Friday, June 10, 2011

Book Review: Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman by Maria Hamilton

Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a GentlemanFrom Goodreads:

When Elizabeth Bennet refuses his hand, Darcy is devastated and makes it his mission to change. By every civility in his power, Darcy slowly tries to win her affections, but Elizabeth is not easily swayed. Darcy vows to unlock the secrets that will make her his. He curses himself for his social awkwardness and appearance of pride, and sets out to right the wrongs he's done her family.

Elizabeth's family and friends misunderstand his intentions, and being in Elizabeth's presence proves to be both excruciating for the shy Darcy-and a dream come true. For the first time in his life, he must please a woman worth having, and the transformation leads him to a depth of understanding and love that he never could have imagined.

*          *          *

***SPOILER ALERT:  Specific plot points are discussed within this review***

Like other Pride and Prejudice retellings, Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman picks up Jane Austen’s classic tale just after he has failed miserably in proposing to Elizabeth Bennet in Kent.  He is horrified at his behavior, regretting his condescending and thoroughly unromantic offer.  Over time and a series of events, letters and visits, he manages to not only win the heart of Elizabeth, but also repair the relationship between Jane Bennet and his dear friend Charles Bingley.

While this plotline may be similar to other P&P-inspired novels, I was interested to see how new author Maria Hamilton would bring Darcy and Elizabeth from alienation to matrimony.  Fitzwilliam may have been well bred and a seemingly proper English gentleman, but he had much to learn about how to properly court the object of his affection.  For Elizabeth’s part, she eventually had to overcome her negative impressions of Darcy in order to see him for the good man that he was.

I found Gentleman to be such an enjoyable novel.  Maria Hamilton’s writing style is a pleasure to read, with an authentic and subdued feel.  There are no cataclysmic scenes of peril or overly heightened drama, only great dialogue and plot development.  As in other Austenesque novels, there are the usual misunderstandings and societal obstacles to surmount, but Hamilton weaves her story in a delightful, fresh way.  Lizzy and Darcy have wonderful chemistry, Mrs. Bennet is as neurotic as ever, and Caroline Bingley doesn’t fail to deliver her contemptible behavior.  As a Janeite, I truly gobbled this one up and was just about to rank it as one of my favorite Austenesque novels.

My opinion began to change near the end of the book, however.  I had so enjoyed Maria Hamilton’s storytelling, how she was able to convey the drama of the characters’ relationships in such a talented, satisfying way, without the use of excessive adult material.  Even within the story, it was acknowledged that while Darcy and Elizabeth yearned for each other, they wanted to be models of propriety, knowing they should wait until after their wedding to consummate their marriage.  Like many engaged couples, their passions were running high, and it was difficult to stay true to their moral compass in the weeks leading up to their wedding.  And like many modern Austenesque writers, Hamilton decided to have her characters succumb to their desires before taking their vows.  This was very frustrating to me, as it seemed to divert wildly from the general tone of the entire book.  I’m not shocked that such a scene occurred, I was just disappointed.  It would have been so easy to have a similar passionate scene play out on their wedding night.  Why not?  I know it’s not the standard today, but many still adhere to that, and in the 19th century, even more held to that code of conduct.  Mr. Darcy did indeed grow as a gentleman in this lovely retelling; I just wish it had also included within his bedroom.

I hesitate to give Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman a negative review. For the majority of the novel, I was highly entertained and loved every minute of it.  Maria Hamilton’s Harvard education shone through with her ability to immerse her readers into Austen’s world in such a delightful way.  As the book neared its end, I was not looking forward to its conclusion, the end of my experience with it.  I suppose if there could be a way to omit the last 25% of Chapter 21, this novel would be near the top of my Best of 2011 list.  However, we must take the production as it is.  And as such, I would say that I do recommend this title, but with that one caveat.  Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman is a charming production and is sure to please many an Austen fan around the world.  I look forward to reading more from this new author in the world of Austenesque novels.

This title was provided to me by Sourcebooks Landmark.
No obligation other than an honest review was required.



  1. Thank you for a very good review. I am always disappointed when a bedroom scene is slapped into an otherwise very good story. Why would Darcy try so hard to preserve Lydia's honor and then take Lizzy's away? And, I was certainly able to enjoy all of Austen's novels without any bedroom scenes!

  2. Jeannette:

    Thank you! Darcy is such an upstanding man, and the book was SO great before that scene. It really didn't match the overall character of the novel at all. It almost seemed as if Ms. Hamilton was influenced by an outside force (publisher, editor, peers, etc.) to include it.

    I do try to stay away from Austenesque novels that seem that they might have this kind of content, and I thought I was safe on this one. That being said, I still really like the book overall. It had me giggling and laughing out loud in delight on a number of occasions!


  3. Thanks for the honest review.

    One of the things I struggle with in these wannabe rewrites or sequels is when the author has the characters do things that are completely out of character. I always wonder why, because you'd think that for a person to want to write a sequel to a novel like this one they'd at least understand and stay true to the characters.

    2 Kids and Tired Books

  4. Agreed. I wasn't so horribly shocked to read that scene-- I've seen them before with other authors. I think it surprised me so much because not only was it out of character for the Austen characters, but it was out of character for the novel (which was wonderful) as a whole.

  5. I really enjoyed this book for the most part, but I was a bit disappointed by the ending. It didn't bother me that the bedroom scene occurred before they were married, but you do raise some valid points about that. I thought there was a lot of build up to the wedding and then suddenly the book skips over the wedding to five months after the wedding. Seemed like that last part wasn't even necessary at that point. But don't get me wrong, I really did enjoy it.

  6. Anna:

    I agree-- I was a bit surprised that the wedding was just kind of glossed over. Disappointing.

    But I also agree, I really enjoyed the book overall.


  7. Stopping by from Cym Lowell's book review party.

    As a Jane Austen fan I might end up reading this one. Thanks for the review!

    Book Bound Musings


    Very good review..thanks.

    Stopping by from Cym Lowell's Book Review Party.

    Stop by my blog if you like.




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