Posts Tagged ‘mary lydon simonsen’

These are all books I read over the summer that have been patiently waiting to be reviewed, so in order to clear them off my side table and feel accomplished, I figured some mini reviews were in order!

the war within these walls

Source: Public library
Rating: ★★★★☆

The War Within These Walls by Aline Sax, illustrated by Caryl Strzelecki

This young adult graphic novel chronicles the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943 from the eyes of a teenager, Misha. When he can no longer stand to watch the disease, starvation, and violence take the lives of the Jews forced to live within the walls of the ghetto, he decides to join the resistance fighters planning to stand and fight the Nazis as they prepare to liquidate the ghetto. The War Within These Walls combines a first-person narrative with dark illustrations to emphasize the desolation and despair in the ghetto. It’s a powerful novel, and although I read it in one sitting, the images still haunt me months later.

emma, mr. knightley and chili-slaw dogs

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Emma, Mr. Knightley and Chili-Slaw Dogs by Mary Jane Hathaway

A fun modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma set in a southern town where people take their garden parties and Civil War reenactments seriously. The novel centers on old friends, Caroline, a journalist who leaves her job to care for her ailing mother, and Brooks, a journalism professor dealing with his own family issues, who must contend with their changing feelings for one another amidst all their disagreements. It was fun to pick out all the allusions to Austen’s novel, and there are recipes, too!

darcy and elizabeth lost in love

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

“Darcy and Elizabeth: Lost in Love” by Mary Lydon Simonsen

A sweet short story based on Pride and Prejudice by one of my favorite authors of Austen-inspired fiction. While touring Pemberley with her aunt and uncle, Elizabeth Bennet gets lost in a garden maze. Darcy is still dealing with Elizabeth’s rejection when he returns to his estate, and both are surprised to encounter one another. “Darcy and Elizabeth: Lost in Love” was a quick read that made me feel sad that it was over but satisfied at the same time.

almost persuaded

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

“Almost Persuaded: Miss Mary King” by P.O. Dixon

This short story inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice focuses on Mary King, the heiress who catches Mr. Wickham’s eye but who luckily manages not to be trapped into a marriage with the scoundrel. Tired of competing with the Bennet sisters, Mary finds herself easily charmed by Wickham. It was nice to get a glimpse of a secondary character that isn’t paid much attention, but I was surprised to see a bit too much of her in a steamy seduction scene. My only complaint is that it ended too soon, and because I’d grown to care for Mary a bit, I wanted to see if she ever got her happy ending.

bits of bobbin lace

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Bits of Bobbin Lace by Maria Grace

This was a free download from the author’s website that features bonus chapters from her Given Good Principles series of novels inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I’m a big fan of the series, so it was fun to revisit the characters again. I especially liked how the bonus chapters featured a wide variety characters, including Mr. Darcy’s parents, Elizabeth’s parents, Charlotte Lucas, and even Mr. Bingley’s sister, Louisa. However, you’ll definitely have to read the series first so you can appreciate these extras.

a tale of two matchmakers

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

“A Tale of Two Matchmakers” by Marilyn Brant

This very short (and free, on the author’s website) story is inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma and involves a matchmaking fairy named Sylvia. Sounds odd, but it was sweet, humorous, and took only a few minutes to read. The story is set at the Box Hill picnic, and Emma tells the fairy about all the “matches” she has made, but Sylvia sees what Emma does not. It’s a fun little scene that is oddly satisfying given its brevity.

the poignant sting

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

“The Poignant Sting: Homage to Jane Austen’s Emma” by Sherwood Smith

This is a short sequel to Emma, which mainly focuses on Emma Knightley’s friendship with Jane Churchill, both of whom are expectant mothers. I really enjoyed it, but it felt like it ended just as it was getting started.

amish knit lit circle

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

“Amish Knit Lit Circle: Pride & Prejudice (Episode 1)” by Karen Anna Vogel

This is a short story about a group of women, some Amish, some not, who get together to knit and discuss books. I liked the writing style, and the characters were intriguing. However, despite being “Episode 1,” it felt like I was missing something. And then it ended pretty abruptly.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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another place in time

Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★★

“After inquiring after her health, I made Miss Elizabeth an offer of marriage.” William chewed on his lower lip. “Things did not turn out as expected.”

“In other words, your proposal was so obnoxious she refused you.”

“I shall admit it was not my best effort, but I take issue with your calling my offer ‘obnoxious.’ I was honoring Miss Elizabeth with my attention, and everything I said was true.”

“Just because something is true, doesn’t mean you have to say it,” Chris said, rolling her eyes.

(from Another Place in Time)

Quick summary: Christine O’Malley, a community-college English professor in Baltimore, thinks the man who interrupts her panel at a Jane Austen conference complaining that his side of the story is absent from Pride and Prejudice is merely an actor, but he insists he is Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley. It seems impossible that William could have traveled to 2012, and not just because he’s supposed to be a fictional character, but after explaining the ins and outs of time travel, Chris finds herself in Regency England, where she is supposed to help William win over Elizabeth Bennet and keep him on the novel’s timeline. But she also must sort out her feelings for William’s cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, given her very modern ideas and the fact that they are running out of time. Another Place in Time is Mary Lydon Simonsen at her best, blurring the boundaries between the past and the present and breathing new life into Austen’s timeless characters.

Why I wanted to read it: I’ve been a fan of Simonsen’s since I read Searching for Pemberley, which grabbed my attention by combining a story about Pride and Prejudice with one involving World War II. She is one of my favorite authors of Austen-inspired fiction because she’s not afraid to take risks, like putting Austen’s characters into completely different time periods or even turning them into werewolves.  I enjoyed her previous time-travel novel, Becoming Elizabeth Darcy, so I knew I had to read this one, too!

What I liked: Another Place in Time isn’t really a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and I liked that even though William and his romantic troubles play a big role, much of the novel is about Chris, how she gets to live out her dream of visiting Jane Austen’s time and hanging out with her favorite literary characters, and how she overcomes a heartbreaking loss.  It was hilarious watching William and his sister, Georgiana, navigate modern-day Baltimore, and I burst out laughing at some of the souvenirs he brought back to Pemberley.  Chris had an advantage over them in that she knew how different the two time periods were, but it was still amusing to watch her pretend to be a Regency lady.  And the awe she felt when meeting Elizabeth…that’s exactly how I would have felt!

What I disliked: Nothing!  I read this book in one sitting, it was that good!

Final thoughts: Mary Lydon Simonsen is one of my go-to authors for unique Austen-inspired fiction, and Another Place in Time is probably my favorite of all of her novels so far.

Disclosure: I received Another Place in Time from the author for review.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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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

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

“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.

© 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

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

“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.

© 2013 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 author
Rating: ★★★★☆

“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.

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

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Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

“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: Becoming Elizabeth Darcy is from my personal library.

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

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