Jane Austen writes of secret engagements in more than one of her novels, and in The Secret Betrothal, author Jan Hahn explores the question of what would happen if Austen’s most famous heroine from Pride and Prejudice reluctantly agrees to accept such a proposal.
When Fitzwilliam Darcy learns that Elizabeth Bennet has committed herself to such an arrangement, his hopes of winning her hand are shattered. After circumstances continue to bring the two together—from Hertfordshire to Rosings Park to the seaside town of Brighton―he finds he is unable to tame his desire for the woman who has stolen his heart.Will Darcy’s efforts to win Elizabeth succeed, or will his sworn enemy lead her to the altar?
Meet the author: Jan Hahn
Jan Hahn is fascinated by Jane Austen, 19th Century England, and true love. Having spent years in the world of business, she is now content to leave it behind and concentrate on writing about Austen's characters finding true love in 19th Century England. 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 Austen Prose 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.
Jan has five children, seven grandchildren, and is a native Texan. In her dream world, she lives in England in a place called Pemberley.
Read an excerpt
From the Author:In the following excerpt from Chapter Four of The Secret Betrothal, the annual Mistletoe Ball is in progress at Meryton wherein Sir William Lucas delights in placing mistletoe hanging from a long pole over the head of an unsuspecting young woman during the dance. Her partner is welcome to a kiss for, as Lydia says, “What other use is there for mistletoe?”
The evening progressed with much enjoyment for all but Darcy. He appeared to be the only man present without a smile upon his lips. Laughter erupted each time Sir William’s mistletoe provoked the stealing of a kiss. As Denny had warned Wickham, the men simply kissed their partners’ cheeks, except for husbands, who were bold enough to claim a brief kiss upon the lips of their wives. More often than not, Lydia and Kitty were the subjects of the mistletoe pole, for their shrieks and giggles seemed to provoke the attention of Sir William. Jane and Elizabeth discussed curbing their sisters’ high-spirited flirting with their mother, but she would not allow it.
“Let them enjoy themselves,” she cried. “They are only young once, and oh, how I wish that I were still their age!”
Elizabeth glanced at Jane and cast her eyes to the ceiling. She walked to the punchbowl as much to free herself of the responsibility as to quench her thirst. Just as she lifted the cup to her mouth, she was surprised to see Darcy approach.
“Miss Bennet,” he said with a bow. She responded in kind and quickly began to turn away when he spoke again.
“Your sisters seem to be enjoying themselves this evening.”
“Yes, they are,” she said quite pointedly and without the slightest hint of a smile. “It is a shame not everyone possesses that ability.”
“Are you referring to me, Miss Bennet?”
“I make no particular reference, but as the old saying goes, if the cap fits . . .”
He took a long swallow of his drink. “If you would do me the honour of dancing with me, Miss Bennet, it might aid me in finding a cap that you deem more suitable for the occasion.”
Elizabeth looked around quickly, searching for some excuse to refuse him. Once again, she saw Wickham approaching from across the room. I do believe he is becoming my knight in shining armour appearing at just the right moment to rescue me from this dragon of a man, she thought. “I regret to say I have already promised this dance to another, sir.”
Darcy saw who was approaching, and the vein in his forehead stood out as he pressed his lips together. “Very well, but I will be so bold as to claim the next.”
With that, he bowed quickly and turned on his heel before Elizabeth could respond.
Hateful man, she thought, how dare he presume that I will dance with him! She said nothing to Wickham, though, as he led her to her place in the line once again.
“I see Darcy has at least deigned to speak to you this evening. I hope his remarks were not unpleasant.”
“Only in his assumption that I will accept his offer to dance the next with him.”
“And shall you?”
Elizabeth chewed her lip as they bowed to each other and stepped forward to clasp hands and twirl around. “I hardly see how I can refuse him, although I vowed I would never dance with him again.”
“Perchance I can provide a remedy.” Wickham leaned his head closer than needed as they neared each other in the movement.
“Sir, you cannot ask me again. We have already defied convention by dancing more than two sets. Any more than this, and my mother will have us betrothed!”
Wickham simply smiled. “Then I shall have to contrive another means by which I may rescue you, my fair maiden.”
Elizabeth raised her eyebrows in wonder at first, but since the set was somewhat lengthy, her natural high spirits gave her liberty to thoroughly enjoy the clasp of Wickham’s hand and the rhythm of their movements. In fact, she quite forgot about Darcy as she became caught up in the gaiety of the moment.
As the last notes sounded and the couples bowed to each other, cries of laughter erupted when the entire assembly saw the infamous mistletoe hanging over Elizabeth’s dark hair. A comely blush covered her cheeks, and she found it hard to catch her breath as Wickham stepped to her side and bent to claim his kiss. The look in his eye made her wonder whether he would content himself with a kiss upon her cheek or be bolder. She raised her face to his and felt her heart beat faster as he took her hand and inclined his lips ever nearer her own.
But it was not to be, for just then Darcy took Elizabeth’s free hand and removed her from Wickham’s embrace.
“I believe this is my dance, Miss Bennet,” he stated firmly. The cold glare emanating from his eyes left Wickham in no doubt as to what he might do if deterred from his course of action. Wickham did not contest his manoeuvre; instead, he bowed with certain deference and turned away.
Elizabeth was furious! “Mr. Darcy, I must protest. The music has not yet begun for the next dance!” she exclaimed. He, however, failed to release her hand, and he would not refrain from leading her to the opposite end of the room.
“I believe you are in need of refreshment, Miss Bennet, after enduring such a spate of activity. That was an exceedingly prolonged reel.”
As though it was the most natural thing in the world, he poured another cup of punch and handed it to her.
She took the cup but glared at him.
“Mr. Darcy, I do not appreciate being treated in this high-handed manner! I know that you do not like Mr. Wickham, but that is no reason to publicly embarrass him or me!”
“On the contrary, madam, I meant no embarrassment toward you, but only sought to prevent your reputation from being tarnished by Mr. Wickham’s untoward attentions.”
“And who is to say they were untoward?” she cried, her eyes flashing. “He was taking no greater liberty than any other gentleman has this evening.”
“You approve, then, of public kisses from slight acquaintances?” he asked, his tone severe.
“I approve of lively enjoyment of the season, sir―an activity that I presume is as foreign to you as dancing on the moon!”
At that moment, the musicians played the first notes of the next dance, and with great reluctance, Elizabeth allowed Darcy to lead her to the floor. This time she would make no attempt at conversation; she would simply endure the dance and then absolutely, positively have nothing further to do with the horrid man! He, likewise, spoke not another word for the entirety of the dance, but his eyes rarely left her face. The only time he looked elsewhere was when Wickham led Lydia to the floor and took his place on the opposite side of Elizabeth, thus allowing him to take her hand during certain steps of the dance. Darcy glared at him on each occasion, but Wickham did not cower in his presence. He smiled at Elizabeth, and she returned his smile with one of her own. As for Darcy, she refused to shrink when his gaze returned to her, determined not to be intimidated by his arrogance.
As the bass fiddle sounded the final notes, the assembly room grew quiet with a simultaneous intake of breath, for once again Sir William held the mistletoe over Elizabeth’s head. She felt her face flame as the attention of the entire room focused on Darcy standing before her. Would he kiss her? If there had been time for wagers, there would have been few who would have chanced it. Elizabeth’s breath came faster and faster as he took her hand and inclined his head.
He does not dare to kiss me, her mind screamed silently, but why am I trembling? She felt a flutter in the pit of her stomach and could not keep her eyelids from blinking over and over. He is actually going to kiss me! Very close to her face and audible only to her ear, Mr. Darcy said, “When I kiss you, Miss Bennet, I will not need the inducement of mistletoe.” He then touched his lips to her hand, released it, and walked out the door.