The Wife Upstairs [Book Review]

January 4, 2021

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins (cover) Image: a glimpse of a while railing, black text on blue wallpaper with light pink flowers scattered around

Genre/Categories: domestic suspense, psychological thriller

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


Thanks, #NetGalley @MacmillanAudio @Macillan.Audio for a complimentary e ARC of #TheWifeUpstairs for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

A twisty, slow-burn, domestic suspense story inspired by Jane Eyre.

Plain but street smart Jane has aged out of the foster care system and is struggling to make it on her own in a small suburb of Birmingham, Alabama. After a brief stint in a coffee shop, she becomes a dog walker in the upscale, gated community of Thornfield Estates. She supplements her income by stealing jewelry and other small items from her clients. One day while walking through the estates, she meets Eddie Rochester, a rich widower, whose wife recently died in a boating accident. Their insta attraction is complicated because Jane is running from her past and Eddie has secrets of his own.

My Thoughts:

Genre/categories Description:s The Wife Upstairs is described as a twisty retelling of Jane Eyre with southern charm.  I didn’t experience typical southern charm in the book (southern, yes; charm, no) and if you pick it up with charm in mind, you might be disappointed.  Retellings are tricky. From my viewpoint, it’s a very loose retelling. A few names, a parent-less girl, and a wife that’s hidden away (title) are the main tie-ins with Jane Eyre (at least from what I can remember from reading it years and years ago). It’s also described as a fast-paced thriller. My reading experience is that it was a slow burn with a some suspense near the end. All in all, I think I would categorize it as domestic suspense inspired by Jane Eyre.

(this paragraph may contain spoilers)
Unlikable characters: I admit, I like at least one likeable character in my stories. Told from three perspectives (Jane, Bea, and Eddie), The Wife Upstairs doesn’t have one likable character. From what I remember of Jane Eyre, she was somewhat likable. I think the author does a good job in developing complex characters with good and bad sides. I could understand Jane’s and Eddie’s motivations for their actions, but I could not understand Bea and my feelings about her changed significantly from the beginning to the end of the story. You will like this if you love unlikable characters!

Content Consideration: R for Language. While The Wife Upstairs doesn’t have graphic depictions of murder, open-door sexual encounters, or nightmare-inducing scary moments, the story does include a significant amount of profanity. It seems like every other sentence contains an F-bomb. This may have been more pronounced since I listened on audio and my eyes can skim over offensive language more easily than my ears. Excessive profanity may not offend other readers, but it bothered me to the point that I wondered if the author lacked alternative vocabulary in her writing toolbag. If excessive profanity doesn’t bother you, you might experience this story quite differently than I did. Honestly, many other reviewers haven’t even mentioned this, so a distaste for profanity-laden prose is definitely a personal preference. If you don’t appreciate the profanity but still want to read the book, I suggest the print version where it’s easier to skim words.

Personal Pet Peeve: I am usually annoyed when an author inserts her/his own political opinions/agenda into a story. There is at least one instance of this at about the 80% mark: “Tripp is many ugly things–a drunk, a lech, a Republican–but a murderer still doesn’t fit him.” In a year of a contentious election and widespread division, I don’t see any value in including this hateful remark about republicans. I see hate all over social media (from both parties) and I don’t need this type of statement to pop up in my escapist reads. The profanity and the political agenda affected my rating for this story.

Overall: In consideration of the thriller genre, I feel this was very mild which is just my speed! If it weren’t for the profanity, I might have bumped up my rating. The Wife Upstairs has received other very favorable ratings and I would encourage you to read more reviews. I consider myself an outlier with my opinion. If you have specific questions, I’d be happy to answer them in the comments.

Star Rating: 3 Stars (2.5 rounded up)


The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins (cover) Image: a glimpse of a while railing, black text on a blue paneled wall...light pink flowers scattered around

The Wife Upstairs Information Here

Meet the Author, Rachel Hawkins

Author Rachel HawkinsRachel Hawkins ( was a high school English teacher before becoming a full-time writer. She lives with her family in Alabama, and is currently at work on the third book in the Hex Hall series.





Is The Wife Upstairs on your TBR or have you read it?

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  1. You’re totally right about the political statement, I also peeve when an author pushes their opinion on a political or social agenda

      • I’ve encountered that recently too and I’m not an overly bug fan of comparing books to others. It’s like they can’t stand on their own synopsis anymore.

      • Ha! My biggest dislike is when books are compared to Eleanor Oliphant! They always get it wrong….and nothing can compare!

    • If you do read it, don’t read by audio. I think print will be better for this one and easier to skim. Unless you’re good with FBombs. One reviewer said there are over 600! 😂

    • I’m not usually a fan of retellings. It seems like they are difficult to pull off! One I did like was Ayesha At Last….a retelling of Pride and a prejudice.

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