When They Fall in Love: Darcy and Elizabeth in Italy, by Mary Lydon Simonsen – A Review

When they Fall in Love, by Mary Simonen (2013) From the desk of Kimberly Denny Ryder

When I found out that Mary Lydon Simonsen was writing a Pride and Prejudice inspired book that took place in Italy I was so excited! Ever since I was able to travel to Italy two years ago I’ve loved it more and more and I can’t wait to go back. Now, reading about the combination of my two favorite literary characters with Florence was enough to make me want to go out and buy the book ASAP, and that’s exactly what I did once it came out! So, without further ado, let’s travel to Italy.

We all remember Mr. Darcy’s failed proposal to Elizabeth Bennet at the Hunsford Parsonage. When They Fall in Love picks up several years later, with much occurring in the interim, including Darcy marrying another woman, fathering a child, and becoming a widower. Now, he plans to live in a villa in the hills above Florence, Italy with his daughter, who is now six. He invites his friend Charles Bingley and his wife Jane, who now have a daughter, as well as Elizabeth, who acts as the governess for her niece. Although much has happened in the intervening years after Darcy’s failed proposal to Elizabeth, she is unsure if his love for her has withstood this test of time. Her own feelings towards him have grown tremendously, but she is apprehensive as to whether or not he reciprocates these feelings. What will become of their meeting against the beautiful backdrop of Italy? Continue reading

Captain Wentworth Home from the Sea: A Re-imagining of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, by Mary Lydon Simonsen – A Review

Captain Wentworth: Home from the Sea, by Mary Lydon Simonsen (2011)Guest review by Lucy Warriner

If your lost love returned with no recollection of the dispute that separated you, how would you react? If you had a second chance at happiness with him, would you divulge your tumultuous past? Anne Elliot faces these questions in Captain Wentworth Home from the Sea, Mary Lydon Simonsen’s new “what-if” retelling of Persuasion.

When the straitened Sir Walter Elliot lets Kellynch Hall to the Crofts, Frederick Wentworth joins his sister and brother-in-law at the estate. Sophia and Admiral Croft are helping Frederick recover from a head injury that destroyed his memory and compelled his retirement from the navy. In the absence of the housekeeper, Anne agrees to remain at Kellynch for a week after her family’s departure. Though certain that Frederick does not remember her ending their engagement eight years earlier, she is wary of his brusqueness. Though he disparages her reading habits during their first encounter, Frederick soon recognizes that Anne is a person of substance. Intrigued by the peace her presence brings him, he gradually draws her out.

Without Anne’s family’s negative influence, she is determined to enjoy her time with Frederick and extends her stay at Kellynch. Meanwhile, Frederick thinks of proposing to her. Sophia scolds him for considering marriage when he respects Anne rather than loves her. But Sophia’s account of the unknown love who spurned Frederick in 1806 (unfortunately, he never named her in his letters) supports his belief that romance does not guarantee happiness. Though this lost love also seems to be haunting his dreams, Frederick is resolute about starting anew with Anne. But what will happen when he proposes? Will Anne disclose the details of their first courtship?

Simonsen excels in her characterization of Frederick, a keen and acerbic observer of human nature. When Anne’s sister Elizabeth fishes for compliments about Kellynch, Frederick informs her that he has seen so many country estates that one is quite like another. He then declares that Kellynch is an unremarkable house with merely adequate landscaping. Frederick also tells Sophia that Anne’s married sister Mary Musgrove complains “like a petulant child,” and he asks Anne, “Her [Mary’s] illnesses come and go, do they? Do they ‘come’ so you will ‘go’ to Uppercross?” p. 28 and p. 36. Yet where he finds goodness—and he tells Anne that her intentions are always good—Frederick is gentle. When Anne is overburdened with household responsibilities, he convinces her to go riding with him. When she is demoralized about selling her mother’s furniture to cover debts, he purchases it as a gift for her.

Simonsen’s Anne is realistically flawed, a strong woman who makes some mistakes while trying to overcome her past. Venerable forcefulness underlies Anne’s usual mildness. Acutely aware that life has been “cruel” to her, she protects herself from further exploitation by defying Mary’s demand that she come to Uppercross. When Frederick proposes, Anne bars him from speaking to her father, Sir Walter. She also ignores neighbor, and former advisor, Lady Russell’s attempts to foist Mr. Elliot on her. Yet for all her assertiveness, Anne is terribly vulnerable on the subject of her past. She wants to be known “in her new incarnation” as a woman who never disappointed Frederick because she thinks that leaving him eight years earlier was indefensible.  It is difficult to fault Anne for lying by omission when she is in love and clinging fast to happiness. But it is also difficult to witness her self-belittlement in wishing to be an idealized version of herself. Despite her regrets, Austen’s Anne maintains that, bad as their advice was, she acted responsibly in consulting her elders about her first engagement to Frederick. Were Simonsen’s Anne this secure, she might sooner realize that she deserves to be loved for who she really is, her lapse of judgment notwithstanding.

Overall, Captain Wentworth Home from the Sea is a very pleasant diversion for Persuasion enthusiasts. Simonsen respects the intensity of Anne and Frederick’s love, and her alterations to Austen’s plot are neither extreme nor implausible. Readers may want a lengthier resolution to the novella, with more conversation and/or conflict between the characters. Yet, this is all the more reason to hope that Simonsen will eventually attempt a full-length work about Anne and Frederick.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Captain Wentworth Home from the Sea: A Re-imagining of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, by Mary Lydon Simonsen
Quail Creek Publishing, LLC (2011)
Paperback (136) pages
ISBN: 978-0615549668
NOOK: BN ID: 2940013210547
Kindle: ASIN: B006073D7E

Lucy Warriner is a North Carolina animal lover and dance enthusiast. She is also an ardent admirer Jane Austen!

Giveaway Winners Announced for Mr. Darcy’s Bite

Mr Darcy's Bite, by Mary Simonsen (2011)45 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win one of three copies of Mr. Darcy’s Bite, by Mary Simonsen. The winners drawn at random are:

  • Theresa M. who left a comment on October 3, 2011
  • Janet who left a comment on October 5, 2011
  • Colleen Lane who left a comment on October 3, 2011

Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by October 26, 2011. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments, and to Mary Simonsen for her insightful blog on her characters in her new novel, Mr. Darcy’s Bite.

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Mr. Darcy’s Bite Blog Tour with author Mary Simonsen, & Giveaway

Mr Darcy's Bite, by Mary Simonsen (2011)Halloween season is upon us, and that includes paranormal novels arriving to get us in the mood for the spooky holiday. Please join us today in welcoming author Mary Simonsen on her blog tour in celebration of the release of Mr. Darcy’s Bite a new paranormal Pride and Prejudice-inspired story published on October 1, 2011, by Sourcebooks. Mary has kindly shared her insights into her inspiration and research for our readers.

Hi Laurel Ann. It’s always good to be back on Austenprose, but today is especially significant. Not only do I have a new release, Mr. Darcy’s Bite, but today is my birthday. It’s one of those big ones that end in a zero. I won’t say how old I am, but I’m reading Social Security brochures.

I thought I might begin by sharing an excerpt from the prologue of Mr. Darcy’s Bite: The story opens with fourteen-year-old Darcy being bitten by a wolf in the Black Forest:

William retreated, but from a distance, the wolf followed him. With his heart pounding in his chest, he finally reached the road and could see the men working on the carriage. Before going in search of his father, he took one last look down the road and saw the wolf standing in plain view. Because of the full moon, the road was lit up as if it were daytime, leaving the female lupine completely exposed. Without thinking, William waved to her, and it was only then that she returned to the woods. The only conclusion he could draw was that she had wanted to make sure he was safe. But what kind of wolf did that?

You asked me to write about my inspiration for penning a werewolf novel. I had two motivations. The first was that I wanted to write a short story for Halloween for a fanfiction site where I posted most of my stories, and it was appropriately titled “Mr. Darcy on the Eve of All Saints Day.” But the response was so great that I just kept writing. Before I knew it, my short story had become a full-length novel. It shows what a little encouragement can do.

My second motivation was to respond to another Darcy werewolf story. Although I applauded the author for creating a dark atmosphere, her Darcy and Elizabeth were not mine. In the first place, Darcy did not tell Elizabeth he was a werewolf before marrying her, and because of the threat of exposure, he had separated his bride from her family by bringing Elizabeth to a castle far, far away from Longbourn. In my mind, Darcy would not have done either of those things. So with a sword (actually computer) in hand, I set about righting the wrong. Continue reading

A Wife for Mr. Darcy Blog Tour with Author Mary Simonsen

Please join usA Wife for Mr. Darcy, by Mary Simonsen (2011) today in welcoming Austenesque author Mary Simonsen for the official launch of her book blog tour of A Wife for Mr. Darcy, a new Pride and Prejudice-inspired novel that was released on July 1, 2011, by Sourcebooks.

I am so pleased to be back at Austenprose to kick off my blog tour for my latest novel. Thank you, Laurel Ann, for hosting me. It’s always a pleasure.

You asked that I write about my inspiration for my new novel, A Wife for Mr. Darcy. That’s easy: Elizabeth Bennet. Since I first read Pride and Prejudice when I was 17 (that’s a few decades ago), I have loved the character of Lizzy Bennet, probably because she was the antithesis of me. Lizzy had spunk; I admired spunk. Lizzy was willing to refuse an offer of marriage from a handsome, well-to-do man of rank and privilege because he exhibited a “selfish disdain for the feelings of others” and because he had injured her sister. In an era, when a woman faced a life of privation and pity if she did not find a husband, refusing such an offer took real courage. On the other hand, I usually played it safe, except for that time I went to Greenwich Village in New York City without telling my mother. (Long story short: I got caught.) If Mr. Darcy had asked me to marry him, I would have accepted him, keeping my fingers crossed that I could mold the man to my liking. However, if things didn’t go as planned, I could always mope about in one of Pemberley’s exquisitely decorated rooms or go sulk in the gardens.

When I write about Lizzy, I always portray her as someone who knows her own mind, but I also try to be true to the times in which Elizabeth Bennet lived. In A Wife for Mr. Darcy, Darcy realizes that he was rude to Elizabeth at the Netherfield ball and goes to Longbourn the next day for the purpose of apologizing, thus setting their relationship on a different trajectory. But there are difficulties. (Of course, there are difficulties.) During the season, Darcy paid sufficient attention to a Miss Letitia Montford to get the gossip mills going. Because there are expectations of an offer of marriage to Miss Montford, Darcy must tread carefully or risk injuring the lady. Both Lizzy and Darcy must navigate a minefield of societal norms in order to come together. Continue reading

Pemberley Remembered, by Mary Simonsen – A Review

Pemberley Remembered, by Mary Lydon Simonsen (2007)When I read the advance publicity on Pemberley Remembered, author Mary Lydon Simonsen’s debut novel about love, war and Pride and Prejudice, I was intrigued by the concept of three different romantic storylines interconnected through one hundred and fifty years of English history. Add to that a mystery involving the inspiration of Austen’s famous characters Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, and you have my complete attention. This concept was definitely a new slant on the Pride and Prejudice sequel merry-go-round and I was motivated to find out if she could pull it off.

Simonsen gives us a likeable heroine in Maggie Joyce, a 22 year old American working for the Army Exchange Service in post World War II London. A devoted fan of Pride and Prejudice, Maggie is intrigued by her roommate’s teasing remarks that Austen’s characters of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet where based on real people who lived at an estate near her family’s village in Derbyshire. They set off for a week-end to explore Montclair, the palatial estate once occupied by William Lacey and Elizabeth Garrison, the reputed Darcy doppelgangers. The estate seems to fit the description of Pemberley, the Darcy manor in Pride and Prejudice, but curious Maggie is not convinced and seeks out the assistance of locals Beth and Jack Crowell who have very close ties to the Lacey family. As the Crowell’s share their own research and documents with her, Maggie begins her own journey into the real-life parallel story of the Lacey and Garrison families and their uncanny resemblance to Austen’s characters in Pride and Prejudice.

During her research, Maggie meets handsome ex Army Air Corpsman Rob McAllister who is also working in London and she falls in love. As a bomber navigator he survived his 30 mission tour over Germany, but the scars of war, both physical and emotional have left him hollow and noncommittal. Additionally, as Maggie’s new friend’s Beth and Jack Crowell reveal their knowledge of the Pemberley/Montclair families, we learn their personal story too, and the narrative broadens into three different generations of couples becoming intertwined as we are re-introduced through a series of letters to the back story of the Pride and Prejudice characters, their connection to the Crowell family, and Maggie and Rob’s fledgling love relationship.

The story line, characters and subject are intriguing; however it is only the execution that could make this multi-layered story believable, entertaining and cohesive. While the complicated plot line would defy even a veteran author, no one can call Simonsen a coward for taking on this incredible challenge. Unfortunately, it was more than her inexperience could pull off. In the first two to three chapters, I kept waiting for the build up and hook to the real-life Pemberley mystery to throw the heroine into the investigation, but it never arrived. Without it, I felt disconnected to the story. Moreover, there was no sleuthing to discover and meet the Crowell’s, the local residents who openly reveal their years of research on the Pride and Prejudice connections to a total stranger. When they hand over 18th-century family letters for her to take home like they were an extra piece of tea cake, the historian and genealogist in me just cringed.

Some of my favorite novels in my library are war time romantic dramas and I can heartily recommend A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute or Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher. I was not expecting this caliber of story from a first time self published author, so I read Pemberley Remembered with on open heart. It is an interesting debut novel that would have benefitted from an experienced editor. Even though the story goes off on many tangents, it is obvious from the multiple historical references and antecedents that Simonsen did her research on Georgian and World War era English history as she includes stories about events, people and places to support her characters with aplomb. The most enjoyable aspect of her narrative was the personal stories behind the two modern couples.  The back story of the doppelgangers of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, William Lacey and Elizabeth Garrison was amusing, but too close to the original Pride and Prejudice plot line and characters to be respectful of Jane Austen, who in my view did not have to borrow anything from anyone to create her masterpieces.

3.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Pemberley Remembered, by Mary Lydon Simonsen
TRC Castle Gardening Publishing (2008)
Trade paperback, (441) pages
ISBN: 978-0979893308

© 2008 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose