Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman, by Maria Hamilton – A Review

Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman, by Maria Hamilton (2011)Guest review by Christina Boyd

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 Regency Stars

Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman, by Maria Hamilton
Sourcebooks (2011)
Trade paperback (528) pages
ISBN: 978-1402244186

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

Giveaway Winners Announced for Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman

Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman, by Maria Hamilton (2011)38 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win one of three copies of Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman, by Maria Hamilton. The winners drawn at random are

  • Ritamaie who left a comment on May 3rd
  • Kelli who left a comment on May 4th
  • Jeffrey who left a comment on May 3rd

Congratulations to each of the three winners! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by May 18th, 2011. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Many thanks to all who participated in the giveaway contest!

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman Blog Tour with Author Maria Hamilton, & a Giveaway!

Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman, by Maria Hamilton (2011)Please join us today in welcoming Austenesque author Maria Hamilton for the official launch of her book blog tour of Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman, a new Pride and Prejudice variation that was released on May 1, 2011 by Sourcebooks.

Why Mr. Darcy Still Impresses

With my first novel, Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman being published just days after the royal wedding, I can’t help but relate the two events.  It may be because I unconsciously measure all men, including the occasional real life prince, to Mr. Darcy and usually find them wanting.  Like most women who love Mr. Darcy, it isn’t because he is good looking or rich (although it doesn’t hurt) but rather because his choice of a bride is emblematic of the depth of his character and good heart.

What makes Mr. Darcy still appealing to modern women is that he falls in love with Elizabeth Bennet because of her wit, independence, and intelligence. Moreover, he values Elizabeth’s opinion of him enough to inspire him to improve his character and win her regard.  Jane Austen wisely makes Mr. Darcy wealthy, powerful, and attractive thereby making his devotion to Elizabeth in spite of his family’s censure all the more poignant given the endless array of women actively pursuing him. While 200 hundred years have passed since Pride & Prejudice was written, it is just as difficult now as it was then to find a good man and particularly one who understands what is required to please a woman worthy of being pleased.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana in their Royal wedding carriage (1981)There is an obvious parallel to the royal weddings with their implicit speculation of why a particular prince selected his bride. We will never truly know why Prince Charles, age 31, asked Lady Diana, age 19, to marry him, but the fact that she had an appropriate pedigree by title and religion and an unsullied past had to weigh heavily.  I am old enough to have watched their wedding optimistically assuming that he also held her personality traits in high regard and that overtime their relatively short courtship would ripen into a marriage of true minds. As we know, it didn’t.  It may have been that Prince Charles, to his own detriment, could not listen to the needs of his heart over the call of duty or that he couldn’t value Princess Diana’s independence as she matured into a mature women.  Mr. Darcy, in a similar situation, innately understood that what a man in his position needed most was a partner that could challenge him and could, over time, inspire him through the strength of her personality to be a better man.

Prince William and Kate Middleton wedding ceremony (2011)The recent wedding between Kate Middleton and Prince William seems more likely to aspire to Mr. Darcy’s ideal.  While an age difference is no impediment to a vibrant love match, their mutual maturity bodes well for handling the media interest that will inevitably seek to overwhelm them.  They have been together long enough to understand each other personalities and value each other’s difference.  Prince William has already proven willing to break with family tradition and select a woman he values over concerns regarding station or outdated notions of propriety.  Let us hope that he can continue to emulate the best characteristic of Mr. Darcy.

It is the perpetual hope of that fulfillment of love that inspired me to write my novel, Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman.  I have long adored Pride & Prejudice.  Darcy’s character is amazingly nuanced given that we only see his personality through his actions and hear very little of his inner life.  Jane Austen famously never wrote a scene between men where a woman was not present.  Consequently, there are “scenes” in Pride & Prejudice that seem missing.  The propriety of the age also required that there be a minimum of private dialog between our hero and heroine.  As a result, much of their courtship is left tantalizingly to reader’s imagination.  With each reread, my cravings for these missing scenes eventually lead me to envision a different course for the story where those scenes could be played out more fully.

I introduce us to Mr. Darcy 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 returns to Hertfordshire.  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 believe the story holds true to the original but allows the modern reader to go where Jane Austen could not.  I hope you agree.

Author Maria Hamilton (2011)About the Author:

Maria Hamilton has been a lifelong Jane Austen fan.  Her first novel Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman will be published by Sourcebooks in May of 2011.  She is presently working on several projects including a new Pride & Prejudice variation. She attended Boston College where she earned a B.A. and then a M.A. in history.  She received her J.D. from Harvard Law School and presently works as an attorney in Boston.  Her interests include travel, politics, cinema, the Red Sox, and bicycling.  She is perpetually learning Italian and hopes one day to attempt a complete conversation.  She lives in southern New Hampshire with her husband, two children, and her dog Poseidon.  Visit Maria at her website: Austen Interludes, and blog: Austen Authors.

Giveaway of Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentlman

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman, by leaving a comment answering what intrigues you most about reading a Pride and Prejudice variation, or which of Austen’s novels or characters you would like to see Maria write about next, by midnight PT, Wednesday, May 11, 2011. Winner announced on Thursday, May 12, 2010. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Mr. Darcy and the Secret to Becoming a Gentleman, by Maria Hamilton
Sourcebooks (2011)
Trade paperback (528) pages
ISBN: 978-1402244186

© 2007 – 2011 Maria Hamilton, Austenprose