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I’m thrilled to welcome Mary Lydon Simonsen back to Diary of an Eccentric today.  Mary is one of my favorite authors of Jane Austen-inspired novels, and her latest release, A Wife for Mr. Darcy (read my review), didn’t disappoint.  In A Wife for Mr. Darcy, a variation of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Darcy and Elizabeth are attracted to one another right away, but Darcy’s courtship of Sir John Montford’s daughter jeopardize their happiness.  It’s a unique take on Pride and Prejudice, and a book I found difficult to put down.  I’d like to thank Mary for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my many questions about all-things-Austen.

With so many variations of Austen’s novels available today, why should readers choose yours?

Why should readers choose A Wife for Mr. Darcy? I’ll give you an analogy. It is like someone who is trying to decide what to have for lunch. Sometimes a nice salad will do, but other times, you want the whole enchilada, with rice and beans and sour cream and guacamole, a big, heavy, mother of a meal. My Pride and Prejudice re-imaginings are on the light side. I try to tell a story using a lot of humor. After reading A Wife for Mr. Darcy, I hope you will have a smile on your face. You will not be reaching for the Kleenex box.

You’ve written P&P variations set during WWI and WWII. Do you plan to take Elizabeth and Darcy elsewhere outside Regency England?

Yes. In a book I will be self-publishing in August, Darcy on the Hudson, I have Darcy, Georgiana, and Charles Bingley traveling to Tarrytown, north of New York City, where Darcy meets American, Elizabeth Bennet. Although Americans and the English have a lot in common, there are enough differences to add some spice to the stew, and America and England are about to go to war again.

P&P seems to be a reader favorite, but for those of us who enjoy all of Austen’s novels, what do you think readers can do to convince publishers to release more retellings of Austen’s other novels?

To start with, Jane Austen fans could buy my book, Anne Elliot, A New Beginning, a parody of Persuasion that you were good enough to review. I also have a short story, Elinor and Edward’s Plans for Lucy Steele, a parody of Sense and Sensibility, on Kindle and Nook. Seriously, with publishers, the numbers do the talking. Although my editor liked Anne Elliot, she told me she couldn’t sell it. However, there is hope. Because it is so easy to self-publish on Kindle and Nook, I think you will see more books inspired by novels other than P&P coming out. For instance, I will have a novella out this fall, Captain Wentworth, A Random Harvest (working title and another Persuasion re-imagining). Did I mention, I’m looking for reviewers?

Here’s a debate I continually have with myself: Captain Wentworth or Mr. Darcy? What side do you take?

I love Mr. Darcy. He’s got it all, but the thing I like most about him is that throughout the story he is evolving. I like a man capable of change. Having said that, I have to go with Frederick Wentworth. I admire the fact that he is a self-made man and that he has a job, which is important to me. Also, he loved Anne Elliot for eight years! That’s a lot to ask of any lover. Finally, his love makes Anne beautiful because she is glowing on the inside. Sigh!

Do you plan to write more outside the Austen genre?

I would love to write a mystery. I started one: a pre-World War II espionage thriller, but it was so much harder than I thought. For example, I would actually have to write an outline. But you’ll be one of the first to know if I ever complete the manuscript.

You’ve been a guest on Diary of an Eccentric a few times now. Can you tell me and my readers something unique about yourself that we haven’t read anywhere else?

I took an algebra class when I was fifty years old. I have been math phobic my whole life, and I decided to see if I could do it. I got an A in the class, but I have to tell you, by the time I finished that class, my brain hurt!

If you had just a few minutes to speak to Jane Austen in person, what would you say to her?

How did you do it? You wrote with ink and a quill pen! How did you not go crazy squeezing your corrections in—writing in the margins and between the lines? You really have to admire Jane Austen’s work ethic because the very process was so difficult, and, yet, she did it brilliantly! My hat’s off to Miss Austen and all those other quill pen wielders.

Thank you for having me. It is always a pleasure visiting with you.

Thanks, Mary!  I am very, very excited about your upcoming Captain Wentworth novella.  And P&P in New York?  I can’t wait!

Sourcebooks is offering a copy of A Wife for Mr. Darcy to one lucky reader!  To enter, please leave a comment with your e-mail address and tell me what you would say to Jane Austen if you had a chance to meet her.  Because the publisher is shipping the book, this giveaway is open to readers with addresses in the U.S. and Canada, and it will end at 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2011.

**Please note that this giveaway is now closed**

Disclosure: I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Review copy from Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★★☆

“Do not look at me like that, Jane.  I already have a plan.  I shall ask Mr. Bingley to introduce me to some of his wealthy friends, but from a less lofty position in society than Mr. Darcy.  However, if I do not find a husband, I shall live in an attic room at Netherfield and become the governess to your many children.”

Jane took her sister’s hand in hers and smiled.  “Lizzy, I would never make you live in the attic, and you have my permission to teach the children how to play the pianoforte but, please, no French.  Your accent is worse than mine.” 

(from A Wife for Mr. Darcy, page 51 in the ARC; finished version may be different)

It amazes me that I can read so many different variations of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice without getting bored, and just when I think all the possibilities must have been exhausted, another one is released and I’m hit with a breath of fresh air.  A Wife for Mr. Darcy is just what I’m looking for when it comes to the Austenesque — a unique twist on one of my favorite books, with humorous dialogue and entertaining characters.  A novel where readers still recognize Austen’s characters, and one that respects the original even while taking the romance up a notch.

A Wife for Mr. Darcy keeps the basics of Pride and Prejudice in place, although some of the pride and some of the prejudice are erased in the very first chapter, when Mr. Darcy calls on Elizabeth Bennet at Longbourn to apologize for the rude comment he made about her at the Meryton Assembly.  Right away, he is captivated by her good looks and her wit, and readers don’t have to suffer through chapter upon chapter with Elizabeth insisting that she hates the very sight of him.  But with their attraction evident from the beginning, and Mr. Darcy not standing in the way of Mr. Bingley’s proposal to Elizabeth’s sister, Jane, readers might wonder how Mary Lydon Simonsen builds tension and puts an obstacle in the middle of the path to a happy ending.

Well, even if Bingley can marry whomever he chooses, a Darcy cannot, and Darcy needs to find a wife and have a son because of the entail on the family estate, Pemberley.  Unfortunately for Darcy and Elizabeth, Darcy has already shown interest in a Miss Letitia Montford back in London, and everyone is expecting the two to be married.  Of course, Darcy must do the right thing, even if it means marrying out of obligation instead of love.

Meanwhile, Simonsen introduces a few new characters to liven things up, including Bingley’s sister, Mrs. Crenshaw, and her obnoxious children and Lord Antony Fitzwilliam, Darcy’s cousin and a philanderer known for charming the married women of high society into bed.  Lord Fitzwilliam’s interactions with Elizabeth’s aunt, Mrs. Gardiner, are hilarious, as are the moments when his brother, Colonel Fitzwilliam, shamelessly flirts with Elizabeth when Darcy cannot.  Simonsen gives both Colonel Fitzwilliam and Darcy’s sister, Georgiana, bigger roles in her novel, and I especially love her portrayal of Georgiana as strong and anything but shy.

A Wife for Mr. Darcy was so engrossing that I truly feared for the happiness of Darcy and Elizabeth, and I was so wrapped up in the whole mess with Miss Montford that I didn’t even miss all the chaos associated with Lady Catherine, who did not make an appearance.  Simonsen does a wonderful job making Austen’s characters her own, and the addition of her original characters make for a richer read.  I can’t wait to see where she takes the Darcys, the Bingleys, and the Bennets next.

Check out my reviews of other books by Mary Lydon Simonsen:

Searching for Pemberley
Anne Elliot, A New Beginning
The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy

Disclosure: I received A Wife for Mr. Darcy from Sourcebooks for review.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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