Thursday, December 31, 2009

Who is your favorite Mr. Darcy?

It's time to show your hand. No more sitting on the fence. Who is your favorite Mr. Darcy? I've been going back and forth between Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen, but when it came down to that all important click, I had to go with Matthew.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Great Review for Searching for Pemberley from Diary of an Eccentric

Jane Austen sequels and "re-imaginings" are a guilty pleasure of mine, and I love it when I find one that stands out from the crowd. Also, I am always seeking out books on World War II. Put these together, and you have Mary Lydon Simonsen's Searching for Pemberley.

Simonsen's heroine is Maggie Joyce, an American stationed in London in 1947 with the Army Exchange Service. World War II ended just two years prior, and the British are still feeling the pinch of rations, grieving the death of loved ones killed in the battlefield or by the bombs, and doing their best to get by while standing in the midst of destruction...

Maggie travels with a friend to Derbyshire to visit Montclair, a historic house that once belonged to William Lacey and Elizabeth Garrison Lacey, a couple believed to have inspired Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Maggie, a huge fan of the classic novel, wants to know as much as she can about the home and the Laceys to determine whether they truly are Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Her search to learn more about the Laceys brings her to the doorstep of Jack and Beth Crowell, and an instant bond is formed. Jack and Beth grow to love Maggie and think of her as a daughter, and through frequent visits and correspondence, Maggie reads letters and diary entries and slowly uncovers the history of the Lacey and Garrison families...

Meanwhile, Maggie must contend with a longing to return to her hometown in Pennsylvania and her desire at the same time to stay away. She comes from a coal-mining town with few opportunities, and she's grown to love the life she's leading in England. Besides Jack and Beth, Maggie has feelings for both Rob, an American who served as a navigator on a B-17 bomber during the war and wears the scars to prove it, and Michael, Beth and Jack's son and a pilot in the RAF. Things get a little complicated for Maggie, especially when she learns how deeply the horrors of war have affected Rob.

Searching for Pemberley grabbed me from the first page, and I was so lost in the story that I was reading 50-page chunks on the train and bus and almost missing my stop. Simonsen writes from the first person viewpoint of Maggie, but her use of storytelling is what makes the narrative shine... Simonsen did a great job crafting the story of the Laceys-making them different enough from the Darcys to keep the story fresh-and seamlessly weaving in Jack and Beth's story. I actually was surprised how much the book dealt with the topic of war and its impact, which makes Searching for Pemberley so much more than a re-telling of Pride and Prejudice. Honestly, the Jane Austen aspect of the story is just one part of the puzzle...

I found the entire book interesting, and Simonsen did an admirable job moving between the Regency, Great War, and World War II settings. I never expected to discover a book that successfully merges two of my primary reading interests into one story, so you can bet this gem of a novel will hold a special place on my shelf.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Great Reviews for Searching for Pemberley

Chicks With Books: Searching for Pemberly by Mary Lydon Simonsen is wonderful historical fiction! Filled with romance, history and the mystery behind the real life characters of Pride & Prejudice. Instead of reinventing Pride & Prejudice into a different story, Mary Lydon Simonsen gives us Maggie Joyce, a girl who loves Jane Austen, who happens to be working in London and has "stumbled upon a rumor that Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice was based on the lives of a real couple."

What could be more fun then solving the age old question of who the real Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy are! Just after World War II, a young Maggie Joyce has just graduated from business school and leaves her coal town in Pennsylvania for office work in Washington, DC... When it's time to move on, we see a little spark of adventure in Maggie as she travels to work first in Germany and then finally in London, England, home to her heroine Jane Austen! It's here where the story really begins... With a tour of what is thought to be Pemberly and the rumors of the real life love story that Pride & Prejudice was based on!

Although this is fiction, you just can't stop yourself from wishing that all that Maggie uncovers is the truth behind the actual romance between "Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy". The story is so well thought out that it is quite believable. Through correspondence and long forgotten diaries & letters Maggie finds, we are propelled into the mystery ourselves! The writing is good, the research done to stay true to the times is evident, and of course the characters are likable and believable. A very unique take in what is a large number of Jane Austen inspired books, Searching for Pemberley is a wonderful story. I so enjoyed this book! And if you are a Jane fan, you will enjoy it too! Mary Lydon Simonsen treats us to a leisurely paced story! Like enjoying a steeping cup of tea, you slowly breathe it all in. Maggie doesn't uncover anything earth shattering, but what Mary Lydon Simonsen uncovers is a story that will keep your interest! A wonderful mystery, a nice heap of romance, and this all adds up to a book well worth any Jane Austen fans' time. The story was more than I could have hoped for!

Once Upon a Romance: Searching for Pemberley is the first novel by Mary Lydon Simonsen and it is a great historical debut. This novel is rich in history and romance as American Maggie Joyce meets up with Beth and Jack Crowell, a couple with knowledge and information about the lives of William Lacey and Elizabeth Garrison, a couple whose lives sound very much like those of the lead characters from Pride and Prejudice, Fitwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.

Fascinated by old letters, the love story of the Crowell’s, and more than a little interested in finding romance herself, Maggie learns of how the Crowell’s love has managed to get them through many family deaths from war. She also learns a great deal about the Lacey and Garrison family through diaries and letters and a lot about herself and what is important to her. Her discovery of what is important when it comes to love leads her away from one man and to another, the Crowell’s son Michael, a man destined to be her own Mr. Darcy.

This was an enjoyable book with a lot of history and some romance. I found the story entertaining and thought the author did a great job of incorporating the main characters from Pride and Prejudice into this book. I feel that the book would have been a little bit better had the relationship between Maggie and Rob been less of a focus, making it more realistic and more believable that Maggie actually loved Michael. 4.75/5.00 Wendy

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Reviews for The Second Date

Reviews for The Second Date:

Jenny Loves to Read - I was particularly pleased with this review b/c Jenny is an Italian-American from South Philly, so to receive her stamp of approval was very gratifying. Jenny Loves to Read is also having a giveaway. So why don't you go over to her blog and have a look. It's one of my favorite blogs.

This book is much more than Sonia having trouble finding a good guy. This book perfectly describes the Italian-American community of first and second generation immigrants. I should know since I am Italian and grew up in such a neighborhood.

My Grandmom had the plastic furniture covers, parties were held at the Knights of Columbus club, and although other ethnicity's were eventually welcomed, it was hoped Italians married Italians. That's just way it was, and it was the same in the Irish neighborhoods too. As the generations pass, these ways of life have changed, and you won't find too many people with kitchens and living rooms in the basements any more. As matter of fact, the feeling of community that is so prevalent in this book, is starting to disappear as well. Times change.

As she did with Searching for Pemberley, Simonsen seamlessly weaves the characters back stories and other fascinating tidbits into the story. Yes, Italian families still have tons of drama and are emotional, but the core value of family is always there. Your family may not approve of your private life, but they will always love you and do anything for you. Most Italians never forget where they came from either, and maybe that's why we still have our festivals and make big pots of gravy and meatballs every Sunday. (Gravy=sauce in my part of town.)

This was a wonderful little story, and the 1980s setting made me laugh at times. Sonia and the rest of the characters in the story are all sweet in their own way. They may even remind you of people you know yourself. Simonsen is quite good at making the reader feel like a part of the story. You tend to forget where you are, or at least I did. Overall this was a fun and engaging read which brought back a lot of memories for me, including flocked wallpaper and crushed velvet furniture. Oh, don't ask. Jen Ritter

Books Like Breathing - I have never really read a book where the image of an Italian-American was positive. From my childhood I have been bombarded with images of the stereotypes of Italian culture. Mafia bosses, goons, murderers, whacking. Not at all what I have grown up with as an Italian-American... The Second Date was completely different. Not only were the people familiar but the behavior, the language, the dialect was all a page from my life. I found myself laughing out loud in many places because it was so familiar. It would be lovely to see a book like this sitting next to Mario Puzo's novels as representations of Italian-American culture. Or better yet, replacing it altogether... The romance was also good. Nick and Sonia were so cute together. But it was the portrayal of Italian-American culture was the shining star in this book for me at least... I was really pleased with this novel. - Grace Lociano

POD Book Reviews and More - Like a good antipasto, The Second Date is colorful, flavorful, and full of tantalizing little nuggets that aren't too filling - an excellent read, in fact, for anyone who grew up Italian-American in the 80's. And if you didn't - well, now you'll know what fun you were missing. - Dianne Salerni

The Book Shelf - The Second Date - Love American Style is a fine blend of blind dates, food, family, friends, and life. Set in the 1980's, it is written in an easy style, has good humor thrown in, contains the characters of overbearing mother, warring aunts, and the close friend. It's a joy to read as we witness Sonia's journey to find true love. The Second Date is a charming book, well-written with sympathetic characters and an all too true story line. There are many shining moments in this book and it is one not to be bypassed in modern romantic reading. - L Anne Carrington

Bestseller's World - This is a lovely book that spans several decades and gives the reader a vivid idea of what it is like to grow up in an Italian-American family. - Pam Reid

Friday, December 11, 2009

Interview with Jenny Loves to Read and Giveaway of Searching for Pemberley

This was a fun interview because Jenny and I grew up in the same neck of the woods, i.e., North Jersey and South Philly, and have a lot in common. I hope you'll check out her blog. Jenny Loves to Read

Great Review from The Book Tree for Searching for Pemberley

The Book Tree: Maggie Joyce finds herself working in London after World War II... Little did Maggie know that she would stumble upon an adventure that would take her on a search for the identies of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, the couple made famous in Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice. What if the characters in Pride and Prejudice were based on real people but made to appear fictitious?... What if Maggie could discover the real truth?

The book gives a character synopsis so that you can catch yourself up for the story if you are not familiar with the Pride and Prejudice characters. I think Jane Austen followers, as well as those that have never read a word of Jane Austen, will love this book. It delves into a world where every reader can get excited about the possibilities of what might have been. It allows the reader to go on the search with Maggie and figure out the mystery as if they were Maggie. I highly recommend this book!!!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Interview and Giveaway at Austenesque Reviews

Meredith Esparza of Austenesque Reviews is having a giveaway of Searching for Pemberley (today through December 13). There is also a fascinating interview with the author of the novel (aka, me). I hope you will visit Meredith's blog because she has a lot of information on her site about everything you ever wanted to now about Austen-related books, products, etc.

Winter Guide to Jane Austen Sequels

Sourcebooks, the largest publisher of Austen-related fiction, has put together a winter guide of new releases. You will be able to download the first chapter to see if that particular book is your cup of tea. Searching for Pemberley is among those listed. I hope you will have a look. Jane Austen Sequels

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cuckleburr Times Blog Post and Giveaway

If you've been wondering how to weave historical research into your storyline, you can read my blog post at
Cuckleburr Times. Another reason to mosey on over there is Cuckleburr is giving away two copies of Searching for Pemberley, and if you have been curious as to what I look like, there is an awful picture of me as well. The sad thing is that this is the best picture I could come up with. My hair looks like a football helmet.

Interview and Review of Searching for Pemberley on Savvy Verse and Wit

I was interviewed by Serena of Savvy Wit and Verse for her blog. She also has a review of Searching for Pemberley and a giveaway of my novel. If you would like to check it out, click Savvy Verse and Wit.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Viewing the Masters in the Regency Era

At the time Jane Austen had Elizabeth Bennet visiting Pemberley, the Darcy estate, there were no public art museums in Great Britain. Those wishing to view paintings and sculptures of the Masters would visit England's great estates as well as the extensive parkland surrounding their magnificent manor houses. Middle-class travelers could visit Blenheim, the ancestral seat of the Churchills, or Chatsworth, one of several homes of the Dukes of Devonshire, among many others. The first National Gallery in England would not open until 1824, seven years after Austen's death, at 100 Pall Mall, in the former townhouse of John Julius Angerstein, a Russian emigre, banker, and art collector, who had died the previous year. It was small, hot, crowded, and a national embarrassment when compared to the Louvre in Paris, but it was a start.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Interview on Fresh Fiction

I have been on a blog tour since November 18, and it has been so much fun. Today, I was interviewed for where I was asked about my writing habits. Here is a part of my response:

"When I begin writing a story, I start with a “brain dump;” that is, I type out a very rough draft of a chapter. Once I have that down, I want my mind to be empty of all other thoughts, so I go for a long walk or I engage in some mindless task, such as sweeping the patio or pruning my shrubs. But when I really need to concentrate on a scene, my favorite thing to do is to get out my Shark steamer and clean my tile floor. Although my husband has gotten used to me talking to myself while I clean the floors, he’s still puzzled why I find it necessary to speak with a British accent. But it does make a difference. If I’m writing about a character from Britain’s upper classes, I talk in a posh accent. If I’m writing dialog for a servant, I affect a lower class accent (my thanks to Masterpiece Theater for producing Upstairs Downstairs, which has both)..." For the complete interview, please visit Fresh Fiction. This is a terrific site.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Great Review for Searching for Pemberley from The Long and Short of It

An amazingly unique and engrossing tale of three love stories that spans two wars, two continents, and three couples. Searching for Pemberley begins with an American woman searching for the roots of her favorite novel and discovers so much more along the way. An historic and imaginative romance for all times.

On a whim, Maggie Joyce travels with a friend to see Montclair, an old manor house outside of London in post World War II England. Little did she know she’d stumble upon the inspiration for Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice. Intrigued, she decides to investigate more and winds up in the middle of two love stories she never imagined...

Having never read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I was worried that I would be lost at best and bored at worst. However, Ms. Simonsen not only weaves a beautiful love story but also very craftily explains the ins and outs of Jane Austen’s novel so well that even someone who hasn’t read it will understand and enjoy the novel. Searching for Pemberley is without a doubt a must read for any fan of Pride and Prejudice or simply a fan of people finding one another, beating the odds, and falling in love. For the full review, please visit: The Long and Short of It