Here's the synopsis from St. Martin's Press. My thoughts follow.
"Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.
But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.
Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?"
Hmmm....I thought the premise was good, having taking some inspiration from Jane Eyre. I was curious to see what Hawkins had come up with.
I found each and every character to be unlikable. Jane isn't a lead that earned any empathy from me at all. She's a conniving user, a thief and a fake, matching much of what she despises about the wealthy residents of Thornfield Estates. I'm okay with having no clear 'good' or redeeming character in a novel, but found the character development missed the mark for me as well. I never bought into the 'romance' between Jane and Eddie at all.
Most of the story is told from Jane's point of view. Chapters from Bea do pique the reader/listener's curiosity. I do applaud Hawkins' manipulation of the reader/listener as we hear more from Bea. But again, it was somewhat predictable. I just, well I just expected more I think. More of a fresh story perhaps. The Wife Upstairs ended up being just an okay book for me. Still, this was a good listen while doing some quilting. I'm definitely in the minority on this book.
St. Martin's chose to use multiple readers for this book - Emily Shaffer, Kirby Heyborne, Lauren Fortgang. They're all readers I have enjoyed previously and they all did a good job with this novel. Listen to an excerpt of The Wife Upstairs.