“You are mistaken Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way than it spared me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner.” Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter XXXIV
The tragedy of Fitzwilliam Darcy’s ill-stated proposal in the Hunsford parlor is one of the most notable exhibitions in Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, allowing generations of readers to ponder how it all might have been different had his behavior and delivery more agreeable. As in Austen’s masterpiece, Darcy is angered and shocked when Elizabeth refuses his hand in marriage… but in debut author Maria Hamilton’s Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman, Darcy quickly realizes how poorly he acted and decides how he must make amends.
In this alternative story, Darcy goes back to Hertfordshire and calls on the ladies at Longbourn, specifically Miss Bennet, Elizabeth’s older sister Jane, to confess his interference in persuading Mr. Bingley against her… and to discover if she might still harbour feelings for Bingley and welcome his renewal of attentions to her. But of course, Mrs. Bennet (and Elizabeth!) misinterprets Mr. Darcy’s visit, blunders in communication between Bingley & Darcy/Darcy & Elizabeth/ Darcy & the whole of Meryton, and even a rival for Elizabeth’s affections, nearly throw Darcy’s honorable plan off course. Fortunately, the Bennet’s, and even the good people of Meryton, benefit from this more retrospective Darcy as he “practices” his social skills… and by this grace, slowly becomes a man worthy of Elizabeth’s affections.
Much in the writing style of romance author Abigail Reynold’s, Maria Hamilton clearly has a handle on the ruminations and passions of both Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.
“As she leaned over the map to look for herself, she felt him by her side, his breath brushing her ear as he continued to explain the boundary dispute. His rich voice seemed to have a hypnotic effect on her as she struggled to listen. As he leaned ever closer to trace the line for her on the map, she felt her pulse quicken and hoped it was not obvious to him. Equally caught up by her proximity to him, his narration temporarily faltered. As they both stood there, looking down at his hand on the map and hers inches away, he swallowed hard and then unconsciously leaned even closer toward her.” page 241
Swoonworthy, indeed. But I must include one of my all-time favorite romantic fan-fiction scenes when Elizabeth and Darcy, at a Longbourne family dinner, are overcoming one of those communication blunders aforementioned, “She suddenly understood his position. Impulsively she brought her hand to her lap and then slowly it moved toward Mr. Darcy’s chair where his hand sat by his side. With a surge of determination, she reached over, took his hand, laced her fingers in his, and squeezed his hand to express her reassurance… His eyes flew open.” page 264 Shocking but delicious, is it not?
I first read Hamilton’s story when posted on line years ago under the title, By Every Civility in His Power… and was delighted to learn it was to be published by Sourcebooks. The story has been tightened somewhat by deleting and, or revising some of the interaction with Caroline Bingley, as well as regrettably reworking an amusing, provocative riding lesson– but in essence, the story remains the same. Fair warning however: after a very long speech by Elizabeth, explaining to Darcy why she already feels she is his wife, and why she does not feel the need to wait to be truly “man and wife,” Darcy and Elizabeth do indeed anticipate their vows. By the by, if Sourcebooks was going to chop anything from Hamilton’s original, I would have preferred the three letters Darcy writes Elizabeth the morning after their faire l’amour. They were a little over the top. That said, all 446 pages of Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman will certainly keep you entertained. Congratulations to Maria Hamilton!
4 out of 5 Stars
Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman, by Maria Hamilton
Trade paperback (528) pages
Milestone! Christina’s review is the 200th book review posted on Austenprose! Congratulations, and thank you to all who have contributed reviews.
© 2007 – 2011 Christina Boyd, Austenprose