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Posts Tagged ‘mr. darcy and the secret of becoming a gentleman’

Source: Review copy from Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★★☆

Lady Catherine seemed pleased but immediately asked, “And will she promise me never to enter into such an engagement?”

Her mother spoke before she could, stating in a defiant tone, “She will make no promise of the kind.”

“But, Mama,” Elizabeth pleaded, “should we not consult Jane?  I think she would set the matter straight.  I think she would unequivocally state…”

Ignoring Elizabeth, Lady Catherine continued to address her mother.  “Does she have no regard for the wishes of his friends?  Is your daughter lost to every feeling of propriety and delicacy?  Have you not heard me say that from his earliest hours he was destined for his cousin?”

With a calmness and reserve that Elizabeth was shocked to discover her mother possessed, she responded, “Yes, Lady Catherine, I think we all heard you.”

(from Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman, page 93 in the ARC)

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a novel rife with misunderstandings, and Maria Hamilton kicks it up a notch in her retelling of the beloved classic novel.  In Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman, Mr. Darcy takes to heart the criticisms Elizabeth Bennet threw at him after his very arrogant and condescending marriage proposal.  Even though he doesn’t think he has a chance of ever deserving or securing Elizabeth’s love, he sets out to right his wrongs.

Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman takes a hilarious turn when Darcy returns to Hertfordshire to speak to Elizabeth’s sister, Jane, and apologize for separating her and Mr. Bingley.  Mr. Darcy has a heart-to-heart talk with Jane on a walk to Meryton, and Mrs. Bennet assumes his singling out of her eldest daughter means he’s about to propose.  Of course, you know there’s no stopping Mrs. Bennet when she gets these fanciful ideas, but it’s worth it to see her carrying on when her rumors bring Lady Catherine, Darcy’s overbearing aunt, to the Bennet’s home for a confrontation.

From the confusion over which man is courting Jane to Caroline Bingley being put in her rightful place, Hamilton’s novel is an enjoyable and romantic story that shows how people can change if they really want to.  Although I think the book might be a tad long, I couldn’t get enough of Hamilton’s Mr. Darcy.  The blurb on the front cover by Austen variation author Abigail Reynolds says it all:  “Mr. Darcy will melt your heart.”  Readers will fall in love with Darcy right along with Elizabeth, and they might even become a little worried when Darcy faces a rival for Elizabeth’s affections.

My only complaint about Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman is the last chapter.  The book suddenly skips ahead five months in time, and I was a little confused by the transition.  Since it had taken a leisurely pace up until that point, I wasn’t expecting it, and it made it seem like the ending was a bit rushed.  Still, I found the book to be an entertaining take on Pride and Prejudice and one I think most fans of the Austen variations will enjoy.

Disclosure: I received Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman from Sourcebooks for review.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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I will be reviewing Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman in the next few days, but in the meantime, I’m happy to welcome the author, Maria Hamilton, to Diary of an Eccentric today.  (Especially since I learned she’s a Boston Red Sox fan!  That will make my husband happy!)  Please give a warm welcome to Maria Hamilton, who is here to discuss her fascination with Jane Austen’s characters.

I have long been fascinated with the characters Jane Austen created in her novels and in particular with the wonderful people that inhabit Pride & Prejudice. I believe the characters of Pride & Prejudice endure because Austen took the time to fully form each of them. While many authors bother to ensure that their lead characters are as realistic as possible, it is Austen’s attention to her secondary characters that provides enough detail to allow her story to resonate for over 200 hundred years. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are a prime example. They do not inhabit that much of the plot, but each has sufficient strengths and flaws to make them fully animated. Mr. Bennet is intelligent, wry, and stands up for Elizabeth when it truly counts – siding with her when she is being pressured into an unfortunate marriage with Mr. Collins. Mr. Bennet is also inattentive, selfish, and derelict in his duties as a parent and husband. He is neither totally good nor bad, and readers could easily disagree over whether he is a good father.

Similarly, Mrs. Bennet is silly, harsh, embarrassing, prone to gossip, and exhibits an alarming amount of favoritism toward some of her children. She also loyally believes that any man would be lucky to marry any one of her daughters. Mrs. Bennet almost appears to be the story’s comic relief, except that her fear for her family’s precarious future makes her the one realist in the family and provides an explanation for her other flaws. Mrs. Bennet seems to have the least sense of any of them, while simultaneously demonstrating more wisdom than her more intelligent husband by at least worrying about her family’s ultimate welfare.

The same is true for many of the other characters. Charlotte Lucas is an unerringly good judge of character who makes what seems to be one of the worse decisions in the novel. Is she a clever pragmatist, or did she lack enough faith to wait and work for true happiness? Jane is all that is lovely and, at different times, irritating in her passivity. Wickham is despicable, but you understand and recognize him. Then there is Darcy and Elizabeth. You love them each, but can see how they created their own obstacles. It is the mix of these contradictions and competing characteristic that make each person in the novel a fully formed individual. As such, I could not help but envision them in other situations where they could act accordingly.

This led me to write my novel Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman. In it, I introduce the reader to Mr. Darcy immediately after Hunsford when he is attempting to overcome Elizabeth’s rejection and struggling with the knowledge that he has unfairly separated Mr. Bingley from Jane. He determines to correct his mistake much earlier and in the process of doing so has to return to Hertfordshire. He asks Jane for a private interview in order to determine if she still has feeling for Mr. Bingley, and Mrs. Bennet assumes that Darcy has come to court Jane. Once Darcy is thrown into Elizabeth’s company again, he vows to show her, by every civility in his power, that he that he can be a gentleman worthy of her esteem. As Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy become reacquainted, he pursues her and a slow courtship evolves as they attempt to see each other without their prior misunderstandings.

My story focuses on the dialog between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth and tries to explore their developing intimacy. I wanted to see how the characters would react in some of the scenes that I wished were in the original book, like Darcy asking Mr. Bennet for permission to marry Elizabeth, Darcy telling Bingley that he was in love with Elizabeth and had wrongly separated him from Jane, Caroline learning that Darcy had asked Elizabeth to marry him (twice), and Darcy and Elizabeth’s transformations from suitors to husband and wife. In doing so, I wanted to keep to Austen’s original intent but give the characters enough room to act in new ways. I think I accomplished my goal, but I will leave it to the readers to decide.

Thanks, Maria!  Austen did pay much attention to detail when it came to her characters, and I’m glad there are authors who love them as much as I do and are willing to continue their stories or explore the “what ifs” so I can keep enjoying them long after finishing the original novel.

Courtesy of Sourcebooks, I am giving away a copy of Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman. To enter, please leave a comment with your e-mail address and tell me your favorite secondary character in any of Austen’s novels and why. Because the publisher is shipping the book, this giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada addresses only. This giveaway will close at 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, May 29, 2011.

**Please note that this giveaway is now closed**

Disclosure: I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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