It is my great pleasure and honor to welcome Mary Lydon Simonsen to My Book Addiction and More. Please join me in welcoming Ms. Simonsen.
Mary Lydon Simonsen Guest Blog, author of Searching for Pemberley
My Book Addiction and More; December 4, 2009
Thank you, Wendy, for inviting me to write a guest blog!
If you are a fan of Jane Austen’s novels, you probably have seen some of the screen and television adaptations of her work. Most of them are filmed at gorgeous country manor houses with lush gardens and parkland. The actresses are always outfitted in lovely A-line silk dresses with an Empire waist, while the men are dressed in clothes made popular by Beau Brummell: jacket, waistcoat, elaborate neckcloth, breeches, and knee-high boots. As a result, we associate Jane Austen with the Regency Era, but many people may not realize that Jane lived most of her life in the Georgian Era, the setting for my story. So I had to do extensive research on that earlier period of British history, a time when a sane George III was on the throne, the future George IV was the Prince of Wales and not the Prince Regent, and the French Terror had caused an exodus of aristocrats to England’s shores. As for Jane, she would have been wearing the flowing dresses modeled on Greek statuary ,and the men she danced with would have worn powdered wigs and makeup. (That may be historically accurate, but no admirer of Mr. Darcy would ever have him wearing a wig, including me.)
In my novel, Maggie Joyce, a young American who is working in post World War II England, is a fan of Pride and Prejudice, and when she learns that Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy may have been based on the real Elizabeth Garrison and William Lacey, she heads north to Derbyshire and Montclair, Austen’s storied Pemberley. After looking at dozens of books containing pictures of Georgian Era manor houses, I was able to design Pemberley and its gardens from the ground up. My Pemberley is of Palladian design with an emphasis on symmetry and the classical temple architecture of Classical Greece. When Maggie arrives at Montclair she finds an elegant Georgian mansion with Robert Adam interiors and a garden designed by Humphry Repton, the premier landscape planner of the day.
As for the lives of those who lived at Pemberley, Maggie learns of their history from stories told to her by Beth and Jack Crowell, a couple who live in a nearby village and who know if the legend of a real Lizzy and Darcy is true. They share letters written by the Laceys, as well as a diary that had belonged to Elizabeth Lacey, in which she writes of her courtship with Mr. Lacey and the early years of their marriage. Through these documents, the events which took place at Pemberley 150 years earlier are shared with the reader.
I chose to write about Pride and Prejudice because I have loved the novel ever since I first read it many years ago in my high school English class. But when you take events out of a novel and bring them into the real world, as I did in Searching for Pemberley, some things have to change. For example, would Lizzy really have talked back to Lady Catherine? Probably not. But relying on Darcy’s love for her, she understood that she could still prevail despite Her Ladyship’s objections. And what of Mrs. Bennet? A real mother of five daughters, who lived in fear of losing their home upon her husband’s death, would have been much more circumspect than Lizzy’s loud, unfiltered mother. A silly Mrs. Bennet in P&P is amusing and acceptable, but in real life, people would have asked “What was she thinking?”
But the heart of the novel, whether Regency, Georgian, or modern, is a love story of two people who bridge class differences to be together because they are in love and well suited to each other. It is a Cinderella story, with Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst as the stepsisters, and one where the pumpkin coach has the Darcy crest emblazoned on its doors and the castle is Pemberley.
If my readers are like me, I use an author’s description of the characters and its settings as a starting point. If I disagree with the writer, I just change the image. If you could visit Pemberley, what would it look like? Would it be as large as Chatsworth, the home of the Dukes of Devonshire, or a mansion from the Elizabethan Era with ivy-covered walls, or a true Georgian mansion with it Ionic or Corinthian capitals? I’d be interested to hear your comments.
SEARCHING FOR PEMBERLEY—IN STORES DECEMBER 2009
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.
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
*There is a giveaway with this book today! Thanks to Danielle at Sourcebooks I am thrilled to be able to offer 2 copies of this wonderful book to readers. This giveaway is open to US and Canada residents only. If you’d like to recieve a copy of this great book, just post a comment to this post. Winners will be picked on Sat. December 5th. Good luck!!!*