Will a mysterious note from the past doom the love of Jane Austen’s most beloved couple?
A Peculiar Connection begins near the close of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Bent on preventing the engagement of her nephew to Elizabeth Bennet, Lady Catherine de Bourgh declares that any union between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth would be “a sin against Heaven itself!” Her shocking revelation, along with a cryptic message written over twenty years earlier, thrusts the couple into a whirlwind of heartbreak and disbelief.
Could a deserted mansion in Derbyshire or a small church hidden in the wood hold the key to solving the puzzle? And why is Elizabeth inexplicably drawn to the portrait of three young boys in Pemberley’s gallery?
Determined to confirm or refute Lady Catherine’s accusation, Darcy and Elizabeth are forced to embark upon a twisted trail into bygone days and family secrets. All the while, they must endure the exquisite torture of denying the indisputable desire that still hovers between them.
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I’ve only read one of Jan Hahn’s books so far, ‘An Arranged Marriage’, which is a book I quite often re-read when I want a hit of very romantic JAFF so I was pleased to be given the opportunity to read this book.
This is a 'Pride & Prejudice' variation that deviates rather late on in the story. The book opens with Lady Catherine de Bourgh confronting Elizabeth Bennet at Longbourn. Lady Catherine’s purpose is to obtain assurance from Lizzy that she will not marry Mr Darcy, but Lizzy will not agree to this. Hearing this, Lady Catherine produces a note, the original of which is held by a solicitor in London. The note completely changes Elizabeth’s world in an instant. It says that she is not the Bennets’ child; she was taken in by them very soon after birth. She instead has a connection to Darcy’s family and hence it will be impossible for them to marry.
Poor Elizabeth! Just as she has come to an understanding of herself, and realised that she loves Mr Darcy, it’s suddenly become impossible, and she will have to accustom herself to a bleak future without the hope of his love:
‘With Christmastide and Jane’s wedding to occupy our days, I could bury the longing that threatened to overwhelm me at times. And yet, without warning and at the most inopportune moments, a sudden image of Mr. Darcy’s beloved face would flash before me, and it was all I could do to retain control of my emotions.’She also has to come to term with the shock of finding out that her family, the Bennets and Gardiners, are not her true family. It feels to Elizabeth like everything has been a lie, and she’s not sure what the truth is, not knowing the exact circumstances that led to her coming to live with the Bennets. Darcy is determined to discover everything and although she doesn’t want to allow herself to hope, in case she is let down again, reluctantly Elizabeth joins Darcy and his sister at Pemberley.
Like ‘An Arranged Marriage’ this book is from Elizabeth’s point of view which obviously helps us understand her feelings really well. She has fallen head over heels in love and it’s completely hopeless. She is despondent about that and really struggling with feelings towards Darcy that she feels are no longer appropriate. He, however, doesn’t appear at first to be facing the same struggle and while Elizabeth is relieved by that she also feels quite rejected. However, to the reader it’s clear, especially as time goes on that they are both facing the same struggle and Darcy a few times takes refuge in brooding and alcohol, which seemed a little dark for my perception of Darcy. Elizabeth is a bit slow on the uptake at times too, I wanted to give her a nudge towards the obvious a few times, but the poor girl is so despondent that I found it easy to forgive her, as seeing the truth would mean being hopeful, and she’s not ready to put herself out there yet. One other thing that I thought was a little out of character for Elizabeth was that she appeared to have lost her philosophical approach which is one of the things I always admired about her in ‘Pride & Prejudice’. Here she is very resentful towards Mr Bennet, and while it’s understandable, I think as a character she’s pretty tolerant and forgiving, so it seemed a little harsh, particularly as he had always been a loving father to her and his love for her was the reason he’d never told her the truth. However, every now and then Elizabeth was able to bring a little humour into the situation, and there were some really amusing passages, such as this conversation about what she should call Mr. Darcy going forward:
“What should I call you then? ‘Wills’ belongs to Georgiana, and I fear my tongue would trip over ‘Fitzwilliam’, so what else other than Mr. Darcy?”
“You are clever enough. I believe you will select a name for me.”
“I suppose there is always ‘Fitz’ or ‘Fitzy’.” I cut my eyes at him to see how he responded to my mockery.
“I call my cousin ‘Fitz’, and no one shall ever call me ‘Fitzy’, I forbid it.”
“Forbid? Oh my. Then that leaves but one option. I shall have to call you ‘Willie’.”
“Under no circumstances!”Elizabeth and Darcy are both finding out information about the situation that led to Lizzy going to live with the Bennets two decades ago, and it was interesting to have a little speculation on the exact circumstances myself as they found out more facts (or failed to ask clarifying questions!). We are also taken on a trip to Ireland, which was interesting, as was the historical information pertaining to practising the Catholic religion in England/Ireland in that time. I thought the language usage was mainly in keeping, though there was the odd American phrase here and there. There are no sex scenes in this novel, and often I find that an absence of sex scenes ramp up the romance to even sweeter levels and it is so in this case, especially when taking into account the despondency that precedes it. I thoroughly enjoyed this highly romantic read and I’d recommend it. I’d rate this book at 4½ stars.
*I received an e-ARC of this book from Meryton Press for a review as part of the blog tour.
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Jan Hahn is fascinated by Jane Austen, 19th Century England, and true love. A storyteller since childhood, she's written skits and plays for local organizations and owned a business recording, writing and publishing oral histories. Jan is a member of JASNA and began writing novels based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice in 2002.
Jan's first novel, An Arranged Marriage, won the award for Best Indie book of 2011 from Austen Prose. The Journey, published in 2012, was selected by Austenprose as one of the Top Five Austen Inspired Historical Novels of 2012, and it won the Favorite Pride and Prejudice Variation/Alternate Path of 2012 award from Austenesque. Her latest book, The Secret Betrothal, was published in 2014. Jan is currently working on Stolen Past.
Jan has five children, seven grandchildren, and is a native Texan. In her dream world, she lives in England in a place called Pemberley.
Blog Tour Schedule
30 March: Review at Savvy Verse and Wit
31 March: Excerpt at Songs and Stories
1 April: Guest Post & Giveaway at My Jane Austen Book Club
2 April: Review at Babblings of a Bookworm
3 April: Author Interview at The Little Munchkin Reader
4 April: Review at Margie's Must Reads
5 April: Guest Post & Giveaway at My Love for Jane Austen
6 April: Review at My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice
7 April: Guest Post & Giveaway at More Agreeably Engaged
8 April: Excerpt at Laughing with Lizzie
9 April: Excerpt & Giveaway at So Little Time…
10 April: Review at Diary of an Eccentric
12 April: Review at The Delighted Reader
13 April: Excerpt & Giveaway at Austenesque Reviews
14 April: Guest Post & Giveaway at Babblings of a Bookworm
15 April: Review at Warmisunqu's Austen