Outback Australia, 1981
After a terrible childhood, Jane comes to Thornfield as nanny to the adorable Adele, watched over by the handsome and enigmatic Edward. Plain and inexperienced, Jane would never dream of being more than his hired help. But swept up in the dramatic beauty of the Outback, she finds herself drawn to Edward. And, to her surprise, he seems to return her feelings.
But Jane is not the first woman Edward has pledged to make mistress of Thornfield.
As a child, Betty was taken from her English home and sent for adoption in Australia. At first, no-one wanted her, deeming her hair too curly, and her skin too dark. Until the scheming Mr Mason sees a chance to use Betty to cement a relationship with the rich and powerful Rochester dynasty…
When Jane discovers Betty’s fate, will she still want to be the next Mrs Rochester?
Sydney, Australia. 1966
I was scared. This was my first time in Sydney. My first time in any big city. It was also my first time away from the place where my mother and I had lived since I was a baby. Even looking out of the window of the car was overwhelming – the size of the buildings, the number of cars, the rush and hurry all around me. I sank back into my seat until the car finally stopped and I couldn’t hide any longer.
‘Come on now, child.’ The woman sitting next to me poked me none too gently in the ribs. ‘Get out of the car.’
My new home was a huge mountain of red brick. I strained my neck, trying to see how very high it really went. It seemed to reach up almost to the clouds. I desperately wanted to go home. To my friends. To my mother. To the way things were before the police came.
I stared up at the building again. It was truly huge. I would get lost inside it, just as I was lost in this city. The buildings that towered over me seemed to lean in on each other, and there was nothing green. No trees, not even a blade of grass. I hoped I wouldn’t have to stay here long. Mum must be coming back soon to take me home to the place with the space and the grass and all the people I knew.
The woman took my two small bags from the back of the car. I didn’t own many things. At home everything was shared, so I didn’t need my own things. The woman in the car had told me there were other children in this house. My cousins. Maybe I would share with them now.
When we got to the big front door, I pushed it. It didn’t open. I tried to pull it, but that didn’t work either. The door stayed shut. Puzzled, I looked up at the woman. She rolled her eyes as she reached out to press a button in the wall.
‘Yes?’ The voice was loud and harsh.
For a long time there was no answer. ‘All right.’
I jumped as a loud buzz and a thunk sounded from the door in front of me.
‘Well, don’t just stand there. Open the door.’
I pushed the door hard, and this time it moved.
It was dark inside after the bright sunlight in the street. There was a big staircase made of wood that seemed to go forever.
The woman carrying my bags went and stood in front of another door. There were more strange sounds, and that door slid open, revealing a very small room.
‘Come on, Jane.’ She was starting to sound impatient.
I followed her into the box. I didn’t mind small places. That was why I almost always won when we played hide and seek. I was little and could fit into the tiniest places. The door slid shut all on its own. I almost screamed when I felt the little room start to move.
‘Oh, for goodness’ sake,’ the woman said. ‘It’s only a lift. Your aunt is on the top storey. Far too many floors to use the stairs, especially in this heat.’
Mum had told me to be brave, so I tried to pretend I wasn’t frightened as the lift went up and up and up.
When the lift stopped moving, the doors opened again and I jumped out quickly, in case it fell back down to the ground. There was only one other door that I could see. The woman nodded and I tried to open it.
She sighed, before rapping forcefully on the door with her knuckles.