Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman is the debut novel of author Maria Hamilton. The novel is a what-if variation of Pride and Prejudice (my favorite!) that asks the question, What if Mr. Darcy is so incredibly heartbroken and remorseful about his failed proposal to Elizabeth Bennet that he goes back to Meryton to pick up the pieces of his meddling and prove to Elizabeth that he’s a changed man? Will Elizabeth accept this new Darcy and realize that these changes were made for her?
The novel begins with a melancholy Darcy thinking back on his failed marriage proposal to Elizabeth Bennet. He focuses on the reproofs she gave him and realizes that he needs to take a deeper look at the man he is. He realizes that Elizabeth was right in her assessment of him and pledges to make things right between Jane and Bingley. He decides it would be prudent to find out if they have still have feelings for each other and sets out to meet with Bingley. Darcy is unable to tell if Bingley feels that a relationship with Jane is still possible, and decides to head to Meryton to speak with Jane. Elizabeth is stunned when Darcy shows up at Longbourn and begins being cordial to her family, showing Jane special attention. She wonders if his presence is meant to make her jealous of what she missed, or if it is to force his attentions on her. Rumors begin swirling around Meryton that Darcy is there to secure Jane’s hand in marriage, and that Elizabeth will soon follow with a marriage proposal from a childhood friend. Darcy becomes incredibly jealous over this rival for Elizabeth’s affections and finds himself unable to decide what to do. Will Darcy fix Jane and Bingley’s relationship and then move on with his own life, or will he find a way to stay in Elizabeth’s life and prove that he’s capable of winning her love?
The first third of the book seemed to drag a little bit. The chapters leading up to Darcy’s revelation to Bingley of the truth about what happened in the affair with Jane Bennet just seemed unnecessarily drawn out. I will however say that it did not make me dislike the book. The other two-thirds of the book were absolutely wonderful and had me sitting on the edge of my seat the entire time. Well, actually that’s not entirely true. I was on the edge of my bed at 3:30am trying to read as fast as possible, because I just HAD to get to the end of the book. (Warning: Do not begin reading this right before bedtime like I frequently do. You WILL stay awake.) The quickened pace and heightened plot events added to a rollercoaster ride of a read.
Right around the middle of the book comes Darcy’s second proposal. Can we just pause for a minute so I can gush over this scene? Hamilton definitely has the heart of a romantic because I became a bucket of gushy emotions as I read it. The actions and words of Elizabeth and Darcy are spoken with true love and determination in their hearts. The proposal is everything that a girl dreams her own proposal will be like: it’s full of love, affection, and is searingly romantic. I couldn’t help but go back and re-read that whole section over and over. Once I hit that point in the novel there was no stopping. Every interaction between Elizabeth and Darcy became like crack, and I couldn’t get enough; Hamilton had me hooked.
I’m still in shock that this was Hamilton’s first novel. Her next novel has an exceedingly high bar to reach to match the level that Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman was on. I’ll be eagerly awaiting her next venture, she’s definitely made a fan in me.
4 out of 5 Stars
This is my twentieth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge
This is my seventh completed review for the Chunkster Challenge