Posts Tagged ‘the exile: kitty bennet and the belle époque’

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.


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.


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


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



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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