. Above all, I hope that Charlotte Bronte is not spinning in her grave at my temerity, but accepts that my retelling has been attempted with love and respect. After all, she did create the hero that I fell in love with, as so, so many readers do, when I was even younger than her own heroine. And once the dark and brooding, the noble but damaged Mr Rochester has a claim on your heart – you can never let him go. And you want to heal him, and love him -and be loved and desired by him – every bit as much as Jane Eyre does…