#25 Mr. Darcy’s Secret by Jane Odiwe (and my love affair with Pride and Prejudice)

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Anyone who has spoken to me for more than two minutes knows about my love for Jane Austen and specifically, Pride and Prejudice. The love story of Lizzy Bennett and Mr. Darcy gets me every time. Pride and Prejudice is by far, hands down my favorite book. I read it for the first time as a freshman in high school, and I have read it a couple of times each year since. My husband knows that if he comes in, and I’m reading P&P he should probably just slowly back away, because I most likely don’t want to be bothered. I read P&P when someone has hurt my feelings, when I need to relax, when I’m contemplating a big decision, when I’m happy, when I deserve a treat, when I’m celebrating, when I’m bored, when I’m hungry….well, you get the idea. There is nothing about this novel that I don’t love.  I love Elizabeth Bennett’s fiery, independent nature. How she is resigned to becoming an old maid, because she refuses to settle. I love her sisters, gentle Jane, naughty Lydia and Kitty, bookish Mary. I love Fitzwilliam Darcy’s dismissive, haughty attitude and how he shows Elizabeth he cares by being a bit of a creepy stalker. I love Mr. Bingley and his bitchy sister Caroline. I feel like these are old friends of mine who I need to revisit every few months. I melt every time I read Mr. Darcy’s proposal in the rain to Elizabeth, “You must allow me to tell you how I admire and love you”. (Hence, the name of this blog!)

I reread P&P for the first time this year, after reading Mr. Darcy’s Secret by Jane Odiwe. After reading a spin-off novel, I felt I needed to read the original again.  Mr. Darcy’s Secret tells the story of what happens after happily ever after. Mr. and Mrs. Darcy return to Pemberly to start their life together, when Elizabeth discovers love letters that shows her she doesn’t really know the man she married. All the characters make an appearance, including Mrs. Bennet who is thrilled to see her two oldest daughters so well matched with men of fortune and consequence. Georgiana Darcy, Mr. Darcy’s little sister, plays a huge role in this novel and stars in her own love story with a man below her station.

This is the second P&P spin off, I’ve read this year. The first one was Longbourne by Jo Baker, and was about the romance of the maid and footman at the Bennett’s family home. In Longbourne, Elizabeth and her family were background characters.  The writer didn’t try to speculate on what Elizabeth or Mr. Darcy might do or say. She didn’t try to imitate Austen’s style of writing. It was a completely different story that stood on its one. You could read Longbourne ,and enjoy it without ever reading P&P ( which is 58b1d6a5ad3feb77e369be812f10f372crazy, by the way. Everyone should read Pride and Prejudice).

The author of Mr. Darcy’s Secret, tried to recapture the magic of  Jane Austen and just didn’t quite make it. While I enjoyed the story, especially the development of Georgiana, who we didn’t see much of in P&P, I couldn’t help disagreeing with some of the author’s assumptions. For example, she turned Mr. Darcy into this gentle lamb, who wrote poetry and mooned all over Pemberly. I don’t think falling in love would have changed Mr. Darcy’s mannerisms that drastically, and I don’t think Lizzy would want that. Second, when Lizzy found the incriminating letters that hinted Mr. Darcy had a love child she pretended she didn’t know and went on with life, and made excuses for it. The Elizabeth Bennett I know and love would have marched right up to him and demanded an explanation. I think you take a risk when you try to recreate iconic characters and when you try to imitate such a beloved author. I think Odiwe did a decent job, but I knew it wasn’t Jane Austen’s words so I couldn’t really get into it.

I would like to say I won’t be reading another Jane Austen spin-off, but I know that’s probably not true. I already have two other of Odiwe’s  novels in my Amazon shopping cart. But what I can say with confidence, is that I will always be an Austen fan. Her novels will always have a special spot in my heart and on my bookcase.

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