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Wednesday, 21 February 2018

The Bennet Wardrobe: The Countess Visits Longbourn - by Don Jacobson - Blog Tour - Guest Post and Giveaway

Blog Tour - The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn by Don JacobsonToday I'm very pleased to be welcoming Don Jacobson back to Babblings of a Bookworm with the latest installment of his time travel Bennet Wardrobe series. I'll start off by explaining something about the Bennet wardrobe, for the uninitiated of my blog visitors, and then we will take a look at the blub of The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn, and I'll pass over to Don for a guest post and excerpt. Plus, there's an international giveaway. Phew!

Intro to Bennet Wardrobe

What is the ‘Bennet Wardrobe’? Well it’s literally a wardrobe, but it’s no ordinary piece of furniture. It can transport people of the Bennet bloodline forward in time for a period, and then transport them back to their original time. The time traveller doesn’t get to choose when they travel to; it’ll take them to a period that will teach them something they need to know.

Book Cover - The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn by Don Jacobson

“I have been shaped by the events of over forty years. The world is a nasty place full of awful persons, Mr. Wickham, and does not get any lighter through complaining or blaming.”

The Countess: An Enigma? A Mystery? Or a young girl all-grown-up?

Kitty Bennet, the fourth daughter of the Master and Mistress of Longbourn, had spent far too long as the shadow of her youngest sister. The all-knowing Meryton chinwaggers suggested that young Miss Bennet needed education—and quickly.

How right they were…but the type of instruction Kitty Bennet received, and the where/when in which she matriculated was far beyond their ken. For they knew nothing of that remarkable piece of furniture which had been part of the lives of clan Bennet for over 120 years: The Bennet Wardrobe.

Forty-six years from when she left her Papa’s bookroom, the Dowager Countess of Matlock returned to that exact same moment in 1811 to tend to many important pieces of Family business.

In the process, Kitty Fitzwilliam helped her youngest sister find the love she craved with the hero who, as the Duke said, “saved us all.”

Guest Post from Don Jacobson

Acts of Creation in the Austenesque Wardrobe Universe

Most fans of Austenesque Fiction have engaged in that oft-pleasant pastime of Daydreaming about their favorite characters. You may be sitting in a window seat with a well-thumbed copy of Pride and Prejudice.  On the other side of those crystalline panes rests your pretty little wilderness. Only, you are not imagining taking a walk on paths familiar to you in your present, but rather those snaking between Mrs. Bennet’s coveted flowerbeds behind Longbourn.

Will you overhear Lady Catherine abuse Elizabeth over her interest in Mr. Darcy? Perhaps you will chance upon Kitty and Lydia, heads together, plotting to meet Denny and Wickham. Or, will you simply drink in the beauty of a Hertfordshire day beneath the rising crest of Oakham Mount?

Whatever your destination, you have stepped into the reality created by Jane Austen. You believe that the Bennets and their broader circle are fully real; that Longbourn exists; and that the events described by Austen took place. You have partaken of the “world as myth” which is a literary device known as solipsism. Solipsism posits that the act of writing fiction creates the realities in which that fiction exists.

The speculative fiction master Robert A. Heinlein employed this approach in his majestic work The Number of the Beast (1980).
“As in many of his later works, Heinlein refers to the idea of solipsism, but in this book develops it into an idea he called "World as Myth" — the idea that universes are created by the act of imagining them, so that all fictional worlds are in fact real and all real worlds are figments of fictional figures' fancy…” 

Thus, by extension, the daughter of the rector of Steventon created a whole new universe within which Pride and Prejudice is an account of the real interaction between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. While she populated it with a number of persons and events, much of the terrain outside of Longbourn/Meryton, Pemberley/Derbyshire, and London/Darcy House/and Cheapside remained without form and void and darkness was over the face of the deep.  In other words, Austen’s process of imagining her fiction did not extend beyond her narrative needs.

That was left to other writers to fill in…some writing in an Austenesque spirit, and others, like Patrick O’Brien and Graham Wilson, writing of things Napoleonic and Georgian/Regency. Essentially Captain Jack Aubrey, Ross and Demelza Poldark, and Richard Sharpe existed but were not mentioned in the Canonical novels was simply because Miss Austen had not met them.

The Bennet Wardrobe books become part of the Austenesque universe after the appearance of the Wardrobe at Longbourn Once Gibbons constructed it in the 1690s and delivered it to Mr. Christopher Bennet, the fabric of the cosmos was irrevocably altered creating the a backstory to the Longbourn saga. Now, the history of England within which the Longbourn of the Bennets existed split off to allow the Wardrobe tales to develop.

By this point I can imagine a number of readers seeking out references to mental health professionals in the Seattle area, all the better to help me avoid hurting others or myself. I assure you I am not fey. On the contrary, I have accepted that the easiest way for me to create the framework in which the Bennet Wardrobe stories exist is to treat the Wardrobe as real and the Pride and Prejudice world as equally real. Then, the stories become histories.

Consider that the leading characters appearing in the Bennet Wardrobe stories are able to interact not only with personages from our own history, but also those found in other works of fiction.

Book Cover: The Keeper: Mary Bennet's Extraordinary Journey by Don Jacobson
For instance, in the first Volume of the series, Mary Bennet encounters an original character in the streets of Meryton, naval Lieutenant Guillaume (Will) Rochet. Not interesting until you learn that he is serving aboard Post Captain Jack Aubrey’s Surprise. Aubrey is the main character of Patrick O’Brien’s 21 book series of Napoleonic War stories.

Likewise Mary, after her marriage to the Rector of Kympton, Edward Benton, comes face-to-face with a young Catholic Priest, John Henry Newman after a particular tragedy that brings the two confessions together to consider the welfare of weeks-old twins. The advantage of creating a universe is that I was afforded the liberty of making John Newman a Catholic from birth rather than a later-in-life convert which ultimately led to his elevation to Cardinal.

Book cover: Henry Fitzwilliam's War by Don Jacobson
In subsequent books, historical events and persons along with great fictional characters blend into the workings of the core characters of the Wardrobe. In Henry Fitzwilliam’s War, the hero falls victim to a horrible British miscue during the battle of Loos in 1915 which allowed released poison gas to blow back onto their own troops.

Book cover: The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Epoque
The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque sees Kitty Bennet nursed back to health by Aline and Pierre-Auguste Renoir under the watchful eye of Sigmund Freud. And, Henry Fitzwilliam consults with Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson as he searches for Kitty. As for The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn, Captain Richard Sharpe from Bernard Cornwell’s stories encounters both the Dowager Countess of Matlock as well as Lieutenant George Wickham in Regency London.

I found it fruitful to consider the Wardrobe, the Bennets, and all of my other characters in the stories as being part of a new reality created by Jane Austen as she write her overarching novels. You willingness to join me on this journey through another world is gratifying to me and, I hope, a worthwhile endeavor on your part.


Book Cover: Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess by Don Jacobson
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

Book Cover - The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn by Don Jacobson
Excerpt (Copyright Don Jacobson)

The Dowager Countess of Matlock has departed from Longbourn after her meeting with Mr. Thomas Bennet. She is now in the offices of Wilson and Hunters in Lincoln’s Inn in the City where she is meeting with the Bennet family’s London solicitor, Mr. Frederick Hunters, from another branch of the Bennet family tree.

Chapter XI

Mr. Hunters’ acumen brought Kitty up short—not that she expected to continue her deception with the one man Papa seemed to trust beyond all others in this current world, even more so than Uncle Edward Gardiner. Hunters’ incisive manner clearly brooked no prevarication on her part, so she offered none, but rather spent the next twenty minutes briefly revealing her history in the future. All the while, she clutched the massive gold signet ring.

When she had finished this day’s second recounting of her experiences in the Twentieth Century, Hunters leaned back in his chair, hands curled over the knurled ends of the arm rests, looking much as kings of old may have when they viewed an emissary from a distant kingdom. His eyes bored into hers from beneath beetled brows.

At her expectant look, he said, “You, therefore, are the fourth of Bennet’s five…Catherine Marie. I had not known of your junior sister’s behavior, and I cannot suggest that I even remotely approve. The damage to the family would have spread far beyond Longbourn. Conceivably both the Collins and Hunters lines could have been tainted.

“But, we must accept that her die has been cast and, while eggs were assuredly cracked, it does appear that a soufflé has been made. All of us owe a considerable debt to your brother Darcy.

“However silly your sister may have been, I cannot entirely condemn her…or, for that matter, your mother. Lydia was full young to be out, but that is only the result of your mother’s terrible fear of losing her home and having her children suffer in the event of your father’s demise.

“And it all circles back to that contemptible entail Richard Bennet put on the property.”

Hunters paused and motioned to Kitty, indicating he wished her to return his ring. She leaned forward and slid it back across the walnut expanse.

Once he had replaced the device upon his right ring finger, the Master of Lincoln’s Inn continued,

“My Uncle Richard, your father’s grandfather, placed the entail on Longbourn right after his heir, George, was killed in a logging accident and Samuel had not been heard from for months while he faced the French in Braddock’s force in the Pennsylvanian wilderness. The middle child, a daughter, Maude, had already married that slimy man, William Collins.

“Richard was absolutely terrified that he himself would expire, that Sam would not survive the army, and that Collins would ultimately control everything through Maude. In Uncle Richard’s eyes, the entail would ensure that Longbourn—and the Wardrobe—would safely pass to his younger sister’s line and through to her eldest son: me.

“Once Samuel returned home and fathered not one, but two, sons, the entail seemed moot. That was, until Edward decided to vanish—Thomas told me that he used the Wardrobe. Then it all fell to your father.

“And we know how that turned out; a Collins will find fortune.”

Kitty pondered her cousin Frederick’s discussion of the entail that had been of monumental importance throughout her childhood. Yet, through the paradox of her trip to the future and then her return today, she knew what Mr. Hunters did not and could not…that, while Longbourn was indeed destined to be inherited in a few years by the current generation’s William Collins, an oleaginous specimen to be sure, he would never possess it. That would be left to a completely different Collins, the offspring of the match between him and the former Charlotte Lucas—little Maria Rose.

Yet the fear of being thrown into the hedgerows had so shaped Mama’s behavior that she impressed it upon not only the youngest daughters but also the entire neighborhood. The inference that Bennet girls were desperate to marry was ultimately used by both Miss Bingley and Mr. Darcy to cast doubt upon Jane’s feelings for Bingley.

Kitty cleared her throat and stated the obvious, “Well, Cousin Hunters, the events of the past day have surely reduced that overwhelming worry. Four of the Bennet girls have found their mates, either in this time or another, leaving only Mary to tend the home fires. And, I can assure you that Mary will be all right.

“Now, however, we must be concerned about the Wardrobe and its fate, although the simple fact that I was able to translate to 1886 indicates that we found a satisfactory solution.

“As I mentioned, I am Keeper in my time. As such, I would task you to undertake this business as the Wardrobe’s advocate. The furniture is just that to all but those of us who know its secret. It, however, has no voice that we can hear, so we must speak on its behalf.

“If I am not mistaken, Master Gibbons’ Wardrobe is not part of the remainder which encompasses all of the real property that is Longbourn and is subject to the entail.

“Rather, it is personal property which may be bequeathed to any of my father’s daughters. And there is only one who can be considered: Mary. ¹

“Please urge my father, when he comes to Town to finalize the paperwork for the Bennet Family Trust, that he should name Mary Keeper. I, too, in my own manner will push him in that direction, as I am certain that he has not given it any thought. He must also stipulate in his Will that the Wardrobe is a keepsake that belongs to Mary. Furthermore, she must immediately remove it from Longbourn before Collins takes possession.

“I would encourage you to contact my Uncle Philips in Meryton who handles most of Papa’s country business.”

1)  For an excellent discussion of Regency-era entails, please see Regina Jeffers’ blog post Inheritance and the Need for a Widow’s Pension in Jane Austen’s Novels published 11/6/17 at 

Author Don Jacobson
About the Author

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).

Connect with Don


Buy Links:  Paperback & Kindle

Giveaway Time!

Book Cover - The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn by Don Jacobson
There's a mahoosive giveaway with this blog tour - 10 ebooks and 2 paperbacks are up for grabs!

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 or Paperback of The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn by Don Jacobson. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international.

Blog Tour Schedule

Check out the other stops on the blog tour - details below:

Blog Tour - The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn by Don Jacobson
Feb. 14 Austenesque Reviews;  Guest Post, Excerpt, GA
Feb. 15 My Jane Austen Book Club;  Guest Post, GA
Feb. 17 My Love for Jane Austen;  Character Interview, GA
Feb. 19 So little time…  Excerpt, GA
Feb. 20 Interests of a Jane Austen Girl;  Review, GA
Feb. 21 Babblings of a Bookworm; Guest Post, GA
Feb. 23 More Agreeably Engaged;  Review, Excerpt, GA
Feb. 24 Darcyholic Diversions;  Character Interview, GA
Feb. 26 From Pemberley to Milton;  Excerpt
Feb. 28 Just Jane 1813;  Review, GA
Mar. 2  Diary of an Eccentric;  Guest Post, Excerpt, GA
Mar. 3  My Vices and Weaknesses; Author Interview, GA
Mar. 5  Laughing With Lizzie; Guest Post, GA


  1. How easy it is for Lydia to cause trouble

    1. I sort of see Mrs. Wickham as a joyous blithe spirit flouncing through the world, never allowing it to become complacent!

    2. She doesn't think, does she.

    3. Perhaps at the age of six and ten, but as she ages...and learns that which she needs to learn...

  2. Great excerpt, I especially liked learning the reasons why the entail for Longbourn exists.

    1. One of the core reasons I became so fascinated with Austenesque Fiction was that it gave writers the opportunity to explain that which Austen did not. For her purposes the entail simply existed. Being the kid who loved to turn over rocks as well as the Pain-In-The-Neck kid who would always ask "Why," I needed to place context around Mrs. B's fear...and what better way to do it than to explain that the entail was placed withe the best of intention!

    2. Hi Darcybennet, it's good to have a reason for the entail put forward isn't it

  3. I loved the excerpt. I'm looking forward to reading the whole book.

    1. of the joys of a blog tour is to pick excerpts that tease and entice...but also fill in interesting tidbits in the Austen Universe.

    2. I hope you enjoy the book when you read it KateB

  4. You're certainly teasing and enticing in a major way, Don. All of your carefully chosen excerpts have been doing that! "Filling in the gaps" is one of the things I love about Austenesque fiction. And it was Jane Austen herself who taught me the word "entail" in the first place.

    1. Thinking about it Anji, P&P might have been the first book I read with an entail in it too!

  5. I really enjoyed this post. The idea of solipsism is fascinating. When I read a well written book with a good story, I become so immersed in the story that I feel a part of the surroundings or world in which it exists. I love that and it does seem real. It feels strange when I look up and I am not actually in that world but in my own. :)

    One of the many things I love about your stories, is the merging of real people and characters from other literary worlds into your Bennet Wardrobe world. It fascinates me tremendously. Thank you for this wonderful world that you have brought to life for us to experience and enjoy. I'm looking forward to the next chapter in their history.

    1. That is what I find so appealing about solipsism. Austen created a universe. O'Brien, Graham, Doyle and others created their own, too. I choose to believe that Austen created it first and then the others (including myself) have populated it with even more interesting characters.

    2. I think it's such a fun idea, to allow a number of fictional worlds to intertwine.

  6. Yes, haven't we all just sat by a window looking out imagining ourselves wandering through the grounds of Pemberley or on a morning walk to Oakham Mount alongside Elizabeth. Love the visual you have provided! Love the excerpt and the series as a whole with all the weaving and blending you have created...

    1. Hi Carole, so glad you enjoyed the post.

  7. I mentionned Heinlein in the blog. One of my favorites of his was when his characters landed first in different universes which held 1) Oz, 2) Barsoom, and 3) Wonderland. And, there were many universes that held nothing as the stories that determined them had not yet been written!

  8. I have learned so much following this blog. I must confess that the premises of the books were at first confusing but have appreciated the explanations.

    1. I am so happy to hear that, Eva! I often find time travel stories quite confusing because of multiple timelines. I think it would help in this instance that the time travel is to the future rather than to the past as the character would experience things without changing past timelines.

  9. Looking forward to the latest releases in the series. Thanks for the extra thoughts shared on the world of the series and speculative fiction.

    1. I am eagerly anticipating your thoughts on "Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess" and "This Countess Visits Longbourn."

    2. Hi Sophia, I hope you enjoy them when you read them :)

  10. An ingenious concept for a series of Austen fan fiction. I enjoyed the excerpt. How many books do you plan to have in the series?

    1. Hi, Thank you for your kind note. At the present time, the series sets up in the following order:

      The Keeper: Mary Bennet's Extraordinary Journey
      Henry Fitzwilliam's War
      The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Epoque
      Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess
      The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn

      After this, there are three more main novels

      The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father's Lament (2018)
      The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and the Soldier's Portion (2018/19)
      TBD (2019)

      There may also be another two or three intervening novellas.

    2. Thanks for the comment, Elaine, and thanks to Don for the additional information!

  11. Thank you for teaching us something new!
    I have never heard about solipsism but it was something I noticed yet in The exile when I noticed characters like Renoir, Freud and Holmes with Kitty. This is something that I appreciate very much because through characters and settings a book can teach us a lot.
    I found the notes in The keeper too very interesting and testimony of such solipsism.

    1. LD...Thank you for the note. The characters and personages began to work their way into the story before I realized it. It was such an organic process. Then I sat back and understood why this was happening.

    2. Hi Loren. I'd read books with solipsism in previously, but didn't know the name of it. Now I will have to work it into conversation :)

  12. Thank you for sharing this informative guest post and interesting excerpt. I've been reading the excerpts on the blog tour and they flow naturally from one to the other. I'm curious about the omission of Jane Bennet in the Wardrobe series. Has it already been written, Don?

    1. L84!
      Jane will have a key role to play (although Ms Austen pained her quite well) as we near the final book's conclusion. At this point, I felt that she would serve as a calming presence at the edge of our arc. She may have a larger role in "A Thornhill Christmas" when that one gets written.