Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Searching for Pemberley,originally published as Pemberley Remembered in 2007, is an exceptional Austen-Inspired novel that combines history, romance, war, and Pride and Prejudice. In this novel, Mary Lydon Simonsen explores the possibility of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice being inspired by real people and illustrates how the love story of Elizabeth Garrison and William Lacey parallels that of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. Ms. Simonsen does not imply that Jane Austen needed to borrow material for her novels, yet this work of fiction indulges in the idea that one of the greatest love stories of all time was indeed inspired by real people.
Maggie Joyce, our quiet and unassuming heroine, does not have a lot to be cheerful about as she lives in London post World War II and works for the Army Exchange Service. Even though the war ended two years ago much of London is still devastated and destroyed, items like eggs and tea are considered a scarcity, and living quarters are often cramped and uncomfortable. Nevertheless, Maggie finds enjoyment in spending her weekends touring country estates near London. One day she encounters Montclair, a famous estate rumored to be the inspiration for Jane Austen’s Pemberley and she learns that many people believe the couple that lived there were the models for Jane Austen’s characters of Elizabeth and Darcy. After touring the house Maggie decides to discover for herself if there is any validity to this rumor and embarks upon her own “Pride and Prejudice Project.”
Maggie is introduced to Beth and Jim Crowell, a couple who is connected to and is very knowledgeable about the Lacey family. This lovely and friendly couple begin to care for Maggie as a daughter and become a surrogate family for her while she is away from home. I greatly enjoyed Maggie’s relationship with this kind and dear couple; they assisted her in studying the association between the Laceys and Pride and Prejudice as well as shared the story of their own loving, yet at times unhappy and troubled marriage.
There are two men in Maggie’s life during her time in England: Rob McAllister, who served in WWII as a navigator on a B-17 bomber and Michael Crowell, son of Beth and Jim, who serves in the RAF. One of these men is reserved, emotionally scarred, and has a commitment problem. The other is flirtatious, charming, and already in a relationship. Maggie faces some trials and complications in her relationships with these men and it marks a time in her life where she matures, blossoms, and makes some life-defining decisions. I took pleasure in this love triangle and at times couldn’t decide who I wanted Maggie to be with; Ms. Simonsen created a very captivating and heartrending romance.
How I enjoyed this unique and inventive tale by Mary Lydon Simonsen! It is a serious story and one that is leisurely and lovingly told. I greatly appreciated Ms. Simonsen’s attention to detail and her impeccable research and representation of life post World War II. One of my favorite aspects of this novel was how well it portrayed the challenges of living during a war and how it effects and changes the lives of so many for such a long time. In addition, I enjoyed the various documents, diary entries, and letters interspersed throughout the story. These documents, to and from the Laceys, were what Maggie was researching to determine if the Laceys were the real Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. I loved hearing the voices and thoughts of these characters through their letters and I found it quite amusing that Anne de Bough would serve as a confidante and faithful correspondent to Mr. Darcy! While these letters and diary entries were insightful and interesting, I would have loved for the story of Elizabeth Garrison and William Lacey to be a little more imaginative and original (especially the proposal scenes).
I highly recommend Searching For Pemberley for readers who want a break from reading light-hearted and fluffy novels and are interested in a mature and serious tale of three love stories interwoven with the tragedies of war and the discovery of a true Pride and Prejudice romance. I dearly hope to see more works from Mary Lydon Simonsen in print soon!
Stay tuned for a Guest Blog AND Interview with Author Mary Lydon Simonsen!
Guest Blog – December 1st
Interview – December 9th