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Posts Tagged ‘mary lydon simonsen’

the language of the fan

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

“But you have heard enough of our conversations to know the lady can barely tolerate being in the same room with me and that is why she keeps to her sister’s bedchamber.”

“Oh, I thought it was because she cannot tolerate Louisa and Caroline’s company.”

“You have noticed it as well,” Darcy said.  “Miss Elizabeth will not be put down — not by anybody.  She is fearless and will stand her ground.”

(from “Darcy and Elizabeth: The Language of the Fan”)

Mary Lydon Simonsen’s “Darcy and Elizabeth: The Language of the Fan” is a fun short story inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  While staying with her sick sister at Netherfield Park, Elizabeth Bennet falls asleep on a bearskin rug in the library only to awaken to a conversation between Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy.  Elizabeth tries to sneak out unnoticed, but she sticks around when the conversation turns to her sister, Jane, and ultimately turns into a demonstration by Mr. Darcy of “the language of the fan.”

If you can picture Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley waving around black-lace fans trying to determine whether Jane was communicating to Mr. Bingley with her fan, you can understand why I laughed out loud several times while reading this story.

“Because Miss Bennet is rather reserved, we can eliminate some of those signals she would never use,” and he put the handle of the fan to his lips, “which means to kiss me.”  After seeing Bingley’s defeated expression, he added, “It is not that she will never want you to kiss her; it is just that she would never make such a gesture in public.”

But what I liked best about this story was the playful battle of wits between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, who uses her knowledge of the conversation against him.  As their attraction grows, so does Elizabeth’s desire to beat him at this game, building up to a hilarious scene in the parlor at Longbourn.

Simonsen’s Austen-inspired stories never let me down.  Her affection for Austen’s sense of humor and her wonderfully flawed characters shine through in “Darcy and Elizabeth: The Language of the Fan.”  I breezed through this story with a smile on my face, and I can see myself reading it again sometime when I’m in the mood for Elizabeth and Darcy’s playful banter.  From the amusing use of the language of the fan to the humorous gravestone quotes, I could picture Austen reading this story with a glint in her eyes and laughter on her lips.

Book 9 for the P&P Bicentenary Challenge

Disclosure: “Darcy and Elizabeth: The Language of the Fan” is from my personal library.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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a walk in the meadows at rosings park“But, Lizzy, this is the same man who befriended Mr. Bingley, a man whose fortune was made in trade, and he tolerates Mr. Bingley’s unpleasant sisters.  Is this not evidence of a decent man who is open to change?”

“Even if everything is as you say, in all your enthusiasm for this match, you have forgotten one thing.  Mr. Darcy has not met Mama.”

(from A Walk in the Meadows at Rosings Park, pages 70-71)

Mary Lydon Simonsen’s novella, A Walk in the Meadows at Rosings Park, is a Pride and Prejudice retelling that imagines that Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet do not formally meet until Kent, when Elizabeth is visiting her friend, Charlotte Collins, and Darcy is visiting his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh.  Elizabeth remembers the scowling, arrogant Darcy and the rude things he said about her and her neighbors at the Meryton assembly.  But Darcy doesn’t remember her, nor does he know about his friend Charles Bingley’s engagement to Elizabeth’s sister, Jane.

Although it’s plain to see that Darcy and Elizabeth are passionate about one another, Elizabeth can’t understand what Darcy sees in her and doesn’t want to get her feelings hurt.  She isn’t well acquainted with the real Darcy, so he has to work hard to earn her affections.  And even if Elizabeth admits her feelings for Darcy, is it possible he could still love her after meeting her family?

Simonsen has a knack for re-imagining different romantic scenarios for Darcy and Elizabeth, and I thoroughly enjoyed this one.  It was nice to see Charlotte blossom in her marriage to Mr. Collins, and I love when authors give Anne de Bourgh a mischievous streak.  I always end up wishing Simonsen’s novellas were full-length novels, as I get so wrapped up in her versions of Austen’s characters, and this one wraps up their love affair while retelling only one part of the original novel.

Simonsen includes a bonus short story at the end, “Mr. Darcy Steps In,” which is a funny look at what might have happened had Darcy realized that Mr. Collins had his sights set on Elizabeth.  Although he’s confident that Elizabeth would never accept a marriage offer from a ridiculous buffoon like Collins and that she’s not cut out to be a preacher’s wife given her inability to keep her strong opinions to herself, Darcy doesn’t want to think about Elizabeth marrying another man.  Darcy bravely and humorously submits to the attentions of Mr. Collins in order to put his plan into action.

A Walk in the Meadows at Rosings Park and “Mr. Darcy Steps In” are perfect for Austen fans who want a quick and satisfying couple of hours with their favorite characters.  There aren’t any dramatic plots here, and the pride and the prejudice that cause so much tension between Darcy and Elizabeth in the original novel are absent, but there is plenty of passion and romance, making it a pure feel-good read.

Book 7 for the P&P Bicentenary Challenge

Disclosure: A Walk in the Meadows at Rosings Park is from my personal library. I am an Amazon associate.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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for all the wrong reasons“Lizzy, let me not have the grief of seeing you unable to respect your partner in life,” he said, with his ear tuned to Mrs. Bennet in a nearby room giggling with Lydia.

“I can spare you that, Papa, because I do respect Mr. Darcy.  I may not like him all that much, but he is a man worthy of my respect.”

(from All the Wrong Reasons, page 31)

For All the Wrong Reasons is a novella that imagines what might have happened in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice had Pemberley been entailed away from the female line and Mr. Darcy was forced to marry and produce an heir to protect his sister in the event of his demise.  The next in line to inherit Pemberley is Darcy’s cousin, Peter Grayson, with whom he’s had a falling out.  When Darcy learns that Grayson is engaged to a spiteful Caroline Bingley, he is furious and determined to prevent them from gracing the halls of his beloved home.  Darcy and his friend, Charles Bingley, pour over lists of eligible women to find him a suitable match, but the only woman he can imagine marrying is Elizabeth Bennet, the sister of Charles’ wife, Jane.

Elizabeth has no idea Darcy’s opinion of her has changed so dramatically since his biting comments at the Meryton assembly, and even though her father can’t stand the thought that she would sacrifice herself for the financial security of her family, she is willing to entertain Darcy’s marriage offer.  There seems to be more to him than meets the eye — which she learns after befriending his sister and touring his grand estate — and it’s not like there are men lining up to marry a woman with strong opinions and a meager dowry.

Mary Lydon Simonsen never fails to charm me with her romantic retellings of Pride and PrejudiceFor All the Wrong Reasons is a sweet tale of two people oblivious to the feelings of the other and worried about the prospect of happiness in a marriage built on necessity, rather than love.  It certainly is a different take on Austen’s beloved couple, given that their ability and desire to marry for love has been stripped away, which was the unfortunate reality for many people in Austen’s time.  Even though I know Darcy and Elizabeth are always going to misunderstand and misinterpret the actions of the other, their anguish still touched me.

For All the Wrong Reasons is an enjoyable novella, but because it is so short and only retells a part of the original novel, it may leave some readers wanting more.  I wish Simonsen had actually shown Grayson interact with Darcy, rather than paint his portrait through Darcy’s thoughts and conversations with others, to really give a sense of urgency to Darcy’s need to marry.  I also had a hard time believing that Elizabeth would consent to marry a man she didn’t love for the sake of her family, given that she turns down both Darcy and Mr. Collins in the original novel for that very reason (among others).  Even so, I thought it was an interesting premise, and readers looking to spend a few hours with their favorite Austen characters won’t be disappointed.

Book 6 for the P&P Bicentenary Challenge

Disclosure: For All the Wrong Reasons is from my personal library. I am an Amazon associate.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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“But don’t you see, Lizzy, if you shut yourself away, the Germans have claimed another victory, and it is a series of small victories that in the end wins wars.”

(from Darcy Goes to War, page 94)

Darcy Goes to War combines two of my biggest reading interests, World War II and Jane Austen.  In this retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in 1944, Fitzwilliam Darcy is a bomber pilot, and Elizabeth Bennet transports supplies as a lorry driver.  Mary Lydon Simonsen retains the basic plot points of Austen’s original, but she moves things along at a faster pace.

Darcy doesn’t make a good first impression when Elizabeth first sees him in a pub drinking his sorrows away, but with World War II in high gear, he has even more obstacles to overcome in building a relationship with her.  Having witnessed the horrors of war firsthand and having comforted her sister, Jane, after the death of her first love in battle, Elizabeth wants nothing to do with romance until the war is over.  However, she finds it hard to resist Darcy’s charms once she gets to know him, and a heart-to-heart talk with her father, a veteran of the World War I trenches, makes her realize that she must carry on despite the war.

Although Mr. Wickham, Mr. Collins, Caroline Bingley, and Lady Catherine are mostly or completely absent from the novel, the war is the big tension-builder here.  Simonsen does a great job bringing wartime England to life through the war work performed by the Bennet sisters, the bombing raids flown by Darcy and Bingley, and the destruction caused by Hitler’s V2 rockets.  She introduces some intriguing American soldiers, even emphasizing how many girls found themselves pregnant during the war.  Not a single aspect of life, not even dating, was left unaffected by the war.

Unlike other Austen-inspired novels, Darcy Goes to War is different in that Darcy’s parents are alive, eliminating Lady Catherine’s influence.  However, this doesn’t mean Darcy gets off easy, and his troubled relationship with his parents plays out in his personality and in his relationship with Elizabeth.  Meanwhile, Simonsen takes the love story up a notch by giving Darcy and Elizabeth a spiritual connection that gets them through some difficult times.  Some might say it is a bit over the top, but I think it works in the context of war.

Darcy Goes to War was a pleasant read, especially for a novel with World War II at its core.  I love how Simonsen takes Austen’s characters and makes them her own and how she uses the romance to keep things light even when the book heads toward darker territory.  Darcy Goes to War is a must for fans of the Austenesque, underscoring the power of love to survive even the darkest days of war.

Disclosure: I received Darcy Goes to War from the author for review. I am an Amazon associate.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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“Mrs. Darcy, I am your housekeeper, Mrs. Reynolds, and this is your lady’s maid, Ellie Avery.”

“Mrs. Darcy!  Ha!  I wish,” Beth said, trying to sit up, but found that she was bound as tightly as an Egyptian mummy in layers of sheets.  After extricating herself from the sheets and comforter, she asked if this was some sort of gag.  “Did Teresa and Maria put you up to this?  Is this their way of teasing me for talking about Pride and Prejudice and Mr. Darcy so much?”  After hearing her words spoken aloud, she noticed her speech was different.  “Why am I speaking with a British accent?”

(from Becoming Elizabeth Darcy, pages 8-9)

After falling into a swine flu-related coma, Beth Hannigan, a licensed massage therapist from New Jersey, wakes up in Regency England in the body of Elizabeth Bennet Darcy.  After freaking out about the lack of flush toilets and a doctor wanting to bleed her, she figures it’s best to just pretend to be Mrs. Darcy.  Beth is a modern girl, and hygiene and food preparation during that era aren’t up to her standards, so even though Beth looks like Mrs. Darcy, she certainly doesn’t act like her.  Yet she is every bit as spirited and strong as Elizabeth Darcy.

Beth can’t understand why or how she has traveled to Pemberley, but she soon realizes that her favorite literary couple is in trouble.  She is determined to repair the cracks in Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship, even though she has no idea where Elizabeth is or if she will ever come back.  As the days pass, she can’t help but wonder if she’ll ever return to New Jersey and her family.

Mary Lydon Simonsen is one of my favorite authors of Jane Austen-inspired fiction, so when I learned she’d published a Pride and Prejudice time-travel novel, I couldn’t wait to read it.  Becoming Elizabeth Darcy was the perfect lakeside-reading follow up to Code Name Verity.  There was so much to like about this novel, especially the character of Beth.  I think it says a lot that Simonsen made me like Beth so much and enjoy her interactions with Darcy to the point that I almost — but not quite — forgot that Elizabeth Darcy was missing from the story.  And I especially liked how Darcy and Elizabeth’s marriage seemed so real; rather than giving them a nothing-but-lovey-dovey-happily-ever-after, they have experienced sorrow, and it’s taken a toll.

I only wish that Elizabeth would have had a bigger role in the story, other than being talked about by the other characters, and I would have loved to have seen her inner turmoil alongside Beth’s.  I also felt the ending with regard to Beth was a bit rushed compared to the rest of the story, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment at all.

Becoming Elizabeth Darcy is a fun book, especially if you’ve ever thought about living in your favorite novel.  Darcy and Elizabeth’s suffering adds a layer of seriousness to the story, but Simonsen really lightens the mood with Beth, her crusade to sanitize Pemberley, and all the anachronisms that can be expected when one travels from 2010 to 1826.  Simonsen obviously loves Austen’s characters and knows how to have fun with them.

Disclosure: I purchased my copy of Becoming Elizabeth Darcy. I am an Amazon associate.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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“I suspect she was once a beauty, but now has a somewhat haggard appearance.  It would help if she did something with her hair — some curling about the face.  But on such a short acquaintance, all I can say is she appears to be a woman of sense.  When we spoke in the library, I challenged some of her notions about what constitutes good reading material, and she came back at me with somewhat persuasive arguments.  Although I have no intention of reading novels, she did make a case for others doing so.”

“So you liked her?” Sophia asked.

“Yes, I did.  But whether I liked her because she contrasted with her family, whom I did not like, is yet to be known.”

(from Captain Wentworth Home From the Sea, page 29)

In Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Captain Wentworth returns from the war against Napoleon with lots of money and lots of resentment toward Anne Elliot, who broke his heart eight years prior by ending their engagement because her family did not approve.  Mary Lydon Simonsen rewrites the reunion of Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot in Captain Wentworth Home From the Sea.  In this charming novella, Simonsen has Captain Wentworth come home from the war with a head injury that has wiped out most of his memories.

Frederick’s sister, Sophia, and her husband, Admiral Croft, make arrangements to lease Kellynch Hall, the Elliot family estate.  While Anne’s father and older sister head off to Bath to ignore the fact that the family’s financial situation is dire, Anne is left behind to make sure the Crofts and Captain Wentworth get settled in.  When she realizes that Captain Wentworth has no memory of her or their broken engagement, she puts off a visit to her whiny, attention-seeking sister, Mary, and renews her friendship with Frederick.

Frederick’s injury has changed him, basically making it hard for him to hold his tongue, and he says things that are rude yet extremely amusing.  He finds that he likes — but does not love — Anne, and he wonders about the chestnut haired woman in his foggy memory.  As their relationship progresses, Anne knows she needs to tell Frederick the truth, but she can’t stand to lose him again.

Like Persuasion, Captain Wentworth Home From the Sea is a sweet story about second chances.  Simonsen’s Captain Wentworth is brusque at times but a good man.  Her version of Anne Elliot is delightful; she won’t be ordered around by her family, and she won’t let her late mother’s close friend, Lady Russell, stand in the way of her happiness this time.  The novella focuses solely on Captain Wentworth and Anne, and the only supporting characters who really make an appearance are the Crofts and the Harvilles.  While that means there isn’t a whole lot of drama or tension, I am glad Simonsen chose to leave Anne’s annoying family in the background and focus on the reunion of Frederick and Anne.  I loved this book and was sad that it was so short, but that’s the nature of the novella.  I’d love to see this book expanded into a full-length novel!

Disclosure: I won Captain Wentworth Home From the Sea in a giveaway on Austen Authors. I am an Amazon associate.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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“Again, I must disagree.  I think Mr. Darcy is interested in you, and we may have an opportunity for more evidence of it.  If this rain continues, we may have to stay here another night.”

“Do not say that, Jane.  I would rather swim Mill Stream than endure another evening of such company.”

“But when you called Mother, she said that Papa had remained in London with our aunt and uncle because sections of the railway were under water.  Besides, you have endured worse things than a stay at Netherfield Park.”

“Yes, but not since the armistice was signed,” Lizzy said, sighing in resignation.

(from Mr. Darcy’s Angel of Mercy, page 63)

Mary Lydon Simonsen once again puts a creative spin on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  In Mr. Darcy’s Angel of Mercy, set in 1920, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy each are working to put their memories of the horror they witnessed during The Great War behind them.  Elizabeth was a Voluntary Aid Detachment stationed in France when she received word that a childhood friend was in a nearby ward with a fatal stomach wound.  Elizabeth was with him when he died, and the loss hit her hard.  She turned to help another patient and accepted his tenderness and comfort but never learned his name, for she could not bear it if she learned later that he’d died.

Captain Darcy was just one of many soldiers sickened during the influenza pandemic of 1918.  While in a hospital in France, he called out to a nurse for water.  This nurse became an angel to him, and he is haunted by the memory of her kisses and the night they spent cuddled together in his sick bed.

Two years after the war, Darcy’s best friend, Charles Bingley, buys a crumbling estate in Hertfordshire, and the friends receive much attention from the local women.  Heavy casualties during World War I reduced the pool of eligible bachelors, and those with all their limbs and the ability to dance are in high demand.  Charles is immediately captivated by Jane Bennet, but it takes some time for Darcy and Elizabeth to strike up a friendship.  Before their relationship can move forward, Elizabeth must come to terms with the other woman in Darcy’s thoughts, the nurse who offered him comfort that night during the war.

Mr. Darcy’s Angel of Mercy is a sweet novella about a pair of damaged souls who need to work through some issues before they can find happiness.  Darcy and Elizabeth must move beyond their awkward first encounter at the dance that brings Jane and Charles together, and then they must overcome suppressed memories and unrealistic expectations.  Simonsen shows how their wartime experiences give them a better understanding of one another and how even though Elizabeth is close to her sister, there is a distance between them because of what Elizabeth saw and what Jane didn’t.

Simonsen keeps only one aspect of the Pride and Prejudice plot intact: the misunderstandings between Elizabeth and Darcy.  And those misunderstandings make up the only storyline in Mr. Darcy’s Angel of Mercy.  I think Simonsen does a good job putting Darcy, Bingley, and the Bennet sisters in the post-WWI setting and making Elizabeth a modern woman who holds a job and supports women getting the vote.  However, at 121 pages, the book was too short.  It felt like the whole relationship-building was rushed, and there wasn’t a whole lot of description to set the scene.  Because it is so short, the characters aren’t as well developed as they could have been, but this isn’t a big issue because readers likely are familiar with the characters from Austen’s novel.

Still, Mr. Darcy’s Angel of Mercy was a quick and enjoyable read, and I only wish it had been longer.  I love seeing how creative authors can be in placing Austen’s characters in different time periods, and I like how Simonsen is able to take some heavy themes and create a lighthearted book.

Book 2 for the WWI Reading Challenge

Disclosure: I purchased my copy of Mr. Darcy’s Angel of Mercy. I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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