Catherine Anne Austen (Mrs. Hubback) is well-known and highly esteemed as a writer; for her novels are in themselves good, and they have additional interest as coming from the niece of Miss Austen. It is true that Miss Austen's works are as generally neglected as they are universally eulogized, and that, instead of reading them in private and condemning them in public, most people do not peruse them in the closet or anywhere else, and yet make a point of praising them in the drawing-room. Still it is not less the fact that her name and genius, though not popular, are generally approved, and that the consequences of this singular regard have been most beneficial to Mrs. Hubback in literature. Mrs. Hubback has been and promises to be the most prolific creator of novels, for we believe that The Younger Sister, The Wife's Sister, The Rival Suitors, The Old Vicarage, May and December, Malvern, Life and its Lessons, and Agnes Milbourne, are not all the fictions which have proceeded from her pen since the commencement of 1850. (Novels and novelists: from Elizabeth to Victoria by John Cordy Jeaffreson, 1858)
Catherine Anne Austen (Mrs. Hubback) tells us in her brief preface that the events which her tale records cannot again occur; that no individuals can now be placed in similar situations; that her work was written previously to the great agitation on the question of the law of marriage. The agitation regarding the legality of marriage to a deceased wife’s sister came to a head in 1835 with the passing of Lord Lyndhurst’s Act. The Act retrospectively validated marriages to a deceased wife sister which had occurred prior to 1835, whilst preventing such marriages from taking place legally in the future. Prior to the Act marriages to deceased wife’s sisters were voidable but not void as of themselves, their legal legitimacy rested on whether or not a person had any opposition to a marriage that had taken place. In 1842 a Marriage to a Deceased Wife's Sister Bill was introduced and defeated by strong opposition. As late as 1907 the prohibition was removed by The Deceased Wife's Sister's Marriage Act.
Mr Cecil Mansfield, a gentleman of large property, marries a young lady, who dies in giving birth to twins. Her twin sister, resident in the house of her brother-in-law, takes charge of the children, and fulfills the duties of her voluntary office so admirably, that the widower, after a due time, finds himself in love with her, and seeks to make her his wife. The heroine, who is persuaded into a sudden marriage Cecil Mansfield, is placed in a most cruel strait, not merely from the opinion of society, not merely because of the rapacity of her husband's uncle, but owing to the culpable fickleness of the husband himself, who acquiesces in the annulment of their marriage as illegal, in order that he may unite himself with his cousin. The plot contains much that will interest the professed novel reader, and conveyed in an easy flowing dialogue, often natural and expressive, with clever descriptive writing.
Harper's Magazine, 1851 — The Wife's Sister; or, The Forbidden Marriage is the title of a novel by Mrs. Hubback, niece of Miss Austen, written with more than common graphic power, and unfolding a plot of great intensity of passion. It was written previously to the great agitation on the question of the Law of Marriage in England, and was published without reference to that much debated subject, although it presents a vivid illustration of the possible effects of the enactment alluded to, both in its social and personal bearings. Apart from these considerations, however, it is a story of remarkable interest, and it well worth perusal by all who have an appetite for a good novel.