Jul 242019
 

An Upstairs/Downstairs Variation About Kitty Bennet and General Fitzwilliam

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Review Copy from Author

OVERVIEW: There are two novellas in this collection: Of Fortune’s Reversal and The Maid and The Footman (which were both published separately). These two stories portray the same events from two different perspectives with four main characters being central to both stories – Kitty Bennet, General Sir Richard Fitzwilliam, a maid by the name Annie Reynolds, and a footman/retired Sergeant named Henry Wilson.

Of Fortune’s Reversal, which highlights the events from Kitty Bennet’s and General Fitzwilliam’s perspectives, is 91 pages in length. The Maid and The Footman, which feature Annie Reynolds’ and Henry Wilson’s experiences during the same events, is 191 pages in length.

Since there are two novella-ish length stories in this collection, I thought I’d break down my review to look at them both separately and as a whole.

OF FORTUNE’S REVERSAL

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

  • The Premise: This Pride and Prejudice variation shows us what happens if Mr. Bennet passed away soon after the Meryton Assembly. Four years later introduces us to a more sober and accomplished Kitty Bennet, who attended seminary for two years and now works as a governess for an affluent family. However, Kitty’s life is about to drastically change when she happens to thwart a sinister scheme against the family she serves…
  • My Thoughts: I always enjoy when the other Bennet sisters get a chance in the spotlight, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing some improvements with dear Kitty. Kitty suffers a brutal attack and there is some comprehensive descriptions about the subsequent medical procedures she undergoes, which may effect some readers who are not used to seeing these occur in the Austenesque/JAFF genre. I appreciate the gritty realism illustrated with these events (although, I’m happy I don’t encounter it very often!). While I applaud and approve of a relationship between Kitty and General Fitzwilliam, I felt it was undeveloped and less plausible. In addition, I felt Kitty’s recovery was remarkably swift and easy. I would have loved more page time and details about the emotional journey’s both Kitty and Fitzwilliam made during these series of harrowing events.

THE MAID AND THE FOOTMAN

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

  • The Premise: Annie is a newly promoted lady’s maid to Kitty and her charge, Miss Margaret, and Henry is a newly hired footman. After fighting for his country for six years, Henry has seen a good share of wretchedness and bloodshed, and would it appear that he still suffers from his experiences. Even though he feels his heart opening towards the kind and compassionate Annie Reynolds, Henry feels himself most unworthy of any sort of relationship with her…especially after what happened with Miss Bennet…
  • My Thoughts: What engaging and interesting original characters! I enjoyed both Annie and Henry. They were wonderfully sweet together and both are such honorable, selfless, and likable individuals that you cannot help but have high admiration for them. I was happy to see there was a good bit more detail and drama in this story; which I guess shows that there is so much more going on “downstairs” or “off-screen” than you might expect. 😉 I was happy to see the events of these stories come to such a satisfying and successful conclusion.

CONCLUSION:

I love the idea of a story showing us ‘two sides of the same coin,’ especially when each side is a distinct perspective. I did, however, wish that both stories felt more equal. With one being much longer and better developed, it felt like one story was the quick-notes version of events and the second its fleshed-out companion.

Fans of Don Jacobson will delight to see many of his trademarks in these stories – such as his inclusion of non-Austen fictional characters, hidden Easter eggs, and helpful footnotes. But there were a few details that didn’t seem quite right to me, like a governess having a lady’s maid, the estimated value (to 2016 USD) of Mr. Bennet’s estate, and the fact that (SPOILER ALERT!) everyone in both stories ends up becoming excessively wealthy.

Despite my quibbles, I would still recommend Lessers and Betters to admirers of Kitty Bennet and Richard Fitzwilliam and any readers that searching for unique stories that are rich with historical detail.

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  5 Responses to “Lessers and Betters – Don Jacobson”

  1.  

    Hi,

    Thank you for your wonderful review here. These two are from my older works (2016). You keyed on some areas where I was a bit murky. Of these, the two I should have endeavored to clear up a bit more were 1) Kitty’s recovery and 2) Kitty having a lady’s maid.

    In the first instance, I could have been a bit more precise about her course of recovery on the initial phase…November 5th through the 12th/13th. I did keep it briefer when I wrote it because while the coma was a catalyst, t’was not that important in the longest run and also because Doctor Maturin’s South American mold concoction prevented an infection. The subsequent weeks before the trip to Burghley House allowed her to gain her strength to manage the journey. Then her several weeks of therapy before the Twelfth Night Ball where she sat down for every set.

    In the second instance, Seven-year-old Margaret Cecil and one-and-twenty year old Kitty Bennet shared Annie at the outset of both books, althoiugh t’was clear that this was the case in M & F. While the Cecils were the highest of the high…Lord John Cecil was a younger son. I gave him, his wife, and the household a more egalitarian bent, much as we see Colonel Fitzwilliam portrayed in most #Austenesque works. That sharing was made clearer in Maid and Footman, but was cloudy at best in OFR. Lady Mary Cecil assigned Annie solely to Miss Bennet after the event. Sally Small was quickly promoted from upstairs maid to lady’s maid to little Margaret. This allowed for the relationship between Annie and Henry to grow in parallel with the Kitty/Richard romance.

    I have to dip my head about the conversion of wealth. My research at the time indicated a range of 1,250 to 1,500 2016 pounds (using the idea of purchasing power) to every 1811 pound.

    I will also note for the record that M & F was written about 5 months after OFR. I do agree that it is more developed. Perhaps my brain understood the reality of the M & F story line in a more profound manner. Mayhaps I was reacting to the idea that servants tend to be relegated to fetching salts, opening doors, and carrying tea trays in the #Austenesque world (for the most part).

    I had considered trying the blend the two stories after-the-fact, but I ultimately discarded the idea as I felt that the truth of each story depended upon the point of view…OFR as seen from the gentry’s side…Maid and Footman as seen from the servant’s side. The shifts, too, may have been confusing and jarring.

    Thank you for the nod to my technique on attribution (the histrorian in me) and the use of the idea of solipsism that holds that the act of writing fiction creates the universe within which the fiction resides as reality. Thus, when Lydia Poldarck (yes…she was the one who had been sent to Cornwall by Mrs. Bennet) shows up, t’was because Winston Graham had been writing within the universe as created by Miss Austen. The same holds for Patrick O’Brien.

    Look forward to everyone’s comments.

  2.  

    Loved your review Meredith. I loved the development of this story and especially Kitty’s growth. As a secondary character, Kitty, is a favourite of mine. Having both of these books combined into one added an extra depth to the overall arc of the story and has some relevance to the Bennet Wardrobe series.

  3.  

    Thank you Carole for your ongoing support.

  4.  

    I am running behind on reading my blogs as usual. Thank for the very helpful review, Meredith. I’m shoving this one to the top of my TBR pile based on your review. I am also a big Kitty fan And love well written futures for her.

    And Don, just seeing the name ‘Dr. Maturin’ makes my heart do a big thump-thump! 🙂

  5.  

    I am smiling in happiness. Been a long week deep in proofing the Lydia book. This made things so much better. 2 sets of finals tomorrow.

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