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30 November 2009

Guest Author: Mary Lydon Simonsen

Please welcome Mary Lydon Simonsen who will be guest blogging today about her upcoming new release Searching for Pemberley.

Thank you, Jennifer, for inviting me to write a guest post for your blog! I’ve decided to talk a little bit about why I chose to write about two of Jane Austen’s most famous literary creations, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, for my first novel.

I could tell you that Pride and Prejudice is my favorite novel and how much I admire Austen’s brilliantly crafted characters and finely woven plot. I could also mention that Austen provided me with a solid foundation on which to build my own story. But the reason I wrote about Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy is much simpler than that. I have a crush on Mr. Darcy, and I am not alone.
I really love the character of Elizabeth Bennet. I admire her spunk, her wit, and her independence, but as for Mr. Darcy, he had me from hello. My relationship with the estimable gentleman started many years ago when I was introduced to him in my senior-year high school English class. He was my dream guy: good looking, wealthy, owned a large country estate, came from a prestigious background, and looked great in breeches. All those things were definitely pluses, but the main hook for me was that Darcy’s love for Elizabeth was transformative. By loving Lizzy, he became a better man.
According to a video, an impeccable resource, there was a recent survey taken in Britain in which women of all ages were asked to pick their dream guy. The overwhelming winner: Fitzwilliam Darcy. I don’t think the results would have been much different on this side of the Atlantic, especially if they polled my friends. But why a fictional character?

When we first meet Mr. Darcy, he is behaving badly at a ball by refusing to dance with any of the local lasses and insults Lizzy when he says that she is “merely tolerable.” Things do not improve during Lizzy’s stay at Netherfield or at Lucas Lodge, and most definitely not at Hunsford Lodge where Lizzy refuses his offer of marriage. Even so, we still want our girl to fall in love with this flawed character, because once Lizzy straightens him out, Mr. Darcy becomes her Prince Charming. This is the Regency/Georgian Era version of Cinderella with Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst as the stepsisters.

When I decided to write my first novel, I wanted to include the love story of Darcy and Elizabeth, but I didn’t want to write a sequel or prequel. Instead, I wanted to pen a story that included some of my other interests, especially the histories of World War I and World War II. As it turned out, I had plenty of time to think about the plot.

Four years ago, following knee-replacement surgery, as I lay flat on my back with my leg strapped into a continual motion torture device meant to work the muscles in my knee, I started to formulate a plot for the story. When I was finally able to go vertical, I started to write Searching for Pemberley, the story of 22-year old Maggie Joyce, who leaves behind the bleak landscape of her Pennsylvania coal-mining hometown to go to work in post World War II London. A devotee of Jane Austen, she learns that there are some who believe that the characters of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy may be based on the real life Elizabeth Garrison and William Lacey of Montclair Manor in Derbyshire. While exploring the truth behind these rumors, she meets a couple who lives in a nearby village, and who knows if the stories are true. A friendship develops, and she is drawn into their love story, which took place against the background of World War I. As her search continues, she meets both a dashing American pilot and a handsome descendant of the Darcy/Lacey line, and Maggie must decide how her own love story will end. Just like thousands of Austen’s readers across the decades, Maggie wants to find her own Mr. Darcy.

This is the genius of Jane Austen. She manages to have us like an unlikable character right out of the gate. In Lizzy, this author has given us a wonderful, well-rounded, witty character, and such a wonderful lady must have the perfect man to share her life with. According to the survey taken in Britain, a lot of us agree with Austen’s taste in men. Is Mr. Darcy your ideal?


Set against Regency England, World Wars I and II, and postwar England, three love stories intertwine in surprising and fateful ways

American Maggie Joyce, touring Derbyshire in 1947, visits, Montclair, an 18th century Georgian country house, that she is told was the model for Jane Austen's Pemberley. More amazingly, the former residents of the mansion, William Lacey and Elizabeth Garrison, were the inspiration for the characters of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.

Through letters, diary entries, and oral history, Beth and Jack Crowell, a couple who lives in the nearby village of Crofton, share stories of the people they say inspired Jane Austen. They also tell their own love story, made difficult by their vastly different backgrounds—she was one of the social elite while he was the son of a servant. When their son, Michael, travels home from his RAF station in Malta, Maggie may have just found her very own Mr. Darcy.

About the Author:

Mary Simonsen grew up in North Jersey with the exciting venues of New York City easily accessible. She is largely self-educated and is especially interested in American and European history and 19th Century novels. In Searching for Pemberley she was able to combine her love of history (World War II and postwar England) with Austen's characters, Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, and being a romantic, the novel includes three love stories from three different time periods, all thanks to Jane Austen. She lives in Peoria, Arizona. For more information, please visit.

Thank you Mary for being a guest blogger and I look forward to the release of Searching for Pemberley.



MarySimonsen said...

Jennifer, Thank you for hosting me as a guest blogger.

Kim said...

I'll be looking for this -- Thanks!

MarySimonsen said...

Thank you, Kim.

MarySimonsen said...
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