Title: My Lady Jane (2016)
Author: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Fantasy
Extent: 491 pages
Release Date: June 7, 2016
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 actually picked up My Lady Jane more or less on a whim. The cover didn’t interest me. The synopsis didn’t interest me. The authors didn’t interest me. But after hearing so many of my trusted bloggers say that this book was surprisingly funny and unique, I just couldn’t resist — and let me tell you right now that it was the right decision. 😛
My Lady Jane presents a wacky alternate history of the fate of Lady Jane Grey, known for being the Queen of England for a grand total of nine days before she was beheaded. This book takes the events in Jane’s life, tells it in a YA regency romance kind of style, and adds in some spices: romance, magic, and humour. The result was a lot funnier and more enjoyable than I imagined.
The three main characters (Jane, Gifford and Edward) each get their own perspective and story to tell: Jane struggles with marrying a horse, Gifford struggles with being a horse, and Edward, well, is dying. It’s all very depressing… except that it’s not, not really. The humour permeates pretty much every scene in this book and makes even the supposedly sad ones light-hearted.
“I am not dead,” argued Edward. “There are nefarious villains who would have you believe I died. But any accounts of my demise have been grossly exaggerated, I assure you, for here I am, very much alive.”
Given that I am a huge fan of the arranged marriages trope, I found the romance between Gifford and Jane sweet and adorable. Their falling in love was slow (well, ish) but sure, and their interactions are fun to read about. I also loved the side characters and appreciated the relationships they have with our protagonists.
Characters aside, My Lady Jane’s strengths lie not in its romance (cute, but otherwise unremarkable) or its historical accuracy (non-existent), but in its wit. The writing style is snarky and smart, with a touch of breaking the fourth wall. It honestly doesn’t sound like it was written by three authors because it was so cohesive and consistent from the beginning until the end.
One thing that stood out to me was that some of the terms used in the dialogue seemed a little bit too modern for the time setting. I suspected this might have been intentional, just to add to the wackiness, but it did occasionally jolt me right out of the story. For example:
“Because he’s my ex,” Gracie blurted out.
“Ex?” Jane had no idea what that meant.
Bess leaned toward Jane, keeping her voice low. “Former paramour.”
The real Lady Jane Grey lived from 1536/1537 to 1554, and the word ‘ex’ used this way in English started in late 18th century, so this use is hundreds of years too early. Regardless of whether or not this was intentional, this one came across as a very simple editing error to me. 😛
The only other real criticism I had was that I did feel like the first half was so much stronger than the second half. I enjoyed getting to know the characters more than I enjoyed seeing them solve problems, because at that point, I think the humour died down a little and the plot took over… and the plot, in my opinion, wasn’t anything special or mind-blowing. Frankly speaking, this book works because of the humour — take that away and I don’t think there’d be much left of it.
He pretended to stretch his arms, in order to shift even closer to her. (This isn’t in the history books, of course, but we’d like to point out that this was the first time a young man had ever tried that particular arm-stretch move on a young woman. Edward was the inventor of the arm stretch, a tactic that teenage boys have been using for centuries.)
That said, My Lady Jane does come with the humour, which means that I really enjoyed my reading experience. I’m not sure if I’d read anything like it again in the future — I think the idea tires very quickly — but it was really entertaining while it lasted. If you’re planning on picking up this book, do not take it seriously. It’s not meant to be, and you’d love it better that way. 🙂