Ehm, yes, this is the first time I've read this...
Anyhow! I actually knew all of the plot, having read Jenna Starborn (Sharon Shinn's sci-fi take on the tale) and The Eyre Affair. Mostly I was afraid that I would detest Mr. Rochester and thereby not respect Jane, largely because I completely failed to understand the attraction in either of the two books mentioned above. rachelmanija had also told me not to worry too much, because the book is more about Jane than the romance.
I really liked Jane. I wasn't expecting to, largely because the many romance takes on the story of poor governess meets rich employer, falls in love and is lifted out of poverty have left me cold. But I liked Jane's determination and her morals, I liked that she was never willing to compromise what she felt was right, even in the face of adversity.
In a romance (I shall compare this to romances, since this is probably the only gothic I've ever read), this would be termed "spunk" or "spirit" and make me roll my eyes and want to whack the heroine over the head. But Bronte characterizes Jane so that she isn't so much high-spirited as stubborn, and there's an underlying strength of character, even when she's head over heels in love with Mr. Rochester. I also like that Jane's aunt doesn't end up forgiving her, I like that Adele isn't a charming, adorable child who brings Jane and Rochester together, I like that Mr. Rochester's attempts to prettify Jane and give her expensive things is unambiguously disliked by both Jane and the narrator.
It's actually rather amusing seeing how many romance cliches Bronte subverts, even though she was writing a good many, many years before the contemporary romance industry was formed.
I still dislike Mr. Rochester, though not as vehemently as I expected to. At some points, I was even persuaded to like him by Jane! I forgave him for the incessant questioning of Jane in the beginning (I personally abhor being talked to like that, so he rubbed me the wrong way to start with) and grew to like him until he proposed to Jane. Then he drove me batty by continually attempting to remake Jane and force things on her that she obviously didn't want. Also, I seem to be completely not in tune with his angst, because the Big Revelation did not spark any sympathy at all toward his previously rakish behavior. But I fondly dislike him, if that makes sense.
And although Bronte and Austen are polar opposites in terms of romance and the level of emotion expressed, the characterization of the Reeds and the Ingrams reminded me of Austen.
I'm glad that the book was in first person POV and that it was so Jane-centric (I feel stupid saying that, given the book's title), but I was a little afraid that it would be extreme moodiness and angst and woe. But it really isn't. The elements are there, but at the core is Jane herself, sturdy, stubborn, small, plain, and in possession of herself.