Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Jane Eyre Parody--Chocolate Roses by Joan Sowards

I planned on coming home from the LDStorymakers conference and blogging right away about the good time I had—I bought 13 books and had all but one signed by their respective authors—and she was there, I just never ‘found’ her.

They’re all books I’m anxious to read and I wondered which one I should read and critique first. As it happened, I managed to get all of the books except one into my suitcase, and since it’s a 15 hour drive from Provo to my little neck of the woods, I enlisted the help of my passengers and asked them to take turns with the driving.

What did I do? Sleep? No way! I opened Chocolate Roses by Joan Sowards and began the journey. Chocolate Roses is a Jane Eyre parody. I read Jane a year or so ago and wondered how closely Joan would follow the original. I’ve had people say that I’m cruel to my characters, but I’m mild in comparison to Charlotte Bronte.

I found Joan’s rendition engrossing from the first page. Chocolate Roses, is, of course modernized and Jane is Janie—an aging (meaning in her late twenties) and single LDS woman who co-owns a chocolate shop in downtown Tempe Arizona where she turns chocolate into artistic creations. Unfortunately, she samples far too much of her own work and it has settled on her hips causing the available men to shy away.

Tired of hanging out at single’s wards, Janie has opted to attend her local family ward even though doing so lessens her chance of ever finding a husband. I grew up in the area where this story is set—near the Mesa AZ temple. Joan was a lot more diplomatic in her description of the ward that we always called the “newlywed or nearly dead” ward, meaning that many of the people in that area have lived there for longer than some of us have been alive.

Every Tuesday at 9AM, the love of Janie’s life walks into her chocolate store and orders one chocolate rose and has it delivered to a private facility for the mentally unstable, and another, smaller chocolate that he takes with him.

It isn’t until he unwittingly moves into the small apartment next to her that Janie realizes he has a daughter, and it’s shortly after when Janie discovers that he’s married.

There are many similarities that one familiar with Jane Eyre would recognize; however, Joan has added a fun twist to the classic tale. Mr. Wentworth (not Mr. Rochester) and his wife were witnesses to a murder. On Roger Wentworth’s testimony, one of the culprits was put in prison and a woman accomplice spent some time in jail, but was let out early because they didn’t have a solid case against her. This starts a series of threats, kidnappings and attempted murder.

Chocolate Roses is beautifully written and I found myself immersed in the characters and their story. My heart wrenched with Janie as she struggled with her emotions and her love for an unavailable man. I heartily recommend it.


Rebecca Talley said...

Sounds like a great book. Can't wait to read it.

Joan Sowards said...

Thank you for the great review!