Fresh off the success of Willoughby’s Return and Lydia Bennet’s Story, Jane Odiwe is back with her third Austen-inspired novel, Mr. Darcy’s Secret. Picking up where the pages of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice left off, Odiwe brings us back to Pemberley with the newly married Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Along with the Darcy’s we are treated to a deeper look at Georgiana as well as introduced to a whole cast of new characters.
Set immediately after the newlyweds return to Pemberley, life seems full of bliss, that is until a Mrs. Eaton comes along to shatter the post-nuptual honeymoon period. Gossiping about a malicious rumor of a Darcy connection to an illegitimate affair, Mrs. Eaton plants a seed of doubt in Lizzy’s mind that grows further when Lizzy discovers some love letters hidden in the library! Furthermore, Darcy begins acting differently, pushing Georgiana to marry for title and fortune, rather than love, which is exactly the opposite of his own history. With Georgiana torn between honoring her brother’s wishes and her own true desire to marry a Mr. Butler, her strain seems to rub off on Lizzie who begins to view Darcy in a much different light. Why is he pushing Georgiana so hard in the wrong direction? What is the true history of the secret love letters? Will their marriage ever be one of equal minds or will Darcy revert back to the taciturn prideful man he once was?
Jane Odiwe does a fantastic job at making Darcy and Lizzy’s marriage realistic. What I mean by realistic is that it wasn’t perfect. There are little arguments here and there that make it a more believable sequel than others; it stands out above the rest because it’s unafraid to delve into the challenges of Darcy overcoming his brooding personality and Lizzy becoming less impertinent to become a respected woman in society. Odiwe gives us faithful representations of Austen’s characters as well as infusing the story with new characters that could have come from the mind of Austen herself. Most of the sequels that I have read portray Lizzy and Darcy’s marriage as one without conflict and filled with perfection, happiness, and love. And while it is believable that their marriage really could be happy, there is no way it could have been this extreme.
The attention paid to Georgiana has made this one my favorite sequels. Georgiana’s story in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is so sad due to what befalls her at Wickham’s expense. It’s nice to see fan fiction authors give her the opportunity to grow into herself as a woman and as an individual. The strangest part of reading this book for me was how thrown off I was by the title Mr. Darcy’s Secret. When I picked up the novel, I originally thought that it was going to be about some deep, dark secret that Darcy had, one that could shake the Darcy marriage to its core. Instead, the “secret” storyline was just bits and pieces thrown around the novel that suddenly became a big deal at the end of the book. The book instead focused on Georgiana’s quest for love with someone below her social standing. What disappointed me the most was that the “secret” storyline was magically resolved at the end of the book with practically three sentences. I would have loved to have seen the resolution fleshed out more since I was kept wondering about it throughout the novel.
Overall, Odiwe is to be thanked and praised for her willingness to stick with a storyline that can be classified as historically accurate for the time period, and followed social norms, rules and scandals of the time. This being the first time that I’ve read Ms. Odiwe, I was impressed by her characters and obvious attention to detail. These elements combined are the ingredients needed to make an irresistible and addictive novel. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to those of you who love continuation pieces to Austen’s masterful classic.
4 out of 5 Stars
This is my fifteenth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge