Mailbox Monday #271

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has gone through a few incarnations from a permanent home with Marcia to a tour of other blogs.

Now, it has its own permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

These are some Kindle books I downloaded that I keep forgetting to add:

1. Jane Austen and Food by Maggie Lane

What was the significance of the pyramid of fruit which confronted Elizabeth Bennet at Pemberley? Or of the cold beef eaten by Willoughby on his journey of repentance to see Marianne?

Why is it so appropriate that the scene of Emma’s disgrace should be a picnic, and how do the different styles of housekeeping in Mansfield Park relate to the social issues of the day?

While Jane Austen does not luxuriate in cataloguing meals in the way of Victorian novelists, food in fact plays a vital part in her novels.

2.  Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen by Sally Smith O’Rourke

Was Mr. Darcy real? Is time travel really possible? For pragmatic Manhattan artist Eliza Knight the answer to both questions is absolutely, Yes! And Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley Farms, Virginia is the reason why!

His tale of love and romance in Regency England leaves Eliza in no doubt that Fitz Darcy is the embodiment of Jane Austen’s legendary hero. And she’s falling in love with him. But can the man who loved the inimitable Jane Austen ever love average, ordinary Eliza Knight?


3. Darcy Goes to War by Mary Lydon Simonsen

Spring 1944 – Britain is now in its fourth year of war. In order to defeat Adolph Hitler and his Nazis, everyone in the country must do his or her bit. While a young Elizabeth Bennet makes her contribution by driving a lorry, Fitzwilliam Darcy flies Lancaster bombers over Germany. Because of the war, both are wary of falling in love, but when the two meet near an airbase in Hertfordshire, all bets are off.

Set against the background of World War II, in Darcy Goes to War, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy battle something more than class differences. The greatest evil of the 20th Century is trying to bring Britain to its knees. In order to be together, they must survive the war.

4. A Pemberley Medley by Abigail Reynolds

It’s the best of all worlds in this collection of five short Pride & Prejudice variations by bestselling writer Abigail Reynolds. Can Mr. Darcy win Elizabeth Bennet’s heart… or are they doomed to misunderstand one another forever? Can Mr. Darcy stand by and watch while Elizabeth loses everything she holds precious… including him?

Contents include “Such Differing Reports”, “A Succession of Rain”, “Reason’s Rule” (an excerpt from The Rule of Reason), “The Most Natural Thing”, and “Intermezzo”.


5. Darcy on the Hudson by Mary Lydon Simonsen

When Fitzwilliam Darcy, Georgiana Darcy, and Charles Bingley set sail from England to New York, each travels with a different purpose in mind. Georgiana wants to put a particularly jarring incident involving a family friend behind her, and Charles wishes to visit his uncle in an exciting new land. For Darcy, it is an opportunity to explore the possibilities of new sources of wealth in the expanding United States, but once Darcy meets American Elizabeth Bennet, it becomes the beginning of a love story. But will cultural differences and a possible second war with England keep them apart?

6. A Killing in Kensington by Mary Lydon Simonsen

Detective Sergeant Patrick Shea of London’s Metropolitan Police and his new partner, Detective Chief Inspector Tommy Boyle, have been handed a high-profile murder case. In the penthouse of Kensington Tower, playboy Clifton Trentmore lay dead with his head bashed in, and the investigation reveals a man who was loathed by both sexes. With too few clues and too many suspects, Shea and Boyle must determine who hated Trentmore enough to kill him. But as Patrick digs deeper, he finds his suspects have secrets of their own.

A Killing in Kensington is the second in the Patrick Shea mystery series.

7. Becoming Elizabeth Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen

In 2011, American Elizabeth Hannigan, suffering from the flu, falls into a coma and wakes up in the bed and body of Elizabeth Bennet Darcy. Beth soon realizes that the only way back to her life in the 21st Century is through the Master of Pemberley, Jane Austen’s Fitzwilliam Darcy. But first she must uncover the dark secret that brought her to Pemberley in 1826 in the first place.

Becoming Elizabeth Darcy is a story of love, loyalty, and loss, where a modern woman is called upon to resolve the problems of Jane Austen’s most beloved couple.

8. Georgiana Darcy’s Diary by Anna Elliott

The year is 1814, and it’s springtime at Pemberley. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have married. But now a new romance is in the air, along with high fashion, elegant manners, scandal, deception, and the wonderful hope of a true and lasting love.

Shy Georgiana Darcy has been content to remain unmarried, living with her brother and his new bride. But Elizabeth and Darcy’s fairy-tale love reminds Georgiana daily that she has found no true love of her own. And perhaps never will, for she is convinced the one man she secretly cares for will never love her in return. Georgiana’s domineering aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, has determined that Georgiana shall marry, and has a list of eligible bachelors in mind. But which of the suitors are sincere, and which are merely interested in Georgiana’s fortune? Georgiana must learn to trust her heart and rely on her courage, for she also faces the return of the man who could ruin her reputation and spoil a happy ending, just when it finally lies within her grasp.

9.  Drawn by Marie Lamba

She’s the artist that finds him in her drawings. He’s the medieval ghost that conquers her heart. And their time is running out.
Michelle De Freccio moves to England seeking a normal life, but someone starts appearing in her sketches. Then he grabs her at the castle, his pale green eyes full of longing. She’s immediately drawn to him, but is Christopher Newman real? She’s either losing it, or channeling a hot ghost from the 1400’s. History calls him a murderer. Her heart tells her other truths. Now Michelle faces endless dangers…and a timeless love.
10.  Ride for Rights by Tara Chevrestt

In the summer of 1916 women do not have the right to vote, let alone be motorcycle dispatch riders. Two sisters, Angeline and Adelaide Hanson are determined to prove to the world that not only are women capable of riding motorbikes, but they can ride motorbikes across the United States. Alone.From a dance hall in Chicago to a jail cell in Dodge City, love and trouble both follow Angeline and Adelaide on the dirt roads across the United States. The sisters shout their triumph from Pike’s Peak only to end up lost in the Salt Lake desert.

Will they make it to their goal of Los Angeles or will too many mishaps prevent them from reaching their destination and thus, hinder their desire to prove that women can do it?

11. All Is Bright by Sarah Pekkanen

Thirty-year-old Elise Andrews couldn’t bring herself to marry Griffin, her childhood friend turned sweetheart, so she let him walk away. Eight months after their breakup, she arrives in her hometown of Chicago on Christmas Eve and hears a voice from the past calling her name in the grocery store. It’s Griffin’s mother, Janice, who invites Elise over for a neighborhood gathering of eggnog and carols.

Walking into Janice’s house sends Elise tumbling headlong into memories of her relationship with Griffin—and with Janice, who exudes the kind of warmth Elise ached for after her own mom passed away when she was six. But Griffin has moved on, and suddenly Elise doubts her decision to give him up and lose her chance at being folded into his wonderful family. Confused and reeling, she goes in search of an answer to a universal question: How do we say good-bye to people we’ve loved without losing everything they’ve meant to us?

12. Love, Accidentally by Sarah Pekkanen

Ilsa Brown wasn’t expecting a little, injured dog to lead her to the love of her life. But within months of their first meeting on a street corner in L.A., she and Grif, the dog’s owner, are engaged. Things between them are so blissful that Ilsa is stunned by the tension that erupts during their visit to Chicago to meet his parents, where she discovers that Grif’s old girlfriend, Elise, is still woven into his family. What Ilsa needs to know before she can walk down the aisle is whether Elise is still in Grif’s heart, too.

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #208

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is Lori’s Reading Corner.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I receive:

1.  All That I Am by Anna Funder for a TLC Book Tour later this month.

When Hitler seizes power in 1933, a tight-knit group of friends and lovers suddenly become hunted outlaws overnight. Dora, liberated and fearless; her lover, the great playwright Ernst Toller; Ruth; and Ruth’s journalist husband, Hans find refuge in London. There, using secret contacts deep inside the Nazi regime, they take breathtaking risks to warn the world of Hitler’s plans for war. But England is not the safe haven they think it will be, and a single, chilling act of betrayal will tear them apart.

2.  The House Girl by Tara Conklin for a TLC Book Tour in February.

Two remarkable women, separated by more than a century, whose lives unexpectedly intertwine . . .

2004: Lina Sparrow is an ambitious young lawyer working on a historic class-action lawsuit seeking reparations for the descendants of American slaves.

1852: Josephine is a seventeen-year-old house slave who tends to the mistress of a Virginia tobacco farm—an aspiring artist named Lu Anne Bell.

It is through her father, renowned artist Oscar Sparrow, that Lina discovers a controversy rocking the art world: art historians now suspect that the revered paintings of Lu Anne Bell, an antebellum artist known for her humanizing portraits of the slaves who worked her Virginia tobacco farm, were actually the work of her house slave, Josephine.

3. The Ambassador’s Daughter by Pam Jenoff for review in February.

The world’s leaders have gathered to rebuild from the ashes of the Great War. But for one woman, the City of Light harbors dark secrets and dangerous liaisons, for which many could pay dearly.

Brought to the peace conference by her father, a German diplomat, Margot Rosenthal initially resents being trapped in the congested French capital, where she is still looked upon as the enemy. But as she contemplates returning to Berlin and a life with Stefan, the wounded fiancé she hardly knows anymore, she decides that being in Paris is not so bad after all.

Bored and torn between duty and the desire to be free, Margot strikes up unlikely alliances: with Krysia, an accomplished musician with radical acquaintances and a secret to protect; and with Georg, the handsome, damaged naval officer who gives Margot a job—and also a reason to question everything she thought she knew about where her true loyalties should lie.

Against the backdrop of one of the most significant events of the century, a delicate web of lies obscures the line between the casualties of war and of the heart, making trust a luxury that no one can afford.

4. Blood Gospel: The Order of the Sanguines Series by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell, which I received for review.

An earthquake in Masada, Israel, kills hundreds and reveals a tomb buried in the heart of the mountain. A trio of investigators—Sergeant Jordan Stone, a military forensic expert; Father Rhun Korza, a Vatican priest; and Dr. Erin Granger, a brilliant but disillusioned archaeologist—are sent to explore the macabre discovery, a subterranean temple holding the crucified body of a mummified girl.

But a brutal attack at the site sets the three on the run, thrusting them into a race to recover what was once preserved in the tomb’s sarcophagus: a book rumored to have been written by Christ’s own hand, a tome that is said to hold the secrets to His divinity. The enemy who hounds them is like no other, a force of ancient evil directed by a leader of impossible ambitions and incalculable cunning.

From crumbling tombs to splendorous churches, Erin and her two companions must confront a past that traces back thousands of years, to a time when ungodly beasts hunted the dark spaces of the world, to a moment in history when Christ made a miraculous offer, a pact of salvation for those who were damned for eternity.

5. Cassandra and Jane by Jill Pitkeathley, which I bought at the library sale for 50 cents.

They were beloved sisters and the best of friends. But Jane and Cassandra Austen suffered the same fate as many of the women of their era. Forced to spend their lives dependent on relatives, both financially and emotionally, the sisters spent their time together trading secrets, challenging each other’s opinions, and rehearsing in myriad other ways the domestic dramas that Jane would later bring to fruition in her popular novels. For each sister suffered through painful romantic disappointments—tasting passion, knowing great love, and then losing it—while the other stood witness. Upon Jane’s death, Cassandra deliberately destroyed her personal letters, thereby closing the door to the private life of the renowned novelist . . . until now.

6. The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy, which I purchased at the library sale for 50 cents.

The Secret Lives of People in Love is the first short story collection by award-winning writer Simon Van Booy. These stories, set in Kentucky, New York, Paris, Rome, and Greece, are a perfect synthesis of intensity and atmosphere. Love, loss, human contact, and isolation are Van Booy’s themes. In radiant prose he writes about the difficult choices we make in order to retain our humanity and about the redemptive power of love in a violent world. Included in this updated P.S. edition is the new story “The Mute Ventriloquist.”

7. Eight Silly Monkeys illustrated by Steven Haskamp, which I picked up for the girl in spite of her temper tantrum for 50 cents.

Get set for romping and rhyming fun! Young ones will love counting backwards as they watch eight monkeys disappear one by one with each turn of the page in this delightful tale. Eight Silly Monkeys features full-color illustrations, charming verse, and innovative die-cutting to reveal silly, touchable monkeys on each page. As fun to read as it is to listen to, this enjoyable rhyming adventure is a perfect read for ages 3 and up.

8. A Small Death in Lisbon by Robert Wilson, which I borrowed from the library since I’ve been inspired by this challenge to read more books about/set in Portugal, though I’m not limiting it to historical fiction or fiction — poetry works too.

In A Small Death in Lisbon, the narrative switches back and forth between 1941 and 1999, and Wilson’s wide knowledge of history and keen sense of place make the eras equally vibrant. In 1941 Germany, Klaus Felsen, an industrialist, is approached by the SS high command in a none-too-friendly manner and is “persuaded” to go to Lisbon and oversee the sale–or smuggling–of wolfram (also known as tungsten, used in the manufacture of tanks and airplanes). World War II Portugal is neutral where business is concerned, and too much of the precious metal is being sold to Britain when Germany needs it to insure that Hitler’s blitzkrieg is successful.

Cut to 1999 Lisbon, where the daughter of a prominent lawyer has been found dead on a beach. Ze Coehlo, a liberal police inspector who is a widower with a daughter of his own, must sift through the life of Catarina Oliviera and discover why she was so brutally murdered. Her father is enigmatic, her mother suicidal; her friends were rock musicians and drug addicts.

9. News from Heaven by Jennifer Haigh for a TLC Book Tour in February.

Now, in this collection of interconnected short stories, Jennifer Haigh returns to the vividly imagined world of Bakerton, Pennsylvania, a coal-mining town rocked by decades of painful transition. From its heyday during two world wars through its slow decline, Bakerton is a town that refuses to give up gracefully, binding—sometimes cruelly—succeeding generations to the place that made them. A young woman glimpses a world both strange and familiar when she becomes a live-in maid for a Jewish family in New York City. A long-absent brother makes a sudden and tragic homecoming. A solitary middle-aged woman tastes unexpected love when a young man returns to town. With a revolving cast of characters—many familiar to fans of Baker Towers—these stories explore how our roots, the families and places in which we are raised, shape the people we eventually become.

10. Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh, which I received as part of the tour for the new book.

Bakerton is a community of company houses and church festivals, of union squabbles and firemen’s parades. Its neighborhoods include Little Italy, Swedetown, and Polish Hill. For its tight-knit citizens — and the five children of the Novak family — the 1940s will be a decade of excitement, tragedy, and stunning change. Baker Towers is a family saga and a love story, a hymn to a time and place long gone, to America’s industrial past, and to the men and women we now call the Greatest Generation. It is a feat of imagination from an extraordinary voice in American fiction, a writer of enormous power and skill.

Also, I’ve been remiss in talking about some of the Kindle books I’ve downloaded or gotten for review, and have reviewed one or two already without featuring them in Mailbox Monday.

11. Rules for Virgins by Amy Tan, downloaded for free.

12. Georgiana Darcy’s Diary: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice continued (Pride and Prejudice Chronicles) by Anna Elliot, downloaded for free.

13. Becoming Elizabeth Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen, downloaded for free.

14. Monsters In My Closet by Ruby Urlocker, which I received for review and reviewed, here.

15. A Killing in Kensington (A Patrick Shea Mystery) by Mary Lydon Simonsen, which I downloaded for free.

16. Must Love Sandwiches (The Bartonville Series) by Janel Gradowski, which I got for review from the talented author.

17. Darcy Goes to War by Mary Lydon Simonsen, which I downloaded for free.

What did you receive?

Guest Post: The 200th Anniversary of Sense & Sensibility

Depending on how much you love Jane Austen and her books, you may already know this, but Sense & Sensibility turns 200 on October 30 and was her first published novel.

According to GoodReads:

Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.

While not my favorite of Austen’s work, it’s an accomplishment to have a novel still be well-known and popular among readers almost 200 years after publication. I’m sure many authors would be pleased to have such an accomplishment.

Today, Mary Lydon Simonsen, author of Mr. Darcy’s Bite, will share her thoughts on the 200th anniversary.  Please welcome Mary:

Hi, Serena. Thank you for having me back at Savvy Verse & Wit. It’s always a pleasure.

You asked me to write about the significance of the 200th Anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and my reaction to it and Austen’s novel.

I recently took one of those online quizzes to see which Austen character I most resemble. As it turns out, I am Elinor Dashwood, the main protagonist in Sense and Sensibility. Even though I like Elinor, I have a lot of problems with this novel. I don’t think Edward Ferrars deserves Elinor, and I think Marianne Dashwood and Colonel Brandon are poorly matched. I would like to strangle Lucy Steele and perform surgery on John Willoughby. Although Austen wraps up the story with a happily-ever-after ending for Marianne and Elinor, I don’t think that’s the way it would have played out in real life.

Having said all that, you can still appreciate Austen’s genius with her brilliant prose and delightful wit in this story of a family of four females trying to survive without a strong male presence in their lives. But it is mostly because of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Austen’s novel that it is now front and center (that and Emma Thompson’s 1995 brilliant film adaptation).

But in my opinion, Austen’s masterpiece is Pride and Prejudice. Like Edward Ferrars, Fitzwilliam Darcy is a flawed character, but because of his love for Elizabeth, Darcy evolves, recognizes his shortcomings, and becomes a man worthy of her love. It is because of these two strong characters that most of my stories are re-imaginings of Pride and Prejudice, including Mr. Darcy’s Bite. Although Darcy is a werewolf, it is primarily a love story. Obviously, there are difficulties when a loved one grows fur every four weeks, but our favorite couple is determined to climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every full moon until they find their dream.

I did write a short-story parody of Sense and Sensibility titled Elinor and Edward’s Plans for Lucy Steele in which Elinor doesn’t wait on Edward to make an offer of marriage. Instead, Elinor hops in the driver’s seat and drives the bus (or phaeton) herself. I wanted to shine some comedic light on a story that has a lot of darkness in it.

Every author hopes that with each succeeding work of fiction, they become a better writer. I certainly think that is true of Jane Austen. Although flawed, Sense and Sensibility is still a novel well worth reading. In fact, the Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America is using this novel and Austen’s anniversary as the focus of their meeting in Fort Worth this month. It will be the main topic of conversation among hundreds of Jane Austen admirers now and for decades to come.

Thanks again, Serena, for having me.

Mary, it is always a pleasure to host you.

Mr. Darcy’s Bite by Mary Lydon Simonsen

With Halloween and all of the blog-related events — RIP, All Hallow’s Eve, Frightful Fall Read-a-Thon, and Halloween Hootenanny — I’ve selected a few fun horror/spooky reads for October.

I have not officially joined any of the challenges or read-a-thons just because I never know how much reading I can do these days, but I am hosting Stephen King’s IT read-a-long with Anna in which we discuss the 1,000+ page book once per month through the end of the year.

First spooky read for October is Mary Lydon Simonsen’s Mr. Darcy’s Bite, which I shamelessly admit attracted me with its ominous cover.

Simonsen’s latest Pride & Prejudice incarnation, Mr. Darcy’s Bite, begins after the reunion between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy at Pemberley.  However, not all is pleasant in paradise because Darcy’s behavior has become peculiar, and he visits her at Longbourn for several months, though with long gaps between visits.  Lizzy’s mother keeps pressuring her about when she’s going to get engaged, and Lizzy is becoming concerned that Darcy’s affections for her are not as strong as she had thought.  She has plenty of time to stew on her speculations about his behavior, but just as she is about to call him out on his absences, he invites her back to Pemberley.  This is where everything changes for them and the challenges begin.

“‘You are very bossy.  You order people around with your harsh tone of voice or by pushing them about with your muzzle.  You may be the master of Pemberley, but you will not be the master of me.  I must be free to speak my mind.’

‘When have you not spoken your mind?’ Darcy stepped away from her, and with his hands behind his back, he recited word for word a part of Elizabeth’s refusal of his offer of marriage.”  (page 69 of ARC)

A dark secret is revealed, and Lizzy must determine whether in addition to their class and social differences, this secret changes her feelings for Darcy.  Can she overcome the secrecy, live with keeping secrets from her family and friends as a member of the Darcy family, and the monthly absences of her husband?  Simonsen captures Lizzy and Darcy’s characters so well from their moments of pride to their moments of misunderstanding.  Like her other novels, obstacles are thrown in the path of our love birds, and new characters are introduced, including the conceited Lady Helen Granyard who could rival Austen’s Lady Catherine in pride and social engineering.

Lizzy’s jealousy of Helen’s beauty pales compared to her worries that Helen’s intimate knowledge of the Darcy secret could supplant Darcy’s love for her.  What’s also a nice surprise here is that Georgiana gains strength in social encounters, enabling her to confront Lady Catherine at one point when she normally would have demurred.  Simonsen evolves the characters of not only Darcy and Elizabeth in this paranormal tale, but that of her secondary characters Georgiana and Anne de Bourgh.

If you’re an Austen purist who can let their hair down a bit, Mr. Darcy’s Bite could fit your need for the paranormal this Halloween season without scaring you senseless.  Simonsen’s work is always a delight to read, and Mr. Darcy’s Bite is no exception.

About the Author:

Mary Simonsen has combined her love of history and the novels of Jane Austen in her first novel, which explores universal truths about love and conflict that cross generations and oceans. The author lives in Peoria and Flagstaff, Arizona.

Check out the rest of the stops on Mary’s tour.

Mailbox Monday #136 and Library Loot #6

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  This month our host is A Sea of Books.  Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailboxmeme.  Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

1.  To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell for review in September from Sourcebooks.

2.  Out of Breath by Blair Richmond for review in October.

3.  Mr. Darcy's Undoing by Abigail Reynolds from Sourcebooks for review in October.

4.  Mr. Darcy's Bite by Mary Lydon Simonsen from Sourcebooks for review in October.

5. Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey from Random House for review in the fall.

Library Loot:

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

1.  Now You See Her by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

2.  Sugar in My Bowl by Erica Jong

What did you receive this week?

A Wife for Mr. Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen

A Wife for Mr. Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen continues the slew of Pride & Prejudice spinoffs and continuations coming from Sourcebooks.  In this version, Simonsen explores what may have happened had Mr. Darcy apologized to Elizabeth Bennet after the Meryton Assembly for calling her beauty only tolerable.  Would the connection between them be as strong? Would Lizzy and Darcy cast aside their assumptions and simply enjoy one another’s company?  But what if Darcy also had been seen in the company of another young lady in London and her father had political plans following the match?  All of these questions are explored and more.

Simonsens writing is as close to Austen’s as you can get, but it is modern at the same time, with sexual intimacy talked about, but never shown explicitly.  The wit of Austen is here as well, though with a more modern sensibility.  Readers will enjoy this creative exploration of these characters, the introduction of new characters, like Sir John Montford and his daughter Letitia and Bingley’s older sister and her brood the Crenshaws.  One of the most amusing scenes in the novel is when Jane takes on the task of taming the savagery of the Crenshaw children, who are prepared to survive any apocalypse.

“‘Please.  You must say please, Master Lucius,’ Mrs. Bennet told the more compliant twin.
‘Soldiers don’t say please,’ he answered in a voice revealing just how insecure he was feeling.
‘Are you an officer or an enlisted man?’ Mr. Bennet asked.
‘An officer.’
‘Any officer in His Majesty’s Army would be regarded as a gentleman, and as such, would know the proper manners to use when dining.’
‘Well, then, I am an enlisted man,’ he said, even less sure than when he had been an officer.
‘Enlisted men follow orders,’ and after staring him in the eye, he continued, ‘or they are flogged.'” (page 119 of ARC)

Simonsen showcases Mr. Bennet’s trademark wit and knowledge in this book like no other, and he appears more frequently, which many readers will enjoy.  While certain plot points from the original are modified, there are some that remain the same or are slightly varied from their originals.  However, the scene of Darcy proposing to Lizzy at Rosings is not in this novel, and that particular exchange or the passion of that exchange will be missed by readers looking for the tension it creates.

Tension, on the other hand, is created by the introduction of another woman — though not a woman who he views with love, but merely obligation.  In this way, Simonsen has called attention to societal norms in a way that Austen would have, pointing to their shortfalls and ridiculousness.  Another interesting element of the novel is the inclusion of song lyrics, which will make readers curious as to whether those songs were from the time period or merely created for the occasion.   A Wife for Mr. Darcy is a quick read that allows readers to revisit their favorite characters, see more of Austen’s characters who were more on the sidelines in the original, and be introduced to new and interesting characters.

Guest Post: Confessions of a Pantser by Mary Lydon Simonsen

I’ve reviewed several variations of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, and enjoyed most of them.  Mary Lydon Simonson is one of my go-to authors for Austen spinoffs and continuations.  I’ve reviewed two of her other novels, Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy and Searching for Pemberley.

Today, I’ve got a special guest post from Mary about her writing routines and habits, or what not to do when writing a novel, as Mary notes.

Confessions of a Pantser

First, I would like to thank you for having me on your blog. It’s always a pleasure, Serena. You asked me to write about my writing routine and habits. Before I begin, I should warn any potential authors that this is probably a post about what not to do when writing a novel.

Unlike many authors, I do not write an outline, and that is because I am a pantser, i.e., someone who writes by the seat of their pants. But… but… no outline, you cry! What about all of those creative writing seminars that state it is a cardinal rule that an author must write an outline? They do have their place; they are just not for me. I’m the person who got in the car in Flagstaff, Arizona for the purpose of going out for breakfast and ended up 175 miles away in Oatman, Arizona near the California border looking at wild donkeys. (This actually happened.) Like a Sunday drive, I just let the story take me wherever it wants to go.

One of the things that works best for me is speaking the dialog out loud. I’ve gotten used to people finding me all alone having a full-blown conversation with myself, usually in a British accent. But when you say things out loud, it is easier to spot your mistakes. It is more obvious that something doesn’t sound right or isn’t nearly as funny as you thought it would be if they are lying quietly in a Word document rather than out there in the atmosphere screaming at you.

Because I have worked out most of the plot bunnies before I sit down to the computer, things really start hopping once I am at my desk. I can easily write three or four chapters in a sitting, that is, if I don’t have any visitors. My visitors happen to be an adorable seven-year old who is missing her two front teeth and her brother, who has no teeth at all, because he’s only six months old. Once I see my daughter’s car pull up in front of the house, I know that my work day has come to an end because my grandchildren have come calling. They will only be little for a short time while, hopefully, I shall be writing stories forever.

On days where I do not hear the patter of little feet, I begin to write as soon as I finish breakfast and go at it until I get bored. I know I’m bored when I click out of my story and start reading the news or some blog (Savvy Verse and Wit for one) or check my sales on Amazon. Considering the number of stories I have written, you might be surprised to learn that this happens a lot. I’m like a dog who sees a squirrel. I’m off and running. But life is a juggling act, and no one wants to watch (or read) a juggler who only has one ball in the air.

Are you methodical about your work habits or are you a pantser? I’d like to hear from you. Thanks again.

Thanks again, Mary, for joining us here. We always enjoy your company. Stay tuned for my review of Mary’s novel, A Wife for Mr. Darcy, tomorrow.

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen

Mary Lydon Simonsen‘s The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy re-imagines Pride & Prejudice in such a way that Darcy and Elizabeth cannot get past their misunderstandings and disagreements without a little help from two matchmakers — Georgiana Darcy and Anne de Bourgh.  Anne takes the reins for much of the book after she learns her cousin Darcy has proposed marriage to Elizabeth at Rosings and failed miserably at gaining her hand and love.

The main plot points of Lizzy’s visit to Pemberley, Lydia’s downfall with Wickham, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s visit to Hertfordshire are all present, but Anne helps convince Lizzy to visit Pemberley and prompts her mother to visit Hertfordshire.  Georgiana is a secondary matchmaker in this novel, but she’s witty and grows into her role as mistress of Pemberley by ensuring her guests are comfortable and do not annoy one another, especially since Caroline Bingley and Elizabeth are in the same room vying for the same man’s affections.

“And, yet, Anne was saying that Mr. Darcy went with his sister to the milliner’s shop.  Lizzy could just picture him, crossing and uncrossing his legs, and drumming his fingers on top of his hat, when he was not pacing the floor.”  (page 56)

Simonsen has sketched a strong Anne and Georgiana, women who are more modern than convention dictates, but who are well aware of society’s expectations for their behavior.  Georgiana is about to come out into society when things go awry in the Bennet family, but she unselfishly tells her brother to right the wrongs and go to his love to ease her pain.  Unlike Austen’s minimal sketch of Georgiana as a beloved sister, Simonsen creates a strong young woman with romantic notions and a penchant for writing.

Not to worry because Jane and Mr. Bingley’s romance is not forgotten, but there is more than one obstacle thrown in their way after Bingley is convinced by Darcy and the Bingley sisters to cease his courtship of Jane.  Enter Mr. Nesbitt, a solicitor with a odd sense of courtship and love.  This subplot is delightful, serves to increase the suspense in the Darcy-Lizzy romance, and is full of twists and turns.

“While Mary was croaking out a lullaby, the youngster had put his hands over his cousin’s mouth and had asked her not to sing.  Everyone in the family now owed a debt of gratitude to a four-year-old boy.”  (page 161)

“‘I am not angry with either of you.  I am, however, a little disconcerted that you embarked on such an elaborate scheme after I told you I already had a plan in place.’

‘Your plan was terrible.  I have saved you weeks of anxiety about Elizabeth.  You must own to it, Will.  My plan was better than yours.”  (page 204)

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen is engaging and funny.  The interactions between Anne and Darcy are often filled with playful jabs between cousin, and the dialogue between Jane and Lizzy are not only sisterly but full of sweet teasing.  Another fun re-imagining of Pride & Prejudice that delves deeper into the secondary characters of Austen’s novel.

If you missed Mary Lydon Simonsen’s guest post and the chance to win one of two copies of The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy, there’s still time to check them out.

About the Author:

Mary Lydon Simonsen’s first book, Searching for Pemberley, was acclaimed by Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and RT Book Reviews. She is well loved and widely followed on all the Jane Austen fanfic sites, with tens of thousands of hits and hundreds of reviews whenever she posts. She lives in Peoria, Arizona where she is working on her next Jane Austen novel. For more information, please visit http://marysimonsenfanfiction.blogspot.com/ and http://www.austenauthors.com/, where she regularly contributes.

Guest Post: Mary Lydon Simonsen on Research and Travel

Welcome to today’s guest post from author Mary Lydon Simonsen, author of The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy. Following the guest post, be sure to check out the giveaway for US/Canada residents.

Let’s give Mary a warm welcome!

Thank you for inviting me to post on your blog.

You have asked me to talk about my research in general and if I have toured England as part of doing my research for The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy.

I have been reading non-fiction books on the Regency and Georgian Eras for probably thirty years. I just had no idea that at the time I was reading them that I was researching future novels. Like most people, I was drawn to the tangibles of that time, especially the gorgeous clothes, hairstyles, literature, architecture, romanticized view of traveling in elegant carriages, etc., but I was also attracted to the intangibles, such as the manners and speech of people who appear in Jane Austen’s books.

Having read so much about the era, I know how constrained the lives of most women were. From the moment of their birth, they were under the control of their fathers or a male guardian, then their husbands, or if they never married, possibly their brothers or another male relation. But Elizabeth Bennet is different. She has spunk, and I like spunk. After all, she turned down an offer of marriage from Mr. Darcy, one of England’s elite and someone who would have made her financially secure for the rest of her life. That took courage.

On behalf of the era’s repressed females, in The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy, I stormed the fortress and liberated two ladies in Miss Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: Anne de Bourgh and Georgiana Darcy. In this story, Anne is no longer the voiceless daughter of Lady Catherine, but a woman who sees how her cousin, Fitzwilliam Darcy, suffers as a result of failing to capture the heart of the woman he loves, and she sets out to change that. On the way, she enlists Georgiana Darcy, who will shortly make her debut in society, and a flower ready to blossom. I wanted to open up Georgiana’s character, and so I wrote about a typical teenager: chatty, nosy, teasing, and curious, but someone who cares deeply about her brother.

As far as travel is concerned, I have been to England twice. During my first visit, I was more interested in the Tudors, and so I visited Hampton Court, the Tower of London, Warwick Castle, etc. On my second visit, I traveled with my two teenage daughters, who were not jumping up and down at the idea of visiting Chawton Cottage, Austen’s last home before moving to Winchester. I did, however, get to Bath and visited all the public rooms, an experience that was very helpful when I wrote Anne Elliot, A New Beginning.  I also drove through Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, and Derbyshire doing drive-by research. Although I did not stop at any Austen locales (except Winchester Cathedral), the countryside left an indelible impression on me and proved invaluable when I started to write Austen re-imaginings.

Thanks Mary for sharing your research and travel experiences with us.

About the Author:

Mary Lydon Simonsen’s first book, Searching for Pemberley, was acclaimed by Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and RT Book Reviews. She is well loved and widely followed on all the Jane Austen fanfic sites, with tens of thousands of hits and hundreds of reviews whenever she posts. She lives in Peoria, Arizona where she is working on her next Jane Austen novel. For more information, please visit http://marysimonsenfanfiction.blogspot.com/ and http://www.austenauthors.com/, where she regularly contributes.

Dear readers, Sourcebooks is offering 2 copies of A Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen for 2 U.S. or Canadian readers.

To Enter:

1.  Leave a comment on this post about one of your favorite travel spots

2.  For a second entry, Tweet, Facebook, etc. the giveaway and leave a link and comment on this post.

Deadline:  January 12, 2011, at 11:59 PM EST

For another chance to win this book, visit Austen Authors.

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. 

Interview With Mary Lydon Simonsen, Author of Searching for Pemberley

Mary Lydon Simonsen’s Searching for Pemberley hit stores earlier this month and takes place shortly after World War II as American Maggie Joyce uncovers the mystery of which English families inspired Jane Austen to write Pride & Prejudice.

Ms. Simonsen was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about her book and her writing.  I hope you’ll enjoy the interview, stay tuned for my review of her book, and think about entering the giveaway.

Please welcome, Mary Lydon Simonsen.

Searching for Pemberley explores how real people could have inspired Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  Is this an idea that you’ve discovered elsewhere or how did you decide to write about this aspect of the novel? 

I don’t know of anyone else who has written about Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy being modeled on real people. But I was intrigued by the idea of a man from England’s upper class marrying the daughter of a gentleman farmer “whose station in life is so decidedly beneath my own.” I was curious about what a real Lizzy and Darcy would have experienced in their courtship and marriage because they had a wide chasm to bridge because of their different places in society.

How much research did you do to create these characters who inspired Jane Austen?  And do you find that any of your characters are inspired by real people that you know or have known? 

I’ve been reading and studying about the Georgian/Regency Era since I first read Pride and Prejudice in my high school English class, and that’s going back decades. When I started to write the story, I already knew a lot about that time period, so there’s about 35 years of research in my novel. As for my inspiration for the characters, I don’t know anyone who is even remotely close to the privileged Fitzwilliam Darcy, but I do know a lot of down-to-earth Lizzy Bennets. My life experience is much closer to Maggie Joyce, my main character, who grew up in a coal mining town in the 1930s. I’m actually a coal miner’s granddaughter. (I hear Loretta Lynn singing in the background.)

Who is your favorite Jane Austen hero and why?

Definitely Elizabeth Bennet because she has spunk, something I definitely didn’t have when I was 21, Lizzy’s age. It took a lot of courage to stand up to Mr. Darcy and to say “no” to an offer of marriage from a man who had it all: looks, wealth, rank, and who was a scion of a prestigious family. Lizzy is her own person, and I’d like to think her independence is part of her attraction.

Most authors using classic characters and stories to spur their own creations fell in love with those characters and stories early on, but wanted something more.  Is this how you felt about Pride and Prejudice?  What motivated you to craft your own tale based upon Jane Austen’s story? 

As a teenager, I was very shy, and because of that, I wanted to be like the self-confident Elizabeth Bennet. If you read Pride and Prejudice, you will see that Mr. Darcy actually has very little dialog, but I took care of that. Over the years, Mr. Darcy and I, as Lizzy Bennet, have had some very interesting conversations, which always ended in his asking me to marry him. Who wouldn’t want to be the wife of Fitzwilliam Darcy? In a recent survey, Australian women voted for Mr. Darcy over Brad Pitt as their dream guy. I’m in full agreement with the results.  

Why choose Jane Austen novels versus other classic authors’ novels. 

I love Jane Austen’s wit, especially in Pride and Prejudice. Once you get into Victorian Era literature, things get a lot more serious, e.g., Jane Eyre and Mary Barton, and I didn’t want that. I write Austen fan fiction for meryton.com, and my stories are light, funny (I hope), low angst, and always have a happy ending.

Do you have any obsessions that you would like to share?

The only obsession I have at the moment, other than chocolate, is writing. Once I started writing fiction, which was only four years ago, I found it to be addictive, and I have to force myself to leave the computer room to do things like dust, run a vacuum, cook dinner. I’m sure I have carpal tunnel syndrome because of all the typing I do.

Which books have you been reading lately, and are there any you would like to recommend? 

May I recommend my own modern novel, The Second Date, Love Italian-American Style? It’s a light-hearted look at love in the Italian-American community of North Jersey. Personally, I thought it was really funny. I recently finished The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell and Murder at Longbourn by Tracy Kiely, both of which I enjoyed. I’m also reading a biography of Andrew Carnegie.

Finally, following Searching for Pemberley, do you have any other projects in the works? Do they deal with other classic literature or do you see yourself flourishing in the Pride and Prejudice market?  

I seem to have found a home at Sourcebooks, the leading publisher of Austen sequels in the country. They have bought the rights to two more novels with tie-ins to Pride and Prejudice. Longbourn to Pemberley (working title) will be out in December 2010, and More Than Tolerable (also a working title) will be out probably a year after that. I’ve also written a parody of Persuasion and a love story where Mr. Darcy is a werewolf for meryton.com

Obviously, I’m a big Austen fan. Thanks again for having me on your blog!

Thanks to you Ms. Simonsen for taking time to answer my questions.  Ok, here’s the giveaway details: 2 copies of Searching for Pemberley for U.S./Canada only.

1.  Leave a comment on this interview about what you found most interesting.
2.  Leave a comment on my review, which appears Dec. 8, for a second entry.
3.  Purchase a Pride & Prejudice spin-off or Jane Austen’s novel through any of the enclosed Amazon Affiliate links and email me (savvyverseandwit AT gmail DOT com) the purchase information for 3 additional entries.
4.  Follow this blog for another entry.

Deadline is Dec. 14, 2009 at 11:59 PM EST.


FTC Disclosure:  Clicking on images or titles will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase required.