If you’ve been reading my blog, then you know that Mary Lydon Simonsen is one of my favorite Jane Austen fan fiction writers because her writing, her characters, plot, and creativity make her novels an extreme pleasure to read. When Mary emailed me and gave me the opportunity to read not one, but three of her self-published novels, I immediately jumped at the bit. Of these three novels, she included her newest installment, Darcy on the Hudson, which is being released today! It’s different from the other novels of hers that I have read, as it is a re-imagining of Pride and Prejudice, taking place in a heavily Dutch-influenced New York.
After Georgiana’s narrow escape from George Wickham’s sinister plan of revenge, Darcy decides to take her with him and Charles Bingley on their trip to America. Darcy hopes that the trip will bolster her spirits and boost her confidence, while giving her a new and quiet environment to heal her broken heart. Bingley’s Uncle Richard offers to play host to the three while in America, introducing them to the Hudson River Valley portion of New York. Upon their arrival in New York, Darcy meets a young American woman named Elizabeth Bennet. Just like in the beloved original, Darcy and Elizabeth fall for one another, although this time there are historical and social factors at play, threatening to tear them apart. Lizzy is just as outspoken as ever, this time about the impending war between America and England. This makes Simonsen’s decision to make Lizzy an American even more inflammatory, as the obstacles between her and Darcy become even more insurmountable as ever. Wickham and Caroline Bingley make their appearances as evildoers, and there is even a new love interest for Georgiana thrown into the mix. One of the most interesting changes that readers will really enjoy is the transformation of Mrs. Bennet. No longer a hysterical and floundering character, Simonsen makes her a new woman of resolve and wisdom beyond her years. She helms the ship of her family with grace and power, and really makes a 180 degree turn. With all these new changes and undertones of unrest, will Darcy and Lizzy be able to find true love?
Simonsen shows a true mastery of the historical fiction genre with the attention she spends on details. Nothing is too small for her notice whether it be the names of new characters or the types of food being eaten. Each detail of the novel plays a part in shaping the world she’s creating. Having grown up in New Jersey for a good portion of my life, it was fascinating for me to read about places in New York that I grew up next to. It added to my extreme pleasure of the novel by teaching me new things, while still being entertained by my favorite Jane Austen characters. Not only was it fascinating to learn about the New York region, but the book offers a lot of insight into the Dutch culture and the political reasons behind the War of 1812. Simonsen even includes a bit of an index in the rear of the book to learn more in-depth about certain people/places/events that she mentions throughout the course of the work.
As I mentioned earlier there are various changes to the characters we know and love. I can’t tell you what a joy it was to read a Mrs. Bennet who wasn’t obsessed with yelling and carrying about. She offered prudent advice to her daughters, in the hopes that it would guide them in the decisions they made for themselves, while remaining true to who they each were. This character change alone made me begin to rethink Austen’s original storyline and wonder how different the younger Bennet girls might have been with a mother who showed a little more restraint and decorum. Even Caroline Bingley has a bit of a “generous” moment! It’s these little twists and turns that make Simonsen such a fun author to read. She takes the readers on an old journey that is full of surprises, making it completely new again.
If you’re willing to keep an open mind with the character changes, and would like see Darcy and Elizabeth thrown into a new location and situation, then I highly recommend Darcy on the Hudson. The ending alone will have any romantic head over heels in love with Darcy all over again.
4 out of 5 Stars
This is my twenty-fifth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge