Feb 142018

Hi readers!  I am happy to welcome author Don Jacobson to Austenesque Reviews today.  As you may have noticed, Mr. Jacobson has been hard at work publishing books in his The Bennet Wardrobe series.  So far, there are 5 works in total for this series that spotlight secondary characters from Pride and Prejudice and include a bit of time travel (sounds interesting, doesn’t it?).  I haven’t read any…yet, but I’ve heard a lot of great things from readers who have read this series.  Mr. Jacobson is currently celebrating the release of The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn and I am excited to have him here today to share more about the creation of this series and a colorful excerpt from The Exile: The Countess Visits LongbournWe hope you enjoy!

From Whence Came The Bennet Wardrobe?

Guest post by Don Jacobson

I have been deeply involved in reading JAFF since the latter part of 2013. Over the past three-plus years, I have probably read over 400 Pride and Prejudice/Regency variations. To say that I have immersed myself in the genre would be quite accurate.

In late 2014, I was going through a very difficult time as my 88-year-old mother began to fail. During that “last trip to see Mom,” my family had flown to Connecticut to attend her at the nursing home. She was in and out of reality. She knew who we were—at times—and who the kids were—at times. There were moments, though, when she would look at our 27-year old son and call him by my name.

My mother, as Kurt Vonnegut wrote, was unstuck in time.

And, I think that disturbed me on a subconscious level.

Later that same night, my brain threw up something quite Austenesque. T’was a letter Caroline Bingley had written to her sister-in-law, Jane, in 1816 apologizing for all that she had done to impede Jane and Charles’ relationship. That her next step was to leave Britain for the United States demonstrated that Caroline was a woman finally taking agency over her own life.

That was the first appearance of the Bennet Wardrobe Universe…a place where secondary characters could realize their potentials after the double wedding. The Wardrobe—and its time-bending potential—did not exist as of yet. That came later after I began asking HOW the characters could move beyond the stereotypes that were so easy to retain because of the manner in which Austen wrote them.

I deeply wished to discover what sorts of persons they could become—even Mr. Bennet—if they could be allowed to act in their own best interests. The key problem, to me, was that they seem constrained by their timeline context. Might they find their path to fulfillment, both in and out of the accepted Regency timeline?

In mid-2015, the Bennet Wardrobe coalesced to allow those of the Bennet bloodline to move past the constraints imposed by the end of Pride and Prejudice. I found it suitable to suspend my own disbelief and start from the premise that the Bennet Wardrobe—and the temporal context created by Jane Austen—actually existed. To help readers join me on this trip, I composed a mock research article which can be found at the beginning of the first Volume of the Bennet Wardrobe: The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey. I placed the Bennet Wardrobe within the context of other forms of British Magical Transport: J.K. Rowlings’ flue network, C.S. Lewis’ wardrobes, and Susanna Clarke’s King’s roads.

However, I recoiled from the accepted tropes of time travel that have wound their way into JAFF. Auto accidents, blows to the head, falls through an unknown portal, fever dreams/deliria, and mystical machines with no inner soul to moderate outcomes did not satisfy me. In fact, they smacked of artifices designed to allow a different telling of the same ODC story.

In the Wardrobe’s universe, characters from Pride and Prejudice are aware of the potentialities of the Wardrobe and chose to use the Wardrobe or not. They are also cognizant that the Wardrobe was not an omnibus. A Bennet cannot “hop aboard” the Wardrobe and insist on being taken to 1841 or 1941. Rather, the Wardrobe determines the true meaning of the Bennet’s needs and sends the individual to the point in time where they would learn that which they needed to learn.

Thus, seventeen-year-old Kitty Bennet, furious at her father’s determination that she was to be sent to school in Cornwall, slammed her hands onto the Wardrobe’s marquetry doors. Coursing through her mind was the directive thinking: I wish they were dead! Anywhere but Cornwall! Anywhere but here!

And, the Wardrobe sent her to 1886 when every member of her own generation was long gone. Well, almost every one…

Savvy readers will now say, “Ah-hah! There were accidental uses of the Wardrobe!” Yes, to be sure. However, I was secure in the knowledge that the Wardrobe would not send Lizzy, Kitty, or Lydia to a where/when that would not fulfill a need. In the process various Bennets—but, most importantly, the younger three Bennet daughters—become facilitators in the ultimate design of the Wardrobe.

Readers will discover historical persons as well as characters from other works of fiction moving through the books. That is because I subscribe to the idea that imagining characters and their foibles brings them into reality. This is known as solipsism, a technique used by Robert A. Heinlein, the speculative fiction master.

Miss Austen, through the act of writing Pride and Prejudice, called into existence the universe in which, I like to believe, all subsequent Regency/Napoleonic/Victorian are really portrayals of a real world. I like to believe that they lived in the same world as the Darcys, Bennets, and Bingleys, but since Miss Austen had not been properly introduced to them, the very proper lady would never have presumed to write about them.


The Bennet Wardrobe books are best read 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


Excerpt from The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn

This excerpt reveals the search for the King and Queen of the Madras House Twelfth Night (1812) Silent Masque by the Master of Ceremonies, Harlequin.

The servants doused their lanterns, and the bedazzled eyes of the audience adjusted to the descending dusk. Standing in the center of the platform instead of the Countess was the trickster: Harlequin.

He stood tall, head thrown back looking at the crowd down the long beak of his nose. His feet were shoulders-width apart with his left hand on his hip. In his right, instead of his traditional batte, i he held a drum major’s mace: a man-sized ebony shaft topped by a large metal diamond. His costume this night was in keeping with the dress demanded by Comte’s widow—black and white. Oversized black brocade diamonds covered his tightly fitted white topcoat and flowing pantaloons. He wore a stark midnight silk shirt and an intricately knotted white cravat that was covered in tiny black diamonds.

Everything about this individual was long. His lanky build accentuated all of his appendages that, even while he was standing motionless, seemed to flow like smoke swirling upon air currents disturbed by an opened door.

What struck the ball goers, though, was his head. Great plumes of orange hair rose from his crown like gouts of flame exploding from a suckling pig’s pyre as the fat dripped down below the spit. Every square inch of exposed skin above his collar was concealed by alabaster white greasepaint, the better to highlight the dusky diamonds painted around each eye. His lips were glossy as if he had kissed a freshly blacked andiron.

Only three bits of color outside of his coif relieved his tableau…a pair of sky-blue eyes and a wet pink tongue that flickered, serpent-like, from between those dim lips, reminding the audience that Harlequin, like the Garden’s reptile, was a crafty creature.

He scanned his kingdom…for in this world of the mute, the man who could speak ruled…before addressing his subjects in a sing-song, slightly off-key, voice, rolling the words in a sardonic manner, mutilating many, altering a few.

“Mes-dames. Mey-ss-sirs.

“How good of you to come.

“Tonight, I am the voice of your host…the Dowager Countess of Doe-ville. She, through me, bids you welcome and thanks you for joining our little dra-ma-tique.”

He swept his mace to the right and pointed to where Kitty had installed herself in an alcove. Two lanterns flashed their light, illuminating her diamonds, sending reflections cascading around the room. Then he centered his device, slamming its metaled base upon the riser beneath his feet launching a drum-like boom through the room that caused more than one reveler to flinch.

“You must remember Harlequin’s rules of the Twelfth Night Ball at Madras House.

“You may not speak within these sacred confines upon pain of expulsion from Eden.

“Gentlemen may request a lady’s hand for a set with a sim-ple…un-com-pli-ca-ted outstretched hand.

“A lady may reject her suitor without the usual stuffy bus-i-ness of being barred from dancing for the rest of the night.

“The King may dance only with his Queen.

“And, considering the tradition…since there is no King Cake…and so no bean…no pea…

“Harlequin will choose your monarchs for this night.”

Thus saying, he fairly leaped out into the center of the floor causing guests to scatter to the four winds. Sweeping his mace about him, he crouched like a pointer on a bird. He scuttled around, freezing many a masked lady or dominoed gentleman where they stood. His busy left hand fingered finery—never thoroughly inappropriate, but skirting tightly against the line—and his mace lifted gowns to see slippers or flipped open coat fronts to spy waistcoats.

None seemed satisfactory until he approached Wickham who had followed the Countess into her den. Harlequin pulled himself up straighter, his hair rocketing toward the nightscape roof over his head. Stepping close to Wickham, he sniffed the man, squeezed his biceps, peeked beneath his mask, and minutely inspected his dance pumps.

Abruptly he vaulted away, landing in a crouch that dropped to a full kowtow.

He shouted, “All hail, the King! Bow to your liege lord!”

He remained prostrate in front of Wickham until the rustling of curtseys and the grunts of corseted gentlemen performing their bows ceased.

Then he hoisted himself up.

He led Wickham to the riser where the two thrones were located.

Then he searched the room from where he stood. In a moment, shoulders slumped, a dejected Harlequin turned back to his liege. He penitentially shook his head from side-to-side, exaggerating every move.

Wickham, not knowing anything more than a Queen must be found, stamped his foot in apparent pique and swept Harlequin off into the room with a wave of his regal hand.

The jester sniffed around the room again without success.

He turned back to the King, seated on his throne across the room. Again he was waved off.

Then the silent zanni ii slammed his mace on the floor. He flew to the closed double doors. He reached into a tail pocket and removed a fistful of mica dust that he tossed into the air.

As the motes swirled around him he cried out an incantation.

“By the bright moon’s light

“On this darkling winter’s night,

“Come forth with grace to force

Us to bend our knee.

“From the halls of Thebes

“To the palaces of Mycenae

“Float upon your

Faeries’ wings.

“Come, Titania.

“Your Oberon awaits.

“And we of your court

Wake to do your bidding.”

Then, with the mace, he struck the great doors once…twice…thrice.

They opened and through the creaking embrasure floated a vision in rose. The hem of her gown swept clean the expanse of floor beneath her feet; the residue of the faerie dust vanishing behind her as if unwilling to continue to exist after her passage. Harlequin bowed at the waist in awe of the great Lady and walked backwards away from her, his arms spread wide to form a pathway for the Queen. As she glided by, every one of her subjects made obeisance but never took their eyes from her figure.

Wickham was mesmerized by the woman who stood taller than most. Her gown and headdress were the only bursts of color throughout a room filled with people, relieving the monochromatic scheme that condemned the multitude to second-best. He could not discern the color of her slippers so perfectly the gown dropped from her shoulders to the floor: the result being that she seemed to float from the great doors toward the dais upon which he stood transfixed.
Her comely body, so lovingly embraced by the blush-colored silk, swayed so gently that every man in the room worshipped her and named her his heart’s queen.iii More than one woman coveted her, too, but the majority of the fairer sex silently gnashed their teeth as they recollected the earliest days of their own realization of the tigress power gifted to every Daughter of Eve.

George, although spellbound earlier, immediately uprooted himself to step down from the platform and hand her up to her throne. However, like a Queen, she did not sit, but rather situated herself to be viewed—head slightly turned away from the crowd, arms angled away from her sides, palms out in the eternal offertory pose of Venus, Isis, Ariadne, and Gaia.

Wickham did not come to her flank, thus acknowledging her goddess sway over this much more mortal Oberon. On the contrary, as if pulling a page from Harlequin’s book, the young officer saluted her, bowed deeply, and labeled himself her subject.

However, his ensorcellment was short-lived for he was soon urged into line by Harlequin to lead the first dance of the evening.
He held out his gloved hand to his Queen. She graciously clasped his palm, and, as she did so, a mighty frisson shook both of them.

iii Antonio Carlos Jobim and David Gledhill. Lyric from The Girl From Ipanema. (1964), BMG Rights Management LLC.

This excerpt from Chapter XXX of “The Exile: the Countess Visits Longbourn” is ©2018 by Donald P. Jacobson and is released for the expressed use by AustenesqueReviews.com. No reproduction—either in digital or print—is permitted.

Thank you so much for sharing your personal story with us, Don.  I am so sorry to hear about your mom’s passing. I love that such a  beautiful idea came to you at such a time though. How interesting that it began with Caroline Bingley! 😉  It sounds like you put quite a lot of thought into everything you write and I love hearing that Jane Austen’s characters meet up with historical figures and other fictional characters.  Thank you so much for sharing and we wish you all the best with your new release, The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn!

Connect with Don

Website    ❧    Goodreads   ❧   Twitter


In conjunction with her lovely blog tour, Don Jacobson generously brings with him several prizes that readers can win!  The prizes include 10 ebooks of The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn and 2 paperback copies of The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn!!




To enter this giveaway, leave a comment, question, or some love for Don!  😉 And fill out the rafflecopter form below.

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  • This giveaway is open worldwide.  Thank you, Don!
  • This giveaway ends March 5th!

My sincere thanks to Don and Janet for putting this lovely tour together!  To check out the rest of the tour, click the image below!


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  46 Responses to “Excerpt + Giveaway with Author Don Jacobson!!!”


    So Wickham’s back


      Hi…Well, yes…but as you may remember from “The Keeper” that Wickham was briefly mentioned in 1815. I needed to explore how he got there. And I became convinced that the man we read about in 1815 could only come to the forefront if something had happened to him between 1811 (his wedding) and 1815.


    So glad to see this new release. Thanks for the excerpt and the chance to win a copy!


      Thank you. What is now beginning to bubble to the surface is the beginnings of the next book–“The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament.”


    Love this whole concept! So very original. Thanks for the chance to win a copy!


    I am looking forward to this new installment. And I love the title of the next one. it’s brilliant. Congratulations Don. 🙂


    I can’t wait to get to this one in the series. Bon voyage to the tour! 🙂


    Thank you for the information of who the Bennet Wardrobe became a reality for you.


      I am a firm believer in the idea that we are tapped into resources which we simply cannot imagine. Trauma shapes us and moves us into new channels.


    I didn’t know this background on the story conception. Thanks for sharing, and congratulations on the newest member of the Bennet Wardrobe family!


    I’m sorry about your mother, but I’m glad that something good in the way of writing was sparked by your thoughts on her memory. That makes this series even more special in my eyes, as it will forever connect to your mother

    I love the story behind the Wardrobe. It is so intriguing to me that it is an entity in its own right and helps those of Bennet blood who dare, whether knowingly or not, to cross its path. As I read each story, it feels almost like another living breathing person. This is quite an amazing universe that you have created. I eagerly await more! How you flesh out each of the characters and make them seem that is exactly how they would be, is brilliant. Combining history, characters from other books, and Jane Austen is daring and intriguing, and you do it flawlessly. I’m waiting for the movies! 🙂


      JT…You do highlight something in the way I write. I am very visual…and I try to set the scene so that a reader is standing right there in the ballroom as Harlequin guides the Queen to her king…or alongside Wickham as he walks across the Park with Captain Sharpe.


    Poignant and bittersweet background inspiration for the Bennet Wardrobe series. I love hearing about an author’s process, research and most especially what sparked the beginnings of their work.

    Amazing excerpt. Like the ‘most of the fairer sex gnashing their teeth as they recollected….’ when I read an author of your caliber (and the very top of my list of highest is not that crowded) I silently gnash my teeth and sigh over a desire and half-baked skill I long ago gave up on. Provocative scene, beautiful writing.

    Best of luck with The Countess, and all of your writing endeavors.


      Hi Michelle, I did enjoy that particular turn of phrase you highlighted! Thank you for your kind notes…and the willing loan of your maiden name!


    Thank you for giving the background behind the whole series…through such a difficult time, something wonderful came from it…

    Wonderful excerpt, wonderful saga! Enjoy the tour!


      And thank you for your part in making all of these books a reality. Many readers do not know how important betas are to the entire process. You, my dear friend, are a pillar supporting my work!


    What an interesting background. Best of luck with the new book.


    CC–you are also an important part of the wonders of the Wardrobe. Thank you for your support. Cannot believe the Canadian Women’s Curling team! Korea?


    Such interesting covers and titles.
    Becky B.


      Thank you for your comment! This is a wonderful forum in which to meet readers! The next book in the series will be “The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament.” I do so love working with Janet Taylor. I suggest that you check out the next stop in the blog tour at “My Jane Austen Book Club” where I explore “The Language of the Back Cover.”


    So glad that this wonderful series is having its day in the sun!


    Very intriguing. I wonder who the Queen might be.


      Hi There…ahh…Who is The Lady in Red? A mystery wrapped in an enigma. Know that she is part of the eternal mantra behind all of Austen’s work…that the deepest human emotions can promote the greatest alterations in the spirit.


    After reading your guest post, Don, I believe I would enjoy your series. I read very little JAFF (because I write it and don’t want to be influenced by another author’s story), but yours is very intriguing. I do believe reading your series will be a summer project. I’m fascinated by the Chronicles of Narnia/Alice in Wonderland juxtaposition, and I’m excited about reading your spin.

    My favorite genre is fantasy/science fiction. Kudos to you for stepping outside the lines and making it work. It’s a risk (as I well know), but following your success is encouraging to me personally.

    Please enter me in the giveaway.


      Thank you…thank you. Your body of work is one toward which I aspire. No joke. There are certain authors who do what they do so well that I dip back in to use as a benchmark. Your “Understanding Elizabeth” is a powerful example of how all the elements of great storytelling come together to elevate the reading experience.

      I tend to read a lot of JAFF–in part to understand the channels (I keep hitting “Middlemarch’s end whenever I write on this topic) through which the works are flowing. But, I find that my natural form does not usually become impacted by other authors.

      I would like your reaction to my upcoming (Saturday 2/17) post in Austen Authors. There I discuss what I believe to be an evolution in the world of literature that has found its basis in the works of Jane Austen. I am suggesting that there are authors who are no longer writing “Fan Fiction,” but rather synthetic and true works of fiction that find roots in Jane Austen’s work: in essence that to name what we do as “Fan Fiction” diminishes the efforts and limits the audience’s appreciation. I suggest a new name for our genre: AUSTENESQUE FICTION.

      As for being an SF/Fantasy person–that is the root of my being. Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy (Much Like Heinlein’s Long Family stories) allowed me to believe in alternate realities. And, if you read the Afterward in the first part of the EXILE, you will see that I assert that I use Heinlein’s concept of solipsism (that the act of writing fiction creates the universe in which those ideas exist) in the development of my work. So, Holmes, Moriarty, and Watson appear as well as historical characters like Cardinal Newman, Winston Churchill, and so on make appearances. And, my characters exist within an historic milieu that is rooted in our reality.

      Thanks again. Look forward to your comments as we move deeper into the Blog Tour (today over at My Jane Austen Book Club where I discuss “The Language of the Back Cover.”).


    I truly enjoyed the first book of the series and look forward to reading them all. Thanks for sharing the exerpt.


      Thank you for your comment. I hope you grab the e-novelette “Henry Fitzwilliam’s War” to help understand how this character’s personality was shaped. Then your experience with “The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Epoque” will be all the more rewarding. Followup with “Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess” to move forward by a decade (and then backwards by a century-plus). Finally continue with the latest, “The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn.” Next up for me is to write “The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament.”


    What an intriguing idea–a wardrobe that takes characters to the best time and place for each of them to develop into the best version of themselves, complete with the possibility of meeting other fictional/historical characters in their travels!

    I immediately thought of Narnia when reading this post, but I loved the allusion to Rowling’s Floo Network. What a wonderful vehicle (both literary and for time-travel) to develop these lesser characters in Austen’s novels!

    Thank you, Don, for this generous give-away and also for this cunning excerpt.

    Susanne 🙂


      Hi Susanne…

      Thank you for the kind comments…and the follow on Twitter! As I noted in the post above “I found it suitable to suspend my own disbelief and start from the premise that the Bennet Wardrobe—and the temporal context created by Jane Austen—actually existed. To help readers join me on this trip, I composed a mock research article which can be found at the beginning of the first Volume of the Bennet Wardrobe: The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey.” Thus the fictional characters are truly real persons within the context of the Wardrobe’s Universe. Our characters also interact with real historical personages as that, too, would have been logical. Thus Mary Bennet Benton and the Reverend Edward Benton were friends with a Catholic Priest (creating your own Universe allows for some latitude) who would eventually become John Cardinal Newman. Kitty, too, would have known both Clarissa Dalloway and Isadora Duncan.

      But, the leads are quite human. They will know joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, depression and elation…much as the Soics would suggest…in equal measure.

      I look forward to yor thoughts on the earlier books of the series (in order…The Keeper, Henry Fitzwilliam’s War, Exile Pt 1, and Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess). Reviews are always cherished.


    This looks different than other Austenesque books (the excerpt). I don’t think I’ve heard of this author before.


      Hi Michelle…yes…this is (see my 2/17 post in Austen Authors) truly, I believe, a work of Austenesque Fiction. I have been publishing since late 2015. The Bennet Wardrobe Series currently has five books (novels and novellas–see the list above) with three more full novels projected. Outside of two novellas (Miss Bennet’s First Christmas and The Bennet Wardrobe: Origins) I have published two Austenesque Fiction novellas which are “paired”–they view the same event from two different perspectives: “Of Fortune’s Reversal” and “The Maid and the Footman.”

      Thank you for checking in. Please feel fee to connect through Goodreads or my Author site.


    I thought I clicked on your 2nd stop post! That’s what I get for having both open side by side! UGH! I guess your comments left me more than speechless! LOL


    Do we eventually get to find out who the Queen is? I’m guessing we do and that she’s probably someone Wickham already knows, judging by his reaction to their physical contact.

    Fascinating excerpt, thank you and thanks also for sharing how the series and the Wardrobe came into being at such a sad and trying time for you.


      Oh yes…actually you know her before this excerpt. I do believe that pleasure and pain (Stoic philosophy) are equal and equally instructive parts of life.


    Thank you for this post Meredith! I liked it, especially the first part. Don’s story touched my heart because like his mother, (I’m so sad to hear of her passing), my grandmother didn’t recognize us. I can comprehend his feelings but I appreciate that he transformed this moment of sadness in something good!
    I have a question for him too, from the moment he is so good in writing this saga, has he ever thought about writing stories inspired by Pride and prejudice’s secondary character in a different setting without magical elements and with a historical or contemporary background?


    I am sorry to hear about your mother, Don. But good things can come from the bad moment in our lives, just like how it inspired you to create The Bennet Wardrobe universe. And the excerpt was a delight to read.

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