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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!

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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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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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