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It’s a pleasure to welcome Don Jacobson back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of his latest audio books, Henry Fitzwilliam’s War and The Maid and the Footman. Please give him a warm welcome!

Which came first: The Written or the Spoken Word?

One of my favorite mantras to students…be they history or writing…is that “if it sounds weird, it probably is weird.” Oh, I know, this is odd to be coming from the podium at an august institution of higher education, but it is spoken with the best of intents. T’is my fun way to encourage the l’il darlin’s to proofread aloud. That way they will hear the sound of their words…and understand that if they are spewing a mouthful of gibberish, they likely have written something semantically incomprehensible.

This exercise is rooted in my belief that every single syllable, pause—partial or full—sentence, and paragraph have grown from Humanity’s effort to preserve that which came first; the spoken word.

Recall that t’was the Greeks who invented vowels (after they pinched the Phoenician alphabet in the mid-700s BCE to replace Linear B from the pre-Greek Dark Ages days: nobody could read it!) so that they could preserve the Homeric Epics after Homer died.

I mean, how would The Illiad read if there was an eternal confusion over (OK, this is English, but imagine an Athenian bard trying to sing for his supper) whether the word “dg” was “dog,” “dig,” “dug,” or “dag?” The cardinal vowels (a, e, i, o, u…forget about the cross-dressing “y” and “w”) were created to allow the Greeks to record their favorite after dinner entertainment. OK, Plato surely recorded many down-and-out drinking brawls where Alcibiaedes and Socrates would try to drink each other under the klismos, but that was after a local minstrel had recited a few dozen stanzas of something designed to show the cultural chops of the party’s host.

Yet, given that the Greek’s captured the eloquence of Homer’s words…and later those of Sappho, Aeschylus, and, later by Romans living on another peninsula, Ovid…these written works were still designed to allow an oral performance before an audience.

This is, I admit, a long way around the block to get me to the point of saying that all writing is rooted in the oral tradition. If that is the case, should not all writing when heard sound as good as (if not better than) when it  read silently?

In the #InspiredByAusten world, #Austenesque authors over the past few years have been moving through the processes of bringing their works to a broad public using a range of electronic publishing options. Many are now adept at designing their stories to fit both digital and print venues.  We have, it seems, been following the traditional path extant since our good friend Gutenberg invented the movable type printing press in the 1450s.

Naturally, this great leap in the manner in which the written word could be distributed forced a putting of the cart before the horse, essentially given primacy of written over spoken. And so it has remained until the last 20 or 30 years.

However, new technologies (I am ignoring phonographs upon which you could have enjoyed Gielgud performing King Lear…not particularly portable.) led to a reappraisal of the spoken word as a literary device. Three words…books on tape.

Of course, these were usually the author or celebrity author reading their word into a microphone. The utility was that one could listen to a book…and hear the author’s voice…without having to cease other tasks in order to flip pages. But, t’was “just” a reading, not a performance. And, so it remained for a few decades.

With the advances in Internet technology and ever-expanding server farms, more opportunities to move books to recorded arenas are now available. And, in the process, voice artists are bringing their talents to performing and interpreting the books.

I have been in the midst of a four-month process of moving all of my books (Bennet Wardrobe and Lessers and Betters) to #Audible.

The reason is simple: I want my readers to also be able to engage my books in a different manner. The performers with whom I work offer just that. Barbara Rich (The Lessers and Betters stories) and Amanda Berry (The books of the Bennet Wardrobe) bring their training and experience to play to present listeners with a uniquely different experience.

They interpret the pacing of the writing. They assume the nature of the characters. They bring emotion to the passages and, hopefully inspire reactions not experienced by readers of the printed books. They draw you in…much as the ancient Greek and Roman rhapsōidos did 2,500 years ago. And, in the process, make the words I have laid down sound much as they did when I imagined them.

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Please read the following excerpt from Chapter VIII in Henry Fitzwilliam’s War while listening to the audio sample as performed by Amanda Berry found here.

The House thus settled itself for another night much as it had for almost a century, its long porches reaching out to embrace the turbulent weather that had disturbed its owners’ homeland just a few hours before. Idiosyncratic creaks and pops echoed through the structure as ancient nails and beams gave up the heat collected from the watery October sun. Yet, while the building and its servants may have surrendered themselves to sleep, the two principals found such relief impossible to attain.

She could not imagine that he could be pulled away from her again, even though she knew that it was impossible for him to remain in this time.  His absence would disrupt every thread, every mote that swirled in the complicated universe governed by the Wardrobe. Only the fact that her husband was in Washington permitted the soldier’s presence next door.

As she lay there, counting the hours to dawn, she gazed around her son’s room, the furnishings so distinctly male, yet still revealing his sensitive nature.  On the one hand, his polo mallets were resting in hooks on the wall facing the window; two cricket bats were also propped in the corner.  On the other, one of her favorite canvases, his oil of Roses on Fieldstone, Deauville looked down at the foot of the bed.  How she prayed for his safety. What would he have made of the young man resting in his parent’s bed?

That young man tossed one way and then the other.  Each crash of thunder returned him to that night, back to Loos, to the moment when he could still count sight as one of his senses. But, artillery was only thunderous at the moment of impact.  The low grumble beyond the horizon, sometimes punctuated by flashes of grim lightening, first led to a whistle that increased in pitch and volume if the shell had your number.  If not, the sound deepened and the moaning faded as the charge found another target.

Then there was the wind; its gusts shook the House like a terrier would a captured rat. Again he was thrown back to the Front where the ground quivered pudding-like under the pounding of Hun cannons. Sudden drafts chilled his cheeks and chin as the pervasive blasts overwhelmed well-mitered windows.

How foolish we were, to allow phony “national pride,” the ultimate manifestation of masculinity, to destroy the system that had kept the peace for a hundred years.  Now the blood price that will have to be paid to erase this, man’s original sin—pride, will be steep indeed.

He knew that the coming parting was utterly necessary. He had to return to his own time lest he become another Kitty Bennet, now lost in the Wardrobe for 70 years. He could see Gran’s sadness when she spoke of her next eldest sister.  He could not subject his family to that sort of grief.

***

There was a point around midnight when she found herself sitting on the edge of her bed.  Had she dozed?  Then, responding to a dream, had she risen in pursuit of…she knew not what? The pulling she had felt for twenty-plus years was roiling her insides. The demand was too intense.

Her bare feet touched down on the bedside throw rug. Gathering a blanket around her shoulders, she glided across the mahogany stained floorboards to open her door. Just four steps down the hallway to his. She rested her forehead against the panel, trying to control her breathing—but with little success.

Stop…do not proceed.  You will break your heart…and his!

In his darkness, he first perceived her scent, roses rushing over the grass to his nose.  He must have lost the sound of the door opening beneath one of the crashes of the storm.  Somewhere, feet or inches away, She stood, silently.  The weight of her eyes in the nighttime darkness bore on him.  Her gaze played up and down his body and pushed his aura like a hand gently stroking a cat’s silky coat.  He could hear her shallow quick breaths signaling intense conflict. But, she did not move to close the gap.

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Giveaway

Don is generously offering a two-pack of Audible codes for Henry Fitzwilliam’s War and The Maid and the Footman. There will be two winners selected. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, August 5, 2018. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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About the Author

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 SeriesThe 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).

Connect with Don: WebsiteAmazon Author Page | Goodreads Author Page | Twitter

Thank you, Don! It’s always a pleasure having you as my guest! Congratulations on your latest audio book releases!

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I’m delighted to welcome Don Jacobson back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of Lessers and Betters. Don is here today to talk about the novellas bundled in the book and share an excerpt. Please give him a warm welcome!

I have often pondered the appeal of novels like Pride and Prejudice to a 21st Century audience. Back in the Regency when Miss Austen wrote her masterpiece, her contemporaries (those who could, first, read and, second, afford to purchase her book) saw P&P as being about (loosely, I will admit) people like us…the gentry and the aristocracy.

Now, in more egalitarian times…although there will be those who point to the 1%/99% divide…the popularity of the book has vaulted it into the forefront of readers’ favorites. Yet, how many of us can actually identify with Elizabeth Bennet…the daughter of a family earning the 2018 equivalent of about $187,000 every year? Recall, too, that the Bennets owned Longbourn free and clear in an era of no income tax and no property tax. Likewise, while they would have had to pay a window tax and an annual carriage tax, the bulk of their moneys could be reserved for gowns and ribbons and trips to Town.

Perhaps that is the appeal…much like the lottery. Easy street. No worries. It also explains the terror Mrs. B felt when she considered the entail.

The less we think of Mr. Darcy’s $1 Million a year, the better.

Of course, this would explain Caroline Bingley’s $2 Million dowry…given her personality.

However, while t’is blissful to romanticize about teas, assemblies, sideboards groaning with food, and fine brandy, there are a group of characters found in all of the Canonical books who are virtually invisible. However, without these persons, none of the softly cushioned lifestyles written about could have existed.

I am, of course, speaking of the servants. Rarely are they seen at the far end of Miss Austen’s quill except to open doors, serve meals, or dash off to fetch smelling salts.

This has, over the course of my career writing #InspiredByAusten fiction, piqued my historian’s imagination. We are now in a post-modern era where social scientists are examining events, discourses, and narratives from a subaltern’s (sergeant’s) point-of-view. Rather than history composed around those who had the power to write it, we now examine those who lived in it, but who never merited the attention of those who sought to portray that which shaped the times.

That led to, first, the novella Of Fortune’s Reversal which examined the events of November 5, 1815 from the gentry’s point of view. This novella was followed by another, The Maid and The Footman, that explored the same sequence, but as seen and experienced by two members in service to the Cecil household where Kitty Bennet was employed as governess.

While the two stories were published about four months apart in 2016 with Of Fortune’s Reversal being first, I had never intended to create paired novellas approaching the same events from two different perspectives; or, to pay tribute to a classic, akin to Upstairs, Downstairs. Of Fortune’s Reversal was simply designed as a “Kitty” story as part of my process of building her book in The Bennet Wardrobe series.

However, in the rosy hue of post-publication, the contours of The Maid and The Footman started to rise from the freshly planted terrain. T’was a short step to apprehend that there was a reason that I first had Sergeant Henry Wilson and then, later, Annie Reynolds identify themselves in the course of the action that made up Of Fortune’s Reversal. Those who are familiar with my process know that I do not apply names to characters unless they will play a larger role than a soul who lights the fireplace or opens the door for The Quality.

I have decided to offer both books together under one cover because it is my belief that the experience of absorbing the two discourses—that of the betters followed by that of the lessers—will offer the most rewarding experience as a reader considers the themes flowing through Great Britain as its social structure metamorphosed. Moving directly from one to the other without an intervening gap of weeks or months will (hopefully) create a deeper inner dialogue over which readers can mull.

As a parting note, I would urge readers to consider the following thought:

Wealth confers no greater nobility on the “haves” and no less on the “have nots.” Humans experience the deepest emotions and seek out connections of love whether they drink the tea…or serve it.

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Please enjoy this excerpt from Lessers and Betters:

This excerpt is © 2018 by Donald P. Jacobson. No republication in any form—either electronic or print—without the expressed written consent of the author is permitted.

From Chapter VIII in The Maid and The Footman

Wilson stationed himself near where Miss Bennet would stop and rest when she was not dancing. From her heightened color and happy looks, he could tell that the lady was thoroughly enjoying herself. She rarely wanted for partners as one of the Cecil gentlemen always made a point of seeking her hand. Even the young Duke of Wilton was shooed over by his wife, the former Lady Emily Cecil, to invite her old friend to take a turn on the floor. The only time Miss Bennet’s countenance drooped was when one of the men of the ton, attracted by her blonde hair and shining china-blue eyes, would discover she was the Cecil governess and abruptly turn on his heel without another word.

Henry was not sure of the reason why he placed himself near Miss Bennet. There was his soldier’s sense of loyalty to his charge. His job during the daytime was to make sure that Miss Bennet and Miss Margaret were safe—not that the governess was in any danger

at the ball—although he had an uneasy feeling which had been nagging at him for the past few hours. Perhaps he wanted to be nearby in case she required him to run an errand, one that would necessitate his seeking out Miss Reynolds for Miss Bennet’s shawl. Whatever the case, Henry Wilson positioned himself about five feet behind her and to her left.

His eyes scanned the crowd of post-midnight revelers. Only a few of the more elderly had departed for their townhomes. The noise level had increased as the younger aristocracy began to feel the exuberance of a carefree existence that only uncountable wealth could bring. More people crowded onto the dance floor, leaving those on the sidelines conspicuous in their immobility.

Miss Bennet glanced back over her left shoulder at Henry, and with a smile to him, indicated that she wished a glass of champagne from his tray. He stepped forward and bowed slightly so that she could take her drink. Looking past, he saw a tall, slender, red headed woman making a beeline for Miss Bennet from across the room.

To Wilson’s eye, this woman was at least five and more likely ten years older than Miss Bennet. As she neared her quarry, he could see that her complexion was well rouged and powdered, probably in an effort to restore the luster of a youth that had fled some time before. More likely, all she accomplished was to hide some of the more obvious ravages of time. She was dressed as good Queen Bess, but the ridiculously accurate high collar coupled with her already long frame left an impression of a carnival actor navigating the room on stilts. Henry could see a steely glint in her hazel green eyes. Whoever she was, she bore not friendship, but rather disdain, for Miss Bennet.

“Miss Bennet. I am quite surprised to come across you here at the Cecil Masque,” the woman fluted between teeth clenched in a rictus that bespoke astonishment, “How did you ever secure such a coveted invitation? I doubt if it was through your connections in Cheapside.”

Miss Bennet’s face soured at the verbal assault, but she politely replied using an epee rather than a saber, “Why Miss Bingley…it is still Miss Bingley, is it not? What a pleasure it is to meet you again. Why it has to be nearly four years since we last saw you before you left Netherfield. I do hope you are faring well. Your note of condolence upon our father’s death was so comforting.”

Wilson stepped back to his earlier position, making sure to keep his face impassive.

I think I am about to see how ladies do battle. These two have no love lost whatsoever. I doubt if this Miss Bingley—how did she ever secure an invitation, I wonder—is aware that Miss Bennet spent the last few years by the side of a Cecil, and a future Duchess at that, learning the art of social war!

The faux-Elizabeth arched her eyebrows as she absorbed the slight about her marital status. Then she tried a flanking attack.

“Yes, my brother and sister and I were all so devastated that your father’s death forced dear Jane and Eliza into taking employment. But, I imagine even Mr. Darcy, the height of condescension, felt that this was the best they could expect thanks to your father’s

indolent ways. I had heard that your sisters relocated to the hinterlands away from the city. Was it Glasgow? Dublin? I imagine you were so distressed when your Uncle acted like a common tradesman and required them to leave his house in the midst of their grief.”

Wilson ground his teeth as he listened to Miss Bingley pile insults atop insults. He had heard Miss Bennet relate to Annie that her uncle had not demanded that any of his nieces find employment. On the contrary, her two elder sisters could not bear to be a burden on a household with four small children. Another sister—the middle one—had married a sea captain in the Gardiner line. His share of the profits would make the couple quite comfortable.

Miss Bennet maintained her composure and replied evenly, “Oh, Miss Bingley, you are mistaken. Both Jane and Elizabeth decided that their futures would be away from London. Honestly, I think they needed to be absent from Town and the poor memories associated with some areas like Mayfair. My aunt and uncle could not convince them to stay. It is true that my Papá did not plan for our security, but my uncle has more than enough resources to keep his two favorite nieces close at hand. Why, he asked after them just last week when he stopped by Cecil House to meet with Lord Tom and his brother.”

Thrust and parry.

Miss Bingley fired another shot, “I can give no credit to your account. I am surprised that Lord Thomas Cecil would be willing to meet with anyone from trade here at Cecil House. Why even my brother, for whom I am still hostess, has the delicacy to conduct those sorts of meetings away from home. And, when I am Mistress of Pemberley, I will force Mr. Darcy to cut any ties with those in trade. His man of business is good enough for that!

“Those in the trade have such inferior manners. But so do many of those in the gentility, especially if they hail from countrified regions like Hertfordshire. I recall how much you and your uncontrollable sister—what was her name—Lily? Lara?—danced like wild hoydens with all the soldiers at that wretched assembly my brother forced us to attend. But I doubt if you have had the opportunity to dance like that tonight…because you are Lord Thomas and Lady Mary’s governess.”

This last vitriolic salvo was delivered with the triumphant sneer so well known by familiars of that particular daughter of trade. She then sought to push her advantage home. Dropping all pretense of being polite, Miss Bingley reached out and grabbed Miss Bennet’s dance card that was dangling from her left wrist; the same hand in which she held her glass of champagne.

The remaining liquid splashed out onto the floor as Miss Bennet’s hand was yanked forward.

“I imagine that this card is blank, as it should be for an employee overstepping her bounds by presuming to be on the same level as members of the ton.”

Henry stepped forward to Miss Bennet’s side. He had already lifted the napkin draped over his arm and had dropped it atop the golden puddle before it spread to the hem

of her gown. Then he gently removed the glass from her hand, still held captive by the silk ribbon stretching from her wrist to Miss Bingley’s hand. He glanced at the governess’ face.

Oh, this Bingley woman has overcharged her musket like a raw recruit. Wonder if she left the ramrod in as well. There is going to be an interesting explosion in a moment. Just look at the arch of Miss Bennet’s eyebrow and the set of her lips!

Caroline snapped open the card. Then her face began to grow pale for the card was filled with names that could only have been improved if one had been the Prince Regent’s! Her eyes widened as she saw monikers that were familiar to her only from the columns in the Times.

Henry dipped to wipe the floor and remove the cloth. As he stepped back, the tableau of Queen Elizabeth facing Marie Antoinette across the centuries stuck in his mind.

Miss Bennet gently tugged her arm backward away from Miss Bingley. Miss Bingley released the dance card from numb fingers. She never moved; her widened eyes locked on Miss Bennet’s face.

Miss Bennet began her final assault.

“So, Miss Bingley, perhaps what truly is is not what you have wished it to be. Perhaps some of the ton are not so insensitive as to ignore a guest forced to sit out a dance because the social sensibilities of others would leave an unaccompanied lady without a partner.

“I happen to recall a particular gentleman from Derbyshire being called out by a young lady from Hertfordshire for exactly that same boorish behavior.

“Yes, it is true that I am governess to Miss Margaret Cecil. And, yes, it is also true that I receive wages for my services. But, Miss Bingley, you must know that I, too, have chosen to relieve the burden of my welfare from my uncle’s shoulders.

“Jane, Lizzy, and Mary could have remained in Meryton and lived with our Mama, Lydia—yes her name is Lydia—and me off of Mamá’s 5,000-pound portion. But can you imagine six women maintaining themselves on 150 pounds a year?

“My older sisters knew that they had to make their own way in the world. They refused to condemn all of us to poverty; and it would be a poverty not of the genteel kind about which the novelists so happily declaim as some sort of virtue.

“Mrs. Bennet may have been a foolish woman when you knew her, but Papá’s death changed her. With my three older sisters away from the family, Mama took some of her money to send Lydia and me to seminary.

“I have not heard from my sister these past few months, but I know she is healthy and happy because I feel it here.” At that she laid her gloved hand above her heart. “Just as I know that Lizzy, Jane, Mary, and Mamá are all well.

“Can you say the same about Mr. Bingley and Mrs. Hurst? I imagine not.

“So, I may be a governess, but I was happy this morning. I am happy tonight. And tomorrow, I will awake happy because I know that there are people who want me near and that those whom I love are they themselves happy.

“And tomorrow morning…what will you be, Miss Bingley?I

“Oh, you must excuse me. I see my next partner coming. Will yours know where to find you?”

Match to Miss Bennet with first blood. Perhaps Miss Bingley would like a glass of champagne? I think not. Likely she has had enough of that drink for the time being!

I This was inspired by Sir Winston Churchill’s famous exchange with Lady Astor from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/my-dear-you-are-ugly-but-tomorrow-i-shall-be-sober-and-you-will-still-be-ugly-winston-churchill-tops-8878622.html accessed 10/3/16

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About Lessers and Betters

Experience Love As It Blooms Upstairs and Downstairs

Lessers and Betters asserts that class is an imaginary distinction conferring no better manners on the haves and no lesser nobility on the have-nots and that the deepest human emotions are universal and ignore wealth or status.

Now for the first time under the same cover, discover the paired novellas that explore the remarkable events of November 5, 1815 when the Cecil Governess, Kitty Bennet, was grievously injured as she defended her charge. What rests behind the attack? Readers of Lessers and Betters will experience a unique literary approach that offers both gentry and servant perspectives presented in their own self-contained novellas.

Of Fortunes Reversal: A brisk Hyde Park morning is shattered by a child’s scream. How two gently-born adults react in those next few desperate moments sets the plot in motion that is a unique reconsideration of the traditional Pride and Prejudice memes. Of Fortune’s Reversal is a novella-length tale based upon an inversion of Mrs. Bennet’s exclamation that with one good marriage, the other girls would be thrown in front of rich men. What if the well-wed sister was neither Jane nor Elizabeth?

The Maid and The Footman: Explore the growing affection between a young lady’s maid, Annie Reynolds, and a retired sergeant, Henry Wilson: ultimately a love story as great as any written by the immortals. In the Jane Austen universe, the celebrated novels are written from the point-of-view of the landed gentry. Servants are rarely seen except to open doors, serve dinner, or fetch smelling salts. Follow Annie and Henry as they combine with General Sir Richard Fitzwilliam and Miss Bennet to defeat an awesome threat aimed at the heart of the British Empire.

The combined volume is approximately 82,000 words in length.

Buy Lessers and Betters on Amazon.

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About the Author

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 SeriesThe 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).

Connect with Don: WebsiteAmazon Author Page | Goodreads Author Page | Twitter

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Giveaway

Don is generously offering an ebook copy of Lessers and Betters to one lucky reader! To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. We’d love to hear what you think of the excerpt! This giveaway will be open through Sunday, June 24, 2018. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Don, for being my guest today. It’s always a pleasure to share your books with my readers. Congratulations on your latest release!

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I’m delighted to welcome Don Jacobson back to celebrate the release of his latest novel, The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn, which is part of The Bennet Wardrobe Series. Today he is here with a guest post about his process of reading. I hope you enjoy the post as much as I did and share your process of reading in the comments. Please give Don a warm welcome:

A Holistic Approach to Being #InspiredByAusten

One of my favorite things to do when I purchase a new hardbound book from a major publisher is that I randomly open it and rub my hand on the page. No reading…just rubbing.

This simple act is the beginning of my relationship with the author’s efforts. The tactile pleasure I derive from the finish of the paper enhances my overall experience with the publication before I begin to read it. There is something special about the highly clayed stock reserved for only the most special books that establishes a sense of worth; an idea that what I am about to read is important.

Then there are the cover jacket design, the bindery, the typeface, the depth of the ink, the nature of the typeface used for me to consider.

By now, you are likely thinking is he ever going to just read the darn book?

Eventually.

However, much as I have explored my process of writing in previous blog posts, I am now describing to you my process of reading. For, if writers do not write for readers to read, then just what are they doing?

I will readily admit that I am of a particular age. And that singular fact means that I stand astride the hard/soft copy divide. For the remainder of this post, I will offer my thoughts in the manner in which I write my books: printed version first with an e-book converted from that.

And, that sort of makes me feel as if I am the one guy making his way back to his seat in the stadium after the home team has just gone down by six runs in the top of the eighth. T’is a struggle to try to look at the craft of creating a book in a world where content is King, Queen, and Court, and how that material is presented is secondary at best.

We need to step back and consider this seminal question: What is a book?

For me, in its simplest form, the traditional codex-style book is a unique delivery mechanism for words and pictures that support the overall theme to which the author is writing. And, quite honestly, that is exactly what an e-book does; nothing less, but certainly not much more. And, within that gap falls the everything else that differentiates a well-produced and published book—electronic or print—from what we used to call the “pulp” trade.

Now, I am not indicting the modern publishing model that allows individuals to compose a story and pump their file through KDP for cover and e-book formatting to have it in front of a hungry audience within days of putting the final period on the final word of the final paragraph. In fact, I am now entirely self-published. However, my previous experience with traditional publishers afforded me an insight into how far beyond the act of writing that the creation of a book actually goes.

When I am engaged in the (roughly) four-month-process required to bring an 80,000-word novel in the Bennet Wardrobe Series, there is no question that the bulk of my effort is involved in the process of weaving the tapestry that is the plot of the stories. However, the last month is occupied with beta reads, editing, and proofing (which, I swear, no matter haw many times you do it, something gets through). I have discovered that the typeface Cambria is highly readable, so that is my dedicated font for all of my books…from the first manuscript words to the final print and e-book versions.

Oh, yes, there is the simple blocking-and-tackling of inserting page breaks at the end of each chapter as well as hyperlinks and bookmarks for the interactive Table of Contents for the e-book. But the addition of important nuances help establish the tone for the book.

Sometimes it is as simple as the inclusion of a quote or phrase. In The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn, there are four very specific quotes that set the stage.

Directly preceding the Prologue, I put William Blake to work

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour.

emphasizing, once again, the question of Time and the Universe.

Each page introducing Book One, Two, and Three also employ a specific theme setting as well as another appropriate quote.

Book One, Longbourn House, leaned on the immortal Thomas Wolfe from Look Homeward Angel…

The seed of our destruction will blossom in the desert, the alexin

of our cure grows by a mountain rock, and our lives are haunted by a

Georgia slattern, because a London cutpurse went unhung. Each moment is the fruit of forty thousand years. The minute-winning days, like flies, buzz home to death, and every moment is a window

 on all time.

 Book Two, Madras House, turned to the Bard for some thematic verse from Midsummer Night’s Dream, which fit so perfectly into the entire climax of the section.

Now, until the break of day,
Through this house each fairy stray.
To the best bride-bed will we,
Which by us shall blessed be;
And the issue there create
Ever shall be fortunate.
So shall all the couples three
Ever true in loving be…

 Finally, Book Three, the Beach House, finds the reader reaching the conclusion of Kitty Bennet’s arc. Seneca’s contemplations on life and death cried out to me.

Life is like a play: it’s not the length,

but the excellence of the acting that matters.

Then there is the manner in which I will present type on the page.  At times, as in The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey, I scattered works around an otherwise blank page to portray the lady’s desperate fight against the pneumonia that threatened to smother her. In The Countess Visits Longbourn, the final words of the last chapter have been intentionally set apart on their own page with the intention of driving home the end of the book with the reader.

Of course, I have discussed the design of the entire cover for the print books in other forums. Suffice to say here that The Bennet Wardrobe series would not be the same without the careful craftsmanship of Janet Taylor. Yet, the covers, themselves, contain critical clues to the interior discourse found between them. Consider the rose wreaths (roses being a consistent theme throughout the entire series) surrounding the volume numbers on the spines. Time for your to play CSI Austen. Compare the wreaths around the “2.0” on Exile (pt. 1) and “2.9” on Exile (pt. 2). Are they different and, if so, why?

All of this is part and parcel of what I call “holistic writing.” I consider the entire package to be necessary for a complete reading experience. A reader can simply enjoy the story. However, I truly believe that time spent with the book will be enhanced by subliminal items. T’is these that contribute to creating a sentiment that every possible effort to deliver a quality and enjoyable encounter with the tale being spun by the author.

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The Bennet Wardrobe books are best enjoyed in the following order:

The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey

Henry Fitzwilliam’s War

The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque

Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess

The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn

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An excerpt from The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn, courtesy of Don Jacobson

This excerpt describes Lady Fitzwilliam’s first encounter with Madras House, set in the fashionable district around Grosvenor Square. Note: Madras House had been purchased by Mr. Benjamin Bennet, Kitty’s Great-great Grandfather in the aftermath of the South Seas Bubble.  

This excerpt is ©2018 by Donald P. Jacobson. Any reproduction of this excerpt without the expressed written consent of the Creator is prohibited. Published in the United States of America. 

Chapter XII

Madras House, London, December 11, 1811 (later) 

Kitty looked out the window of the hired carriage as it rattled away from Lincoln’s Inn in the darkness of an overcast London night. Mr. Hunters had speedily concluded their interview once he had pressed her home’s key into her hands. However, she did not leave until she had confirmed that Hunters would advise Papa of the Bennet Townhouse. She would leave it to her father’s good judgment as to how much further he would spread the information.

She was quite curious as to how this Madras House would appear, for, in spite of Hunters’ assurances that the establishment was fully staffed, she could not believe that an otherwise uninhabited dwelling (for the past seventy years at the very least) would be livable.

In short order, the vehicle was parked at the curb in front of a yellow-white stone clad townhome rising above the fashionable street bordering the Park. The great windows—three on either side of the entrance—glowed with candlelight, giving the entire aspect a cheeriness that squeezed Kitty’s heart, reminding her of how her beloved Matlock House looked after sunset. Torches also had been lit on either side of the entry walkway, and a greatcoat-clad footman hurried down the front stairs to lower the step and open the coach’s door. He handed Kitty down to the elevated walkway fronting the house. He then offered her his arm to allow her to safely navigate the marble stairs, perhaps slippery with a mid-December rime.

Stepping through the double doors into the front entryway, she was greeted by both the butler and housekeeper who headed double files of staff members lined up for her inspection.

The graying head of the household rumbled his greeting first, “Good evening, my Lady, Mr. Hunters alerted us to expect you. I am Hudson, your butler. It is my privilege to welcome you to Madras House, so named by Mr. Benjamin Bennet.”

Kitty appreciated the sense of history that established lineage and ownership.

Hudson continued, “May I present you to Mrs. Hudson, your housekeeper.”[i]

The middle-aged woman reminded Kitty of dear Mrs. Hill. Her friendly face immediately put the Countess at ease after a long day of travel.

Mrs. Hudson set to her task by saying in a well-modulated and pleasant alto, “I speak for all of the above- and below-stairs staff when I assure you, my Lady, that we are most eager to be of service to you. I must candidly note that we have somewhat despaired of being of service to anyone for many years. I do hope that you find the furnishings to your taste. We have made every effort to stay in step with the times.

“However, while the residence may be styled Madras House, Mr. Hudson and I, along with young Mr. Hunters, agreed to avoid faddish fripperies, particularly those of an Oriental flavor. Rather we determined to put good English craftsmen to work building sensible furniture that would stand the test of time.”

Kitty smiled to herself.

I am trying to imagine one of the young tabbies of the ton being on the receiving end of that speech. Not only would Mrs. Hudson be out on her ear, so, too, would every stick of “sensible furniture” that servants or tradesmen would have the impudence to install in a fashionable Grosvenor townhouse. Miss Bingley would probably populate every room with Grecian urns, faux Roman gladiator statues, and spindly-legged chairs unsuitable for anyone heavier than herself.

Yet, Kitty was knowledgeable that her staff had no idea of the tone to be set by this unknown quantity, the Dowager Countess of Deauville. The next few moments would establish their relationship.

Before doing anything else, Kitty pulled off her gloves, reached into her reticule and removed a guinea. This she handed to Hudson, asking him to present it to the coachman with her compliments and advise him that he could return to Meryton.

“Oh, Mr. Hudson, when you return, please ask the young footman to remove the knocker and come inside. We are not expecting any visitors this evening, and it would be cruel for him to be forced to remain out in the cold.”

As Hudson moved away, Kitty reached up to loosen the fastenings on her pelisse and bonnet. Another footman stepped forward to relieve her of her outerwear.

If her gown was a bit of last year’s fashion, Mrs. Hudson had the grace not to give any indication of notice.

Moving a little deeper into the entry hall, Kitty took in the expectant faces of her retainers old and young. Decades of managing three households took over. She could sense the nervous wariness that was the natural state of servants facing a new mistress.

After the cold draft admitted by the returning butler and footman had passed by her side, Kitty raised her chin and gazed out at the assembled multitude.

“Good evening everyone. I must first apologize for descending upon you without much warning. However, from what I have seen in these first few minutes, I must tell you that I am very pleased and proud of the manner in which you have adjusted. This is a credit to your leaders, Mr. and Mrs. Hudson.

“Our home is beautiful with that warm and cheerful feeling that makes one wish to never leave. That is because each of you has clearly learned your tasks and has executed them exceptionally well.

“I apprehend that you have not had anyone in residence for a considerable period of time. Now, you will be able to tell your fellows that you are serving the Dowager Countess of Deauville, Lady Robard. I am no stranger to English shores, so please do not fear that you will suddenly be required to learn French or adopt foreign behavior.”

This last brought smiles from all and a few titters from the younger maids.

Kitty chuckled with them, knowing that her acceptance of their sense of humor would go a long way toward smoothing relations between Mistress and staff during the coming weeks.

Then she carried on understanding that backstairs gossip would spread like wildfire throughout the establishments around the Square. She knew that it was best that she create and establish her legend before the more inventive staff members filled in gaps with uncomfortable “facts.”

She added, “As I am certain that you all have questions, please allow me to anticipate them with some information about myself.

“You already know my title. My full name when Anglicized is Catherine Margaret Robard. Please, I beg you, do not refer to me as Lady Catherine. I cannot abide that name. Although I cannot imagine you needing to address me beyond ‘Your Ladyship,’ if necessary, you may name me ‘Lady Kitty.’ I realize that this likely does not fit with your sense of proper respect for a member of the gentry, especially those of you who are more mature.

“None-the-less, I think we can agree that some of the troubles my poor country has been experiencing in the past twenty years are rooted in the aristocracy’s unyielding grip on their traditional prerogatives. Thankfully, my late husband was conversant with the social currents flowing through the Enlightenment.

“You may be amused to learn that he found the Englishman John Locke’s ideas on Reason and Government to be remarkably forward-thinking.[ii] Sadly, le Compte was taken from us a few years ago when the fevers swept him away. My children, now grown, are safe in the Americas.”

Kitty paused for a moment, as if collecting her thoughts, before continuing, “While I may be from across the Channel, my relations in Hertfordshire have been most helpful during my trials. The Master of Longbourn, Mr. Bennet, has offered me the use of Madras House while I conduct some important business before returning to the Robard holdings in Louisiana.

“Thus, I place myself in your caring hands. I am certain that each of you will conduct yourself in a manner that will uphold the honor of the Bennet Family and this great house. I do hope to learn each of your names in the coming days. I do ask that you will forebear any tardiness in that undertaking. I have come a great distance and, at my age, weariness is an unwelcome traveling companion.”

Kitty had actually begun to wilt as she ended her address. Mrs. Hudson had moved to her side, ready to guide her to the parlor where she might take a moment to regroup before further evening activities. Hudson quickly dismissed the staff with a curt nod. In short order, the hall was deserted except for the Countess and the two servants.

Guiding her into a small, but well-appointed public room, Mrs. Hudson saw her mistress settled upon a sofa. The butler added a few chunks of gleaming anthracite to the hearth, already popping and sizzling with a happy blaze that cast an orange glow over the room. Kitty agreed with Mrs. Hudson that while young Mr. Hunters was a capable legal man, his hosting skills left much to be desired. She had eaten nothing since the fireside al fresco meal in the Longbourn bookroom, now some seven hours ago. She readily acceded to Mrs. Hudson’s suggestion that a selection of fruit, cold meats, and cheeses would carry her through the night to the morning.

As her lady began nodding after consuming a small plate and imbibing a cup of oolong, Mrs. Hudson, although her junior, mothered the weary woman to her chamber on the second floor where a quick wash, a fresh night rail, and a deep featherbed awaited her.

 

[i] Mrs. Hudson, of course, was Sherlock Holmes’ redoubtable landlady. We may assume that this lady is an ancestor.

[ii] Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689) is widely seen as being the opening shot of the Enlightenment. Locke’s Second Treatise on Government (1690) established the rationale for first constitutional monarchy and then, when viewed by American colonial thinkers after the Great Awakening, revolution seeking to found a republic.

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About 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.”

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 

Buy: Amazon US | Amazon UK

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About the Author

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 SeriesThe 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).

Connect with Don: WebsiteAmazon Author Page | Goodreads Author Page | Twitter

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Giveaway

Don is generously offering 12 books (10 ebooks, 2 paperbacks) as part of the blog tour. You must use the Rafflecopter link to enter. Good luck!

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.

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.

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Feb. 14 Austenesque Reviews;  Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

Feb. 15 My Jane Austen Book Club;  Guest Post, Giveaway

Feb. 17 My Love for Jane Austen;  Character Interview, Giveaway

Feb. 19 So little time…  Excerpt, Giveaway

Feb. 20 Interests of a Jane Austen Girl;  Review, Giveaway

Feb. 21 Babblings of a Bookworm; Guest Post, Giveaway

Feb. 23 More Agreeably Engaged;  Review, Excerpt, Giveaway

Feb. 24 Darcyholic Diversions;  Character Interview, Giveaway

Feb. 26 From Pemberley to Milton;  Excerpt

Feb. 28 Just Jane 1813;  Review, Giveaway

Mar. 2  Diary of an Eccentric;  Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

Mar. 3  My Vices and Weaknesses; Author Interview, Giveaway

Mar. 5  Laughing With Lizzie; Guest Post, Giveaway

Thanks for being my guest today, Don, and congratulations on your new release!

Read Full Post »

My guest today is a newcomer to Diary of an Eccentric. I’m pleased to welcome Don Jacobson to celebrate the release of The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque, which is Volume 1 in The Bennet Wardrobe Series. First, I’ll let Don share a little about the series, and then you can enjoy the excerpt.

Please give a warm welcome to Don Jacobson:

The Bennet Wardrobe Series is an alternative history in the Jane Austen Universe. While the characters are familiar, I have endeavored to provide each of them with an opportunity to grow into three-dimensional personalities, although not necessarily in the Regency period.  If they were shaped or stifled by the conventions of the period, the time-traveling powers of The Wardrobe helped solve their problems, make penance, and learn lessons by giving them a chance to escape that time frame, if only for a brief, life-changing interlude.

The Wardrobe underlines my conviction that each of these characters could enjoy fulfilling lives once they had overcome the inner demons holding them back.

Would it have been possible for them to do so staying on the Regency timeline?

Perhaps. However, something tickled my brain—maybe it was the intersection between my youthful fascination with speculative fiction and my mature appreciation of Austen and 19th Century fiction—that threw the idea of the Wardrobe up in front of me.  Now my protagonists could be immersed in different timeframes beyond the Regency to learn that which they needed to learn in order to realize their potentials and in the process carry the eternal story of love and change forward to even the 21st Century.

Some Bennets will travel further and remain in the future longer than others. We may not be privy to accounts of all of the journeys they take. Rather, we may see whispers of those trips as they impact others.

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Please enjoy this excerpt from The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque, courtesy of Don Jacobson

Chapter V

Darcy House, August 21, 1886

The excitement was building in Kitty’s breast as she watched from her bedchamber’s window while carriage after carriage halted in front of the Grosvenor Square prospects of Darcy House. Out of those vehicles stepped a fair representation of Britain’s society. The engagement ball would see attendees representing the country’s brightest from the landed aristocracy to press lords, from captains of industry to the literati and from imperial princes to the diplomats whose daily bread was the expansion of British spheres of influence tempered by the avoidance of war with another great power.

Tonight would mark another merger between Great Britain’s economic and political clans; to be confirmed in the simple (is any marriage truly simple Kitty mused) joining of Lord John Cecil and Caroline Anne Bingley the following Monday. As Kitty had discovered in the weeks since she had tumbled out of Papa’s Wardrobe (t’will always be Papa’s in my mind no matter that it stands in Henry’s chambers in Matlock House), her grandniece, Miss Bingley, was herself one of the wealthiest women in the country, with resources at her disposal that would have humbled many of George III’s ducal offspring.

Caroline Anne’s family’s fortunes had continued to wax in the decades since her Great-grandfather Charles had joined forces with Mr. Darcy to create Darcy-Bingley Enterprises.  As a daughter of the house, she was the beneficiary of the income from thousands of preferred shares of DBE, all of which were held on her behalf by the Bennet Family Trust.  Kitty recalled gossip that placed Miss Bingley’s annual revenue at upwards of £30,000.[i]

Darcy-Bingley Enterprises was one of the nation’s, nay, the world’s, leading industrial conglomerates.  People from one end of the British Empire to the other traveled on railroads underwritten by DBE. The first class dining coaches served exquisite meals prepared from the finest ingredients that had arrived in Southampton, Liverpool and Glasgow—or Alexandria, Calcutta and Hong Kong—on DBE steamers. Those meals were laid on fine cloths woven in DBE mills. Later, the gentlemen would adjourn to the lounge car to read any one of a dozen DBE newspapers, perhaps to receive a telegram delivered across DBE wires.

While the Darcy and Bingley names had pride of position atop the corporate letterhead, Kitty had learned that the Bennet, Fitzwilliam and Gardiner families were co-equal partners. Never again would a Bennet mother worry herself to distraction trying to marry off poorly dowered daughters.

Kitty’s lips twitched as she considered how the Miss Bingley of her time would have acted had she succeeded in winning the marriage mart lottery by aligning herself with the kingdom’s second family—the legendary Cecils.

Caroline Bingley would have been insufferable. The airs she would have put on would have made her regular behavior seem positively refined.  She was already impossible to begin with! Even marrying a member of the junior branch of the Cecils…Lord John is only a Kentish cousin[ii] to the Prime Minister[iii]…would have been a triumph of Napoleonic proportions.

And Miss Bingley would have the right of it, too. Back in our time, as a daughter of trade, she was more likely to have been considered lucky to marry a man of the lower gentry…like her sister’s Mr. Hurst or Sir William Lucas’ son John. Her £20,000 settlement would have been put to use elevating the status of her children by increasing her husband’s estate. So, for her to capture the hand, let alone the heart, of a Cecil…

***

Kitty lost focus on the street outside with both sight and sound receding into the background as she burrowed deeper into her brown study.

Everything Kitty had learned of the Caroline Johnson who returned from America in 1836 laid lie to all that Kitty had known of the woman who had treated Jane so shabbily.  When the entire Fitzwilliam clan had finally journeyed north to Matlock for Lydia’s internment beside the General and their sons in the family crypt, Kitty had taken a few days to visit with her Derbyshire family.

Taking advantage of Caroline Anne’s invitation, she, along with Henry’s younger sister Eleanor and their companion, Mrs. Brandon, had journeyed by rail from Matlock to Lambton. From there, the Bingley coach had whisked them over to Thornhill turning left at the fork in the road marked with a sign directing Pemberley-bound travelers onto the right branch. Kitty was secretly thankful that she did not have to depend on her great-nephew’s “hospitality” at Pemberley.

This Earl is such a sour man. He reminds me of Mr. Collins—oh wait—‘He who shall remain nameless’[iv]—all disapproval but without any effort to ingratiate himself to his companions.

“Cousin” Kitty spent nearly a week relaxing under the boughs of Thornhill’s giant oaks or talking family history with Caroline Anne and her father, William Bingley. Learning the stories that gave meaning to the lives of Jane, Charles, Lizzy and Mr. Darcy (Kitty could not imagine that forbidding man as anything other than ‘Mr. Darcy.’) helped her come to terms with their lives. As she wandered Thornhill’s halls, she frequently paused before Mrs. Johnson’s portrait. She tried to comprehend how this stately woman bore up under the tragedy of losing both her husband and young daughter in one cataclysmic instant. On top of it, this Caroline could not be granted the surcease of having memory of the horror dim over the years because her scars would remind her every time she considered her likeness in a mirror.

Leaving Thornhill, she, Ellie and Mrs. Brandon caught a London-bound train but broke their trip at Meryton.  Although the village had grown considerably in the 75 years since Kitty had left, it still seemed pleasantly quaint. Alerted by an early-morning telegram from Lambton Station, Kitty’s nephew, Michael Bennet, had himself piloted the carriage from Longbourn. Driving the three ladies back toward the manor house along the lane deeply shaded by overarching trees now more than two centuries old, Mr. Bennet stopped at the Longbourn chapel at Kitty’s request.

She walked through the churchyard past weathered stones bearing familiar family names—Lucas, Gardiner, Long, Philips—until she stood before the great granite obelisk that carried her name—Bennet.  She knelt before a stone pillow set in front of the main memorial with two names scribed side-by-side in its surface

 

Frances Lorinda nee Gardiner                 Thomas Michael

      Died October 9, 1817                      Died January 17, 1815

Aged 47 years                              Aged 54 years

                            Companions through time

              Master and Mistress of Longbourn House

          Beloved by their children and grandchildren

 

Removing her gloves, she gently traced the sharp-edged script identifying the mortal remains entombed beneath the rich turf.  She absently took in the fact that the area around the entire Bennet monument was meticulously groomed. Fresh flowers filled vases placed in brackets throughout the site.  The scent of roses lifted over the moist greenness of freshly cut grass. This was an oasis of memory and a place of profound sadness for Kitty.

Soft footsteps disturbed her reverie. She turned and looked up at a somber Michael Bennet.

“You know, Aunt Kitty, I never met them. They passed away well before my parents were out of the nursery.  Grandmother Charlotte took in my father rather than sending him North and raised him right alongside my mother.

“She told us the great stories—the ones that spoke of how each of my aunts, including her dearest friend, Aunt Elizabeth, searched for and won the loves of their lives. And, when we children were old enough, we summered at Thornhill and Matlock, Pemberley and Kympton and even Windsor Castle. Ask Estelle about the time at Windsor when the four Bennet children along with the Vicompte de Rochet and his little sister disrupted the Queen’s afternoon levee in pursuit of the Crown Prince and the Princess Royal.

“That may have been the first time Her Majesty may have uttered ‘We are not amused’,” he chuckled.[v]

He continued, “Come with me to the family cenotaph.  I imagine I will have to get the stone cutter to add Aunt Lydia and the General.”

Michael helped Kitty rise from the lawn and held her arm as together they walked through the sun-dappled family plot.

There, in the back, directly adjacent to the churchyard wall stood the stark black marble marker nestled amongst fragrant red and yellow blossoms. The highly polished surface bore the names of those family members not resting at Longbourn.  The engraved letters sparkled of their own accord as the flecks in the mineral caught the warm rays of the Hertfordshire summer sun filtering through the canopy.

Jane and Charles lived long and, I imagine, well.

Oh Lizzy, to leave your Mr. Darcy alone for more than nine-and ten-years. The poor man.

And Mary…I wish to have known you better. Your history, as it is written at the Trust, reveals the remarkable woman you became. I could use your dependable counsel now.

“The flowers are so luxurious, Mr. Bennet.  I am impressed that they thrive even here in the shade of the wall,” Kitty observed.

The older man smiled. “You may not know it or appreciate it yet, Aunt Kitty, but roses are something of a Bennet family tradition.”

Kitty leapt in, “Oh, I am fully aware of it. Actually it is a Gardiner family tradition. My Mama brought it to Longbourn when she married Papa. Any of the four and twenty families who Mama dined-in knew that they could depend upon Longbourn to supply all the rose hips they would ever need.”

“Well, your sister, my aunt Lydia, the Countess, took it to new heights.  She rarely if ever lost a competition when her blooms were in the lists. Other master gardeners who wished to plant Rosa floribunda in unusual climes often consulted her. Even today, the Matlock greenhouses attract horticulturists from around the world.

“These are special hybrids of the classic Darcy Lady Annes and the Darcy Lizzy’s Own Red Bourbons designed to flourish in low light,” Bennet added.

The moment he voiced the names, a tear ran down Kitty’s cheek. Accepting Michael’s handkerchief, she dabbed at her eyes before asking, “Might we cut a few flowers for me to place by Mama and Papa? Though they have each other, I would like to give them Jane, Lydie, Lizzy and Mary for just a moment.”

***

The soft rapping on the door dragged Kitty back to the present.  She shook her head to clear away the recollections of the past weeks as the sounds of Grosvenor Square vibrated once again through the windowpanes. She bade the knocker to enter. Her lady’s maid arrived to assist Kitty in her final preparations for the evening’s festivities.

[i] By way of reference, Prince Albert was granted an annual allowance of £30,000 in 1840 when he married Queen Victoria.

[ii] Term denotes a distant relation.  http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=cousin accessed 2/15/17.

[iii] Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, Marquess of Salisbury, Prime Minister 1885-86, 1886-92, 1895-1902. https://www.gov.uk/government/history/past-prime-ministers/robert-gascoyne-cecil accessed 2/15/17.

[iv] All credit is due and given to J.K. Rowling for this reference to another execrable character.

[v] Often attributed to Queen Victoria, there is little concrete evidence that she ever said it. http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/we-are-not-amused.html accessed 2/15/17.

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About The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque

Beware of What You Wish For

The Bennet Wardrobe may grant it!

Longbourn, December 1811. The day after Jane and Lizzy marry dawns especially cold for young Kitty Bennet. Called to Papa’s bookroom, she is faced with a resolute Mr. Bennet who intends to punish her complicity in her sister’s elopement. She will be sent packing to a seminary in far-off Cornwall.

She reacts like any teenager chafing under the “burden” of parental rules—she throws a tantrum. In her fury, she slams her hands against the doors of The Bennet Wardrobe.

Her heart’s desire?

I wish they were dead! Anywhere but Cornwall!  Anywhere but here!

As Lydia later said, “The Wardrobe has a unique sense of humor.”

London, May 1886.  Seventeen-year-old Catherine Marie Bennet tumbles out of The Wardrobe at Matlock House to come face-to-face with the austere Viscount Henry Fitzwilliam, a scion of the Five Families and one of the wealthiest men in the world. However, while their paths may have crossed that May morning, Henry still fights his feelings for another woman, lost to him nearly thirty years in his future.  And Miss Bennet must decide between exile to the remote wastelands of Cornwall or making a new life for herself in Victorian Britain and Belle Époque France.

Check out The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque on Goodreads | Amazon

Check out Volume 1, The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey on Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

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 SeriesThe 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).

Connect with Don: WebsiteAmazon Author Page | Goodreads Author Page Twitter

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Giveaway

Don is generously offering 8 ebooks of The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque. 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.

A winner may win ONLY 1 (ONE) eBook of The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque by Don Jacobson. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter, and the giveaway is international.

Enter by clicking this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

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06/15   From Pemberley to Milton (Guest Post, Giveaway)

06/16   My Jane Austen Book Club (Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway)

06/17   Just Jane 1813 (Review, Excerpt, Giveaway)

06/19   Diary of an Eccentric (Excerpt, Giveaway)

06/20   Savvy Verse and Wit (Guest Post, Giveaway)

06/21   Darcyholic Diversions (Author Interview, Giveaway)

06/22   My Vices and Weaknesses (Review, Excerpt, Giveaway)

06/23   Babblings of a Bookworm (Character Interview, Giveaway)

06/24   A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life (Guest Post)

06/25   My Love for Jane Austen (Vignette, Giveaway)

06/26   Interests of a Jane Austen Girl (Review, Excerpt, Giveaway)

06/27   So little time… (Guest Post, Giveaway)

06/28   Laughing With Lizzie (Guest Post or Vignette, Excerpt, Giveaway)

Thank you, Don, for being my guest today and sharing an excerpt of what sounds like a fascinating book! I hope you come back to visit again in the future.

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