Searching for Pemberley by Mary Lydon Simonsen

Mary Lydon Simonsen’s Searching for Pemberley starts was a premise many interviewers often ask authors about their fiction:  “Are any of your characters based upon real people?”  Did Jane Austen use real people to write the great love story of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy?  Simonsen’s book may not offer the truth behind Austen’s characters, but it does spin a unique mystery tale through which one possible reality of Mr. Darcy and Ms. Bennet are discovered.

“‘Mr. Crowell, you don’t know me.  I’m Maggie Joyce, but I was wondering if . . .’  But that was as far as I got.

‘You’re here about the Darcy’s right?  Don Caton rang me to let me know you might be coming ’round.  Come through.  Any friend of Jane Austen’s is a friend of mine.'”  (Page 12 of the ARC)

Maggie Joyce is the main protagonist and an American from a coal mining town in Pennsylvania.  She quickly leaves her hometown of Minooka for Washington, D.C., to help with the government with its World War II-related administrative work.  Eventually she is stationed in Germany and later in England following the end of the war.  She meets a fantastic family, the Crowells, who help her unravel the real family behind Jane Austen’s characters.

“Beth gestured for me to follow her into the parlor.  She had a way of carrying herself that was almost regal, especially when compared to her husband, who reminded me of a former football player who had taken a hit or two.”  (Page 25 of ARC)

Told from Maggie’s point of view, the novel grabs readers with its immediacy as Maggie moves through war-torn Europe and reads through a variety of diary entries and letters to uncover the origins of Pride & Prejudice.  Readers who have read Austen’s novel once or more than a dozen times will recognize echoes of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy in the Crowells and may even find parts of the mystery obvious.  However, this story is more than a look at where Austen may have found inspiration, it is about a nation (England) and its people in the midst of rebuilding after the devastation of the German blitzkrieg and World War II.  There also a healthy dose of romance between Maggie and two beaus that add to the tension.

“‘Nightmares from the war that I hadn’t had in ten, fifteen years came back.  Jesus, they all came back,’ he said, massaging his temples as if the act would block out any unwanted images.  ‘Picking up bodies and having them fall apart in my hands.  Stepping on limbs.  Being scared shitless during barrages.'”  (Page 254 of ARC)

Simonsen does an excellent job examining the shell shock felt by airmen and other military personnel and how their war experiences could impact their relationships with family, friends, and lovers.  While there are some occasions in this nearly 500-page book that are bogged down by too much detail, Simonsen’s characters are well developed and the twists and turns as Maggie unravels the mystery of the Bennets and the Darcys are fun.  The aftermath of World War II is well done and rich in emotional and physical detail, showing Simonsen’s deft research and keen eye.  Searching for Pemberley is an excellent addition to the every growing market of Jane Austen spin-offs.

This is the 8th book I’ve read that qualifies for the 2009 WWII Reading Challenge.  Though I officially met my goal of reading 5 WWII-related books some time ago, I’ve continued to find them on my shelves and review them here.  I’m sure there will be more, stay tuned.

Searching for Pemberley is the 6th item and fulfills my obligations under the Everything Austen Challenge 2009.   I hope that everyone has been reading along for this challenge.  It has been fun to see the mix of books and movies that everyone has reviewed.  I may even read another book before this challenge ends, since my main goal in joining was to read Persuasion, one of the only Austen novels I haven’t read.

Have you missed the giveaway for Searching for Pemberley?  Don’t worry there’s still time to enter.  Go here, and comment on Mary Lydon Simonsen’s interview for an additional entry.  Deadline is Dec. 14, 2009 at 11:59PM EST.


Additionally, I would like to thank Mary Lydon Simonsen and Sourcebooks for sending me a free copy of Searching for Pemberley for review.  Clicking on title links will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page, no purchase necessary. 

Willoughby’s Return by Jane Odiwe

Willoughby’s Return by Jane Odiwe reunites readers with Mr. and Mrs. Brandon and Marianne’s sisters Margaret and Elinor from Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen. 

“But three years of married life had done little to really change her.  Marianne still had an impetuous nature, she still retained a desire for impulse and enterprises undertaken on the spur of the moment.”  (Page 3)

Truer words were never spoken about Marianne.  She is the same impetuous girl from Austen’s book, even though she is married to Colonel Brandon and has a son, James.  Her husband, however, has obligations to his ward, the daughter of his deceased first love, and her child–a child she had with Marianne’s first love, Mr. Willoughby.  Drama, drama, drama fills these pages, just as they filled Marianne’s life in Ausen’s work, but Odiwe adds her own flare to these characters.

Marianne continues to hide things from her husband no matter how innocent the situations may be and her jealousies drive her to make nearly scandalous decisions and snap judgments.  However, while this book is titled Willoughby’s Return, he is more of a minor character and his storyline with Marianne looms from the sidelines as her younger sister Margaret and her beau Henry Lawrence take center stage.

“She watched two raindrops slide down the glass, one chasing the other but never quite catching up.”  (Page 39)

Margaret is very like Marianne in that she is passionate, romantic, and impetuous.  She’s opposed to marriage and Marianne’s matchmaking until Margaret sets eyes on Henry Lawrence.  She falls head-over-heels for him, but Odiwe throws a number obstacles in their way.

Readers may soon notice some similarities between Henry Lawrence and Frank Churchill from Emma by Jane Austen, but the romance unravels differently for Henry and Margaret than it does from Frank and Emma.  Readers that enjoy Jane Austen’s books and the recent spin-offs will enjoy Willoughby’s Return — a fast-paced, regency novel with a modern flair.

This is the 5th item I’ve completed for the Everything Austen Challenge 2009.  I’m one item away from meeting my goal, which will be coming up either later this month or in December.

Don’t forget the Willoughby’s Return giveaway, here.

Additionally, I would like to thank Jane Odiwe and Sourcebooks for sending me a free copy of Willoughby’s Return for review.  Clicking on title links will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page, not purchase necessary.

A Match for Mary Bennet by Eucharista Ward

Eucharista Ward O.S.F.’s A Match for Mary Bennet: Can a serious young lady ever find her way to love? is delightful and reminiscent of the regency craftswoman Jane Austen herself.  The novel’s pace is dead on, unfurling Mary Bennet’s character slowly, allowing readers to sit with her, getting to know her mind, her choices and motivations, and her true heart’s desire.

“‘I fell asleep in Inferno, and the candle went out.  I awoke in Purgatorio.  But all the light is on now.  I have found Paradiso.'” (Page 323 of ARC)

With her older sisters, Jane and Elizabeth married to Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy, and her youngest sister, Lydia, married off to Mr. Wickham, Mary and Catherine Bennet are left at home with their meddling mother, eager to marry them off.  Mary continues her ways of sitting alone with her books and her music, content to expand her mind rather than chase after men in society.

“‘You sat so creep mouse in a corner with, of all things, a book! What a way to comport yourself at a dance! Why, you might as well scream to all the world that no man is good enough for you. . . .'” (Page vi of ARC)

Despite her shyness and unconscious judgment of others, Mary comes to learn there is more to life than just books and music, though they certainly enhance her journey and even direct her ultimate place in society.  Readers will revisit with Mr. & Mrs. Darcy and Mr. & Mrs. Bingley following their marriages and how Mary perceives their married lives.  Lydia, Mr. Wickham, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, her daugher, and Kitty Bennet return as well.  But there are new characters to love and dislike from the new pastor Mr. Oliver to the odd Mr. Grantley and the musical Mr. Stilton. 

Ward lives in Austen’s world, manipulates language easily to emulate regency England, and expands the characterizations sketched out in Pride and Prejudice: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) without losing Austen’s vision.  However, Ward’s Mary Bennet is more than the thinly sketched, judgmental, religious, bookworm on the sidelines.  She is observant, knowledgeable, and deeply committed to her family and her faith.  Overall, readers will find A Match for Mary Bennet fills out the other Bennet sisters deftly and makes a perfect addition to any Austen lovers’ collection.

Sourcebooks has kindly offered 1 copy of A Match for Mary Bennet: Can a serious young lady ever find her way to love? by Eucharista Ward O.S.F. for a U.S./Canada reader.  To Enter:

1.  Leave a comment here about why you want to read about Mary Bennet or what your first impressions of her were when you first read Pride & Prejudice.

2.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, or spread the word about the giveaway and leave me a comment. 

Deadline is October 16, 2009 at 11:59PM EST 

This is my 4th item for the Everything Austen Challenge 2009.

The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy by Sara Angelini

The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy by Sara Angelini is loosely based upon Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Fitzwilliam Darcy is the youngest judge appointed to the bench of San Francisco and Meryton is not a town in England, but a town outside of San Francisco, California. Elizabeth Bennet is an attorney with Gardiner & Associates, and the lead attorney is not her uncle Mr. Gardiner, but her boss. California has laws about fraternization between judges and attorneys who work on the same cases, and when sparks fly between Elizabeth and Will, it becomes a sticky situation.

“‘So, what are you doing during the first two weeks of June?’ Jane asked. Elizabeth switched the phone cradle to her other ear and spread the California Bar Journal in the desk before her.

‘Um, same thing as usual. Bill ten hours and work fourteen. Go home, eat Lean Cuisine over the sink, and go to bed convinced I’m never going to meet Mr. Right. I blame Mom. Oh, and I’ll probably have Lou give me a massage.'” (Page 63 of ARC)

Angelini has a brash style all her own in this modern take on these famous characters, but readers could find the explicit sex scenes and sometimes crass language tough to take if they are looking for the same Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam. However, The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy exhibits the dynamics of modern relationships well, from the frenzied first glimpses of attraction to the obsessive first moments together and more.

Elizabeth and Darcy spar well in the courtroom before they realize their attraction, but attorneys, clients, and readers will cringe at the biting remarks they make to one another in the courtroom following a break from the realities of California.

“‘How did it go?’ he asked anxiously.

‘I’ve got competition,’ Elizabeth replied.

‘Lady Boobs-a-Lot?’ he asked, referring to Caroline.

‘Yep. She’s catty too.’

‘I know you. You can match her bitch-slap for bitch-slap.'” (Page 251 of ARC)

Readers will enjoy this retelling, though they should expect differences in the characters’ personalities from Elizabeth’s greater outspoken nature and stubbornness to Lou Hurst, Elizabeth’s gay friend and confidante. Jane is in the novel with Bingley–both work at the hospital in Meryton–but their love story is more of a sideline and is derailed less by Darcy and more by Jane’s need to defend her sister against Bingley’s sister, Caroline.

Overall, The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy by Sara Angelini could have been its own stand-alone chicklit novel without the references to Pride & Prejudice, but the modern spin Angelini gives to the characters and the plot makes the novel a quick, fun read. A great way to spend a lazy afternoon.

Thanks to Sourcebooks for providing the advanced readers copy of The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy. Stay tuned for a guest post from Sara Angelini on Sept. 28, 2009 with a giveaway.

This is the second book or third item I’ve completed for the Everything Austen Challenge 2009.

Savvy Recap . . .

I just wanted to take a moment to recap some goings on here at Savvy Verse & Wit and at D.C. Literature Examiner.

I started out pledging to read 5 books for the War Through the Generations: WWII Reading Challenge, and I met my goal. However, I think I’ll probably read some more books for the challenge throughout the year, but for now I’m officially saying I’ve finished this challenge.

Check out the books I reviewed for the challenge:

1. Reading by Lightning by Joan Thomas
2. Bloody Good by Georgia Evans
3. T4 by Ann Clare LeZotte
4. Now Silence by Tori Warner Shepard
5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I also recently signed up for the Everything Austen Challenge in which you could mix and match movies and book reviews. I just have to read or watch 6 books or movies through January 2010.

So far, I’ve read one book and watched one movie, check out my reviews:

1. Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange
2. Focus Features’ Pride & Prejudice (2005)

I joined the Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge as well; you might be thinking I’ve lost my mind.

I have to read the entire series, including the new book that just came out. I haven’t fared as well on this challenge, but I will have a review forthcoming for:

1. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Ok, now for D.C. Literature Examiner news, I’ve been busy posting interviews and reviews:

1. Susan Helene Gottfried here and here.
2. Review of Shapeshifter: The Demo Tapes Year 1
3. Kyle Semmel here and here.
4. Review of The Woodstock Story Book
5. Joseph Sohm here, here, and here.

I hope you will take the time to check out some of these great interviews and reviews and leave a comment or two.

Also, I have a great international giveaway for the Rooftops of Tehran going on through August 24, 2009.

Jane Austen Mix-and-Match Mini Challenge

Books and Bards is hosting the Jane Austen Mix-and-Match Mini Challenge for all Everything Austen participants, and there are prizes.

If you haven’t checked it out, you should. Deadline is September 14.

For now, here are my romantic pairs from the list Books and Bards provided.

Come on down, couple #1:

Edmund Bertram and Lydia Bennet

Don’t you just see the possibilities in this match? They are polar opposites; him with his God-like devotion and her with her pleasure-seeking. Imagine how many adventures these two could get into together. He’d attempt to temper her wild ways and she would love to help him open up and have some fun.

And behind door #2, we have:

Caroline Bingley and General Tilney

You may wonder why I selected these two. Caroline’s head is turned by rich, well-connected men, why not a military man with an outrageous fortune for her to spend. However, once she has him, can she whip him into shape and keep him under her thumb? Maybe not this guy, but by the time she realizes it, General Tilney may have tamed her or at least gotten her to submit to him through fear alone.

Couple #3:

Colonel Brandon and Julia Bertram

Colonel Brandon means well and loves to protect young women from themselves, which is why I think Julia Bertram is a perfect match. She’s lingered too long in the shadows behind her sister and Colonel Brandon would be the perfect man to make her center stage.

Couple #4 was a tough one, but I finally settled on these two:

Lady Catherine De Bourgh and Henry Crawford

If for no other reason than I would like to see Lady Catherine engage in a relationship outside her character’s principles. I think Henry Crawford would be some juicy meat for her to sink her teeth into, and just think of all the gossip in society about this pair. Is he after her money; does he love her; is she using him; is she being an old fool? A lot of giggling to be had in society about this one.

My bonus couple:

Mary Bennet and John Dashwood

Mary is plain and always striving to be the best she can be, while John is always struggling against his wife’s wishes to push his half-sisters into obscurity. I think Mary could help John see the error of his ways and be the kind brother he wishes to be, while John would be satisfied to dote on her as much as she would be happy to be the “ideal” wife.

These are my selections, what are yours?

Focus Features Presents Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Focus Features’ Pride & Prejudice stars Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen and was released in 2005. What’s to love about this version of the classic Jane Austen novel is the performances, the score, the cinematography, the screenplay adaptation, and everything.

Keira Knightley plays Elizabeth Bennet and she does a beautiful job expressing the character’s emotions, prejudices, and nuances, and Matthew MacFadyen, who plays Fitzwilliam Darcy, plays off of her so well. The chemistry between the two actors sizzles on the screen, and the tension between the characters is palatable.

My love of piano music is catered to in the score of this movie from the scene with Elizabeth looking out over the countryside on her way to Pemberley with her aunt and uncle to the consistent pianoforte playing by the various characters.

While there are scenes from the book that are not in this movie, the pacing is perfect. Knightley easily portrays Elizabeth’s fire and her love for her sister. MacFadyen’s performance is equally captivating as Mr. Darcy from the touch of Elizabeth’s hand and the clenching and unclenching of his fist to the longing gazes he casts in Elizabeth’s direction.

The supporting cast is brilliant from Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet to Dame Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourg, providing moments of laughter and anger.

***May contain spoilers***

Some of the best scenes are when it rains and Darcy professes his ardent love against his better judgment, the witty repartee between Darcy and Elizabeth at Rosings, the first dance between Darcy and Elizabeth, and the short exchange between Darcy and Bingley when he visits Jane after a long absence. The best scene of course is when Darcy and Elizabeth meet in the field early in the morning after his aunt visits late the previous evening.

Check out this P&P video set to music. Check out the trailer.

Focus Features’ Pride & Prejudice (2005) receives 5 bags of popcorn from me and makes the first movie for the Everything Austen Challenge.

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange

“Her attention was attracted by movement close at hand and she saw the dark shape of a bird–no, a bat–heading towards the window. She closed it quickly, leaving the bat to hover outside. As she looked at it she was seized with a strange feeling. She thought how lonely it must feel, being shut out; being a part and yet not a part of the warmth and light within.” (Page 67 of the ARC)

Amanda Grange’s Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, published by Sourcebooks, catches up with Mr. & Mrs. Darcy right before their nuptials and follows them along their wedding tour. As plans change and the Darcys spontaneously tour Europe, mingling with Mr. Darcy’s friends, Elizabeth begins to feel that there is a deep dark secret her husband is hiding from her.

Throughout the novel, Grange adheres to Jane Austen’s characters and the time in which those characters live. Readers of Pride & Prejudice may have wondered why Fitzwilliam Darcy was so reserved, but Grange provides a paranormal alternative to mere position and wealth considerations in the 19th century. The lush landscape and dramatic plot will suck readers into Mr. Darcy, Vampyre as they travel with Elizabeth and Darcy through Paris, Italy, and the Alps.

“She needed no urging. The sumptuous atmosphere was starting to oppress her and the strangely sinuous people were unsettling. She was relieved to get outside and breathe the fresh air.

Night hung over the city like a dark mantle, pierced with the light of flambeaux and, up above, there seemed to be a thousand stars.” (Page 47 of ARC)

Elizabeth is captivated by her foreign surroundings, but eventually she begins to feel weary of her new acquaintances and the tension in her marriage. Readers will grow anxious and paranoid just as Elizabeth does. From bandits and wolves in the woods outside a secluded castle to the reappearance of Lady Catherine de Bourgh and her ties to Darcy’s secret, Grange weaves a twisted narrative that leaves Elizabeth, Darcy, and readers on the edge of their seats.

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre is a paranormal continuation of Austen’s Pride & Prejudice that is executed successfully. Even though the title does the novel a disservice by telling readers Darcy is a vampire, Grange is a master of this time period and her imagination shines through in this novel. There are enough descriptive clues and dialogue in Grange’s novel that a different title would not have detracted from its paranormal quality. It took me less than 3 days to read this novel in the free time I had at home. Readers will be absorbed by this paranormal world. Mr. Darcy, Vampire is another notch in Grange’s repertoire, and if readers have enjoyed Mr. Darcy’s Diary (click on the link for my review), they will enjoy this paranormal novel.

Feel free to check out the Mr. Darcy, Vampyre blog. And stay tuned for my interview with Amanda Grange and a giveaway on August 7. Check out more of the Mr. Darcy, Vampyre tour on the book’s blog.

This is my first book for the Everything Austen Reading Challenge. What books have you read for the challenge? What movies have you watched?

Also reviewed by:
Cafe of Dreams
Diary of an Eccentric

Everything Austen Reading Challenge

Remember when I said I was only signing up for the Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge because it was about Vampires? Well, I’ve gone and done it. I’m signing up for the Everything Austen Challenge. Why all this torture?

Here’s why:

1. It’s Jane Austen
2. It’s movies and books
3. It’s Jane Austen Sequels
4. It’s Jane Austen-inspired books
5. It’s only 6 in any of these categories over the next 6 months (July 1, 2009 – January 1, 2010)

Isn’t that enough reasons? Ok, here’s another, there will be PRIZES, thanks to Stephanie’s Written Word.

I’m going to commit to the challenge, and opt for movies and books, but I’ll leave you in suspense as to which ones until I review them.

So, what are you waiting for?

Don’t forget my current giveaways:

2-year Blogiversary, here and here.