Elizabeth stared at Mr. Darcy in disbelief. Not for the first time in the last few days did she stare at the man she had married to consider how little she really knew him. She had been so sure of his character in Hertfordshire and now, for the moment, she could not reconcile any of her former beliefs. Looking at him, his countenance flushed from his passionate speech, his face solemn and sober, she realised it was useless to debate the matter.
(from Mr. Darcy’s Secret, page 151 in the ARC)
When I turned the last page of Mr. Darcy’s Secret, my first thought was that Jane Odiwe has done her homework. She knows Jane Austen and the much beloved characters from Pride and Prejudice inside and out. I knew Odiwe was a master of the Austen sequel when I read Lydia Bennet’s Story, and Mr. Darcy’s Secret is even better.
In Mr. Darcy’s Secret, Elizabeth and Darcy are newly married, and Elizabeth must learn to navigate the massive estate that is Pemberley, meet the townspeople of Lambton, and impress the elite couples that have come out in droves to check out Darcy’s wife. Trust soon becomes a huge issue when Elizabeth hears about a scandal involving Darcy’s mother’s maid many years ago and stumbles upon love letters indicating that Darcy had a romantic life before Elizabeth. She is curious about the gossip, but she doesn’t feel comfortable asking her husband to share his secrets. However, her inability to confront the issue ultimately threatens the reputation of the Darcy family.
Meanwhile, Darcy’s shy sister, Georgiana, is ready to come out into society, and her brother is ready to make her a suitable match. Although Darcy married for love — with Elizabeth’s low social status angering his aunt, Lady Catherine — he refuses to consider Georgiana’s feelings about her potential husband. After preventing an elopement with the scoundrel George Wickham, Darcy is worried that fortune hunters will seek out his sister, and he is determined to get Georgiana married off to a man who will provider her with a comfortable life, both financially and socially. Although the mystery surrounding Darcy’s past is interesting, Georgiana’s story grabbed me right from the start. Georgiana learns what it means to be in love, and she questions the idea of women as property. She is torn between duty and love, and she must either call out her brother for being a hypocrite or submit to his wishes.
Odiwe stays true to Austen’s characters — Elizabeth is still witty and outspoken, Darcy is still proud and noble, Mrs. Bennet and Lydia are still obnoxious, and Lady Catherine is still haughty. However, she makes them her own, especially Georgiana, and even introduces new faces, including Tom Butler, a charming landscape gardener; his mother, an old friend of Elizabeth’s Aunt Gardiner; and Viola Wickham, a sister of the horrid George Wickham. Odiwe’s use of language brings readers back to Regency England, though with a more modern feel, and her lively dialogue make the story feel like something Austen would have written or at least enjoyed.
Elizabeth, now close to exploding with mirth for the image conjured in her mind of Lady Catherine reciting her poetry before an audience all trying to outdo one another with romantic idylls, tempests, and spontaneous lines addressed to nature was all too much. “Oh dear,” she could not resist adding, “do you suppose we shall have to communicate in verse when we meet?”
“Lord, help us all,” muttered Mr. Darcy under his breath, but not so quietly that the whole company could not hear him. “Bingley, I hope you know the difference between an Epic and an Epigram, or I feel you’ll be cut and snubbed by all of the new Lake society! Mrs. Bingley, be most careful when you are out walking this afternoon in case you feel a sonnet coming on, and Mrs. Gardiner, Mrs. Butler, beware the ballad and the ode!” (pages 242-243 in the ARC)
Mr. Darcy’s Secret was a pleasure to read because Odiwe breathes new life into Austen’s characters without altering their personalities too much. Elizabeth and Darcy, like all couples, encounter some bumps in the marital journey, and the way they deal with such strife seems true to who they are. Darcy was a changed man in Pride and Prejudice, and Odiwe makes his alteration feel authentic with some slip ups here and there. Mr. Darcy’s Secret is one of the most seamless Austen sequels I’ve ever read. Odiwe’s love for all-things-Austen shines through. A must-read if you love the Austen variations as much as I do.
Disclosure: I received Mr. Darcy’s Secret from Sourcebooks for review.
© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.