Welcome to The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque Blog Tour. I am very happy and excited to be the first to receive author Don Jacobson on this thrilling journey because he is developing a genre that captivates me immensely! In this book he combines regency, time travel and the Victorian era, how perfect is that?
The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque is the second volume of the Bennet Wardrobe series, and Don Jacobson is here today to talk a little about the unity of the series volumes, but before moving on to his guest post, I would like to welcome Don Jacobson to From Pemberley to Milton and wish him luck with this blog tour! The premise of the series is very different from anything I’ve seen and I’m sure the tour will be a success. I would also like to thank Janet Taylor for organizing this blog tour and Claudine Pepe bringing Don Jacobson to my attention. Thank you ladies!
Now, without further ado I will let you with Don’s words…
The Ties That Bind The Bennet Wardrobe Universe
There are several modalities I have used to establish a sense of unity between and within the various novels and novellas that make up the Bennet Wardrobe Series.
Some allow characters and readers to utilize sense memory to recall important forces that have shaped their lives. Mary in The Keeper finds Edward’s scent of witch hazel to be an anchor that keeps her feel safe. In The Exile, Henry struggles for years knowing that he will never discover the woman whose perfume of roses over freshly cut grass anchored his troubled spirits. Others—like the Waterman pen—transcend the confines of any particular book, serving to provide an additional level of unconscious linkage between sisters.
There are also those that serve as metaphors. The rose motif that first appears in Henry Fitzwilliam’s War allows Lydia to explain and expand upon the sobriquet The Five Roses of Hertfordshire that had been applied to the Five Beautiful Bennet Sisters. Her story of the roses, and her role as a master grower of the flower, expands upon the inherent traits of each Bennet woman—Jane’s beauty with the yellow Lady Anne, Lizzy’s fiery nature with the deep red Lizzy’s Own, and even Mary centrality to the family with the pruned bush awaiting to deliver another season of beauty. My great cover designer, Janet Taylor, changed that somewhat by giving Mary the white rose to symbolize the purity of her soul. And, as Lydia revealed, Kitty was represented by every rose type!
But, of all of the devices—and the one which was deeply rooted for me in the most memorable quote from Jane Austen’s masterpiece—it is Bennet Eyes which becomes universal as the single unifying trait of those who can use the Wardrobe.
“I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes…”
Mr. Darcy to Miss Bingley,
Pride & Prejudice, Book I, Ch. VI.
We spend much time with Darcy being bewitched by Lizzy’s remarkable eyes. Every Bennet daughter—and actually every Bennet be they named Bennet, Darcy, Bingley, Fitzwilliam, Gardiner or Collins—moves through the stories bearing those Bennet Eyes.
Jane: Sky Blue
Lizzy: Chocolate Brown
Mary: Light Brown
Kitty: China Blue
Lydia: Emerald Green
Henry: Steel Grey
Oh, and as you read The Bennet Wardrobe stories, you will discover others who bear Bennet Eyes.
Please enjoy this excerpt from The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque. Here Kitty Bennet is being escorted by Lord Henry Fitzwilliam to a meeting of the Life Trustees of the Bennet Family Trust.
The offices of the Bennet Family Trust were located above Wilson & Hunters’ offices in Chancery Lane. A long-faced doorman admitted them into the lower lobby and blew into a speaker’s tube to alert his confederate at the other end. He then quietly spoke into the mouthpiece advising that the Viscount and his guest awaited an escort.
An office boy approached and guided them through the warren of offices that housed a battalion of barristers. Nervous young clerks dashed about on errands. Others bowed their heads behind stacks of documents bound with scarlet ribbons. Kitty and Henry were finally ushered to the base of a narrow stairwell.
“I believe you know your way from here, my Lord,” the youth stated.
Henry led Kitty up the stairs into a world that was diametrically opposed to that through which they had just passed. Where the former had been noisy and bustling with energy, these offices were near sepulchral. A long luxuriously woven Oriental runner deadened their footfalls as they moved along a richly paneled hallway. While there were multiple doorways opening onto the hall, not a single one was opened to reveal the interior beyond. The subdued light glimmering through each door’s frosted glass panel was augmented by gas lamps spaced at intervals along the passage.
The corridor’s walls were adorned with numerous portraits. Kitty slowed as she passed each one. Those immortalized were strangely familiar, and they all had a similar look about their eyes.
Those are the ‘Bennet eyes;’ something Papa always talked about. He said he could look around our dinner table and know for certain that we were all his children—much to Mama’s loudly voiced outrage at his veiled jest about her fidelity.
The names on some of the plaques below the paintings jumped out at her…
George William Darcy, Earl of Pemberley
Trust Life Director, 1838-1863
Madelyn Darcy Johnson
Trust Life Director, 1840-1878
Michael Edward Bennet
Managing Director, 1852-1885
As they approached a set of massive double doors at the far end of the hall, one great canvas graced the wall to their left. Four men had sat for this single portrait…and Kitty could not imagine a more powerful looking group. They were captured stationed around a large and imposing desk.
The nameplate was simple and for Kitty almost unnecessary. Although she was unclear about one of the subjects, there was no question in her mind about the identity of the other three. In spite of the years added to their faces and flesh to their frames, there was no mistaking Colonel Fitzwilliam (although he was identified as General), Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy. The gentleman wearing clerical garb and seated behind the desk was identified as Edward Benton, Senior Managing Director and Keeper.
An equally imposing canvas was facing the first from the opposite wall. As she turned to it, Kitty’s heart squeezed with sadness and longing. There, looking down on her were four pairs of very fine eyes, all arranged by age and matching the position of the men opposite them. Jane’s sky blue gazed at Bingley’s shock of flaming hair. Lizzy’s chocolate brown orbs were for Darcy alone as he stood next to his cousin. Mary’s light brown eyes caressed the preacher. And Lydia’s emerald green sought the fine figure of the Colonel standing by himself next to the reverend.
Oh, what lives and loves you must have enjoyed!
Kitty’s hand unconsciously lifted, and she stroked the gilt frame.
Henry stood to the side, quietly observed the emotions playing across her face, giving her a modicum of privacy with her sisters. Then he gently broke her mood by touching her elbow, guiding her along toward the mahogany panels that opened to his hand on the door handles.
At their entry, the four elegantly dressed people standing near the one end of the room turned to face them. Two men and two women, each with Bennet eyes, took their measure of Kitty. As for the teenager, she could learn little of them as none betrayed any particular emotion.
What did draw her eye, though, was one last portrait; the only decoration on the wall at what must have been the head of the table. There, standing behind the worktable in the Longbourn bookroom, was her Papa. The artist caught his lips in a slight smile below the amused glint in his hazel eyes in a pose seemingly caught right after Lizzy had just suggested something impertinent. Papa leaned toward Kitty as if he wanted to say something, to offer some words of wisdom that would help her through her predicament. However, while his presence on the wall was comforting, she did not gain any insight from his silent pose.
Henry seated her to the right of the head where he positioned himself. The others arranged themselves to his left and adjacent to Kitty. A woman of indeterminate age with graying auburn hair settled herself into the upholstered seat beside Kitty. She looked at Henry who nodded his assent. Turning to the girl and smiling, she introduced herself.
“Hello. Let me get this started because I am sure that your head is spinning.
“I am Estelle Charlotte Bennet. I am your niece. My parents were your adopted brother, Edward Bennet, and his wife, Maria Rose Collins, who inherited Longbourn in full after her father’s death. I tell you this so that you know that there are still Bennets at Longbourn. Because my maternal grandfather, whose name will never be spoken in these halls, had Bennet blood, so too did my mother and all of her children. My eldest brother, Michael, is the Master of Longbourn right now.”
A sour-looking gentleman of late middle age directly across from Kitty spoke next.
“My name is William Francis Darcy. I would be your great-nephew, I imagine. Your sister Elizabeth was my grandmother. I am the second Earl of Pemberley. I am pleased to make your acquaintance. However, I must tell you that this is a meeting I fervently wish never to have been called.
“Young Henry here has told us that you wish to remain in this time. This strikes me as a very impetuous decision, something that could lead to disaster,” the Earl solemnly intoned before being cut off by Henry.
“Uncle, you must recall that we have already discussed and decided this. Bringing the matter up again when the Board has already taken a position is poor form,” Henry chided the older man, “Miss Bennet will be allowed to exercise her freedom of choice unless she demonstrates that she is unable to act in the families’ best interests.”
Duly admonished the aristocrat settled back in his chair with a dismissive wave of his hand.
Next came the other man, who appeared to be in his 30s. Another Fitzwilliam, he curtly informed Kitty that he was one of Henry’s distant cousins and had descended from Lydia and the General’s younger son, George. He added little more to the conversation beyond that.
Finally, the second, and considerably younger, woman who reminded Kitty of Jane, spoke up. Her rich blue eyes warmly gazed across the oiled wood at Kitty. She appeared to be Henry’s age.
“Miss Bennet, I am Caroline Anne Bingley. Your sister Jane was my Great- grandmother. The lady you knew as Caroline Bingley before she married into the Johnson family was one of my Grand Aunts.”
Kitty interrupted her without thinking, “Oh, you have my sympathies.”
Henry made to correct her, but Miss Bingley shushed him with a look.
“And I would take them if the woman you knew was the one my mother and cousins told me about. But the Caroline who came into their lives as Mrs. Johnson after her return from America was very kind and loving, even if she bore a great sadness.
“I still live at the Bingley seat at Thornhill in Derbyshire and will do so until my wedding to Lord John Cecil in a few months. However, if you would like to visit the estate to get away from the city for a while, we could be there in a few hours.”
At Kitty’s wide-eyed look, she added, “I will let Henry explain how railroads have made our world a small place indeed.
“I know that this is so much to take in. You have relatives scattered all over the Empire. The world itself has changed beyond imagination in the last 75 years. I would fully understand if you took one look at all of this and ran screaming back to the Wardrobe in Matlock House.”
“And a good idea it would be,” grunted Lord Pemberley.
Henry glared his uncle. Then he took up the speaker’s mantle using the voice of authority that Kitty had always associated with Mr. Darcy.
“Miss Bennet, as you have divined by now, we are the Board of Life Members of the Bennet Family Trust, an organization dedicated to support the interests of clan Bennet and the Five Families.[i] This meeting was called to introduce you to the highest reaches of the Trust.
“As my cousin, Miss Bingley, has suggested, you have a lot to absorb and could eventually feel overwhelmed. The Trust, though, is here for you. We have offices worldwide and are able to exert a lot of discreet influence on behalf of the Families and individual members.
“You must feel free to contact the Trust at any time.”
He stopped suddenly and covered his mouth with a handkerchief quickly pulled from his pocket as a sudden coughing fit consumed his remaining breath.
He paused and poured himself a glass of water from the crystal carafe in front of him. Sipping it, he cleared his throat and continued.
“Setting aside what my uncle suggested…the Board has already voted to allow you complete freedom to determine your future within certain constrictions which will be discussed in a moment after we are joined by the Trust’s senior managers.
“However, I will stress to you that this decision is not final. The matter can be revisited at any time until you reach your chronological majority in four years. Questions about your ability to conduct yourself in a manner consistent with the interests of the Families will open you to significant penalties.
“I will leave those to your imagination.”
Not willing to be treated as a child barely out of leading strings, Kitty planted both hands on the burnished expanse of the table and slowly eyed each adult in the room before she uttered a word. Then she spoke to them in what she felt was her most mature and modulated voice.
“From what I have learned from speaking to my sister and Mr. Fitzwilliam, the Wardrobe takes us to times which will answer our needs not our wants. I have been here less than a fortnight…each day of which has been occupied with tending to my beloved sister and then mourning her. I doubt if the Wardrobe brought me to this place and time simply to bury Lydia.
“Thus, ladies and gentlemen of the Board, I am not prepared to leave…nor do I think you are prepared to evict me…the most senior Bennet in this room…no, this world…and send me back to my father’s library. So, please, no more threats.
“I imagine you will find me more amenable if you treat me as an adult rather than a recalcitrant schoolgirl.”
Then she added as an afterthought, perhaps to pull some of the sting from her earlier speech, “By the way, your portrait of my Papa is wonderfully rendered. Your artist even included that delightful twinkle in his eyes, one that was there when he was teasing my mother or sparring with Lizzy.”
Miss Bingley looked at the girl and smiled wryly, “That is what the Dowager said nearly word-for-word when we unveiled it last year.”
[i] Bennet, Darcy, Fitzwilliam, Gardiner, and Bingley
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.
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 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).
You may contact him through the following social media:
06/15 From Pemberley to Milton; Guest Post, GA
06/16 My Jane Austen Book Club; Guest Post, Excerpt, GA
06/17 Just Jane 1813; Review, Excerpt, GA
06/19 Diary of an Eccentric; Excerpt, GA
06/20 Savvy Verse and Wit; Guest Post, GA
06/21 Darcyholic Diversions; Author Interview, GA
06/22 My Vices and Weaknesses; Review, Excerpt, GA
06/23 Babblings of a Bookworm; Character Interview, GA
06/25 My Love for Jane Austen; Vignette, GA
06/24 A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life; Guest Post
06/26 Interests of a Jane Austen Girl; Review, Excerpt, GA
06/27 So little time…; Guest Post, GA
06/28 Laughing With Lizzie; Guest Post or Vignette, Excerpt, GA
Don Jacobson would like to offer 8 eBook copies 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.
Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international. To enter the giveaway click here.