Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Jane Eyre in the West Indies: Meet Juliet, Heroine in Noble Assassin

Juliet, Governess and Dreamer

It takes guts to pack up your few belongings and flee to a strange land. It takes a lot of courage to sail across the ocean in 1807 and take a job as a governess in order to hide from a man stalking you. 

Juliet Wallingford does not consider herself a heroine. In her own mind, she's not a brave soul. She's a bastard child of a nobleman and has not even met her father. When her mother died, she was taken to a school for girls, and spent her childhood there as a ward to a mysterious benefactor. Once she reached an age of adulthood, her father stopped paying for her lodgings. She had the choice of going out on her own to support herself, or staying at the school as a teacher to earn her keep. She chose the latter, with very bland results. A boring day job in an institution where she lived and ate as well as taught, a place where she has about as much chance of meeting a potential husband as meeting the Emperor of France. 

She answers an ad for a governess and goes to a remote estate on the Yorkshire moors. A little like Jane Eyre, but with disastrous results. There is no Mr. Rochester waiting for her there, only a wicked man who preys upon her innocence, and has done so with former governesses coming to his home to fill the position. 

hibiscus flowers from West Indies

After fending off his attack, Juliet plucks up her courage and flees to the Indies. She finds her new position most favorable as the family is loving and kind, to their children and to their staff. She's content. Sort of.  She's also dreamed of having her own home, her own children to fuss over and a husband to share her life with.  She had a slight crush on the sea captain who brought her to the Indies, as he was attentive and kind to her, asking her to join him for dinner in his cabin each night with his senior officers, and generally giving her an idea of what a true gentleman behaves like. She daydreams about marrying the captain, of joining him on his adventures at sea. It's a sweet dream for a lonely governess with no family or home of her own. 

Not your typical Mr. Rochester

Our Jane Eyre doesn't know that Mr. Rochester is waiting for her in the Indies: Mr. Duchamp is blissfully unaware that his life is empty and lonely without her.  He's an intimidating, dangerous man, rumored to be a killer. He'll teach her the art of self protection, instruct her in how to use a dagger, tease her, make sport of her, and offer a pretend courtship to protect her reputation while engaged in said lessons--something she finds insulting and humiliating but must play along out of fear her employers will let her go if they know the truth, that she's a fugitive from English shores. 

Her penchant for dreaming of that knight in shining armor sweeping her away arises again, and she can't help but wonder what it would be like to be Mr. Duchamp's Bride. The only problem is, he's not in love with her, he's just pretending, she believes. 

Juliet is tortured by the future, when the pretense is finished and she's left alone again, embarrassed to have not truly captured Mr. Duchamp's attentions. He's a hard man, with his heart locked away in a steel box.  How could she ever hope to inspire a true affection in him? 

She might be surprised to learn she's not the drab little mouse she believes herself to be. Not in Mr. Duchamp's mind. But . . . that's not the whole story. It's her story, her perceptions in the matter.  

Juliet is forced to trust him as her enemy closes in. Will her heart survive intact?  

Available for Sale Feb. 12th, 2015

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