#68 A Review of Anne Elliot, A New Beginning by Mary Lydon Simonsen

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Every time I read Persuasion one thought always pops in my head,  “I wish Anne had more confidence.”  Mary Lydon Simonsen makes my dream come true in Anne Elliot, A New Beginning.  Simonsen takes our beloved Anne and breathes new life into her meek  personality that prevailed in Austen’s original work.  This new and fresh look at one of my favorite Austen characters was too good to pass up, and the pages flew by as I got to witness a new and exciting chapter in Anne’s life as a liberated woman.

Anne Elliot is an old maid.  She is a spinster.  She is 25 years old and feels oddly liberated in this new status her family has given her.  With this new-found freedom she begins running.  Yes, you read that right, running.  To her delight, this new activity makes her more confident and secure in herself than ever before, and she is ecstatic when Captain Wentworth happens upon her company eight years after their initial tumultuous courtship.  Sound to good to be true?  Of course it is, nothing in life is ever this easy!  William Elliot, the heir to Kellynch (the Elliot estate), has come back from a long separation from Anne’s father following a disagreement long ago.  Now that he is back he finds Anne just as attractive as Wentworth does, and he attempts to gain her courtship.  Not is all as it seems, as Anne senses that William may have some tricks up his sleeve.  Will she be able to unite with Wentworth or will William become an insurmountable obstacle?  How will Wentworth react to her running when he finds out?

As I said in my opening, I’ve always wished that Anne had more confidence.  She finds all of this confidence running. WHAT a change confidence makes.  Anne is unafraid to speak her mind, and frequently does so, much to the displeasure of Lady Russell.  She stands up to Mary and makes her stop being such a hypochondriac, forcing  Mary to do something positive with her life instead of wasting it away worrying.  Anne helps the characters change their ways, while also forcing them to give her the respect she has deserved all along.  (All of this is done with hints of humor along the way).

I think you can tell by now that Anne Elliot, A New Beginning is a satirical retelling of  Persuasion. I’m usually really nervous about reading satirized versions of Austen’s novels because either a novelist takes it too far and makes it borderline ridiculous (see here), or they don’t change enough of the story to make it a satire.  Simonsen found the perfect blend between the two by infusing pop cultural references into the story that actually worked.  Anne is all about running, so the references to Nike and other modern running related items makes sense in the context of the story.  Also making Mary turn from a hypochondriac into a nurse was hysterical.  She goes from being afraid of everything to suddenly making sure there are always bandages around and proper first aid techniques in use.  It was a very humorous personality switch. 

 As usual Simonsen has given us a fresh take on an Austen classic.  It was refreshing and exciting to see her new iteration of Anne as a confident and determined individual.  All in all, I truly enjoyed Simonsen’s work and was happy to root for Anne and Wentworth until the end!

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my twenty-ninth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Anne Elliot, A New Beginning by Mary Lydon Simonsen
Quail Creek Publishing LLC (2010)
Paperback 229 pages
Special thanks to Mary Lydon Simonsen for sending me my review copy!

An Interview With Mary Lydon Simonsen; Author of Anne Elliot, A New Beginning

Very good friend of the blog, Mary Lydon Simonsen, recently gave me some time out of her busy schedule while promoting Mr. Darcy’s Bite to do a little interview (you can find my review here).  I recently started writing some “getting to know you” questions at the beginning of each of my interviews.  It gives readers a chance to get to know the author as a person as well as an author! 

If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

Lonesome Dove.  It’s a wonderful epic adventure of the closing days of the American frontier.  The characters are so perfectly drawn that you care about all the good guys and hate all the bad guys and are ambivalent about everyone in between.  It’s the American equivalent of Homer’s Odyssey.

If you had to describe your writing with a color, what color would you choose? Why would you choose that color?

I would choose a soft yellow because I think that color makes you smile, and I like to have people laugh or chuckle or smile at some point while reading my stories.

If you had all the money in the world and could only travel to one place, where would it be? Why?

This one is easy.  I would go to Italy.  I’ve been twice, and it’s addictive.  I love the architecture, art, history, language, people, food, and, most especially, the gelato.  I once stood outside a church built over a Roman temple dedicated to Minerva with a Michelangelo sculpture inside behind the Pantheon facing an Egyptian obelisk on a Bernini pedestal.  Where else in the world could that happen?

If you could meet one person dead or alive, who would it be and why?

George Washington.  He put everything on the line when he took command of the Continental army.  After the war ended, he could have seized power and made himself an emperor, but, instead, he served his country and then retired like Cincinnatus and not Napoleon.

On to your books!!

I’ve read almost everything you’ve written, and see that you’ve written a multitude of different genres from historical fiction, to Jane Austen fan fiction, and now with your newest book, a paranormal romance.  What would you say was the most fun genre for you to write?  What genres have you not written yet that you’d like to try your hand at?

I love writing parody.  The most fun I’ve had as an author was writing Anne Elliot, A New Beginning.  All the rules went out the window on that one.  Despite the comedy, Anne and Frederick stay true to their basic characters. 

Next up is a British procedural mystery.  I’m nervous about this because it requires that I write an outline.  I’m a writer who usually flies by the seat of her pants.  You can’t do that with a mystery.

You and I have talked about the inspiration behind some of your novels.  Would you care to share with our readers which inspirations have been the most influential?

Writing historical fiction is my greatest love.  My first novel, Searching for Pemberley, was very personal because its roots are in the little coal-mining town where my parents grew up during the Depression and their experiences during World War II.  I admire people who pull themselves up by their bootstraps or, in the case of Elizabeth Bennet, someone who will not compromise on her core beliefs, even if it costs her Mr. Darcy.

I think it’s safe to say that you’re a widely popular/successful author in the world of Jane Austen fan fiction.  What type of JAFF is your favorite to write?  Which of Austen’s original books do you most enjoy writing about?

Oh my goodness!  Thanks for the compliment!  In my Jane Austen re-imaginings, I like to keep it light, and that is why I introduced the character of Antony, Lord Fitzwilliam, Earl of Stepton, Darcy’s bad boy cousin.  He can break all the rules and get away with it.  We all love a rascal.  We just don’t want to be married to one.  As for my favorite Austen book, it’s a tie. I have loved Pride and Prejudice since I was a teenager in the 1960s, but as I have grown older, I have fallen in love with Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth’s much more mature love story in Persuasion.  I have a novella coming out in November, Captain Wentworth: Home From the Sea.

What can you tell us about your upcoming works?  (I hope you tell us that you’re working on a sequel to Mr. Darcy’s Bite)

After the Persuasion novella, I will have a time-travel P&P romance coming out in December titled Becoming Elizabeth Darcy. This one will be somewhat controversial because a modern woman from New Jersey goes back to Darcy’s Pemberley and ends up in Elizabeth Bennet’s body. Although there are lots of light-hearted moments, it is my most serious work since Searching for Pemberley.

As for Mr. Darcy’s Bite, so many people have contacted me about a sequel that I think I might just do it.  It would take place early in the marriage of Darcy and Elizabeth.  Wickham may be back!

Thanks for taking the time to discuss your work with us!

Thank you for having me.  It’s always a pleasure to visit with you.  This was fun!

Make sure you check back in tomorrow for my review of Anne Elliot, A New Beginning!  For more information on Mary and her novels check out her website here.  Check out my reviews for her other novels: A Wife For Mr. Darcy, The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy, A Walk in the Meadows at Rosings Park, and Darcy on the Hudson.