With the 200th anniversary of Charlotte Brontë’s birth celebrated this year, the Mills & Boon Historical team has been thinking about the enduring power of the governess heroine, and how stories like Jane Eyre capture our imaginations time after time! It’s a theme that never loses its charm for us here at Mills & Boon…
So, what exactly is it which makes these characters and stories so magical? Here are our top ten reasons. Let us know in the comments below if you can think of any more!
1) There’s a certain excitement and uncertainty that we share with the heroine as she’s thrown into her new placement – and the unknown. Anything could happen – and we’re rooting for things to go the heroine’s way in this scary new world.
2) This is not your frivolous debutante of a heroine. Like Jane, a governess heroine is hard-working and determined, fighting for every little success, just like many a 21st century reader! But don’t you fear, the happily ever after will be all the more rewarding for it!
3) Heroines who have a natural affinity with children, or who are caring, compassionate companions can really tug on our heartstrings!
4) As Brontë shows us so beautifully, a touch of the gothic alongside the romance never fails to pique our interest. There’s something about the darkness of a gloomy, haunted castle which makes the warm light of the romance all the more wonderful.
5) Secrets which are yet to be uncovered can add more than a touch of exciting intrigue. A governess heroine can explore in places where a lady of the upper classes would never dare to go. And that spells bad news for family scandals hidden away in the closet – or the attic for that matter!
6) No matter how many times we see it, it’s refreshing to find a heroine who isn’t conventionally beautiful. How many times (in fiction and real life!) have we seen the prettiest girl get everything she wants? A plain heroine speaks to our own longing to be noticed – and loved – for who we really are.
7) There’s something so enduringly strong about a vulnerable hero, a hero who’s been damaged inside or out. Mr Rochester’s inner torment and then his blindness, are such examples. The hope that comes from the love a ‘damaged’ hero can find has no comparison. And even more romantic is the thought that the heroine is the only one who can heal him!
8) A governess falling for someone way above her station is the Regency equivalent of falling for your boss! The temptation of the forbidden reminds us we always want what we can’t have, and that’s no different now from when Brontë was writing.
9) When all is said and done, the governess tale is a Cinderella story at heart. Even if she’s dressed in the same plain dresses as always, her hero’s love will make this governess feel like a princess.
10) BUT – perhaps our top reason to love a governess tale is that this isn’t a complete fairytale. The hardships that the chaperons and governesses overcome in these stories are grounded in reality. They’re believable and relatable, even across the centuries, and as a result, the love that these characters find is even more satisfying for readers!
If you love governess heroines just as much as we do, look out for our fantastic new The Governess Tales quartet coming in September-December this year; four sweeping romances with fairy-tale endings!
The Cinderella Governess by Georgie Lee
Governess to the Sheikh by Laura Martin
The Runaway Governess by Liz Tyner
The Governess’s Secret Baby by Janice Preston