The Secret Betrothal: Review & Giveaway

May 5, 2014 by

The Secret Betrothal: Review & Giveaway

Earlier this month, Nancy wrote about Frank Churchill who was secretly engaged to Jane Fairfax through the course of events in Emma.  In this post, Nancy answers the question of why Jane Fairfax would agree to a secret engagement with the selfish and self-centered Frank Churchill.  And in The Secret Betrothal by Jan Hahn, our beloved Elizabeth Bennet enters into a secret engagement with Mr. Wickham.  Now, while I thoroughly enjoy characters such as Lady Catherine whose overestimation of her influence on those in her world lead to her downfall, I have no pity for those who repeatedly target very young girls such as Mr. Wickham.  However, this early in her acquaintance with Mr. Wickham, Lizzy has not yet found out about his true character.  And under her mistaken first impression, she agrees to marry him.  Nonetheless, Lizzy has doubts but does not act upon them.  But how will this secret proposal alter Lizzy’s path when she goes to visit Charlotte and sees Mr. Darcy again?

I had several issues with this book including the characterization of Mr. Darcy.  There were particular passages that I felt were unsettling such as a scene where Mr. Darcy is caring for a sleeping Lizzy and his line of thinking goes towards kissing her, “One kiss, he thought, could I not have just one kiss from this woman who drives me mad with desire and who will never be mine?”  While I do not doubt that Mr. Darcy loves Lizzy, I hardly think he would seriously consider kissing her when she’s not awake on the reasoning that he may never have chance to do so again.  And Mr. Darcy has warnings about Lizzy’s tendency to go for walks alone, telling her that, “Nowhere is perfectly safe, not when you are an attractive young woman.”  I just felt that this was a very eerie depiction of Mr. Darcy that disturbed me and made it harder for me to read the progression of their love story in this book.


The Secret Betrothal

While Lizzy is visiting Hunsford Parsonage, Lady Catherine was prescribed a tonic which she insisted that everyone take.  As a result, everyone who took the tonic in Rosings and Hunsford Parsonage gets terribly sick, including the pregnant Charlotte Collins.  As a result, she miscarries and undergoes a very slow and dangerous recovery.  Though good luck finding anyone who feels sympathy for her.  Mr. Collins is in awe that Lady Catherine allowed them to recover in Rosings, seemingly forgetting that her tonic resulted in the miscarriage of his child.  This was just upsetting to me in that there seemed to be no purpose to introducing this unborn child other than to make him a victim to the quackery that Lady Catherine subjected everyone to while offering no justice for his or her death.  The book could have very well done without this but it just adds to the atrocity of the poisoning of Lady Catherine and all those under her influence.

Mr. Wickham is a person whom I can never find any redeeming qualities in.  He seems to have played a good portion of his life playing the victim and vilifying Mr. Darcy.  And while I do think the author did a good job in her characterization of Mr. Wickham, I just personally don’t like reading so much into his unpleasant character.  He has constantly sought to be a wealthy gentlemen but lacks the basic integrity to even work his way there through marriage or the army.  He did not take care to take advantage of the opportunities offered to him by Mr. Darcy’s father and in this book by Augusta Younge’s new husband to improve his situation because he was not willing to rectify his own lapses in character.  And in this, I think the author did do a good job in her depiction of Mr. Wickham.

In brief, if you enjoy darker adaptations, then this might be the book for you, especially if you like reading about the rogues from Jane Austen’s novels.  Notwithstanding, this is not the type of book I would normally read.

2 out of 5 stars

*A review copy of this book was provided free of charge by the author for review on*

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  1. Maria

    I confess I’m very curious to see why Elizabeth agrees to accept a secret betrothal. Given the character, I think she must be forced to do something like that because it is not a typical thing for her. Thanks for the chance to win a copy :)

  2. Sophia Rose

    The secret betrothal theme is always a toss up for me anyway b/c carrying on like that in secret is many times not for a good reason. Back then honorable men wouldn’t do it which is why Frank Churchill is always such an ambivalent character for me.

    Still…I am curious about this interesting take on Darcy and Lizzy’s story. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Ada Vittoria Baldi

    Your book sound really interesting and I’m curios to discover what will happen to Elizabeth after a such big mistake, based only on her first wrong impression of Wickham.

  4. Debbie

    I find it interesting to find out how the engagement is cancelled and what Darcy has to do with it (how he helps Lizzy) As well as Wickham’s reaction. Also how and when Lizzy realizes she’s made a mistake.

  5. schilds

    I want to know why Elizabeth would agree to a secret engagement. What will Darcy say?

  6. Joy King

    I could not disagree with you more. Fitzwilliam Darcy was a man who would have had feelings and inclinations like any other man. He however, chose not to act on those inclinations. This book was filled with sweet moments and subtle humor. Though it was not my favorite of Jan Hahn’s books, it was a well-written variation from a completely new angle.

    • Jessica Grey

      Thank for commenting, Joy. As you know, reviews are subjective things! We hope our readers will make their own decisions on each book our staff reviews.

      • Joy King

        Well said, Jessica, and perfectly true. Another Austen variation writer recently told me that “sometimes we want a little fluff with our tea and sometimes we do not.” Apparently, the day I read “The Secret Betrothal” I wanted exactly what I got, a bit of light reading and the day your reviewer read it, she did not. Thank you for your reply.

  7. SeldomKate

    I could understand Lydia entering into a Secret Betrothal with Wickham, but like others who have commented, I cannot imagine how Wickham convinces Elizabeth to agree to it. What brings her to accept? Having loved “The Arranged Marriage” and “The Journey” I know this new novel from Jan Hahn will be required reading!

  8. I confess that after learning Elizabeth and Darcy get together in the end, I’m curious to know how the engagement to Wickham was ended without damaging her reputation. What led the engagement to be called off?

    I’m international btw.

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