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Posts Tagged ‘mary lydon simonsen’

answered-prayers

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

“My brother-in-law is celebrated for his wit and intelligence, and Elizabeth is her father’s daughter. She gives as good as she gets.”

“Yes, I found that out the hard way — through personal experience.”

“Both of you are being overly generous in your praise,” an embarrassed Lizzy answered. “In your statements, there is the impression that being a wit is akin to being wise. However, you can be both witty and wrong.”

(from “Darcy and Elizabeth: Answered Prayers”)

“Darcy and Elizabeth: Answered Prayers” is one of three short stories by Mary Lydon Simonsen inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that re-imagine Darcy and Elizabeth’s meeting at Pemberley following her rejection of his proposal at Hunsford. (Check out my reviews of “Darcy and Elizabeth: Lost in Love” and “Darcy and Elizabeth: Behind Pemberley’s Walls”)

In this story, Darcy arrives at Pemberley after riding through a storm that has sickened his manservant. He learns there are visitors touring Pemberley and hopes they will not be stranded there when the skies open up again. However, when Darcy realizes the visitors are Elizabeth Bennet and the Gardiners, he delays their departure by having his staff give them refreshments. Meanwhile, Elizabeth keeps insisting to her aunt that they should leave, having realized her judgment of Darcy was mistaken since rejecting his proposal.

This was my favorite of the three stories about second chances, mainly because there was more detail about how both Darcy and Elizabeth have changed since Hunsford and more interaction between them. In particular, I enjoyed the scene where Darcy and Elizabeth meet in his study that night to discuss his letter despite the impropriety of them being alone together. Like the other stories, “Darcy and Elizabeth: Answered Prayers” ended on a hopeful note, and my only complaint is that it felt too short. Even so, it was a satisfying read that can be enjoyed in one sitting.

Disclosure: “Darcy and Elizabeth: Answered Prayers” is from my personal library.

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behind-pemberleys-walls

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

From this spot, the Master of Pemberley had a panoramic view of the manor and gardens — a view with the power to heal. And he was in need of a cure from the wounds he had suffered at the hands of Elizabeth Bennet. Not only had Elizabeth refused his proposal of marriage, she had made it clear that she wanted nothing further to do with him. He had hardly anticipated rejection, no less banishment. But the thought of never seeing her again…it was simply too much to bear.

(from “Darcy and Elizabeth: Behind Pemberley’s Walls”)

“Darcy and Elizabeth: Behind Pemberley’s Walls” is one of three short stories by Mary Lydon Simonsen inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that re-imagine Darcy and Elizabeth’s meeting at Pemberley following her rejection of his proposal at Hunsford. I reviewed “Darcy and Elizabeth: Lost in Love” a few years ago, and my review of “Darcy and Elizabeth: Answered Prayers” will be posted tomorrow.

In this story, Darcy is still heartbroken from Elizabeth’s unexpected refusal when he returns to Pemberley on the same day Elizabeth is touring his estate with her aunt and uncle. With the help of his butler, Darcy eavesdrops on Elizabeth as she views the portrait gallery and confides in her aunt Gardiner about what happened between them.

“Darcy and Elizabeth: Behind Pemberley’s Walls” is a sweet story about second chances. I enjoyed the humor as Darcy confides in Jackson and spies on Elizabeth, and Elizabeth and Darcy’s eventual meeting as she is trying to get the Gardiners to quickly leave Pemberley was a cute touch. Simonsen’s stories are great for when you’re in the mood for something short and sweet while drinking a cup of coffee or tea. My only complaint is that it ended too soon, though one could easily imagine the couple achieving their happy ending.

Disclosure: “Darcy and Elizabeth: Behind Pemberley’s Walls” is from my personal library.

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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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