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Hello, dear readers! I’m thrilled to welcome Don Jacobson back to Diary of an Eccentric, this time to celebrate the release of The Longbourn Quarantine, a very timely novella that is part of Meryton Press’ Skirmish & Scandal series. Don is here today to share a little about the book, along with an excerpt and giveaway. Please give him a warm welcome!

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The Epistolary End of George Wickham

In this moving tale, our favorite characters from Pride and Prejudice face the prospect of death that forces them to confront troubling scenes from their past. The author crafts a beautifully told story of self-examination and reflection while embracing compassion and understanding under trying circumstances.

Jennifer Redlarczyk, author of Darcy’s Melody

Jennifer has discovered the essential core of The Longbourn Quarantine, my entry in Meryton Press’s Skirmish and Scandal Series. I place the characters against the background of a pandemic. Through this plot structure, I lead them and readers to a different state of being. I am happy to visit with Diary of an Eccentric today to consider an aspect of the novella.

The villain in The Longbourn Quarantine, unlike any of those in Canon, has no eyes or hands. The dark force is not found in subtle machinations to compromise the virtue of a young lady. Rather its malevolence is perceived in its randomness, in its unwillingness to submit to the desires of individuals or society. This sense of never-knowing-when-or-whom-it-will-strike confers upon it numbing evilness that chills people in a way that most psychotic killers cannot. Perhaps some of this terror comes in the awful way (redolent of the Black Death) the disease carries off its victims.

Today one word carries that same heft: Ebola. Two hundred years ago, after the last resurgence of the plague in 1666, smallpox was the horrifying leveler. And that faceless virus ignored class, gender, age, wealth, and any other category humans used to parcel up power and authority.

Smallpox was something that put the fear of God into a reasonable man like Fitzwilliam Darcy or an impertinent woman like Elizabeth Bennet. Smallpox made the perfect villain without being complicated. The disease was exactly what it was. The only variable was whether a victim would survive or not.

As Hitchcock’s Lifeboat (1944) used empty ocean stretching to the horizon to keep the players from leaving the stage, The Longbourn Quarantine uses the epidemic as the overarching raison d’être to keep characters in Longbourn’s precincts. As the disease was a constant and impervious to human wants, the diverse personalities needed to control that which they could: their actions and how they perceive the behaviors of the others trapped on-stage with them.         

Casting smallpox as the villain liberated George Wickham to find another role than that of the source of Elizabeth’s misunderstanding and Darcy’s anger. No, TLQ does not free him of responsibility for Georgiana’s distress. Nor does it deny that he successfully has turned Elizabeth’s head. However, having Wickham discover that his avarice has led to his downfall allows for a second epiphany for the scoundrel.

His appearance in the pages of TLQ is brief, but without him, the novella would have been forced to revisit, I feared, old territory. Faced with his mortality, Wickham seeks to make amends before he can no longer.

In that spirit, I thought that turning him into a living and breathing Hunsford Letter would allow for a different, non-soliloquy, presentation of Darcy’s original epistle. In Pride and Prejudice, we see Darcy handing a letter to Miss Elizabeth on her walk the morning after his disastrous proposal. However, we are left to guess at Darcy’s overnight agony. Austen’s description of Elizabeth’s turmoil is limited to a few sentences before she allows the young woman to sleep.

The Longbourn Quarantine confers both Darcy and Elizabeth’s disquiet upon the body of George Wickham using the tried and true technique (Shakespeare’s portrayal of Richard III as a hunchback being the pre-eminent example) of making visible a character’s sins. In this case, the pustules that make hideous Wickham’s countenance provide the frame for his confessions which are the letter. One license I have taken is the removal of Darcy’s original rancor caused by Elizabeth’s accusations. I allowed TLQ’s Darcy to be a bit cranky as Wickham’s tale unwinds. I have also given Elizabeth insight about darcy’s role in separating Jane and Bingley earlier in the story.

Rather than have Darcy pen words seeking to explain his actions to Elizabeth, I made Wickham voice his misdeeds—all of them—in an affirmative confession. However, Wickham’s words both in front of his childhood friend and, later after he sends Darcy off to fetch brandy, draw the sting from the master of Pemberley’s ire and cause Elizabeth to reflect upon her notions.

In recognition of the underlying theme of life in the time of smallpox—words left unsaid may never be spoken—I gave Wickham the agency to mold one last aspect of Darcy’s life. He gives Elizabeth some advice about the man’s behavior and how he might ask for her hand. Then, having accomplished his mission, George Wickham is free to bow his way off-stage.

There is much more about how Wickham’s words revelatory to Elizabeth much as Darcy’s original letter opened her eyes. Please enjoy this edited extract from Chapter 13 of The Longbourn Quarantine.

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At the Longbourn gamekeeper’s cabin, April 11, 1812

Wandering over to the mound, she saw a well-shaped excavation, a pit that cried “grave.” The crypt was empty, its maw waiting to be filled with the shrouded freight it was to bear past the River Charon.

The grim air of the fell place gripped her by the throat. Elizabeth croaked out a greeting to the occupants of the cabin. There was no reaction at first. Then the door was pulled back, and Darcy stepped onto the porch.

Holding a hand on his brow to shield his eyes from the afternoon brightness, he focused on the young lady’s form. She started toward him out of habit until he called out. “Stay back, Miss Elizabeth! Wickham is deadly even now. You may be immune, but if any of the corruption chances to attach itself to your clothing, you could carry it back to Longbourn. Sit on the stump in the middle of the yard.

Elizabeth froze in place, turned to see the silvered remains, and stepped to it. She placed her wrinkled handkerchief on the cut surface and dropped down. In the meantime, Darcy had returned inside the structure to exit, bearing a man-sized, blanket-wrapped, load.

She knew it to be Wickham. What was remarkable was that he had been a man of a size with Mr. Darcy. Yet, Darcy bore his burden without any strain. Shuffling over to a small pallet, Darcy lowered the ghost of a man onto the chaise, gently raised his head, and positioned a burlap bundle as a pillow beneath it.

Then the blanket fell back to reveal reptilian features from which a pair of watery blue eyes—the only feature Elizabeth could warrant as belonging to George Wickham—burned, their whites flushed pink with fever.

The snakelike lips parted, and Wickham painfully lisped through cracks between running sores. “You are a remarkable woman, Miss Elizabeth Bennet. I lay before you, a horror of a man, and you barely flinch. No dramatic fainting for you—no soft, ladylike swoons.”

Elizabeth rose to the occasion. “How long have we been acquainted, Mr. Wickham? Over the past half-year, have you ever known me to cavil before the harsh realities of life? I am so sorry to see you brought low like this.

“But, what of your quest for Miss King? The last any of us knew, you had followed her to Liverpool to press your suit. Yet, here you lie, ensconced in a cabin on my father’s estate.”

Wickham involuntarily shook his head as if he was trying to chase away uncomfortable memories. With a wince, he whispered, “I tried with Miss King. Her uncle, the merchant, prevented much contact between us. However, I was fortunate to encounter them at an assembly. I should have had my wits about me, but I was all about my pursuit of her dowry. I saw nothing but her ten thousand. What I did not see, and have had three weeks to comprehend, was that her guardian, although it was early in the evening, was unaccountably red-faced and blotchy. I probably imputed it to his merchant’s sensibilities, making certain that the rum in the ship’s hold was unspoiled. I should have run for my life. Instead, I greeted them both and stood Miss King for two sets.

“What I know is that, before Mary King’s glove touched mine, it had been loaded by a loving caress of Mr. King’s whiskers with a charge that has laid waste to mankind since the pharaohs.”

He laughed sardonically. “Your father’s generosity, Darcy, in seeing to my education stuck in some useful ways. I appreciate that my death is three thousand years in the making. The moment I wiped my face or rubbed my lips with the perfumed poison left on my gauntlet…ah, the sweetness of the adder’s breath…I sealed my fate.

“You ask of Miss King: she fell before the disease—her uncle too—after she had murdered me.”

Wickham fell silent. Darcy had stepped off to one side, looking at his old playmate with a combination of dread and pity. Elizabeth’s stomach had fallen as she learned of Mary King’s passing. Yet, she understood that Mr. Wickham would not have subjected his waning strength to this exercise unless he had something important to say.

The man rallied and launched into his declamation. “I shall not revisit all that I said of this man”—he motioned at Darcy—“when I arrived in Meryton. My tale of woe was extensive. But, Miss Elizabeth, my lies were many. There were, of course, elements of truth that served as the skeleton upon which I looped the sinews and skin of my stories.

“Darcy made my work so much easier. His demeanor is not made for company. Those who did not know him assumed that he was disdainful of all when he is reserved and private. They feasted on my story like a syllabub.”

Wickham paused. His eyes lost focus, and he struggled to gather himself, to push back against the delirium threatening his flanks. He waved at Darcy who bent over him. Wickham whispered to him. Darcy looked dyspeptic and seemed ready to demand something. The exchange ended when Wickham muttered one last sentence. With a shake of his head, Darcy stepped back and waved his hand in acquiescence.

Wickham continued. “That is enough of a prologue, Miss Elizabeth. I am turning to you because, of all the people I know, having destroyed my opportunity with Darcy, you are one whose good opinion I treasure. I would fear losing it even after I am lying cold in my grave—over there. I also am aware that you are, like Darcy, a profoundly honest person and not one prone to gossip.

“I need to unburden my soul before I face my final reckoning. Darcy is not overjoyed at the prospect as what I speak about hits close to his heart.

“Over the past few days with little to do, Darcy and I have talked. Perhaps it is more that Darcy talked, knowing that dead men tell no tales and I shall be gone from the mortal plane soon enough. I have apologized to him for many iniquities committed against him and his family. Darcy and his cousin Fitzwilliam know my sins. You may apply to the colonel if you have any questions or doubts about what I say. Yet, admitting that I was a bounder to Darcy is not anything new to him. What I have not done is make my confession to someone unaffected by my acts, to make known my true character to a third party.

“You are that confessor to whom I would tell my tale so that at least one soul unrelated to the principals will know my true nature. Will you be willing to bear that weight? I ask this because I have a belief that our tall friend over there regrets some of his behavior in the autumn that grew from my actions in the summer. What I relate may explain much.”

He stopped and looked hopefully at Elizabeth.

At her nod, Wickham continued. “Miss Darcy is a sweeter, kinder, and more trusting girl than you will ever meet…well, perhaps your sister Miss Bennet would fall into that same category. Like all young ladies of a certain age…fifteen seems to be the cusp…Miss Darcy wanted to begin her journey into the adult world. And, like all older brothers and many fathers, Darcy could not find it in his heart to gainsay any wish of his beloved sister.

“In the spring of the year eleven, he withdrew her from school and sought a companion to guide her.

“Now, I was still smarting from having been denied the Kympton living. What I never told any in Meryton was that Darcy had paid me three thousand to relinquish any claim I might have to the living. His father left me one thousand pounds. So, my fortune within a few months of the old master’s death was four thousand pounds.”

When Elizabeth’s hand flew to her mouth to stifle her gasp, Wickham winced. “I know you are doing the math, Miss Elizabeth. A single gentleman could live comfortably for years on that sum…certainly long enough to apply himself to a career that would further build his purse well before the money ran out.

“Not George Wickham: I ate, drank, gambled, and whored my way through every farthing in the space of two years. And, when I applied to Darcy for the living I had given up, he justifiably sent me packing and refused me Pemberley’s hospitality.

“I vowed to gain a fortune and hurt Darcy in the process. My weapon was to be his sister, Miss Georgiana.”

His voice dropped into a quieter register as he drifted down his memories’ lanes, conflating realities with feelings. Elizabeth leaned forward.

He added, “My target was Georgie’s £30,000 dowry. To get it, I would have to woo and wed her. What I had working in my favor was that, while Darcy knew the type of man I had become, I was aware he would never relate such debauchery to a young innocent like his sister. When I came to her, all she would see would be her old playmate.

“I had maintained my contacts at Pemberley despite Darcy’s embargo. I heard that he was on the prowl for a companion. And, one of my more intimate friends, the widow of a gentleman, was perfect for the position.

“In short order, thanks to a series of powerful, if creatively written, characters from ladies either deceased or conveniently out of the country, Mrs. Younge carried the day. After a few months, she suggested that Mr. Darcy rent his sister a seaside cottage where she could holiday during the summer.

“And thus, the trap was set in a beautiful little town, Ramsgate, where Miss Darcy could be her own mistress. However, thanks to Mrs. Younge’s connivance, she was soon to become mine.”

Wickham fell silent. He appeared to be gathering every ounce of strength, tapping into hidden reserves, to lay bare his deepest regrets. Then, in a gesture as tender as it was telling, he reached out to where Darcy stood and stroked the man’s pantalooned leg, rigid against the story’s unwinding.

“As I lay here, Miss Elizabeth, I am disgusted at my actions. I was greedy, but up to that point, my avarice had been confined to defrauding tradesmen and those who had more pounds than sense. I shall not speak of the young women I despoiled. That is a different deadly sin.”

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About The Longbourn Quarantine

“Papa handed Mama a brace of pistols. Her tears, Mr. Darcy, her tears: yet, all she did was nod when Papa looked at us and said, ‘You know what to do if they enter the icehouse.’”

Refugees flood the roads. A feared specter has escaped London’s grimy docklands and now threatens the wealthy districts. Amongst that ragged steam is a single carriage jostling its way toward Meryton. Inside are the Darcy siblings along with Charles and Caroline Bingley. They desperately seek the safety of Netherfield Park.

For all their riches, they could not evade the epidemic’s dark hand. Bingley’s leasehold had been reduced to rubble as roving bands raped, pillaged, and burned. The only sanctuary was Longbourn where, once installed, the Darcys and Bingleys were barred from leaving by a fortnight’s quarantine.

Events converge with disease in The Longbourn Quarantine. Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy abandon old prejudices to face grief and mourning. Pride is set aside as Death hovers nearby. The couple forges ahead knowing that love unexplored is love lost: that words must be said lest they remain unspoken in the time of smallpox.

Buy 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 began publishing The Bennet Wardrobe Series

The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey (2016)

Henry Fitzwilliam’s War (2016)

The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque (2017)

Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess (2017)

The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn (2018)

The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament (2018)

The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion (2019)

Jacobson is also part of the collective effort behind the publication of the upcoming North and South anthology, Falling for Mr. Thornton: Tales of North and South, released in 2019.

Other Austenesque Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” (2016) and “The Maid and The Footman” (2016). Lessers and Betters (2018) offers readers the paired novellas in one volume to allow a better appreciation of the “Upstairs-Downstairs” mentality that drives the stories.

 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 the Austen Authors Collective and JASNA. He lives in Las Vegas, NV with his wife, Pam.

Connect with Don: Don Jacobson’s Amazon Author’s Page | Goodreads Author’s Page (with blog) | Author Website | Twitter  (@AustenesqueAuth)

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Giveaway

Meryton Press is generously offering an ebook copy of The Longbourn Quarantine to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, September 6, 2020. 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, and congratulations on your new release!

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Hello, dear readers! Today’s is my stop on the Meryton Press blog tour for Don Jacobson’s new novel, In Plain Sight, a very unique reimagining of Pride and Prejudice. Don has written an exclusive character interview/conversation for my readers that I am thrilled to share with you all. We hope you enjoy it!

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May 1826

The housekeeper, Mrs. Wilson, led me, through the halls of the great pink sandstone mansion to a well-appointed office in the back of the house adjacent to the gunroom. I knew ‘twas the armory because I had spent the last years of the battle against the Tyrant as a captain on General Sir Richard Fitzwilliam’s staff. The smell of oil and powder is unmistakable. I had had the good fortune to fall in with Wellington’s Right Arm when he returned to the colors as a lieutenant-colonel with the South Essex in the year twelve. As he moved through the ranks, he floated my career to the heavens until that glorious June day when a bounding ball took my leg much as one had done unto Uxbridge. Denied my career, I now earn my bread scribbling stories for The Times about the great and the good—and sometimes those whose lives would be accounted as ordinary except for some extraordinary circumstances.

One of the most unusual men I have had the good fortune to meet was as a result of my acquaintance with the General. The old knight, grown comfortable and slightly deaf, had introduced us when the other had visited Fitzwilliam’s seat in Hertfordshire. The events about which I approached Mr. Wilson are nearly two decades old. Even in an alienated future where many of the principals have passed away, I am constrained by propriety and the desire to spare him and his family untoward attention by resurrecting old scandals. Thus, I will refrain from identifying the gentleman, for such I will concede he is, by anything other than ‘Smith.’

Mrs. Wilson, contrary to my expectations, did not simply announce me and depart. Rather, she led me through the door and performed the offices so common amongst Britons.

“Henry, dearest, this is Mr. Watson. Mr. Watson, allow me to introduce my husband, Mr. Henry Wilson.”

Wilson hauled himself upright from behind his sturdy worktable, its surface laden with ledgers, plats of survey, and bundled documents. He was a tall, broad-shouldered man of about forty years whose near-white blond mane was tied back in an old-style naval club. I smiled to myself thinking that some modern town styles will take more than a quarter-century to penetrate this far into the north country.

The man nodded a greeting but stepped to his diminutive wife, a wiry lady, austere in her bearing, but evidencing the confidence of one who aptly manages dozens of staff ensuring the house runs smoothly. He tenderly reached down and raised her hand to his lips, brushing her knuckles with his lips. Advising her that he expected us to be occupied for only a short time, Wilson added that we would join her and the family for tea. Mrs. Wilson blushed prettily and riposted that the master and mistress would be most pleased.

After Mrs. Wilson had shut the door behind her, Wilson motioned me to a pair of wingback chairs facing the cold fireplace.

At my question about how he, a steward, and his wife, a housekeeper, could expect to join their employers for tea, Wilson smiled. “You unwittingly, sir, have cut to the essentials of Mr. Smith’s character—and for that matter, that of his lady wife.

“I have known Smith since the year nine. Back then, I was nothing but a stripling boy, son of a successful tradesman, who had fallen in with some landowners’ sons. I was too callow to see that they only tolerated me for my willingness to spot them food and drink, so eager I was to earn their approbation.

“My tale is not the one for which you appear before me. However, you need to know that I was not the hale man”—he clenched his fists which caused his coat to stretch tightly across his upper arms— “you see today. If I was not careful when I turned, I could slip between poorly caulked floorboards.” His laughter rumbled throughout the room.

“As I said, I had become involved with a fast crowd. One thing led to another and trouble followed. Suffice to say that they carried on with their lives whilst I was sentenced to a fiver as a guest of His Majesty.

“That was when I met Smith. Within a day of the judge passing my sentence, my wrist was shackled to his. Will Smith had already been breaking his back for three years. By this time, we were coming down through the Midlands improving the roads. We would not end up on the canal project for another year.”

Wilson spent the next several minutes explaining the type of work he and his fellow convicts had been tasked with. He was circling around his relationship with Smith as if he was coming to grips with his discomfort. However, there was a glimmer in his eye whenever he mentioned the older man.

“I tell you this, Watson”—for I had given him leave to name me with familiarity—“if not for Will Smith through those two years, I would have been broken, turned into a molly boy, or simply have died—either from exhaustion or by my hand.

“I could sense a difference in him. Yes, he was a convict. He never once claimed that he was innocent. He admitted that he had been justly tried and convicted. But, his term of servitude defined his existence, not his character. There was, though, a nobility about Smith that made him a leader of our coffle. That also meant that if he called you friend, you could count on his unswerving loyalty.”

Wilson leaned toward me and lowered his voice. “If you did not play him false, if you demonstrated yourself to be worthy of his regard, Will Smith would die for you.

“I am not jesting for he nearly sacrificed his life for mine by stepping in to prevent an unconscionable abuse.

“’Twas only later that I learned that he was a gentleman of great wealth but had fallen like the Prodigal Son. He told me later that between myself and Mrs. Smith, we showed him the foolishness of presuming value based upon status.

“Without Smith, I would have died that day in the barnyard. But, Watson, the Universe is a fickle thing. The moment that he stopped my flogging and was stuck down himself in the next, I was set on my way to my redemption. Mrs. Smith’s father bought my contract. I eventually found myself in the company of the young maid who was to become my wife. And, although ‘twas a near-run thing, all of us managed to escape from the trap in which we had found ourselves.

“Then me, Mrs. Wilson, and the Smith’s, although they were not yet wed, hid in the place where nobody would have thought to look for us: as part of the invisible, nameless army that opens doors, shovels manure, and fetches salts for fading ladies. That was where he was schooled in his final lessons how a gentleman must become a farmhand to learn true gentility which grows from being humbled, but not scorned.

“You ask why Mrs. Wilson and I are unsurprised that the master and mistress would sit with us for tea? As with Occam’s Razor, the simplest answer is usually the truest. We are their friends, and friendship is, in Smith’s book, the most important connection of all.”

The mantel clock chimed the hour. Wilson’s face settled into impassivity. At his nod, I uncoiled my legs and rose. Together we slowly made our way from his office and back to the front of the house where the happy sounds of conversation were rising.

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About In Plain Sight

“At the end of the day when we are each of us lyin’ flat on our backs, lookin’ at the ceiling, and the vicar is whisperin’ in our ear, the greatest comfort we shall ’ave is to know that we loved well and were well loved in return.”

When Fitzwilliam Darcy’s father slides into an early grave, his son is forced to take on Pemberley’s mantle. Brandy numbs his pain, but Darcy’s worst inclinations run wild. After tragedy rips everything away, he spends years finding his way back: a man redeemed by a woman’s loving understanding.

Elizabeth Bennet is afflicted with a common Regency ailment: observing the world about her but not seeing those beneath her notice. Then a clarifying act shatters the propriety that has denied her heart the transcendent love she craves.

In Plain Sight explores Jane Austen’s eternal love story by flipping social roles on their heads. From their first encounter, Elizabeth Bennet and the convict known as “Smith” must overcome their prejudices and break through their pride. Only then can they share the treasure hidden in plain sight.

Don Jacobson has created a moving tale that reimagines one of the most beloved romances ever! He carries the themes of pride, prejudice, and forgiveness through the text beautifully. An original tale laced with historical details. You’ll love it!

Elaine Owen, author of Duty Demands

Buy on Amazon U.S. | Amazon U.K.

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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 began publishing The Bennet Wardrobe Series

The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey (2016)

Henry Fitzwilliam’s War (2016)

The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque (2017)

Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess (2017)

The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn (2018)

The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament (2018)

The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion (2019)

Jacobson is also part of the collective effort behind the publication of the upcoming North and South anthology, Falling for Mr. Thornton: Tales of North and South, released in 2019.

Other Austenesque Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” (2016) and “The Maid and The Footman” (2016). Lessers and Betters (2018) offers readers the paired novellas in one volume to allow a better appreciation of the “Upstairs-Downstairs” mentality that drives the stories.

 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 the Austen Authors Collective and JASNA. He lives in Las Vegas, NV with his wife, Pam.

Connect with Don: Don Jacobson’s Amazon Author’s Page | Goodreads Author’s Page (with blog) | Author Website | Twitter  (@AustenesqueAuth)

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Giveaway

Meryton Press is giving away 8 eBooks of In Plain Sight as part of the blog tourTo enter, you must enter through this Rafflecopter link. The giveaway ends at 12 a.m. on June 29, 2020. Good luck!

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

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I’ve not yet read Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, but I was intrigued to learn about a new collection of stories inspired by the classic, especially as it features some of my favorite Austenesque authors. I have the pleasure of welcoming several authors from the anthology to Diary of an Eccentric today to talk about their contributions to the collection and to share a giveaway. Please give them a warm welcome!

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Thank you so much for hosting us today, Anna, it is a pleasure to visit your blog!

Falling for Mr. Thornton is a book born out of love not only for John Thornton, but also for many subjects tackled in North & South and each one of us decided to take a different approach on our short stories. Today we decided to talk to your readers about our stories from our own perspective; we hope they feel motivated to give Falling for Mr. Thornton a try.

 

Trudy Brasure

My story, Once Again, focuses on the incredible moral courage of John Thornton as he summons the strength and determination to move forward in crushing circumstances. There’s a lot of loneliness and silent suffering in North and South. I dive into John’s agonizing desire to be understood–to love and be loved.

Devotion to family is another theme I touch on. Hannah’s concern for her son, and John’s care for his mother are important factors in keeping each of these characters moving forward during great trials.

And finally, I show how much John’s social conscience has grown. He has a deep desire to make a difference in the lives of others.

 

Nancy Klein

In “Looking to the Future,” I worked Margaret’s guilt, regret, and sorrow into the story. As a parson’s daughter, she was raised to do the right thing, to tell the truth, and to be true to her faith. When she conceals Frederick, and lies about the incident at the train station, it tears at her conscience. Although she does it out of love for her brother, it is still a sin and she can no longer pretend that she has taken the high road. Mr.Thornton’s intercession on her behalf doubles her guilt, and makes her realize she is no better than any other sinner. I believe this is a turning point for her, softening her pride and making her much more human than the proud young goddess she once was. This is what makes her see Mr. Thornton with new eyes; this is what helps alter her opinion of him.

 

Evy Journey

“Let me go to Cádiz, or else I die.”  Margaret says somewhat jokingly towards the end of Gakell’s  novel, after her father dies and she’s all alone. Her hopes of doing so rest on Mr. Bell’s  remark about taking her there to see her brother and his new wife. The hoped-for trip fizzles out in the  novel but my short story, Reeducating Mr. Thornton makes it happen for Margaret.  Not with Mr. Bell but with Mr. Thornton. My story goes further. The trip to Cádiz, a bustling center for international  trade at the time, sets the stage, first of all, for Mr. Thornton to widen his world view and gain precious insight for reviving his business (a subplot in N&S ). Second, it elaborates and continues events on another subplot, a second love affair,  in N&S—that of the felicitous union of Frederick and Dolores in Cádiz.

 

Julia Daniels

 From an early age, John Thornton became the patriarch of the Thornton family. He took this responsibility deeply to heart, and was proud of his rise to power, as it provided a stable home for his mother and sister. Fanny did not understand or appreciate the sacrifices her brother made for her, and her impetuous nature led her to commit a horrible mistake.

Margaret Hale deeply regretted her mistake in rejecting Thornton’s marriage proposal. Each time he came for his lessons with her father, she felt it keenly. Although Fanny always treated Margaret with condescension, in her darkest hour, she sought Margaret for help.

It is during that darkest hour when John and Margaret come together to repair the misunderstandings between them, while assisting Fanny to remedy her mistake. Mistakes and Remedies clearly illustrates that it is always darkest before dawn and all three characters are able to overcome the darkness and find happiness.

 

Damaris Osborne

Whilst the ‘Loose Leaves from Milton’ parody is steeped in tea leaves and all things tea, beneath the surface it does still pick up themes used by Elizabeth Gaskell- Hannah Thornton’s exclusive love of her son, which leaves Fanny emotionally out in the cold, John Thornton’s moral uprightness (the only act which wavers his moral compass is colluding with Margaret’s denial of being at the railway station when he himself saw her there, rather than corroborating the unknown witness), and Margaret’s mixture of social conscience and naïvety. The overarching cultural divide between Margaret’s idealised rural South and demonised industrial North also remain, to be broken down in the course of events.

 

Elaine Owen

For this story I tried to work in several of Gaskell’s original themes: the tension between the workers and masters; Margaret’s role as a peacemaker; selflessness and sacrifice; and of course the love that bridges all divides! All of these things came together, along with one significant event in the original story, to create a different way for our dear couple to finally unite.

But I also wanted to introduce a couple of new ideas into the mix. Gaskell’s original work can be quite dark, with sad endings far outnumbering the happy endings. So I decided that at least one beloved character should get a new chance at life. And not only a new life, but a new romance! Also I really liked the idea of Thornton having a friend who is neither a master nor a worker, someone who can see right through Thornton and encourage him to pursue his heart’s desire. I really liked the way these two new ideas came together in the story.

 

M. Liza Marte 

Margaret’s remark that John asks her to marry him because he wants her as a possession always stuck with me. Saying she should have expected that behavior from someone in trade wasn’t just an insult. She really sees them as different, as opposites. She did not take the time or effort early on to see beyond his tradesman appearance and as such, misjudges his character and worth. Much like Elizabeth’s quick prejudice against Mr. Darcy because of his haughty, snobbish manner, Margaret never notices that little things that sets John Thornton apart from the mill owners. In my story, I wanted her take her out of her comfort zone. Without her father and the familiarity of her home, Margaret now must depend on John to be her protector and companion. In his company she begins to see all the little things that escaped her notice before. Now she notices the hand carved, twirling trinkets that have adorned their home all this while. She notices how often he works late at night. She sees the nicks and cuts on his hand and fingers. Her eyes have opened to the man behind his trade. While in the book, it is John’s assistance in concealing Frederick’s presence that thaws her heart. In my story it is simpler than that. Living in the same house with him, she is at his level. At home, John hides nothing. He is an open book. His every emotion is on display for Margaret to see. Maybe I did force them into a tight corner so they had to interact, but I always suspected, once Margaret saw the real John, she will like what she sees. After that, there is no turning back for her.

 

Kate Forrester

When I thought about the story line for Passages in Time I really wanted to explore two things; firstly how the unbending stiffly polite Mr Thornton would feel in 2019 and secondly how he would feel nor knowing what had happen to his mother and his sister.

Manners in modern times are so much more casual in modern times than they were in Victorian Britain. I remember the uproar the railway station kiss caused in the television adaptation, although strangely enough most people chose to overlook it – I can’t imagine why. It got me thinking, how would Mr Thornton cope with our casual speech, casual use of first names without introduction, casual clothing, and the casual way in which we now treat the opposite sex. I hope I managed to convey not only his distaste and horror of these things but also his confusion when he finds himself attracted to Miss Hale.

One of the most touching themes of the Mrs Gaskell’s novel is the bond between Mr Thornton and his mother Hannah and the responsibility he feels towards his sister Fanny. I wanted to show how he would feel compelled to make sure they were alright – it is this above all else that drives him to seek a way back to his own time.

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About Falling for Mr. Thornton

 

Amidst the turbulent backdrop of a manufacturing town in the grips of the Industrial Revolution, Elizabeth Gaskell penned the timeless passion of Mr. Thornton and Margaret Hale. A mixing of contemporary and Victorian, this short story anthology by twelve beloved authors considers familiar scenes from new points of view or re-imagined entirely. Capturing all the poignancy, heartbreak, and romance of the original tale, Falling for Mr. Thornton is a collection you will treasure again and again.

Stories by: Trudy Brasure * Nicole Clarkston * Julia Daniels * Rose Fairbanks * Don Jacobson * Evy Journey * Nancy Klein * M. Liza Marte * Elaine Owen * Damaris Osborne * Melanie Stanford ** Foreword by Mimi Matthews **

Buy on Amazon: Kindle | Paperback

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Giveaways

The authors will offer a grand prize to one reader following the entire blog tour. This prize will contain 13 different ebooks: one copy of Falling for Mr. Thornton and one other ebook from each author. To enter for the grand prize, you must use this Rafflecopter link.

Additionally, the authors would also like to offer 2 bookmarks of Falling for Mr. Thornton at each blog. To enter for a bookmark, please leave a comment below with your email address. I will choose 2 winners randomly after the blog tour ends. The winners will be announced in the comments section of this post.

Both giveaways are international. Good luck!

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It’s always a pleasure to welcome Don Jacobson to Diary of an Eccentric, and he is here today to celebrate the latest book in The Bennet Wardrobe Series, The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this series, and I hope to get a chance to read the books soon. In the meantime, I loved reading about the newest installment, and I hope you all enjoy Don’s guest post and excerpt as much as I did. Please give him a warm welcome!

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Broken and Renewed in Greater Glory

“Love does not creep in upon cat’s feet. Nor does it storm about like an early cyclone. Love washes over you, leaving you in wonder and holding the hope of the world in your hands. Love steals your heart, breaks it, and then returns that organ back to you, glorious in its scars as if a kintsugi master has mended every crack with a golden resin. ‘Tis different, but no less beautiful than the unwounded original. Rather ‘tis something to be celebrated for the depth of its lived-in context.”

 Captain George P. Wickham, GCB[i]

The universe within which the Bennet Wardrobe exists is full of surprises. Who would have ever imagined that George Wickham would have become such an astute observer of the most elevating emotion a human can experience: love.

However, that is not the text of today’s guest post. Rather it is the nugget contained within Wickham’s declaration: “…glorious in its scars as if a kintsugi master has mended every crack with a golden resin.”

In 2015, I attended a National Endowment for the Humanities seminar in Santa Fe exploring the influences upon the art of Georgia O’Keefe. O’Keefe was of the school of Modernists who eschewed the older forms of American realism and European Impressionism. They sought to create the new art, the art of the Post-World War I American world, that responded to the broad-shouldered and vital landscape that was the United States from 1919 to 1950. Not for them was the nonsense of Dada, nor the idyllic beauty of late-Monet, but rather the raw and gritty reality of an all-night diner (Nighthawks, Edward Hopper, 1942) or O’Keefe’s skyscrapers (1926-29).

One of the guiding books that helped focus the Modernists was The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura (1906). Okakura was an aesthete, a Japanese expatriate who, I believe, mourned the loss of the “old” Japan as Emperor Meiji dragged that country into the 19th Century. I found the philosophies contained in this little volume to be compelling.

The Book of Tea explored the idea of teaism, the Zen of which was exemplified in the complex ritual of making something so simple and so common as a cup of tea. The essential beauty of the process celebrated the perception that the effort to understand the meaning of every step taken in the tea ceremony was, in itself an achievement. Each element involved in the tea ceremony, from the house to the cups, contributed to the overall significance of the ceremony.

The step from tea to people was, for me, small. I became impressed with the idea of kintsugi as being a worthy metaphor for how people grow from their initial firing.

When is a cup more than a cup? Consider serving tea to a guest. True, you could pull out an old stoneware mug which would serve as a vessel for the hot liquid: not much more meaning to it than something against which to clank your spoon.

However, what if you chose to serve the beverage in one of your mother’s Wedgewood teacups…you know, the ones you have been moving from house-to-house in the years since she died? What recollections would they inspire in you? What stories would you tell your guests?

And, what would those reminiscences inspire within your guest?

Suddenly a simple cup of tea becomes so much more.

And the Japanese understood that.

In the modern-day world, we readily dispose of cracked or damaged items. How often have we swept up the remnants of a victim of the law of gravity? Now imagine yourself in Kyoto. The cherished pieces of your family porcelain would be collected and taken to a kintsugi potter.

This master would reassemble the pieces of the cup, but rather than using invisible glue to hide the cracks to the best of his ability, he highlights each fissure with golden resin. Attention, thus, will be called to its altered state. This cup will assume a place of honor, to be the first offered to a guest rather than relegated to the back of the cupboard to be used only if there is no other available.

Why?

Because the cup has, through its worldly experience, assumed greater meaning. Users would calm themselves and contemplate the significance of the repairs, the cracks, the shape of the mended pieces, and the emotions the meditation engenders in their breasts.

These cups have become what we define now as art.

As I formulated characters throughout the Wardrobe Series, I always looked at where they had been left by Jane Austen and then considered where I wished them to travel in their development: so, too, with Wickham and Lydia. Yet, with both, and particularly Lydia, I felt that they needed to find their lives to be a greater force upon them. Truthfully, they did have a greater distance to overcome.

In the quote above, Wickham articulated much of what I had contemplated: that the scars of a lived life make that existence more meaningful.

Eventually, Lydia came to understand this process, painful as it was, with the Stoicism that she had absorbed from Richter. Young Mrs. Wickham began to see that pleasure and pain were necessary parts of life to be experienced instead of avoided. Is that not a radical alteration of the Lydia Bennet who frolicked across the pages of Pride and Prejudice? She looked at her soul and considered the scars lacing across that entity and knew that, like a kintsugi teacup, she had been transformed from her commonly understood meaning as established by Austen (do not ask her opinion of Austen’s biography of the Bennet family) into something more profound.

She had been broken. Her fractured pieces had been bonded back together to create a great lady worthy of her role in the upcoming adventure that is the story of the Bennets in the Wardrobe’s Universe.

Thank you for your thoughtful comments on this post. I hope you will enjoy the following excerpt from “The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion.” 

Chapter XXXIII

April 4, 1843, The Beach House at Deauville 

Hauptmann Hans Richter has previously asked Lady Kate Fitzwilliam, the Dowager Countess of Matlock (11th), for permission to court the Widow Wickham. Her assent given, Kitty has asked Lydia to attend her in the library. Lydia is receptive to the tall German but is fearful of the consequences of her attempts to return to her original where/when in 1815. Much of this chapter is devoted to this conversation. However, Kitty also offers Lydia advice rooted in The Book of Tea in this excerpt.

“And, what of Hans? What if we marry? What if we have children? What if…?”

Kitty slid down the smooth leather of the tufted Chesterfield couch and enveloped her tearful sister in a firm hug. She whispered into her hair those comforting nonsensical syllables that resonate with peoples of all nations. Eventually, Lydia calmed.

“The Rule about babes in the future would, I am afraid, apply to any children you conceive now. They would remain in this here/now if you decided to depart.

“As for Hans or any other person, for that matter: I believe…and I have no proof for this supposition which I can reveal…that if he were in close contact with you, probably skin-to-skin…he would transition with you back to your original where/when.

“You need not worry right now for are we not speaking of a quest for undiscovered feelings and not the need for a speedy wedding?

“Do not overthink things, Lydia. Enjoy the process as it presents itself right now.

“All you need to know for the present is that you must not conceive a child because if you tried to transition whilst increasing, you might be anchored here in this time.

“The other alternative—that you and your in vitro infant would be violently separated—is too gruesome to consider.”

Lydia sent a horrified glance at her sister. She immediately walled off the notion of her bloodied corpse tumbling out of the Wardrobe into Mary’s Darcy House chamber. That circumstance was fodder for Mister Karloff’s or Mr. Chaney’s cinematic ruminations, not those of Lydia Wickham.[ii]

The suggestion that she would engage in marital relations without the benefit of a previous visit to the vicar outraged her Regency sensibilities even though they had been blurred by three years in this here/now. She had heard of widows who felt free to dally with gentlemen without concern for their reputations. The wealthiest were legends of the ton, able to entice any of several lovers to their boudoirs. If they avoided the by-blow consequences for these al fresco couplings, they could continue along in such a manner for years until the danger of increasing passed with their changes.

Money cannot buy happiness, I am sure, but it can buy freedom.

She was fully aware of how the old Lydia might have appeared to others. In a jolt to her now-more-mature ego, Mrs. Wickham had discovered the old biography of her family in which a less-than-flattering portrait of her behavior had been painted. She had read, with increasing embarrassment, Miss Austen’s thin-lipped characterization of the youngest Bennet daughter. Lydia was also astonished that this priest’s child, a spinster and a woman outside of her acquaintance, would cast her in such judgmental terms.

‘Tis true that I was high-spirited. My Meryton world was so small, and I followed my natural inclination to fill it with laughter and fun. However, I do understand how it appeared to a prig like Mr. Darcy, a man set on finding fault with everyone and everything.

And poor Jane and Lizzy who knew proper behavior…how mortified they must have been!

Who could have told Miss Austen about the way I acted? And then, only a few very specific instances were related: the Assembly, our visit to Netherfield to look in on Jane, and the Netherfield ball. And who would have left out my goodness, casting me as no better than one of those poor wenches who earned their money on their backs at inns up and down the Great Northern Road?

I know! T’was that prune-faced, dried out old stick Caroline Bingley! She always held me up as the worst of the Bennets and then tattling to Mr. Darcy what he had already observed for himself…as if that would somehow turn him away from Lizzy!

At no point, except for my elopement, which was, I fear, the worst of my sins and one compounded by my innocence and gullibility, would I have ever allowed any man…be he a gentleman or simply posing as one…to truly compromise me. Even my dear Wickham had to wait until our wedding night!

Oh, I am positive that Miss Bingley, that viper, dripped her venom into Miss Austen’s ear, although that lady had long-since relocated to Chawton when Caroline had been dispatched to Bath for her health after her exhibition at Lizzy’s wedding breakfast. They probably had mutual acquaintances in Bath. It matters not.

And she chose to look down that thin nose of hers at me, an honestly married woman?

Yet, all that everyone knew of Lydia was that her morals were not of the highest quality. This bothered the young widow. That concern showed on her face as her brows dropped and her expression darkened at Kitty’s well-intentioned, if not well-worded, gibe.

Kitty realized her error almost immediately.

Kitty levered herself up from the couch, its leather-upholstered seating creaking even beneath her birdlike figure. She patted Lydia’s hand as she passed on her way to one of the bookshelves adjacent to the fireplace. Running her fingers over the spines, she mumbled inarticulately as title-after-title passed her lips—until her nails collided with a well-worn binding. Tilting out a tiny book, Kitty reverently brought it back to the sofa.

After she had repositioned herself in the corner, her fragility supported in the crux between arm and back, she cradled the compact tome between steepled fingers.

“I know your spirit has just been tried, Lydia,” she stated, “and I do apologize for reminding you of what has been but never again will be. Even if you had not become a mother, I can assure you that the young girl of the Year Eleven has been put into the fire, refined like silver, and tested like gold these past seven years.[iii]

“You have shown all the propriety of a great lady, a Countess. You would do all of us proud as the hostess in Matlock House’s parlors and drawing rooms. Those countrified edges that were Miss Bingley’s bane have been worn away by life much as the gravels on the banks of our beloved Mimram.

“Now, I would offer you a gift…actually a loan…of one of my favorite books of philosophy.

“Mr. Kakuzo Okakura was a Japanese gentleman with whom Henry and I became acquainted back before the other war. He wrote a little book…this little book…in which he sought to explain the idea of tea…something we imbibe but never consider that it owns any deeper meaning than simply being a refreshing drink…and its place within Eastern philosophy.

“I will not burden you with my thoughts about teaism, Taoism, or Zen for that would defeat everything the masters tried to teach us. You need to assess for yourself what their wisdom means and how it may apply to your life.

“However, Lydia, The Book of Tea has profoundly influenced a generation of artists—the Modernists—seeking to discover a rationale for their rejection of the older…if you dare to suggest that Papa Pissarro, dear Pierre-Auguste, or even poor Seurat were outdated…modes of expression.

“Perhaps, when you are ready, you may find meaning in Okakura’s words.

“If you would allow me, though, I would suggest that you ignore all exhortations of what others would insist you become. Abandon, also, all thoughts that you may have to shape yourself to fit into your notion of society’s demands.

“Rather, my dear, become like the jujitsu acolyte and mold yourself with a profound void…not an emptiness of self which is a denial of existence, but rather like a pitcher that is not described by the water it can hold but instead by the understanding that its meaning comes from that which it can do.

“You can become that calm and peaceful frame into which others pour their ideas about who you are. Therein, like a remarkable artwork, your greatness will manifest itself through the efforts of those who would seek to fill your blankness/not blankness with meaning. By being the vessel, you will guide their considerations into your own perceived shape rather than the opposite, yours into theirs. And, as you live Dharma, a greater perfection can be achieved when the river both flows through as well as around you.

“Consider one of my favorite quotes from Master Okakura…

One who could make himself a vacuum into which others

might freely enter would become the

master of all situations.

[i] Unpublished mss, The Journals of the Hon. Captain George Percival Wickham, edited and annotated by his Widow. The Bennet Family Trust, London. Entry of February 21, 1815. Vol VI, p. 10-11.

[ii] Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney were renowned performers in the 1930s horror film genre. Their films had been screened at the Beach House after 1940, prints having been lodged in the library, on the sound projector installed by Jean Renoir’s technicians.

[iii] Zechariah 13:9 paraphrased

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About The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion

“My life has been very much like an unfinished painting. The artist comes to the portrait day-after-day to splash daubs of color onto bare canvas, filling in the blanks of my story. Thus grows the likeness, imperfect as it may be, which you see today.”

Lydia Fitzwilliam, Countess of Matlock, letter to her sister Elizabeth Bennet Darcy, March 14, 1831.

Does it matter how a man fills out his regimentals? Miss Austen never considered that query. Yet, this question marks the beginning of an education…and the longest life…in the Bennet Wardrobe saga.

Lydia Bennet, Longbourn’s most wayward daughter, embarks on her quest in The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion. This biography reveals how the Wardrobe helps young Mrs. Wickham learn that honor and bravery grow not from the color of the uniform—or the gender of its wearer—but rather from the contents of the heart.

In the process, she realizes that she must be broken and repaired, as if by a kintsugi master potter, to become the most useful player in the Bennet Wardrobe’s great drama.

Multifaceted and nuanced, The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion, speaks to the verities of life. Once again, Don Jacobson has combined the essence of Pride and Prejudice with an esoteric story line and the universal themes of redemption and forgiveness in this well-crafted narrative.”

Mirta Ines Trupp, author of The Meyersons of Meryton

Amazon U.S. | Amazon U.K.

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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 began publishing The Bennet Wardrobe Series

Jacobson is also part of the collective effort behind the publication of the upcoming North and South anthology, Falling for Mr. Thornton: Tales of North and South due out in the Fall of 2019.

Other Austenesque Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” (2016) and “The Maid and The Footman.” (2016) Lessers and Betters offers readers the paired novellas in one volume to allow a better appreciation of the “Upstairs-Downstairs” mentality that drives the stories.

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. Likewise, Don is a member of the Austen Authors collective (see the internet, Facebook and Twitter).

He lives in the Las Vegas, Nevada 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: Don Jacobson’s Amazon Author’s Page | Goodreads Author’s Page (with blog) | Author Website (with blog) | Twitter (@AustenesqueAuth)

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Giveaway

Don is generously giving away 4 ebook copies of The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion during the blog tour. You must enter through this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

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

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It’s a pleasure to welcome Don Jacobson back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the latest installment in The Bennet Wardrobe series, The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament. Don is here to talk a little about the series, as well as share an excerpt and a giveaway. Please give him a warm welcome!

Historical Context in The Bennet Wardrobe

Jane Austen was a young lady and, later a mature woman, of her times. Like most authors, Austen’s work rose from a clear understanding of the social milieu that had begun to mature by the time the industrialization of Great Britain was entering its second half century at about 1805. As such, Austen was writing for an equally-informed audience, albeit one that was awfully content to cling to the old ways.

Every one of the Canonical books in informed by their own historical contexts. The history was not necessarily overt but was akin to the wash a painter applies to the canvas prior to beginning work.

In Pride and Prejudice, while he is seeking to become a gentleman by purchasing an estate, Bingley, none-the-less, retains ownership of the textile mills because the British Army needed uniforms, tents and other woven goods. Pemberley was a money machine for Darcy because the price of grain was skyrocketing as that same army demanded food. Captain Wentworth ranged the high seas seizing French Warships and Spanish gold. Colonel Fitzwilliam was often off-stage fighting Napoleon’s hordes. The Bertram fortune rooted in sugar grew exponentially as rum was the easiest way to concentrate and transport sugar from the Carib. The British Navy consumed an immense amount of rum…and likewise the general population.  The Methodist Dissent runs throughout the background whenever a young, but sensible, clergyman appears.

As an historian, I habitually seek to establish context to add a deeper layer of understanding to events and personalities. Thus, when I began to compose the Bennet Wardrobe stories, t’was a natural activity to utilize historical references to establish the meaning character motives and actions.

For instance, while I could have had Mary find her own way to grow beyond the moralizing woman, I preferred to have her emerge by reading Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman. In the climax of the book, the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 reshaped both Mary and Lydia’s lives

One of my favorite scenes from both The Keeper and The Countess Visits Longbourn has Kitty as an elderly lady addressing Georgiana Darcy in the chocolaterie of two French émigrés. She mentions the Deauville of 1812…a Breton resort that will grow over the next 150 years. Again, a bit of context that resonates throughout the next five books.

Historical personages also can be found throughout the books.  From Pierre-Auguste and Aline Renoir to Sigmund Freud in Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque to Lord Byron, Mary Godwin, and Percy Shelley in Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess, those who stood astride the times logically join in our story to help advance the plot and allow the characters to grow.

My most audacious insertion of historical figures appears in the most recent offering, The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament. From the United States High Commissioner overseeing the American Zone of Occupation, General Lucius Clay, to the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Winston S. Churchill, key historical figures offer context to forward the deeper—and often noir—themes of the broader story. I have also appropriated a hero of the hidden War, Miss Eileen Nearne, as a love interest in this novel. Finally, a few royal personages play an important role in our little drama.

I also ask my readers to suspend disbelief and accept that the Universe of the Wardrobe is a lose parallel of the reality which we experience. I have adopted Robert A. Heinlein’s concept of solipsism which asserts that the act of writing fiction creates the universe in which the story exists as a reality: essentially, all myth is reality and all reality is myth.

Thus, you will note a few references made by characters to “the biography of the Bennets written by Miss Austen.” I have chosen to treat Pride and Prejudice as a fictionalized account of persons—the Bennet Family, the Darcys, and the Bingleys—who truly existed. This allows Mrs. Bennet to carp about the book in Chapter XXX of The Avenger: 

“That impertinent Miss Austen who wrote of our family certainly did not help my cause in any manner: showing me in just one light, and the worst one, at that.  Of course, she never met me and only drew her portrait based upon second-hand information, probably supplied by jealous mamas of the ton.”

I hope that my readers will allow my slight bending of some closely-held and loved notions about the Canon as The Bennet Wardrobe continues. I look forward to your comments.

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This excerpt from The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament is © 2018 by Don Jacobson. Any reproduction—either in print or electronic media without the expressed written consent of the author is prohibited. Published in the United States of America.

Chapter XVIII

The Boardroom of the Bennet Family Trust, August 3, 1947

Not a single soul in the Board Room, beside the two aristocrats with whom he had broken bread, had ever beheld Bennet in the flesh.

The assembled Bingleys, Gardiners, Fitzwilliams, Bennets, and Darcys collectively gasped. More than one immediately looked toward the Dowager Countess’ portrait of The Founder as if to confirm his identity.

Bennet could recognize the varying and diluted images of his daughters in the countenances of the persons throughout the room. A few seemed to have a touch of his old friend Sir William Lucas’ distinctive brow and nose. Not that he dismissed most out-of-hand, for they were his kith and kin, but they were clearly from lines that had branched away from the Bennet tree after his time. The potency of their connection to him would be filtered through the closeness of his ties to Matlock and Pemberley.

However, there were two ladies who defied this sort of easy classification: one older, obviously the mother, and the other, her daughter from all appearances and clearly just having attained her majority. They stood slightly off to one side of the great room. Each was dressed elegantly, if in an understated manner, complete with hats, and matching clutch handbags. The elder sported a brown fur neck wrap which added a touch of chic even on this unseasonably steamy summer’s day. Her daughter was wearing a suit which was redolent of cotton superfine and reminded Bennet of a military uniform but without all the frippery and frogging so favored in his time. She was also without gloves but sported an impressive diamond betrothal ring on her left hand.

Both seemed to hearken back to a trunk of the family which he had not expected to encounter this far into the future. Unaccountably, they were being accorded a considerable amount of deference; not a single soul presumed to approach them. Matlock and Pemberley, the Earl and Countess, hovered slightly behind the two, acting remarkably like a pair of border collies minding their sheep.

Never being one to allow a lady, let alone two, to be relegated to lonely contemplation along the figurative chair rail, Bennet genially approached the pair and offered, “Good morning. I fear that you must forgive a man of my advanced years for presuming upon you without an introduction. However, I must admit that your appearance here today has somewhat surprised me. You look quite like my old solicitor, the man whose name graces the letterhead downstairs. I am speaking of Mr. Frederick Hunters who would have been my Great Uncle.

“Are you, by chance descended from the Hunters line of the Bennet Family?”

He felt his grandson, the Earl, fly up by his side. The man’s gulp indicated that he feared his Grandfather may have committed a terrible faux pas.

Bennet quickly continued, “Before Lord Matlock flays me, please forgive my forwardness. I am used to country manners, well actually, more like country familiarity…and both those probably have not aged well in the past 150 years. Might I presume upon Earl Fitzwilliam’s graciousness to introduce me properly?” He glanced at his doppelgänger and lifted a brow.

The Earl said nothing until the older lady moved her handbag from its double handheld shield-like post in front of her torso. Giving the man a nod, she said in a melodic voice that was redolent of drawing rooms and racing meets, “Yes, please, Earl Matlock, introduce us to your honored guest.”

Bennet swore that he expected his grandson…he is M, for Heaven’s sake…to run a finger under his all-too-tight collar before he completed this British tradition.

“Ma’am.  Mr. Bennet, may I have the pleasure of introducing you to Mrs. Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon of Balmoral, Scotland and her daughter, erm…” he stalled on the second introduction.

The young woman quickly took pity on the older man and stepped forward, thrusting her left hand out, saying, “Thank you, Uncle Thomas. Elizabeth Windsor. Without a doubt you must be Mr. Thomas Bennet of Longbourn Estate in Hertfordshire. Your portrait does not do you justice. T’is truly an honor to meet The Founder.”

Bennet, in his surprise, automatically reached out and shook her proffered digits. Several sharp intakes of breath echoed around the room.

Her mother hid a smile and a small chuckle behind a gloved hand, and then turned to the Countess and said, “I declare, Georgie, it must be something with girls named Elizabeth. If I recall the tale correctly, your Lizzy greeted her German in that manner the first time they met on the sand by the Beach House.”

The Countess, now in her 45th year replied with all of the dignity she could muster, “You have the right of it ma’am. Recall that my daughter was lately a WREN driver while yours in the ATS could lubricate—how do the Americans call it—oh yes, a deuce and a half. I imagine our egalitarian cousins schooled the girls’ manners from time to time!”

Miss Windsor looked at the two before riposting, “Now Mama, Aunt Georgie; you know the world is changing. Just as Mr. Bennet discovered, if we stand on ceremony and privilege, nothing will ever be accomplished.

“And, you did teach me to respect our elders,” she said with a devilish twinkle in her eye, “I doubt if there is anyone here who will stand superior to a man birthed in 1760! And, yes, Mr. Bennet, we are of the Hunters’ line.”

She leaned in toward Bennet and whispered conspiratorially, “Your biography was required reading for all of my generation. Why, I am unsure.”

Bennet found that he enjoyed the young lady’s spirit, reminding him as it did of his own beloved Elizabeth.

Mrs. Bowes-Lyon gently, but firmly, broke up the singular conference saying, “Lord Matlock, I do believe you called this emergency meeting of the board. Might we attend to that? I fear that my daughter and I have other claims on our time this day. Later, we had hoped to rejoin my husband in Scotland. The shooting is particularly good this year.”

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About The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament

Bennet looked at his wife’s swollen lips, softly bruised from several deeply loving kisses, and her flushed complexion, as alluring when gracing the countenance of a woman of four-and-forty as that of a girl of nine-and-ten. He was one of the lucky few to have fallen in love with the same woman at both ages.  

Thomas Bennet, Master of Longbourn, had always counted himself amongst the few educated gentlemen of his acquaintance. But, he had to travel over 120 years into the future to discover how little he knew about the woman sharing his life.

Once again, the amazing Bennet Wardrobe proved to be the schoolmaster. Tom Bennet’s lesson? Mrs. Bennet had been formed especially for him. Yet, t’would be the good lady herself who taught him the power of the Fifth and Sixth Loves: Redemption and Forgiveness.

Fanny Bennet also would uncover deep wells of courage and inspiration as she stood by her man’s side in the bleak years after World War II. Together they would lead their descendants in pursuit of the beast who had wronged every member of the Five Families.

The Bennet Wardrobe series stands alone

The Avenger takes us on a new journey through The Bennet Wardrobe – an alternate universe rising from Don Jacobson’s vivid imagination and based upon the immortal Pride and Prejudice. The Avenger is another important step leading to the culmination of this enchanting trip: one that has drawn us into its reality to travel side-by-side with richly sketched characters. Each book has left us wanting more.

The Bennet Wardrobe series stands alone as a unique result of originality focused on beloved characters as they move—and grow—through surprising plotlines.

Lory Lilian, author of Rainy Days

Buy 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:

Don Jacobson’s Amazon Author’s Page

Goodreads Author’s Page (with blog)

Author Website (with blog)

Twitter  (@AustenesqueAuth)

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Giveaway

As part of the blog tour, Don is generously giving away 4 copies of The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament. You must enter through this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

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12/28 Babblings of a Bookworm Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

12/29 Interests of a Jane Austen Girl Review, Giveaway

12/30 My Love for Jane Austen Guest Post, Giveaway

01/03 My Vices and Weaknesses Author Interview, Giveaway

01/04 So Little Time… Guest Post, Giveaway

01/05 My life journey Review, Excerpt Giveaway

01/07 More Agreeably Engaged Character Interview, Giveaway

01/08 Diary of an Eccentric Guest Post, Giveaway

01/09 From Pemberley to Milton Excerpt, Giveaway

 

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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!

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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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