Dying to Write: A Patrick Shea Mystery, by Mary Simonsen – Preview & Exclusive Excerpt

Dying to Write by Mary Simonsen 2014 x 20My loyal readers who have followed Austenprose for years know that in addition to Austenesque fiction, I love a good who-dun-it. There are some fabulous Regency-era mysteries featuring Jane Austen and her characters as sleuths including Stephanie Barron’s Being a Jane Austen Mystery Series (12 novels) and the Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries by Carrie Bebris (6 novel and one in the oven). Besides the Elizabeth Parker Mysteries (4 novels) by Tracy Kiely there are very few contemporary mysteries inspired by Austen, so when one hits my radar I am a very happy Janeite.

Mary Lydon Simonsen, author of several fabulous Austenesque historical novels including: Searching for Pemberley, A Wife for Mr. Darcy and Becoming Elizabeth Darcy, also writes a detective series called The Patrick Shea Mysteries. In her latest installment, Dying to Write, she has cleverly blended both Austen-inspired and a contemporary mystery. Today, Mary has kindly offered an excerpt for our enjoyment. 

PREVIEW (from the description by the publisher)

In need of a break from his job at Scotland Yard, Detective Sergeant Patrick Shea of London’s Metropolitan Police, is looking forward to some quiet time at a timeshare in rural Devon in England’s West Country. However, when he arrives at The Woodlands, Patrick finds himself in the midst of a Jane Austen conference. Despite Regency-era dresses, bonnets, and parasols, a deep divide exists between the Jane Austen fan-fiction community, those who enjoy expanding on the author’s work by writing re-imaginings of her stories, and the Janeites, those devotees who think anyone who tampers with the original novels is committing a sacrilege. When one of the conference speakers is found dead in her condo, Patrick is back on the job trying to find out who murdered her. Is it possible that the victim was actually killed because of a book?

EXCERPT (from chapter 5)

(Setting: First day of the Jane Austen seminar – Detective Patrick Shea sits down with a group of Jane Austen purists.)

“I understand the kickoff for the Austen game starts this afternoon,” Patrick said after introducing himself.

“Right after lunch,” a woman, wearing a nametag that identified her as Michelle Johnson of Sidmouth, answered and then giggled. “We are all very excited.”

“I can tell,” he said, looking around the room. “You can feel it in the air.”

Actually, Patrick could smell it. To a copper, the smell of trouble was as strong as the coffee being served with the scrambled eggs. It was as if West Side Story had come to Colyton. There were the Jets, the guardians of Jane Austen’s writings and the status quo, versus the Sharks, writers and readers of Jane Austen re-imaginings who wanted to add their own twist to her stories, each huddling in their respective corners.

The previous night, after finding nothing on the telly, Patrick had opened his laptop and Googled “Jane Austen.” Ten million suggested sites came up. Eventually, he stumbled upon the JAFF community and a link to a website where people wrote stories inspired by Austen’s characters. The way it worked was that after reading a post, people were allowed to comment on the story. Although most responses were supportive of the writer’s efforts, a few had been written by disapproving readers who did not like where the author had taken Austen’s stories and weren’t shy about saying so.

“What’s the afternoon session about?”

“Jane Austen in Bath,” Cassandra Woolton of Exeter answered. “Although her years in Bath were not the happiest for our dear Jane, I do think her later work was inspired by her time there, especially when she wrote of Fanny Price’s isolation in Mansfield Park and Anne Elliot’s loss of purpose after Captain Wentworth’s departure in Persuasion.”

“Are you leading the session, Mrs. Woolton?”

Miss Woolton, although I have no objection to the honorific, and, ‘yes,’ I am leading the session. With my late father, I co-authored several monographs on Jane Austen, her work, and her final resting place in Winchester Cathedral.”

“And tomorrow?”

“Jane Austen’s Juvenilia.” Patrick had no idea what that meant, but he decided not to let on. Keep them guessing.

“Do you read any of the variations, retellings, or whatever you call them?” Patrick asked.

“Facts or opinions which are to pass through the hands of so many, to be misconceived by folly in one and ignorance in another, can hardly have much truth left,” Miss Woolton answered.

“I take that to be a ‘no.’”

“Those words are from the pen of the author herself—Persuasion published in 1818.”

Patrick was about to push off when Miss Woolton indicated that Althea Duguid, the lecturer for tomorrow’s session, was about to join them. Having heard about the previous year’s row between Duguid and another speaker, he decided to hang around.

Patrick gestured for Mrs. Duguid to take his seat. As soon as she had, Duguid asked Millicent Fenwick of Sherborne, a little mouse of a woman, to prepare a plate for her and held up “her stick” as a reason for the request.

Turning to Patrick, she asked, “And you are…?”

“Patrick Shea. I’m down from London for a few days.”

“Will you be attending the sessions?”

“No. That’s not why I came to Devon. A friend lent me his week for a timeshare. It’s a coincidence that it’s the same week as the Jane Austen conference.”

“In my opinion, you would be foolish to pass up an opportunity to learn more about one of the most brilliant authors in the English language.”

“To each his own,” he answered. “I prefer mysteries to romance.”

“Jane Austen did not write romances,” Duguid said with a tone of dismissal. “She wrote about family, neighbourhoods, and social connections.”

“You had better keep that to yourself, or you’ll have everyone tearing off their I ♥ Darcy car stickers.”

Duguid grimaced at the thought of someone reducing Austen’s protagonist to a punch line appearing on the fender of a car.

“Having been a teacher for forty years, I can state unequivocally that there is a reason why schools establish curricula. How else would the masses be introduced to the writings of great authors? If left to their own devices, their preference would be to stick their noses in such things as mystery novels, forgotten as soon as they are finished.”

“Not sure I agree with that, and I don’t think Agatha Christie or Conan Doyle would either,” Patrick said, laughing at the dig at his choice of reading material. “In my opinion, people should not be forced to read books that don’t appeal to them just because someone else has decided it’s good for them. Reading is supposed to be pleasurable.”

“Mr. Shea, your statement smacks of criticism. Can you possibly be referring to the schism between the Janeites and the JAFF community?”

“What I’m saying is that there’s no reason to get into a snit over reading material.”

“The Rubicon has been crossed. That is a reference to—”

“I know about Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, Mrs. Duguid. But your statement sounds very much like someone who is looking for a fight.”

“I shall not back down. There are some things worth fighting for.”

My list of what’s worth fighting for does not include what book is on someone’s night table.” This discussion was accomplishing nothing, and with storms moving in, Patrick needed to get going. “Your breakfast is getting cold,” he said, pointing to her plate. “I hope you have a lovely day, and despite differences of opinion, you all get along.”

“I do have one question for you, Mr. Shea. Are you going to have this conversation with Miss Ball when she arrives? She is the authoress of those Pemberley monstrosities.”

“I can do that.”


Thank you Mary for sharing this excerpt with us today. The characters look intriguing. I can see that you have stirred up the different factions of Jane Austen fans and created a great storyline from it. I look forward to reading it. Best wishes.


Author Mary Simonsen (2011)Mary Simonsen first became acquainted with Jane Austen when she was a senior in high school in the late 1960s in North Jersey. Little did she know that thirty-five years later her first novel, Searching for Pemberley, would be published by Sourcebooks followed by three traditional P&P re-imaginings. Since that time, she has written and self-published numerous Austen re-imaginings, including two time-travel romances: Becoming Elizabeth Darcy and Another Place in Time. Lately, she has branched out into mystery novels. Dying to Write, a British police procedural involving Jane Austen fans, is the fourth in the Patrick Shea mystery series.

Mary lives in the Valley of the Sun (aka Phoenix), but when the temperatures hit triple digits, she and her husband head up to Flagstaff in Arizona’s High Country, a perfect place to write a novel.

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Dying to Write: A Patrick Shea Mystery, by Mary Lydon Simonson
Quail Creek Publishing, LLC (2014)
eBook (257) pages

Cover image courtesy of Quail Creek Publishing © 2014; excerpt Mary Lydon Simonsen © 2014, Austenprose.com

Another Place in Time: A Pride and Prejudice Time-Travel Romance, by Mary Lydon Simonsen – A Review

Another Place in Time Mary Lydon Simonsen (2014 )From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder:

Mary Lydon Simonsen is one of the most versatile Austen fan fiction writers out there. She’s given us contemporary Pride and Prejudice retellings that take place in WWII England, what-ifs that pose Georgiana Darcy and Anne de Bourgh as matchmakers, stories where Mr. Darcy is a werewolf and one particular tale with a widowed Darcy in Italy getting a second chance at love with Elizabeth Bennet. This is just a small sampling of the imagination present in Simonsen’s stories. And now with the publication of her latest novel, Another Place in Time, time-travel gets added to that list!

In an exciting take on Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, we find Mr. Darcy approached by Hannah and Jacob Caswell, time-travelers from the modern era, who inform him of the existence of Elizabeth Bennet. After he is saddened by her rejection at the Parsonage, he is counseled by them to travel to the future (2012) to seek out the assistance of Ms. Christine O’Malley, an expert on both Jane Austen and the Regency era. Upon his arrival Darcy finds Christine engaged in a panel discussion about Austen in Baltimore. Although his arrival excites many at the conference, Christine is reluctant to assist him as she feels he is an actor and an imposter. Finally, after much coercion, Darcy is able to convince Christine to travel back in time with him in order to help him win Elizabeth back. During their time in Regency England Christine soon finds herself falling for Mr. Darcy’s cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam. Will she be able to consolidate her rational, modern-day attitude with her heart’s yearning for a man from the past?

Simonsen’s books are always such a pleasure to read, mainly because of her ability to weave humor, history, and romance into her novels. Her wit truly shines in Another Place in Time. Envisioning Darcy in modern-day America trying fast food, learning how to use a smartphone, looking up the definition of “Googling”, and so many other instances added a perfect undertone of levity to the writing.

Her infusion of history added another element often missing from Romance novels. Right from the beginning we’re treated to tidbits of information about the history of Baltimore and Maryland, forward-thinking scientists of the Regency era, English monarchs, social structures of the early 1800s, and so much more. This information sprinkled throughout the novel changed it from just another love story to a novel with weight, value, and depth. Her character development is superb as always, and her portrayal of Darcy from an arrogant, proud man of wealth—to a despondent, scorned lover—to finally a content man in love, was a wonderful journey. I liked Chris and Col Fitzwilliam’s paths of development as well, as they both started out completely skeptical towards time-travel, and eventually their respect for another character (in Chris’s case, Darcy; in Fitzwilliam’s case, Chris) allowed them to see the truth and possibility that it would work. In short, this is another fantastic job by Simonsen. Smart, quick and chock full of fun, Simonsen has another hit on her hands that will be sure to please. This is definitely one to add to your shelves ASAP.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Another Place in Time: A Pride and Prejudice Time Travel Romance, by Mary Lydon Sinonsen
Quail Creek Publishing, LLC (2014)
Digital eBook (253) pages

Cover image courtesy of Quail Creek Publishing © 2014; text Kimberly Denny-Ryder © 2014, Austenprose.com

Darcy Goes to War: A Pride and Prejudice Re-imagining, by Mary Lydon Simonsen – A Review

Darcy Goes to War, by Mary Lydon Simonsen (2012)From the desk of Christina Boyd

Author Mary Lydon Simonsen is making quite a name for herself as a writer who successfully uses Jane Austen’s characters and themes in other historical times and settings.  Her latest Pride and Prejudice re-imagining is set in WWII England with the Bennet girls conscripted into the work force to support the war effort.  This tale begins when Elizabeth Bennet, a pants wearing, lorry driver, encounters the handsome but rude Royal Air Force (RAF) pilot, Fitzwilliam Darcy.  And like in Austen’s masterpiece, Darcy once again unwittingly slights Elizabeth when she over hears him discouraging a fellow officer from attending a local RAF dance.  “I shall warn you there is little beauty in the girls who attend these dances, and they aren’t exactly light on their feet.  If you do go to the dance, my advice is to wear your jump boots.”  But upon seeing Elizabeth, Darcy is certain he has met her previously, but where?  A befuddling thought indeed until they are later formally introduced through another pilot, Charles Bingley.

The original characters are as they ever were with Lydia getting caught dallying with Wickham and with real consequences; and Jane falling for the estimable, Mr. Bingley.  What was most pleasing was to read familiar Austen lines, tweeked of course, to fit this 1944 story… “Because their mother was so eager for her daughters to marry, even in the midst of a war, Jane decided it was best not to mention meeting Mr. Bingley to her mother because she would have jumped from having a cup of coffee at a canteen to a courtship and, from there, to a walk down the aisle in the blink of an eye.”

Missing in action from this story is the domineering Lady Catherine de Bourgh and any real development of Mr. Collins, Georgianna Darcy, Mary Bennet or the Gardiners.  But the inclusion of the very much alive Mrs. Anne Darcy, Darcy’s mother who is recently separated from his father, was a welcome twist.   And THAT story line more then made up for any misgivings for not following the original story verbatim! Although the story arc is not about social class prejudices keeping our two heroes apart, rather the decisions they struggle with because of the war.  It was all too gratifying to compare both works for similarities and was gladdened as well that this touching love story was in essence fresh and a story unto its own.  A favorite passage was when Elizabeth and Will spent a poignant evening together under a dining room table during a rather harrowing London bombing.  I felt as if I was right there with them, finishing the eBook in almost one go—and well past midnight!

It would be all to easy to label this as yet another Pride and Prejudice love story… but author Simonsen has really done her research.  Her skill for drawing us in is masterfully depicted as we see the war ravaged landscape of London as well as the English country side in grim tales of rationing, death and gloom.  I must say that Mary Lydon Simonsen has another hit on her hands.  And if I might suggest, “Keep calm and read Darcy Goes to War.”  You won’t be disappointed.

5 out of 5 Stars

Darcy Goes to War: A Pride and Prejudice Re-imagining, by Mary Lydon Simonsen
Quail Creek Publishing (2012)
Trade paperback (258) pages
ISBN: 978-0615689487

© 2012 Christina Boyd, Austenprose

Mr. Darcy’s Bite, by Mary Lydon Simonsen – A Review

Mr. Darcy's Bite, by Mary Lydon Simonsen (2011)Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder of Reflections of a Book Addict

What do you get when you cross Pride and Prejudice with werewolves?  You get a dark and adventurous tale that follows Lizzy and Darcy as they grapple with a definite twist that has arisen in their relationship.  This time, Mary Lydon Simonsen takes us on a journey where we follow our beloved couple as they encounter something that Jane could never have imagined when she originally put pen to paper.

Elizabeth Bennet is distraught.  Fitzwilliam Darcy has been courting her for months and there is still no marriage proposal.  Her mother, father, and even sister Jane keep pressuring her about what’s taking so long.  Ready to give up on ever receiving a proposal, Darcy shows up begging Elizabeth to travel to Pemberley with him so that he can reveal a secret to her.  If she doesn’t run away from him upon hearing this secret, then he’ll have a question for her.  Nervous about what his secret is, Elizabeth agrees to the trip and makes the trek to Pemberley with him.  Her first night at Pemberley, Darcy reveals that years earlier he was bitten by a werewolf and that for two days every month he turns into one himself.  Elizabeth is shocked and cannot fathom all that she’s being told, yet promises to wait for him to return from his transformation before making a decision about their relationship.  What will Elizabeth do when she sees Darcy in his wolf form?  Will she stand by his side and marry him, or will she cut ties and end their relationship?

Having read Mr. Darcy Vampyre, by Amanda Grange and come away with a less than stellar opinion, I was super nervous at reading another Pride and Prejudice fan fiction novel that infused some type of supernatural beings within the plot.  Fortunately, Simonsen has made this idea work with Mr. Darcy’s Bite, which seriously impressed me.  Unlike another popular vampire work, Twilight, where werewolves appear because of vampires, Simonsen provides an actual realistic explanation for it.  The novel is written with fabulous Gothic undertones, creating a dark and spooky reading atmosphere that grips you from cover to cover.   The ending was my favorite part!  So much so, that I immediately emailed Mary and asked her to write a sequel!

I really enjoyed the changes that Simonsen made to Darcy’s character.  Shortly after his transformation we get to see a more playful Darcy that speaks his mind and teases Elizabeth about the things he can “sense” as a werewolf.  In turn we see a different Elizabeth that isn’t so proud, and is willing to listen to the advice of those around her. Specifically, the advice of Darcy’s cousin Anne de Bourgh and his little sister Georgiana who are given larger parts, allowing the reader a new opportunity to get to know them!

For those of you who are nervous about dipping your toes into the paranormal fan fiction world, may I highly suggest that you start your journey with Mr. Darcy’s Bite?  Not only does it top my JAFF list, but it’s pretty high up on my paranormal reading list as well.  You won’t be disappointed!

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Mr. Darcy’s Bite, by Mary Lydon Simonsen
Sourcebooks (2011)
Trade paperback (336) pages
ISBN: 978-1402250774

© 2007 – 2011 Kimberley Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Giveaway Winners Announced for A Wife for Mr. Darcy

A Wife for Mr. Darcy, by Mary Simonsen (2011)70 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win one of three copies of A Wife for Mr. Darcy, by Mary Simonsen. The winners drawn at random are:

  • Julie who left a comment on 02 July 2011
  • Lynnae who left a comment on 01 July 2011
  • Jeffrey who left a comment on 01 July 2011

Congratulations ladies and gentleman! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by July 20th, 2011. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments, and to author Mary Simonsen for her insightful blog on her inspiration for her new novel!

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose