Wednesday, June 30, 2010

This Day in History

1859 – French acrobat Charles Blondin crosses Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Why is it always a French guy? Philippe Petit walked a tightrope between the Twin Towers in 1974.

1905 – Albert Einstein published the article, On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies, in which he introduces special relativity. I have read this article so many times that I have it practically memorized. Look for a review shortly.

1944 - World War II: The Battle of Cherbourg ends with the fall of the strategically valuable port to American forces. This was critically important as the Allies had been relying on two artificial harbors, Mulberry A and B, one of which had been destroyed on June 19 in a major Atlantic storm. In the 10 months following D-Day, the two harbors were used to land over 2.5 million men (including my Uncle John Heslip and Uncle Joe Lydon), 500,000 vehicles, and 4 million tons of supplies.

1972 – The first leap second is added to the UTC time system. A leap second? Just think about that.

1997 – The United Kingdom transfers sovereignty over Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China. As a result, the cost of making cheap men’s suits in the former crown colony skyrockets, necessitating “Casual Fridays” and bringing about the demise of the three-piece suit.

On this day, we said hello to:

1950 – Leonard Whiting, British actor, who starred in Franco Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet. My sister and I went to this movie with one facial tissue between us. Not a good idea. But we went back the next night with a box of Kleenex. It was barely enough.

1974 - Vixxxen - Calumet City, California – She sure does have a lot of xxx’s in her name.

On this day, we said goodbye to:

1993 – George “Spanky” McFarland, American actor (b. 1928), a member of “Our Gang.”

2003 – Buddy Hackett, American comic (b. 1924), and the voice of the seagull in The Little Mermaid. He knew what a dinglehopper was.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Marie Therese, Marie Antoinette's Daughter, Jane Austen's Contemporary

Marie-Therese, Child of Terror: The Fate of Marie Antoinette's DaughterMarie Therese (1778-1851) is the story of the only surviving child of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI of France. Because of their tragic end on the guillotine, the royal couple is a favorite of biographers and historical novelists, and the first third of the book recounts the circumstances that led to their execution, the difference being that, in Marie Therese, we are looking at these events through the eyes of a young girl. The downward spiral that began with the storming of the Bastille and led to the Reign of Terror started when Marie Therese was only 11 years old. While at Versailles, "Madame Royal" was forced to hide from armed mobs screaming for her mother's blood and to step over the butchered bodies of servants.

Three years later, the king, queen, Marie Therese, and her brother, the Dauphin, Louis-Charles, are incarcerated in the Temple Prison in Paris, and the horrors begin: the execution of her parents, the prolonged torture of her little brother who would die of neglect, and her own imprisonment. When she is finally released 3-1/2 years later, she is allowed to join her mother's brother, Emperor Franz II, in Austria. However, "The Orphan of the Tower" is now a young woman of steely resolve and one who recognizes the importance of her role as a representative of the Bourbon dynasty in exile.

In the years following her release from prison, Marie Therese and her husband, the Duc D’Angouleme, lived a peripatetic existence, finally ending up in England, where they watched the events unfolding in France. With Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo, the Bourbon dynasty was again restored. For the next 15 years, France would be Marie Therese's home until, once again, the French wanted to be rid of their king, Charles X.

Marie Therese is an exhaustive, highly detailed account of the life of Madame Royal, the French Revolution, and the complexities of European politics in the early 19th century. In addition to the great events in the lives of the royals, minutiae, such as travel itineraries, meals, the appearances of numerous pretenders to the throne, are recorded. At times, the inclusion of so many mundane details bogs down the book, but for anyone who ever wanted to know what happened to the only surviving child of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, they will have to wonder no longer.

* * *

After exile in Vienna, Marie Therese and her husband moved to Great Britain in 1809 where she settled at Hartwell House, Buckinghamshire. Marie Therese's  father-in-law, the Comte d'Artois, spent most of his time in Edinburgh, where he had been given apartments at Holyrood House.

The long years of exile ended with the Napoleon's abdication  in 1814 and the restoration of Bourbon dynasty. The ascension of  Louis XVIII  to the throne of France took place twenty-one years after the death of his brother, Louis XVI.

Monday, June 28, 2010

I Didn't Know That

One of the joys of research is finding historical nuggets that make you say, "I didn't know that!" And because I am doing a lot of research for a new novel, I thought I would share some of my "I didn't know that" moments. For example (in America), between 1800 and 1855, the number of yards of material need to make a lady's dress increased from 5 to 20, while the yardage required for her underclothes jumped from 7-1/2 to 63. Sixty-three yards of material for underclothes! I understand that the Gone With the Wind type gowns had crinolines and pantaloons and corsets, etc., but 63 yards! Since I don't sew, that seems like an awful lot of material to me. You would be a one-woman fabric store. Perhaps, one of my readers can explain. (Source: The Hudson, by Tom Lewis)

Giveaway and Interview

The Second Date: Love - Italian American Style

Dianne Salerni, a fellow Sourcebooks author and Italian-American, has interviewed me for her blog, In High Spirits, in connection with a giveaway of my novel, The Second Date, Love Italian-American Style. Dianne is the author of We Hear the Dead. If you have an interest in good historical fiction, the paranormal, young adult literature, among other things, you will want to visit her blog. Dianne is one of only a handful of writers who were chosen by Sourcebooks to launch their young adult divsion.

And speaking of giveaways, tomorrow is the last day to enter my giveaway for Anne Elliot, A New Beginning. There are only a few rules, but one of them is that you must include your e-mail address.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Tea With Jane Austen

Irena, at This Miss Loves to Read, has a review of Tea with Jane Austen. It's a slim volume, but it sounds very interesting. This book will go on my "must buy" list and will end up on the top of my floor-to-ceiling "to be read" pile.

Applying to the Housekeeper on Austenprose

If you have been following Laurel Ann's Jane Austen Without Zombies on Austenprose, you know that she has had excellent posts, including one titled "Applying to the Housekeeper," which refers to those tourists seeking permission to tour some of England's great manor houses. In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy and Elizabeth meet for the first time after the dust-up at Hunsford Lodge because Lizzy and the Gardiners are touring Pemberley, Darcy's great country estate in Derbyshire. The tour, led by the estimable Mrs. Reynolds, reveals to Lizzy a kinder, gentler Mr. Darcy, and the thaw begins. This post is chock full of interesting tidbits, so you might want to check it out.

Friday, June 25, 2010

This Day in History

1876 – Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana resulting in the death of Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and 262 of his men at the hands of the Lakota (aka Sioux) and Northern Cheyenne, and although his men did not deserve to die, he did. He became a national hero and stayed that way largely through the efforts of his widow, Elizabeth. This defeat was a result of gross stupidity on Custer’s part, and as a result, Americans have had to listen to one of the worst songs ever written, the kind that gets in your head, and you can’t get it out until you replace it with another god-awful song. So here it is:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hindeloopen - Dutch Stylized Art

Last week, my husband and I spent a week in New York’s Hudson River Valley, and everywhere we went, we found evidence of the Dutch influence on that area, including a type of art known as Hindeloopen. According to Dutch Proverbs by Holly Flame Heusinkveld and Jean Carris-Osland, Hindeloopen was a thriving seaport on the Zuider Zee in northwest Netherlands. During the Baroque and Rococo periods, guild and self-taught painters lavished their decoration skills on painted wood surfaces, such as furniture and walls, in an attempt to brighten home interiors and add inspiration to their surroundings. Hindeloopen villagers developed a distinct style of painting. Drawing from the scrolls of the Baroque period, the exotic birds of East Indian art, and the stylization of flower forms, the Hindeloopen painters came up with unique folk art forms. The objective was to fill a space, be it a table leg, door panel or storage chest, with flowers and berries or birds, in a stylized fashion.

In a Dutch colonial home, you may have found Hindeloopen artwork used to illustrate a proverb, such as "Zwijgen antwoordt veel." (Silence answers much.) Words of wisdom that I could benefit from (or so my husband tells me).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This Day in History

1661 – Marriage contract between Charles II of England and Catherine of Braganza. When Catherine arrived in England to marry the Stuart king, after an exhausting journey from Portugal, she asked for “a cup of tea.” Voila! Tea became a court favorite, and the British became a nation of tea drinkers.

1812 – Napoleonic Wars: Napoleon I of France invades Russia. This proved to be the beginning of the end for Napoleon. His defeat and exile would eventually lead to Captain Frederick Wentworth (Persuasion) being put ashore on half pay from the Navy and putting him, once again, in the presence of his true love, Anne Elliot., which story would result in another novel, Anne Elliot, A New Beginning begin published in 2010.

1942 – World War II: Germany's latest fighter, a Focke-Wulf FW190 is captured intact when it mistakenly lands at RAF Pembrey in Wales. I’m sure the British thanked the pilot for such a nice gift before sending him to a POW camp.


1894 – King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom (d. 1972) – He would abdicate the throne in 1938 so that he might marry American, Wallis Simpson, “the woman he loved.” Because of his pro-Nazi statements, it was probably a good thing for Britain.

1947 – Bryan Brown, Australian actor – One of my favorite actors, especially in A Town Like Alice.

Deaths - 1998 – Maureen O'Sullivan, Irish actress (b. 1911) – Played Jane, Tarzan’s main squeeze, in Tarzan, The Ape Man in 1932, in a rather risqué role (check out the outfit), especially for a good Irish-born girl educated in a convent school (with schoolmate, Maureen O’Hara). This was before the Hays Office started to censor movies. A lot of her lines consisted of saying, “Oh, Tarzan,” over and over, but she does it with gusto. She was the mother of Mia Farrow.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fashion of the Regency Era

In connection with Austenprose's Pride and Prejudice Without Zombies Read-A-Thon, Vic from Jane Austen World, has contributed an article on elegant apparel of the Regency Era and discusses the ball gowns worn in the three adaptations of Pride and Prejudice: 1980's version with Elizabeth Garvie, the A&E production with Jennifer Ehle, and the most recent film with Keira Knightley. It is excellent and a must read for anyone interested in Regency fashion.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Giveaway of Anne Elliot, A New Beginning

I am having a giveaway of my new novel, Anne Elliot, A New Beginning.* A little bit about the novel: When Anne reaches her 25th birthday, her family declares her to be a spinster and barely worthy of notice. But Anne decides to take her life in a different direction, and she begins the first day of the rest of her unmarried life by becoming a long-distance runner. This alteration changes everything about her, and a new, supremely confident, Anne emerges. This evolved Anne has an impact on her sisters, father, and most importantly, on Captain Wentworth who has returned after eight years to find that he is as much in love with Miss Anne Elliot as he ever was.

However, there is a complication. The heir to Kellynch, the Elliot estate, William Elliot, has also come back into the picture after being estranged from Anne’s father, Sir Walter Elliot, Baronet, and he has set his sights on Anne. Now living in Bath, Anne senses that something is not right, and with the help of a street urchin named Swoosh, she sets out to discover William Elliot’s true nature.

This book is a light-hearted take on Jane Austen's Persuasion. There are anachronisms aplenty, but the heart of the story, Anne and Frederick's love for each other, remains the same. Here is a review from Irena at This Miss Loves to Read:

This is the third book by Mary Lydon Simonsen that I’ve read and I have to say, she never disappoints. I enjoyed reading this novel so much that I read it in one single day.

Anne Elliot is a new person and a strong, independent woman in this novel. On her 25th birthday, when she is declared to be a spinster, Anne decides to take life in her hands and free herself. I really wanted to hug Anne for her brave decision that brought such delightful changes to her character. I loved the original by Austen, Persuasion, but Anne’s resigned and quiet, sort of like a grey, quiet mouse, in the original. In Simonsen’s rewriting, she’s something else – strong, independent, with a sharp tongue and wit. I really loved it how she was able to talk back to her family. In the original novel, she swallows their humiliating remarks, but not this Anne. The main thing that strengthened Anne so much mentally, and also physically, is running. In this novel, Anne is a long-distance runner. I know, very anachronistic. But let me tell you, anachronisms really works so well in this novel. This story is meant to be a humorous take on Persuasion and a bit of a parody, and it has to be read as such. I found myself giggling several times.

There are many wonderful and funny allusions to modern times. Puns, fun and funny references to modern times, humour and irony are wonderful ingredients of this novel. I don’t know why, but for some reason my favourite reference was the “Avon Calling!” one. That really got me. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, buy the novel, read it and you’ll know. Really, you won’t regret it if you like humour and Jane Austen.

The novel also has serious and emotional moments. The serious moments refer primarily to William Elliot, the nasty heir to Kellynch, who is a bad man, indeed, and also to Anne and Frederick becoming forced to endure another separation due to Napoleon’s escaping from Elba. There is also romance, mostly between Frederick and Anne. It was really memorable to read about a jealous Frederick. Anne is not the only person who undergoes a great change for the better...

I really, really loved the novel. It is so cleverly written and has many funny, as well as some less funny moments that are really enjoyable to read…This novel made me love Persuasion even more. It reminded me why Austen is such a great author. Simonsen really is an Austen connoisseur.

 THIS MISS RATES: **** For the full review and to visit Irena's blog, click here.

Now for the rules of the giveaway:
(1) Make any comment(s) you want about why you like Persuasion. For example, I like this story because it is a mature romance, Frederick's devotion to Anne, and "the letter."
(2) Followers of my blog are entered twice.
(3) You must include your e-mail. The winner of my Austen give-away has not claimed her prize, and I have no way to contact her to let her know that she has won b/c I do not have her e-mail.
(4) This giveaway is open to everybody.
(5) Your entry must be in by 10:00 p.m. on June 29th. The winner will be announced on June 30th.

I am looking forward to reading your comments. Thanks. Mary

*This book originally appeared as a fan fiction story, Anne Elliot, I Am Woman, on this blog.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Review of Lost in Austen by Psychotic State

Lori at Psychotic State has reviewed Lost in Austen, which gives me an excuse to repost this very funny blog of time traveler, Amanda Price, signing "Downtown."

Friday, June 11, 2010

This Day in History

1184 BC – Trojan War: Troy is sacked and burned, according to calculations by Eratosthenes. This is bad for Troy, but good for Homer and Michael Wood.

1509 – Henry VIII of England marries Catherine of Aragon. This isn’t good for a lot of people, especially Catherine of Aragon, her daughter, Mary Tudor, Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Catholics in general, and Thomas More in particular. Henry’s wives and their fates: Divorced (Catherine of Aragon), beheaded (Anne Boleyn), died (Jane Seymour), banished (Anne of Cleves), beheaded (Catherine Howard), survived (Catherine Parr). After Old Harry’s death, Catherine Parr married Thomas Seymour, brother of Henry’s third wife, Anne, who would be executed for entering the chamber of Edward VI for nefarious reasons.

1776 – The Continental Congress appoints Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston to the Committee of Five to draft a declaration of independence. This is good for everyone.


1776 – John Constable, English painter (d. 1837). Who can look at a Constable landscape and not think of Jane Austen; that is, if you like Jane Austen?

1939 – Sir Jackie Stewart, Scottish race car driver, three-time Formula One world champion. When Jackie retired from racing, he became an announcer, and I watched Formula One racing just so that I could listen to Jackie’s Scottish accent.

1956 – Joe Montana, quarterback for the San Francisco Forty-Niners. One of the best quarterbacks ever.


323 BC – Alexander the Great, Greek King of Macedon (b. 356 BC). Conquered the known world and died at the age of 33, possibly of malaria or typhoid fever.

1979 – John Wayne (aka Marion Morrison), American actor (b. 1907). What can I say, Pilgrim? He’s an American icon.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

This Day in History

1770 – Captain James Cook runs aground on the Great Barrier Reef. If one has to run aground anywhere, I think this is a good place to do it. This is on my must-see list of places to visit.

1829 – The first Boat Race between the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge takes place. I'm sure this will be of interest to Tony and probably no one else, but what the hey, I aim to please each and every one of my readers.

Pride and Prejudice Without Zombies with Laurel Ann and Austenprose

Laurel Ann is getting ready to rock and roll (or at least dance a cotillion) at Austenprose. Below is the schedule for reading Pride and Prejudice. For more information, visit Laurel Ann's blog.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen Reading Schedule:

Wednesday, June 16th – Chapters 1 – 7
Saturday, June 19th – Chapters 8 – 14
Wednesday, June 23rd – Chapters 15 – 21
Saturday, June 26th – Chapters 22 – 28
Wednesday, June 30th – Chapters 29 – 35
Saturday, July 03rd – Chapters 36 – 42
Wednesday, July 07th – Chapters 43 – 49
Saturday, July 10th – Chapters 50 – 56
Wednesday, July 14th – Chapters 57 – 61

This is a great opportunity to comment on one of the world's greatest novels and a source of income for me. Hope you will join in. Mary

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

And the Winners Are

The winner of my giveaway is June Williams, and she has won a copy of Murder at Longbourn. However, I have decided that all four books were going out the door, so I after I drew the winner, I picked a commenter's name and then a title. Here's how it turned out:

June Williams - Murder at Longbourn
Kelli Harmon - A Little Bit Psychic
Lois - Jane Bites Back
Ngrahampfan - A Match for Mary Bennet

If this is agreeable to everyone, please e-mail me at so that I might get your mailing information. Thanks for entering. :) Mary

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I would like to invite you to check out a new blog (up since early May 2010) by Irena, a young friend of mine. "This Miss" is an enthusiastic reader of numerous genres and writes a great review. Please have a look. Thanks.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Fashion and Trivial History

On this day, Beau Brummel (at left) was born in England in 1778.  He started a revolution in men's fashion that would eventually lead to the three-piece men's suit that is worn by businessmen around the world. The three-piece suit would dominate  until "Casual Fridays" were introduced in the late 1980s, followed by the oportunity for many to work from home where you can pretty much work in anything or nothing.

I wonder if we would be as gaga over Mr. Darcy if he dressed as his father would have as indicated by the picture on the right. Mr. Darcy in a wig? I don't think so.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Few Things That Happened on This Day In History

1912 - The poem “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer is published in the San Francisco Examiner.  "Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright; The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light, And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout; But there is no joy in Mudville - mighty Casey has struck out."

1937 – The Duke of Windsor marries Wallis Simpson. He had abdicated the throne to his brother, George VI, on December 11, 1936 so that he might marry “the woman I love.”

1940 – World War II: The Luftwaffe bombs Paris and the evacuation of Dunkirk ends with a German victory. However, over British/Allied 300,000 troops were rescued and were given the chance to fight another day.

(Comment from Tony Grant: "There is a boat moored on the Thames at Kingston with a small brass plaque on it. (See photo at left.)  It commemorates its voyage across the channel amongst all the other small craft to help rescue the BEF off the beaches of Dunkirk. Yes a disaster and a retreat but the evacuation gave the British an army which they could develop and rebuild. The RAF kept the Germans at bay until that could be achieved.")

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Giveaway Time for a Jane Austen Tie-in

Murder at Longbourn: A Mystery
I'm making room on my book shelves, so here are the titles included in my giveaway:

A Little Bit Psychic: Pride & Prejudice with a modern twistA Little Bit Psychic by Aimee Avery
A Match for Mary Bennet by Sister Eucharista Ward
Murder at At Lonbourn by Tracy Kiely
Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford

Jane Bites Back: A NovelPlease post a comment by answering the following question: Does Edward Ferrars deserve Elinor Dashwood? Please feel free to elaborate. You might suspect from the question that I don't think that he does. If you have not read or seen any adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, you can write that in your comment, and you are still eligible.

A Match for Mary Bennet: Can a serious young lady ever find her way to love?Rules: Open to U.S. and Canada residents only. If you are a follower of my blog, you are entered twice. Please post your e-mail along with your comment or you can e-mail me at

Winner will be announced on June 9th. Thanks to all who enter and who read my blog. Mary