The Bennet Wardrobe series is just something else. Don Jacobson has created a superb series involving one of our favourite novels, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and time travelling. What is most, his writing is awesome and what ideas he has!!
Today he is introducing The Exile: The Countess visits Longbourn.
If you have been following My Vices and Weaknesses for some time now, you may have read my review of The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque in which I could not praise more Don’s way of developing the characters, I simply loved it and that together with really good stories… what else can you ask?
[FYI – This post is going to be a bit long but I promise that it is worth it to read it all.]
For the ones who may be new to the blog or maybe new to this author, let me (re)introduce you to Don Jacobson:
Don Jacobson has written professionally for forty years. His output has ranged from news and features to advertising, television and radio. His work has been nominated for Emmys and other awards. He has previously published five books, all non-fiction. In 2016, he published the first volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series—The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey, novel that grew from two earlier novellas. The Exile is the second volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series. Other JAFF P&P Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” and “The Maid and The Footman.”
Jacobson holds an advanced degree in History with a specialty in American Foreign Relations. As a college instructor, Don teaches United States History, World History, the History of Western Civilization and Research Writing.
He is a member of JASNA-Puget Sound. Likewise, Don is a member of the Austen Authors collective (see the internet, Facebook and Twitter).
He lives in the Seattle, WA area with his wife and co-author, Pam, a woman Ms. Austen would have been hard-pressed to categorize, and their rather assertive four-and-twenty pound cat, Bear. Besides thoroughly immersing himself in the JAFF world, Don also enjoys cooking; dining out, fine wine and well-aged scotch whiskey.
His other passion is cycling. Most days from April through October will find him “putting in the miles” around the Seattle area (yes there are hills). He has ridden several “centuries” (100 mile days). Don is especially proud that he successfully completed the AIDS Ride—Midwest (500 miles from Minneapolis to Chicago) and the Make-A-Wish Miracle Ride (300 miles from Traverse City, MI to Brooklyn, MI).
If you would like to follow his work, here you have different ways to do it:
In case you have not come across this series, check the blurb to The Exile: the Countess visits Longbourn:
“I have been shaped by the events of over forty years. The world is a nasty place full of awful persons, Mr. Wickham, and does not get any lighter through complaining or blaming.”
The Countess: An Enigma? A Mystery? Or a young girl all-grown-up?
Kitty Bennet, the fourth daughter of the Master and Mistress of Longbourn, had spent far too long as the shadow of her youngest sister. The all-knowing Meryton chinwaggers suggested that young Miss Bennet needed education—and quickly.
How right they were…but the type of instruction Kitty Bennet received, and the where/when in which she matriculated was far beyond their ken. For they knew nothing of that remarkable piece of furniture which had been part of the lives of clan Bennet for over 120 years: The Bennet Wardrobe.
Forty-six years from when she left her Papa’s bookroom, the Dowager Countess of Matlock returned to that exact same moment in 1811 to tend to many important pieces of Family business.
In the process, Kitty Fitzwilliam helped her youngest sister find the love she craved with the hero who, as the Duke said, “saved us all.”
In the slim possibility that you are not 100% convinced that this book and, therefore, the series is super worth to read, here you have, from my point of view, one of the best Jane Austen Fan Fiction authors that you can read commenting on the series: Joana Starnes.
Who can resist the magic of time-travel? Pages of worldwide history rustle back and forth between Regency grand salons, Napoleonic battlefields and more recent conflicts as, guided by Don Jacobson’s masterful pen, the Bennet sisters grow as people and come into their own. ‘The Countess Visits Longbourn’ is a wonderful new instalment, and we cannot fail to revel in the excellent writing and the abundance of detail as the mysteries of the Wardrobe continue to unfold. This captivating series, that brings together real and much-loved fictional characters from all walks of life, is one to savour, and I will revisit it again and again. – Joana Starnes, author of Miss Darcy’s Companion
Without more ado, enjoy this interview that Don is giving us:
MVAW: Maybe you’ve answered this question a lot of times but some of us would like to read it again… Why Jane Austen? Why writing Jane Austen Fan Fiction?
DJ: Like many, I had been inspired to visit (I had not read the Canon in school) the works of Jane Austen after the 1995 Mini-series. My reading tastes up to that point—and from high school onward—had been firmly in the camp of historical fiction and speculative fiction.
Then in 1997 I began to voraciously absorb the Patrick Cornwell Jack Aubrey Series. Shortly thereafter I discovered the works of Bernard Cornwell, particularly the Richard Sharpe Series. Leaven those two with the alternate history approach of Harry Turltledove and I think I had developed a rather eclectic blend. At the same time I was devouring the “Forsyte Saga,” most of Henry James’ and Edith Wharton’s works along with Somerset Maugham.
T’was not until my daughter gifted me with a Kindle around 2010 that I began dipping my tone into other genres. Kindle Unlimited is a marvelous invention! Austenesque Fiction probably entered my reading diet in 2014.
As I have noted in other venues, I had not considered writing any fiction (although I had been making my living for 40 years as a writer) until my daughter surprised me with her first novel. That jarred something loose…and after a steady diet of Austen-inspired novels and novellas, my brain tossed up a fragment of a letter written by Caroline Bingley to Jane in 1816. Further mulling led me to reconsider my life-long avoidance of fiction writing.
MVAW: Your main focus is Pride and Prejudice, any specific reason? Are you contemplating the idea of writing variations of other novels by JA?
DJ: I feel that there are more stories to tell, particularly about those thinly sketched characters who rest at the margins of Pride and Prejudice, than Jane Austen needed to relate, focused as she was on the tale of Elizabeth and Darcy.
Perhaps it is because P&P has been dramatized so many times that it provides more fertile ground for an author seeking to expand the tableau and to build a world within which the characters can realistically reside.
At this point, deep as I am in the midst of creating the Universe of The Bennet Wardrobe, I am unable to consider other possible variations. However, I have found several authors’ efforts to merge the narrative worlds of the Canonical novels to be intriguing.
MVAW: In the wardrobe series, we have time travelling to different eras. Why time travel? Where do your like/fascination/choice comes from? How did you come with idea of joining P&P and time travelling?
DJ: In one way, the Regency offers a wonderful, rose-hued world within which to station characters and stories. However, as I was concerned with how Mary, Kitty, Lydia, and Thomas Bennet could overcome the handicaps given them by Austen, I considered arenas in which they could grow and find their destinies without the constraints of their previous narratives. Time travel (as opposed to translation to another world like Burroughs Barsoom or Lewis’ Narnia) offered the opportunity to create a different narrative world that was neither unfamiliar nor unbelievable.
Thus, Mary’s destiny, shaped as it usually is in Austenesque Fiction by love, was realized not through her own time journey, but that of another. And with that, Mary Bennet was able to find her own path in the early years of the Industrial Revolution. However, Kitty, crushed by her life as the fourth daughter—and, as we learn, other factors—needed to escape all she had known up to 1811 to be able to learn that which she needed to become her best self.
Future volumes of The Bennet Wardrobe will see Lydia learning that the life of a soldier is a hard one indeed. Thomas Bennet needed to shake off his indolence and prove that he was a man worth of the endearment “Papa.” And then there is the reason for the whole cycle. No; that is three books from now. Sorry!
MVAW: So far, I have just read Kitty Bennet and the Belle Epoque and I loved the story but I must say that what made me loved the book even more is your way of giving the personalities of the descendants a part of Darcy/Elizabeth and at the same time a part of their own new personality. How did you plan the way/personality your new characters were having without compromising the plot and the links to the original characters as their ascendants? People may expect to see Darcy and Elizabeth’s personalities again and again…
DJ: I am not trying to be coy here: I will tell you honestly that I do not plan ahead of time to insert personality traits. My writing is very organic. Characters grow as I write. I would hazard that the great lasting power of the Canon is that the personalities sketched by Austen are fairly universal and, thus, recognizable.
The cycle begins with “The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey.” There really are no personality clones from the Canon hiding therein. Most are fairly direct extrapolations of the original core characters. Edward Benton, the man who captures Mary’s heart, was molded in some ways upon Sidney Chambers of the Grantchester novels and television dramatizations.
I did see much of Darcy hiding inside the heart of Henry Fitzwilliam. Like Darcy, his nature had to be shaped by a transformative experience. In “Henry Fitzwilliam’s War,” the young Viscount uses the Wardrobe in 1881 to seek his manhood on the field of glorious combat to set to rights the collapse of the family’s image after his Granduncle had been tarred with the brush that was the failure in Crimea in the 1850s. However, he discovered that, much as his Great Grandmother Lydia often exclaimed, the Wardrobe had a nasty sense of humor. It deposited him in World War I.
Oddly enough, as “The Exile, Pt. 1” began to take shape, I found much of Lizzy in the soul of Maggie Small. Aline Charigot-Renoir may well have been the Jane of the first part of The Exile. Eleanor Fitzwilliam (Henry’s sister) has the same joie de vivre without the unfortunate aspects of young Lydia Bennet. And Jacques Robard is Colonel Fitzwilliam in the body of a French peasant: fiercely loyal and a man dangerous with whom to trifle.
In Part 2 of “The Exile,” I think that both Darcy and Fitzwilliam would be discomfited to learn that there was more of them in Wickham than previously imagined. And, there is more of the cold steel of the Old General in the frail body of Lady Kate than anyone could countenance.
MVAW: What could you tell us something about the Countess that you may have not said/written in other posts of this blog tour? How changed is this character? How has Kitty matured?
DJ: T’is difficult to consider…but I will try.
Just as Austenesque Fiction writers have long conjectured that Darcy and Elizabeth formed a seamless partnership in love, life, and business, I, too, realized that the Henry/Kitty pairing was the epitome of the “sum of the parts being greater…”
As Henry was limited by his injuries suffered at Loos in 1915, he could not realize his martial dreams. Plus, as Managing Director of the Bennet Family Trust, the 11th Earl of Matlock take off to fight on the Afghan Frontier or subdue the Boers. Rather, he found his niche in becoming the nation’s “go-to” diplomat in that last decade of peace before World War I. Note that Lady Kate, in “Lizzy Bennet Meets The Countess,” has dictated Henry’s enforced vacation in 1907due to his exertions on behalf of the Empire leading the delegation at the Algeçiras Conference.
As his wife, the Countess participated in the diplomatic swirl surrounding the great Hague, Berlin, Paris, and London conferences. She was his hostess, fully aware of the importance of her role. The growth in the Kitty/Kate personality came from the confidence she had found as she began to process and understand how the events of the summer of 1800 informed her adolescent life…and how the terrifying trials of 1891 resonated within her heart. The love and support first of Ellie and then Maggie and Aline and then that of Henry shaped her into a Twentieth Century woman, fully confident of her own agency. It is with this power that she returns to 1811 to set in motion events that will, she believes, fulfill the Wardrobe’s mission.
How else could The Countess, all sixty-three years of age, offer her father a cigarette in the latest installment?
MVAW: What are you writing next? Any insights?
DJ: As many of the commenters have noted in the recent blog tour, the Wardrobe is beginning to emerge with its own distinctive personality. Even though it cannot speak, the various Bennets who come into its orbit begin to sense that there is more to this wonderful piece of furniture than simply its service as a doorway, albeit a somewhat intelligent one, to the future. More about this will become apparent.
Other characters will require their own books before we reach the final chapter of the Wardrobe’s Saga. Next up is “The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament.” Lydia’s story will be fully covered in “The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion.”
Don, thank you very much for this interview. I really appreciate all the time that you have spent answering these questions and I believe readers will have enjoyed them as much as I have. I want to also thank Janet as she has put together all the blog tour 🙂
Ladies, gents, we are not finished, not even close! We have more!! First, let me remind you the schedule of this blog tour, do not miss very interesting posts about The Exile: The Countess visits Longbourn.
14th February Austenesque Reviews; Guest Post, Excerpt, GA
15th February My Jane Austen Book Club; Guest Post, GA
17th February My Love for Jane Austen; Character Interview, GA
19th February So little time… Excerpt, GA
20th February Interests of a Jane Austen Girl; Review, GA
21st February Babblings of a Bookworm; Guest Post, GA
23rd February More Agreeably Engaged; Review, Excerpt, GA
24th February Darcyholic Diversions; Character Interview, GA
26th February From Pemberley to Milton; Excerpt
28 February Just Jane 1813; Review, GA
2nd March Diary of an Eccentric; Guest Post, Excerpt, GA
3rd March My Vices and Weaknesses; Author Interview, GA
5th March Laughing With Lizzie; Guest Post, GA
Have into account that the books of this series are even better if they are read in an specific order:
I wrote more, right? Here you have more:
Here is a taste from the Thomas book which was published as Epilogue Two of “The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn.”
This excerpt is © 2018 by Donald P. Jacobson. Reproduction of this excerpt without the expressed written consent of the creator is prohibited. Published in the United States of America.
Longbourn Estate, Hertfordshire, October 28, 1814
Thomas Bennet was an unhappy man. No, his disquiet was not the result of what many Meryton friends would have assumed it to rise from: Mrs. Bennet’s famous nerves. His lady wife had calmed considerably since their eldest daughters had married. And, while Longbourn was quiet with Lizzy and Jane living in Derbyshire and Mary off at Rosings, Lydia, now a married woman for three years, had taken up lodging once again at her ancestral home given that Wickham was still on detached duty, serving with Fitzwilliam and the Duke in Vienna. Thomas suspected Mary’s hand in that affair—Lizzy and Jane were too involved in their Derbyshire lives as mothers and wives. Thus, Mrs. Bennet would always have company in the parlor or whenever the desire to shop moved her to declare that mission to Meryton was in order.
Bennet’s discontent rose from something else in his wife’s nature: her maternal feelings. Frances Lorinda Bennet missed their fourth daughter, Kitty, gone now nearly three years. Thomas had leaned upon his lord of the manor excuse of having sent the youngster to seminary in Cornwall far too long. Mrs. Bennet had been complaining that she was quite put out that Kitty never wrote and never visited. More recently, she had begun hinting that, since she had seen the sights of Derbyshire and the Lake District in the last year, she might find a lengthy visit to the south and west to be to her liking. Bennet had come into his bookroom more than once to find his wife curled up in Kitty’s chair, her slippers propped up on Lizzy’s stool, a book on Salisbury Cathedral or the Great Stone Circle or Weymouth in her lap.
Then she would pierce his heart with those sky-blue, nearly purple, eyes of hers and repeat her desire to travel in that direction…with the possibility of seeing Kitty hanging in the air between them.
And, while he had been content to ridicule the mother of his children for more than a decade after that horrible summer in the Year Zero, Bennet had himself changed much over the past three years. He had found her present nature to remind him of the bright, vivacious woman who had entranced him back in ’90.
If I had to do it all over again, I think I still would drop to a knee and beg for her hand. But, I would treat her differently. She is a sweet rose who needs a man to cherish her. Having watched how Darcy and Bingley love my girls…and from what Lydia has told me of her newly-reformed Wickham…I would spend less time in my bookroom and much more in her company.
Thomas Bennet was discovering just how ardently he loved his wife.
And, as such, he was loath to continue to deceive her.
Bennet had thought long and hard about the Kitty situation and how to address it with his wife. He cast his thoughts back to when Kitty, as the Countess, had visited with him after the weddings in 1811. They had never touched on her mother, but Kitty did leave him with the impression that she missed Mrs. Bennet.
Kitty had also revealed that the Wardrobe had been kept under considerable security since her journey ended in 1886.
The germ of a plan began to form in the fertile and capacious mind of Thomas Bennet. Only a modest deception, combined with some laudanum, would put Mr. and Mrs. Bennet in the presence of their daughter.
What Bennet did not take into account was what Lydia later always asserted…except that she had yet to utter it for the first time…The Wardrobe has a nasty sense of humor.
“Fanny, love, would you care to take tea with me in the library?” the Master of Longbourn gallantly asked.
Mrs. Bennet’s head snapped around, her greying blonde hair tucked away under her work-a-day lace topper. Her husband had frequently sat with her in the parlor over tea and cakes…more often now than in any time since they were first wed. But, he had never asked her to join him in that male preserve of his—one that was traditionally barred to any distaff members of the family, although Fanny Bennet had been taking liberties in recent months. She had avoided any effort to inspire him to impose organization upon the chaos that was Longbourn’s book room. She secretly harbored some jealousy that he was comfortable in the library’s disarray where she could never have abided such clutter if it had found its way to her private sitting room.
However, she would not hesitate at this invitation. No, indeed, as it was a rare example of complete gentility on the part of her casual husband.
Perhaps watching Darcy involve himself at Pemberley or Darcy House has left an impression on Thomas Michael Bennet!
Mrs. Bennet calmly placed her needlework in her sewing basket, smoothed her skirts, and rose from her chair. She virtually floated across the room to meet him at the doorway, halting to take his arm to be guided across Longbourn’s entry hall into the library.
Which was spotless!
Bennet’s usual book shelving system was wall-to-wall. Now, however, every tome was stowed with as much care as if the librarians at the Bodleian had been employed for weeks! The dark stained shelves glowed from all of the elbow grease applied by Mrs. Hill and her maids. The fireplace’s andirons shined under new blacking and a cheerful fire spluttered behind a gleaming brass screen.
Mrs. Bennet’s newest tea service, a gift from the Darcys, sat on the low table between the two leather upholstered wingback chairs.
She looked around the room, admiring a large portion of her home she had rarely seen. Everything could not have been more on point. Her heart swelled at the respect her husband was showing her.
One might think Tom Bennet was wooing me all over again!
Guiding her over to the chair nearest to, but with its back also to, his wardrobe, Bennet gently handed her down to the seat.
“Now, Mrs. Bennet, Fanny, you must allow me to serve you today. Then we can talk of some travel plans about which I have been hoping to gain your advice,” Bennet said.
Intrigued, the lady asked, “Travel plans, Thomas? Are you suggesting that we are going to Salisbury? To Bodmin? To see Kitty?”
She fairly bounced in her seat, her excitement turning her from a mature pillar of Meryton’s society into a young lady barely out. She calmed when her husband handed her a cup of tea. In her enthusiasm, she had not noticed Mr. Bennet carefully adding several drops of clear liquid to the brew as he prepared hers.
Bennet replied, “I am hoping to include Kitty in our itinerary for I am certain she would thoroughly enjoy seeing you. However, Mrs. Bennet, I must remind you to keep your emotions under the strictest regulation.
“Act with her as if you are having dinner at Matlock House. In fact, that must be the image you carry in your mind.”
As they continued to converse, Bennet subtly tried to prepare her for what was to come. Mrs. Bennet shortly began to complain about a sudden onset of weariness. Her husband continued to divert her attention that might otherwise have led her to ascend to her rooms for a restorative nap. Eventually, the woman’s chin dropped to her fichu, and she began to snore lightly.
Mr. Bennet waited a full five minutes to allow Morpheus to fully envelope Mrs. Bennet in his grasp.
Rising, Bennet scooped her up.
She is still a slip of a woman. All I need to do is look at her to know how my girls will appear when they are her age. Thank goodness she does not tend to stoutness like Lady Lucas or Mrs. Goulding. Fanny Bennet is one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance!
Stepping around the furniture occupying his path to the Wardrobe, Bennet carried his burden until they were in front of the cabinet. Holding one arm around her middle, he set her feet on the floor, her face nestled into his cravat. He pulled out a long linen sling he had previously hidden in his waistcoat. Draping it over his head and then hers, he maneuvered her unresponsive arms through the opening until her upper body was suspended in tight proximity to his own.
He murmured, “Forgive me, Fanny, for the unladylike manner you are being supported. If I knew a better way, I would have used it.”
Bennet closed his eyes and chased every thought from his mind. Then he scribed in bright letters across the tabula rasa:[i]
Kitty. I want to see my daughter.
Thomas Bennet, the Founder, planted his hands on the Wardrobe’s front.
A thousand bees buzzed…and the pressure built until…
Matlock House, London, July 13, 1947
Lord Thomas Fitzwilliam, the 12th Earl of Matlock, crossed and uncrossed his legs as he waited impatiently for that which he knew was ordained to happen.
He knew that which he knew because of a Founder’s Letter written in a shaky hand that had been delivered to him by a uniformed messenger from the Trust Offices in Lincoln’s Inn. The writer had neglected to be terribly specific about the time of arrival: he only indicated “in the afternoon.”
I could have dealt with any of a number of issues over at the “Circus” if I had only known the actual when of the where/when.
He reached over to the table next to his chair and lifted a burning cigar to his lips taking a long, exaggerated drag. His eyes never left the Wardrobe where it rested, immobile, across the chamber from him. Nearby was what the writer of the Founder’s Letter had quaintly referred to as a ‘Bath Chair;’ or in modern parlance, a wheel chair.
More minutes passed. The H. Upmann continued to burn, filling the room with an aromatic haze.
With no preamble, a loud thump inside the Wardrobe broke the silence.
The double doors popped open.
Two persons—a man supporting an apparently comatose woman—both wearing garb Matlock had last seen in the Victoria and Albert collection wavered in the entrance. Quickly placing the cigar in the ashtray, the Earl moved across the room, cursing his fifty-two year old knees for their arthritic complaining. He collected the woman from the sling around the other man’s neck and lowered her into the chair.
The gentleman stepped away from the Wardrobe and smoothed his waistcoat with both hands as he looked at the man who had most recently handled his wife with all the propriety the situation could afford.
It is as if I am looking in the mirror after Hill has administered my morning shave. This fellow could be my twin! Except for his steel-grey eyes!
Lord Thomas was experiencing the exact same emotions.
Except, he recognized the man before him, he of the hazel eyes—Bennet Eyes—from the painting that still dominated the Board Room at the Trust.
Throwing position and status to the wind, Thomas Fitzwilliam blurted, “Hello, Grandfather. Will Grandmother require any medical assistance?”
Thomas Bennet smiled and replied, “No, son, she is just under the influence a sleeping agent. I am experienced in administering my wife’s tonics. As such, I imagine she will awaken in an hour or so. Perhaps you could find a bedchamber where she might be made more comfortable?
“So you must be Kitty’s oldest and my namesake, Thomas. Looking at the thinning thatch atop your pate, I would imagine that the Wardrobe has carried us further than I had planned. Certainly I would have enjoyed bouncing you on my knee rather than sharing a brandy with you. But, there is no profit to be had questioning the Wardrobe.
“However, that said, could you fetch my daughter? I would wish to greet her.”
Fitzwilliam’s face fell at his grandfather’s request.
“Oh, Grandfather. We lost Mama over three years ago. You are too late!”
[i] Literally “blank slate.” Used by John Locke in his seminal Treatise on Human Understanding (1690) to describe the infant mind.
(silly note, I really like that Vienna is mentioned, I am actually on the train towards that lovely city)
Time to Give Away
This post is coming to its end but I am sure that everything was a good read, right? Now it is time to give away and Don Jacobson is giving away during this blog tour 10 ebooks copies and 2 paperbacks. A winner may win ONLY 1 (ONE) eBook or Paperback of The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn by Don Jacobson. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international.
Terms and conditions: Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented (which will be verified). If an entrant does not do so, that entry will be disqualified. Remember: Tweet and comment once daily to earn extra entries.