“My Lady Jane” by Cynthia Hand,
Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
5 out of 5 stars.
Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…
Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…
Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.
The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?
I have been a Lady Janie since Cynthia Hand and her co-authors first announced that they were writing a historical retelling of Lady Jane Grey’s life together, and that they were going to put a “The Princess Bride” twist on historical fact (i.e. minimal historical accuracy. ;-D). I have been on board with Cynthia, Brodi, and Jodi’s idea since the beginning, completely geeking out whenever a new announcement for their work-in-progress popped up on twitter or in my email (yep, it’s a fangirl life for me!), and I am here today (a month later than I intended) to tell you all that “My Lady Jane” was a success!
“My Lady Jane” was utterly ridiculous in the best possible way, and I am so happy that the authors of this novel were able to (fantastically, I might add) pull off writing such a charming and humorous story. Books like “My Lady Jane’ can be terribly difficult to write because of the ridiculousness and improbability of their storylines; the point is for them to be that way, obviously, but if the authors can’t get the humor across to their readers, then the whole story falls flat. “My Lady Jane,” however, was a success because of how adorable and charming the characters were, and the humor and situational comedy came across quite perfectly for the kind of story that these authors were telling. I also adored the fact that it did indeed remind me of “The Princess Bride,” which was one of my favorite movies growing up (wait for me, my dear Wesley!), and there were definitely moments where I saw the book by William Goldman influencing this novel’s style of writing as well (lots of parenthesis framing hilarious inner monologues or comedic observations of the authors). The odes to one of my favorite movies and its comical book were fantastic, and I definitely found myself laughing at the randomness of certain moments and the amusing situations that the characters were placed in. But what truly made me love “My Lady Jane,” besides this novel’s wonderful cover and alluring deckled-edged pages, was how charming and endearing Cynthia, Brodi, and Jodi’s characters were.
Lady Jane Grey was a fantastic heroine to read about, whether she be the girl from the history books or the one that this book portrayed. Jane was clever, adorable, and her dedication to being honest and kind to those around her made her a very likeable main character, and I really enjoyed her perspective in “My Lady Jane.” I thought that Jodi Meadows did a wonderful job of capturing the essence of the real young woman whose life was cut short by the blood/political feud between the Catholic Mary and the Protestants in charge of England, and even though I knew the historical facts of Jane’s life that these lovely authors were about to wreak havoc on, I felt the anxiety of Jane’s dire situation. Jane was a pawn in the hands of a bunch of lecherous dirt bags who cared more about power than what the country actually needed, and I think that made Jane kind of heroine who is easy to root for. The truth behind the real girl’s life is heartbreaking, so I was happy that this book took, um, some liberties with the historical details recorded about Lady Jane Grey’s life, while still keeping the heart of the girl the same. Jane was smart and caring, and I appreciated the mix of seriousness with comedy that the authors of “My Lady Jane” put into her situation. Added to the pleasure of reading Jane’s perspective was that I got to see her relationship with Gifford develop, albeit comically, over the course of this novel, and I ended up really enjoying Gifford as a character as well.
Gifford (A.K.A. G) was beyond entertaining to read about. There was a fabulous comedy behind this character’s personality as well as his situation, and I definitely laughed out loud a few times with the things he did, or the kinds of trouble he got into by becoming Jane’s husband. But beyond just being funny, I liked Gifford because he had a good heart and he respected Jane despite their differences in opinion at times. Gifford experienced a fair amount of character growth over the course of this book, and I liked the fact that he had a couple of moments where he had to choose to let Jane go to do what she needed to, even though all he wanted to do was protect her. I also liked the fact that Brodi Ashton wrote him some very real reactions in the moments where he was faced with only difficult choices that were in opposition to his desire to protect Jane. Those situations caused him to do something that wasn’t necessarily okay, but was an understandable response to seeing someone he loved in danger. The give and take of Jane and Gifford’s relationship made me extremely happy, and I thought that how this book’s authors dealt with that specific moment between Gifford and Jane and its repercussions was really well done.
I liked the whole progression of this book and where Gifford’s character went. I loved the fact that this book and its characters made me laugh and even tear up just a little at times, and I really appreciated the little touch of history and fiction that Cynthia, Brodi, and Jodi added with Gifford etching Jane’s name into the wall of his cell in the Tower of London. That made me cry just a little bit when it happened in “My Lady Jane,” and I cried some more when I figured out that it was true.
Jane and Gifford’s relationship was pretty hilarious to begin with, but I liked the fact that I shipped them together from the beginning of “My Lady Jane” despite the lack of romance at times, and I only grew more fond of them as individuals and a couple as this book progressed. I liked that they discovered a little bit of the give and take of a partnership, and even though “My Lady Jane” did not take course over much time at all, I never felt like anything was rushed or forced with the romance. It was mildly torturous, but I also liked the “Ladyhawke” moments that played a part in how much time Gifford and Jane spent together; it built the tension a little bit, which kept me reading in order to get to those brief but heartwarming moments of them together! Jane and Gifford’s relationship was sweet and endearing, and I thought that this novel’s authors did a fantastic job of balancing the comedic themes in it with things like Jane and Gifford’s relationship, which added depth to this story so that it was not only fun ridiculousness.
Edward was a good character, but he wasn’t my favorite one in “My Lady Jane.” His perspective was pretty entertaining and engaging most of the time, but it took some time for him to grow on me, unlike Gifford and Jane whom I instantly connected with as a reader. Edward experienced some good character growth over the course of this book, and I think that I will like him more as a character when I read “My Lady Jane” again. Being impatient for another character’s perspective definitely puts a slight damper on the growing relationship between another character and their reader, and that was kind of what happened with Edward for me; I wanted more of Jane and Gifford, so I did not enjoy Edward’s perspective as much as I would have if I had not been constantly looking forward to the other characters’ point of views. Despite him not being my favorite character, Edward did have an entertaining perspective to read from, and I think that my next time reading “My Lady Jane” I will like him more as a character.
“My Lady Jane” was truly a joy to read, with its fantastic characters, great comedic timing, and happy twist on a sad story that has been collecting dust in the history books for quite some time. I loved Jane as a character, and this book made me want to discover more about who the real Lady Jane Grey was, which made me quite happy; any book that fascinates me enough to cause me to seek out historical fact is a winner in my opinion. Gifford exceed my expectations for a hilarious, sweet, and endearing character, and I adored him and Jane as a couple. “My Lady Jane’ was the perfect balance of funny, awkward, and sweet for me, and I can’t wait to see what this trio of authors will write together next time.