Searching for Pemberley by Mary Lydon Simonsen


The Second Date - Love Italian-American Style

Sonia Amundsen looks like a Nordic goddess on the outside, but her heart, soul, and stomach are all Italian. She is also a successful professional who is about to celebrate her 30th birthday. Although friends have been setting her up on blind dates for two years, she never goes out on a second date with any of them because she is still looking for that perfect guy. The problem is that she has very specific criteria as to who Mr. Right is. Sonia is beginning to think that such a man is not out there until.... Set in the late 1980s, Sonia is surrounded by an extended Italian family, a caring, but over-bearing mother, warring aunts who use family funerals to stage full-blow tragedies, and a close friend, whose main goals in life are to get pregnant and to help Sonia find true love. The Second Date explores friendship and love in the heart of the Italian-American community where food is second importance only to love.

Review from Books Like Breathing - Grace Lociano

Let me first start by saying that I am an Italian American from Southern Italy with a family very similar to the family depicted in this book. I have never really read a book where the image of an Italian American was positive. From my childhood I have been bombarded with images of the stereotypes of Italian culture. Mafia bosses, goons, murderers, whacking. Not at all what I have grown up with as an Italian. The Second Date was completely different. Not only were the people familiar but the behavior, the language, the dialect was all a page from my life. I found myself laughing out loud in many places because it was so familiar. It would be lovely to see a book like this sitting next to Mario Puzo’s novels as representations of Italian American culture. Or better yet replacing it altogether.

The romance was also good. Nick and Sonia were so cute together. But it was the portrayal of Italian American culture was the shining star in this book for me at least. I was really pleased with this novel. It was the only book that I have ever read that portrayed Italian Americans in a positive light. I really hope a publisher is smart enough to pick this up.

Review from an Italian-American - the real deal

I received an e-mail from an Italian-American who grew up in the Northeast and shared this with me: "I absolutely love all the characters and their descriptions......I have even cried a time or two or smiled so big that I laugh...because it brings so many memories for me.....just hearing the word "gravy" instead of sauce....all the dishes....I can smell them! Hearing of Jersey without the "new", names like Sal, Tony, Nick....and I love Loretta, she reminds me of my childhood friend....and I loved the history in the beginning of the generations....I could just hear the godfather music in the background. Theresa C."
Does Ms. Simonsen Know My Relatives???!, July 6, 2009 (Five Star Review) By  Diane Salerni for POD Book Reviews and More - Sonia Amundsen doesn't look Italian - and her name certainly doesn't sound Italian - but she is. No one can understand why Sonia - tall, blonde, beautiful, loving, and intelligent - is nearing her thirtieth birthday and hasn't yet found true love. Helpful friends and relative set her up on a series of blind dates, which Sonia views as excellent fodder for the novels she writes, but not a likely source of romance for herself. In fact, Sonia has never gone on a second date with any of these men and now views The Second Date almost superstitiously as the hallmark of Mr. Right.

The Second Date is, in part, a comedy romance revolving around the dating adventures of Sonia Amundsen (very Italian, in spite of her half-Norwegian heritage), but it is also an endearing web of family stories that traces several generations of an Italian-American family. If you grew up in such a family, you'll immediately understand the references to "cash dances" at a wedding, plastic covers on the living room furniture, finished basements, and the power struggle over who cooks Thanksgiving dinner. You'll also recognize the overdone dramatics of Sonia's mother, who puts away "the breakables" when her daughter-in-law's mother comes to visit because she once saw the woman break a wine glass and who collapses into a sobbing heap when her son brings home a Jewish girlfriend.

Like a good antipasto, it's colorful, flavorful, and full of tantalizing little nuggets that aren't too filling - an excellent read, in fact, for anyone who grew up Italian-American in the 80's. And if you didn't - well, now you'll know what fun you were missing.
Lorien Urbani - Slovenia - While reading The Second Date, I had an amazing, heart-warming feeling in my chest. It's a beautiful, touching story not just about Sonia Amundsen, the protagonist, but a story about her family and about her roots. Sonia and her family are completely ordinary people that you could meet around the corner on your way to the local shop, but Simonsen made their lives a little less ordinary, as every single person that appears in the novel is an individual, a special person. I like the way she focused on every person. Every character that appears has a personal story to tell, a history behind them, traditions, beliefs, traits, even if a character appears only in one chapter. They're not just named characters you need to get on with the story. They're living, breathing creatures that, after reading the novel, seem so familiar, like you've met them and talked to them before. I appreciate that a lot. It really makes the story seem real, like it's an actual family chronicle. Really, very, very well done! And Mary Simonsen is very talented, in my opinion, because I believe it takes some skill to create such vivid characters. There are no stock or shallow characters in this story, which is really amazing.

The writer touched a theme that is, I think, a very important American subject (or at least I think it is, as I am not an American myself) - immigrants and their lives in America. I personally think that her take on the colourful Italian - American community is spot on. Knowing Italians, I think they'd approve of how they are portrayed. I kept thinking: "Wow, it would be so cool to be a part of such a big, but such a close family." Why? I think mostly because the Carellis/Amundsens are so open and genuine. It seems that lies are not an option in their world. I don't know if the author intended for her novel to have a message or not, but I found one: family and one's roots are really important. They define you very deeply and clearly and, in normal circumstances, your family is the one group of people you can always go to at the end of the day and they'll accept you with an embrace. Family's important. Heritage is important. This is one of the aspects that make this novel very inspiring and heart-warming.

The story itself is really romantic (which I love) and fun, but realistic, too. Something like this can happen! I like that. It's very optimistic, and as an optimist and romantic myself, I was all smiles at the end. The idea of a woman who never goes on a second date is very intriguing, and the author executed the idea really well. It's one of those "Oh, I wish I'd thought of that!" stories. This is my honest confession.;)

This novel definitely is my cup of tea, but even if it wasn't, the story is truly well written. The Second Date is a wonderful piece of fiction, one that I will definitely return to in the future. I recommend it! My rating? 5/5.
Excerpts from The Second Date:

At the wedding of Sonia's brother: "Even before they [the wedding guests] went into the main reception room, the groom’s side of the family was less than impressed. Waiters circulated among the guests serving an assortment of dainty appetizers, but if the food was so good, Uncle Tito wanted to know, then why did they keep moving it around? Tito, who weighed in at 280 pounds, kept after one server until he agreed to put the tray down, explaining he wasn’t in the habit of chasing after his food."

At the funeral of Sonia's grandmother: "Between friends and family, St. Leo’s was filled to capacity. There were so many old people that they had a handicap section, wheelchair accessible. The church reeked of the suffocating smell of too many flowers, and Nonny’s coffin looked like a float in the Rose Bowl parade.

Sonia, an editor, discussing a new book with a co-worker: “Yeah, go ahead,” Sonia said, shaking Bobby out of her head. “The guy gets killed in a car crash. Then what happens?”

“Her husband comes back to visit her, but as a ghost, and, basically, becomes her guardian angel. During the day, Hubby is telling her to find another man because he wants her to be happy. He really does. However, since he keeps showing up in her dreams, and most of these dreams are not chaste, at a subconscious level, he still wants her to remain faithful to him. But as for the sex scenes, this novel is a homerun.”

“Two questions: Does a ghost have a subconscious and is there a plot here?” 

“If ghosts are just people without their bodies, why can’t they have a sub­conscious?” Loretta asked. “If we’re going to suspend disbelief and have a dead guy coming into his wife’s room every night, I think we can allow for some deeper thinking here.”