Good morning and happy Wednesday to all of you. I have a surprise visitor today! Don Jacobson has popped in to do a pre-blog tour introductory post with us. This is his first time at More Agreeably Engaged and I am thrilled to have him visit. I find his series about The Bennet Wardrobe fascinating. I hope you will too. Don is giving us a 'taste' about The Bennet Wardrobe and what is behind it.
The blog tour for The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque, begins on the 15th. He decided it would be good to give a little history beforehand. Since we are doing this here today, I am including this post in the blog tour Rafflecopter giveaway. More info about it at the bottom of the post. Now, please welcome Don Jacobson.
What Is Behind The Bennet Wardrobe?
thrilled to be kicking off the blog tour for The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque
here at Janet’s wonderful blog More
Through my years
of reading Jane Austen’s fiction, I found myself often gravitating toward the
side characters—particularly those in Pride
…Mary the moralizing sister…Kitty who coughed and wilted in
the glare of her younger sister’s boisterousness…Lydia who could only have been
charitably described as being ready to throw herself at any redcoat…and Thomas
who could have done so much more as a father.
Yet, I was left only with the smallest speculation of their futures
after the double wedding at the end of the book.
Lydia had virtually
vanished from the stage. Austen herself
suggested that Mary would wed a clerk in her uncle’s law office. Kitty was
relegated, in Austen’s mind, to a backcountry parsonage. Mr. Bennet, with Mrs.
Bennet on his arm, is last seen waving from the steps of Longbourn chapel.
Mary and Kitty’s suggested fates with the brilliant matches made by Jane and
Lizzy. And, if Mary and Kitty truly
became Darcy’s family, how did they make such financially unsound matches
contrary to Mama’s projections after the engagements?
Austen’s treatment of Lizzy’s younger sisters has bothered me. I do recognize that she used certain
characters to embody stereotypical manners and attitudes for dramatic purposes
(see the vulgar Mrs. Philips, the wife of a tradesman, or the social-climbing daughter
of trade Caroline Bingley). These,
though, were often two-dimensional renditions and served to get Regency readers
nodding in recognition. Yet, once the reader gets past Lizzy and Jane, the
remaining girls exhibit none of their elders’ virtues and embody nearly every
vice that is assumed to infect humankind.
that the younger sisters have gotten short shrift. They are, I believe, heroes
“challenged looks” and emotional mistreatment at the hands of her mother could
have led her to become abusive to Longbourn’s servants or the tenants’
children. She could have taken advantage of being a daughter in one of the
leading houses in the area to assert unbecoming social airs. Rather, she chose faith.
must have had deep-seated beliefs to spur her to find authorities to help
inform her study even though shelacked guidance. Why would she pick a
hopelessly outdated circa 1755 religious screed? Fordyce was a staunch
Presbyterian of a darkly moralistic bent. Was Austen challenging the Dissenters,
in many ways the far-too-serious inheritors of the Puritans, in an “equal
opportunity” offsetting of her skewering of the Anglican Collins?
however, felt that her faith would have found greater shaping in the teachings
of the conservative reformist Clapham Sect[i]
which supported abolition, prison reform, and other social causes. The Mary
Bennet who emerges in The Keeper: Mary
Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey
would have been familiar to those in the 19th
Century and seen as a worthy successor to Claphamites William Wilberforce
(abolition), Henry Thornton (economics), and Hannah More (education).
JAFF authors (particularly Don Miller) have fixed upon Kitty’s artistic
talent. This may be a process of
elimination. Lizzy plays (at whatever
level Lady Catherine may believe) and sings, but embroiders only passably.
Lydia is the clotheshorse. Jane rests at the side of the family portrait
serenely embroidering. Mary attacks the
pianoforte with Wagnerian zeal. What is
left to Kitty but painting and drawing?
Kitty, although older, is characterized as always being led around by
Lydia. Many argue that she was Lydia’s
accomplice. Her coughing suggests a
nervous constitution exacerbated both by her mother’s constant nattering as
well as a desire to be anywhere but where she is at the moment. There are likely deeper traumas hidden under
her compliant nature. These are the underlying framework for Kitty’s story in The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque.
poses the most difficult challenge. She
foolish. Her character is laid before us as fully
formed even though she is just 16 by the time P&P ends. Can she no longer change? She is presented as someone whose personality
was fixed the moment she hit puberty.
Austen canon, Lydia got her “just desserts” for her frankly sluttish behavior
by being saddled with Wickham. JAFF
writers often have tried to rescue her by killing off Wickham in various
horrible ways, but rarely does Lydia improve.
There have been efforts to have Wickham rehabilitate himself, but
usually without Lydia.
for her to avoid becoming a pathetic, Becky Sharp-type character, she must
avoid growing into a 43-year-old who still acts as if she is 16.
core of Pride and Prejudice
then should not Lydia, as well as Kitty and Mary, be given some vehicle which
allows them to realize some sort of destiny?
The Bennet Wardrobe
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.
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?
However, something tickled my brain—maybe it was one of the many efforts to
translate the P&P storyline to the present day—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
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. Consider the open question of whether
Lizzy Bennet ever used The Wardrobe.
Wardrobe Series is currently projected as six books to realize the grand arc of
the Wardrobe’s Plan.
The Keeper: Mary
Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey
The Exile: Kitty
Bennet and the Belle Époque
(2017) (Pt. 1)
The Exile: The
Countess Visits Longbourn
(proj. 2017) (Pt. 2)
The Avenger: Thomas
Bennet and the Father’s Lament
The Pilgrim: Lydia
Bennet and the Soldier’s Portion
The Grail: Saving
Please enjoy the
following excerpt from The Exile: Kitty
Bennet and the Belle Époque.
In which Kitty attends
the ball held in honor of the betrothal of Lord Henry Fitzwilliam and Lady
The orchestra had
been playing for about an hour when Henry approached Kitty for his dance with
her. He had already waltzed with Astrid and his mother and had partnered Ellie
in a mazurka. For her part, Kitty had been anticipating the next few minutes of
waltzing because she had resolved to clear the air between them.
Henry bestowed a
friendly smile upon her as he reached out to lead her onto the floor.
Both felt an
undeniable jolt as her sapphire silk wrapped hand grasped his brilliant white
glove. Unbidden, both momentarily tensed until the sensation passed.
Strauss’ Du und Du[ii]
paced the couple round the crowded floor.
Both were silent
for several long moments as Kitty gazed into Henry’s steel grey eyes, the color
of clouds over the Channel on a winter’s afternoon. He, levelly, returned the
look into her china blue orbs. As they glided around the floor without saying a
word, Kitty began to grow frustrated.
Why cannot this Fitzwilliam be more
like a Fitzwilliam rather than a Darcy? I am surprised that Lizzy did not
throttle Mr. Darcy at the Netherfield Ball. I will not abide the next five
minutes without a word passing between us.
Henry, I assume you invited me to dance with you in order to enjoy the pleasure
of my company. Yet, I am hard-pressed to understand how you are deriving any
gratification by simply spinning around the floor with me in your arms,” she
Henry lifted his
left eyebrow and replied somewhat formally, “I assure you, Miss Bennet, Kitty,
that holding you in the dance is enough pleasure for me.”
“That will not do.
One must speak a little, you know. It
would look odd to be entirely silent.
“I, for one, do
have many subjects about which we could comfortably converse as we enjoy Herr
Strauss’ fine music…that is if you would drag yourself from the clouds and back
into the ballroom,” she reposted.
Up to this point,
Henry had been only briefly attending to his partner, allowing muscle memory to
lead them through the correct steps. His mind, as Miss Bennet had correctly
observed, had been 1,000 miles away…actually only 150…in Deauville
been deep inside himself as they had danced. Contrary to Kitty’s protestations
that he was seemingly ignoring her, he was acutely aware of her presence and
the impact it was having on his composure. His carefully constructed defenses
of the previous four years had been knocked over like skittles on the lawn. The
woman in his arms attracted every fiber of his being and bored deeply into his
soul like none other save one—and she was lost to him some twenty-five years
from now. He had mourned that for seven years.
I only recall her scent: roses over freshly
As Kierkegaard wrote, “The most painful
state of being is remembering the future, particularly the one you will never
Yet, there was something eternal in our
communion. If only…
He had overheard
Kitty and Ellie speculating about his proposal to Astrid. They were half
correct…and half dead wrong.
They were spot-on
when they aligned his offer with his daily mindfulness of his father’s
impending mortality. Henry knew he
needed to set up his nursery for, unlike Pemberley’s title, the Earldom of
Matlock demanded a male heir. He was
settling. His feelings for Astrid were
enough, as far as he was concerned, to allow him to perform his marital duties
without distaste or any fear of deeper attachment.
That was where the
two girls were wrong. He had always believed that he would marry only for the
deepest love. But he knew that was impossible…for he had found true love and it
had slipped through his fingers. She
existed on another plane, only reached once thanks to the Wardrobe.
If I cannot have Her—the Voice—in my bed…for
She is always in my heart…then any well-born lady will do. Once we have sons,
we can remain polite companions until the Lord takes me home, I pray, to rest
softly in Her cherished arms.
threatening his entire scheme of detachment from love…and he could not
understand how she was doing it.
appeal to him brought his conscious mind into focus.
Kitty, forgive me. I was not paying
attention. The music and movement
reminded me of that first ball you attended when cousin Caroline Anne and Lord
John were marrying. You and Ellie were quite excited at the prospects, if I
recall,” he offered.
this lengthy speech as partial expiation for his ignoring her. Then she decided
to address the elephant in the room.
“T’is odd you
should mention the Cecil-Bingley ball, my lord, for that was on my mind as
“I have been
puzzled by your behavior toward me these past four years…”
interrupted her with a concerned voice, “Have I acted improperly toward you,
Miss Bennet? I have made every effort to be friendly and tolerant of your
behavior recognizing that you were placed out of your own time.”
Kitty huffed and
fixed him with a steely stare, “No…never improper, to be sure. But your
exaggerated propriety and extreme
has been nearly unbearable.
“Am I so deficient
in manners and intellect that you must treat me as if I were a small child
utterly unaware of the problems I have faced and will continue to address on
“Why cannot you
treat me as Eddie and Tommy do? They are men of your class and with both
greater and lesser responsibilities. Yet, they find it within themselves to be
that he could not truthfully answer her…for he had no response that did not
involve him making a fool of himself. He had made his choice—to live in the
gray half-life of a loveless marriage with a pleasant woman. Lengthy exposure
to Catherine Marie Bennet threatened it all.
Unseen by Kitty,
he caught the attention of his future brother-in-law, Lord Junius, and widened
his eyes in a silent plea. Winters caught the hint and ambled over to cut in,
relieving Henry of the need to reply.
Kitty threw a
frustrated look at Henry’s retreating back.
[ii] Du und Du
(Thou and Thou) waltz, Opus 367, 1874.
Don, I truly enjoyed reading your thoughts behind The Wardrobe and the Bennets. As I said earlier and have said to you, I find this storyline fascinating. It is a brilliant idea and what I have read to date supports my feelings. Thank you for sharing such good books with us, the readers.
The excerpt that you chose to share is one that I enjoyed reading in the book. I felt for both Kitty and Henry. I look forward to more excerpts and posts when your blog tour begins on Thursday. I wish you the best with it and with The Keeper: Mary Bennet's Extraordiary Journey (V1) and The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque, Part 1 (V2). I will add to those of you wondering about the books, I read Volume 2 first and then Volume 1. The books can stand alone and the reader still be able to grasp the storyline, but I do recommend reading them in order. There are things missed and/or questions answered if they are read as they should be.
Don Jacobson has
written professionally for forty years.
His output has ranged from news and features to advertising, television
and radio. His work has been nominated
for Emmys and other awards. He has
previously published five books, all non-fiction. In 2016, he published the first volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series
—The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary
, novel that grew from two earlier novellas. The Exile
is the second volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series.
JAFF P&P Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal”
Maid and The Footman.”
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).
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).
Blog Tour Schedule:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I hope you will leave a comment and tell us what you think about The Bennet Wardrobe. We would love to hear your thoughts. If you get a chance to read The Keeper, you will learn much more about it and how it came to be. Thanks for stopping by and good luck in the giveaway. It consists of 8 eBooks of The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque, and is international. There will be 8 lucky winners!