Monday 30 September 2019

The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion by Don Jacobson - Blog Tour, Guest Post and Giveaway

Blog Tour: The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier's Portion by Don Jacobson - Blog Tour
Don Jacobson visits us today with the latest in the Bennet Wardrobe series.

If you're new to this series, let me explain a little about it:

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.

This story is Lydia's.

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Book cover: The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier's Portion by Don Jacobson
Book Description

“My life has been very much like an unfinished painting. The artist comes to the portrait day-after-day to splash daubs of color onto bare canvas, filling in the blanks of my story. Thus grows the likeness, imperfect as it may be, which you see today.”
Lydia Fitzwilliam, Countess of Matlock, letter to her sister
Elizabeth Bennet Darcy, March 14, 1831.

Does it matter how a man fills out his regimentals? Miss Austen never considered that query. Yet, this question marks the beginning of an education…and the longest life…in the Bennet Wardrobe saga.
Lydia Bennet, Longbourn’s most wayward daughter, embarks on her quest in The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion. This biography reveals how the Wardrobe helps young Mrs. Wickham learn that honor and bravery grow not from the color of the uniform—or the gender of its wearer—but rather from the contents of the heart.

In the process, she realizes that she must be broken and repaired, as if by a kintsugi master potter, to become the most useful player in the Bennet Wardrobe’s great drama.

 “Multifaceted and nuanced, The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion, speaks to the verities of life. Once again, Don Jacobson has combined the essence of Pride and Prejudice with an esoteric story line and the universal themes of redemption and forgiveness in this well-crafted narrative.”
Mirta Ines Trupp, author of The Meyersons of Meryton

Guest Post from Don Jacobson - Roses in the Bennet Wardrobe’s World

It all started with Sir William Lucas.


For some reason I latched onto the old shopkeeper’s introduction of the Bennet sisters at the Meryton Assembly as alluding to their beauty. In the Bennet Wardrobe’s universe, those words were “the Five Roses of Hertfordshire.” My mind has its own way of processing information.

In my house, carnations are considered the more beautiful bloom. Yet, the scent of roses are incomparable. And, I have a veritable forest (Vita Sackville-West would have words with me about pruning if the good lady were still in this world) of rosebushes lining my front walk. But the rose imagery came to the forefront early in 2016 when I was working on the first novel in the Bennet Wardrobe Series, The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey.

Yellow rose
I began considering the rose hagiography early on. For me, it was ascribing a flower to be an emblematic ideal. For instance, many authors have idealized Pemberley’s gardens as being the enduring legacy of Lady Anne Darcy. I imagined that the family memorialized her by naming the delightful sunshine-colored cultivar, the yellow, as the Lady Anne.

I am impressed with the beauty of a pure yellow rose…and so are we all by Jane Bennet’s classic looks. Thus, the Lady Anne became her flower.

red rose
As for Elizabeth…we become aware of Darcy ordering a vase of deep red roses…Lizzy’s Own Red Bourbons…placed daily on a table outside of her chambers, unused after those awful days in 1836. Of course, these had been her favorites—and, thus, his—throughout her life. The crimson petals complemented her chocolate, near black eyes and rich brunette locks. Thus, the classic Red Bourbon variation created by Lydia Fitzwilliam was inscribed on Elizabeth’s escutcheon, matching her impertinent statement for impertinent statement.
Of course, flowers also have their own symbolic meanings.

Once I became enamored of using the roses to represent the Bennet women (ah-hah! Not Daughters, but Women), I had to consider the others.

My cover designer and artistic muse, Janet B. Taylor suggested using white to represent Mary’s purity of spirit. You have no idea how that changed my perspective. I had been considering Mary as the bush in winter from which summer’s beauty would spring. Brown canes are not very appealing and tended to confirm the hidebound point-of-view that most in the #Austenesque world had been taking of the middle daughter.

White rose
Giving Mary her own flower allowed me to visualize the beauty that was resting inside of her. No longer the root plant (although as The Great Keeper, Mary Bennet Benton ensured the Wardrobe’s integrity and the health of the Bennet Family Trust.), Mary now could be transformed into the woman she was truly meant to be.

Inside of the character study of the man who would become Kitty’s love interest after she translates to the future, Henry Fitzwilliam’s War, we encounter the young Viscount recalling his time as a little boy walking with his Great-Grandmother, the Dowager Countess. He asked her about the roses. Lydia recounts the roses for each of her sisters as I have above. Then the child asks about Aunt Kitty. Lydia replies:

“All of them. Every plant and bloom here in Selkirk, over at Thornhill and Pemberley, down at Longbourn, and most especially on the fieldstone wall in front of the House at Deauville reminds me of my most beloved sister.”

The cult of the rose, I discovered as I worked with the Wardrobe, did not originate with the Bennets but rather with the Gardiners. As we discovered in The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament, Mrs. Bennet brought roses to Longbourn shortly after her marriage to Thomas. She was replicating her mother’s plantings behind the Gardiner home on Meryton’s High Street.

rosa chinensis
The bushes Fanny brought to Longbourn included cuttings from the original plants (rosa chinensis) brought from China by her three-times great Grandfather. That Mr. Gardiner was a trader’s clerk and settled in Meryton following his master, Christopher Bennet, in abandoning the Honorable East India Company for the gentle climes of Hertfordshire. The tangerine hued r. chinensis flowered (sorry for the greensman’s pun) in the person of Frances Lorinda Bennet.

blush rose
Given her sensual nature, Lydia’s rose required a bit of thinking. The “usual” colors were already serving her elder sisters. I was at a quandary. Except that each morning I strolled past my rosebushes. The blossoms were entrancing, particularly the blush-colored ones. Those, I imagined, were redolent of Lydia’s cheeks when well-loved by Wickham, Richter, or Fitzwilliam. Its fragrance was delightfully potent, filling my kitchen after I clipped a few and reminding me of the powerful woman the Wardrobe’s Lydia was destined to become.

Blush it was for her.

There is one bit of floral arrangement I would wish to address…the garlands that stretch across the bottom of the front cover (print and e-book) and the wreath surrounding the volume number on the print book spine.

I will admit that there are breadcrumbs scattered all over the covers for the Bennet Wardrobe stories. Sometimes they can be found in the covers themselves—for instance, the garland on Henry Fitzwilliam’s War is made of red poppies, the everlasting symbol of the sacrifice made by the soldiers of WWI.

The wreaths surrounding the volume numbers (there is none on Henry Fitzwilliam’s War as it exists only as an e-book) are either incomplete or complete. In some cases—where the life of the character is barely started—as in Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess—the garland has but two or three roses. Otherwise the garlands are broken (as on The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque) or complete (as on The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn) depending on how far the reader is able to follow the title character’s life.

Blog Tour: The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier's Portion by Don JacobsonThe cover garland for The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion offers other variations. Three roses in the garland are larger, representing the men in her life. Several of them have tear droplets showing the veils through which the youngest daughter had to pass.

The rose iconography in the Bennet Wardrobe stories offers, I hope, a subtext which enhances the overall experience readers have with the arc.

Please enjoy this excerpt from The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion, the seventh book in the arc of the Wardrobe stories.

Full Book Cover: The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier's Portion by Don Jacobson
Excerpt from The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion

Hauptmann Hans Richter, having lived at the Beach House for over one year, has begun to explore rising feelings for the widowed Mrs. Wickham. His affection for her son, Georges Henri, has helped smooth his path. Having been given Lady Kate’s blessing to court, the couple has left the Beach House for an outing in the ancient fortress city of Caen.

The road from Deauville to Caen trended south and west through farmland separated by great hedgerows thickened over the centuries. A sunny day, the great orb warmed their backs as the KW roared down the track, sparsely populated with lorries, other military vehicles, and the odd civilian auto. The whine of the engine and the rush of the wind around the open cab precluded conversation.
That did not mean that Lydia could not look at and appreciate the man next to her. Unlike his companion, her head wrapped in one of Kitty’s brilliant Hermes scarves and her body protected by a scarlet car coat, Hans Richter had pulled on a leather jacket which remained unzipped as they bounced along. His unstarched shirt collar points snapped up and down in the slipstream, offering a creamy counterpoint to cheeks ruddied above his preternatural tan.
His long fingers wrapped the Bakelite steering wheel, securely guiding the bucking four-seater over the bleached tarmac. Lydia watched, one eyebrow rising when his lanky frame, jack-knifed into the bucket seat, flexed and shifted as the vehicle responded to the bumps inherent in Normandy’s indifferently-maintained roads. From time-to-time, his left leg stabbed into the well as he worked the clutch to down-shift as they were forced to slow for traffic or move the transmission into top gear to launch the KW when the road cleared.
She resisted the urge to stroke his right thigh as the muscles tensed and relaxed, bulging his powerful, paratrooper quadriceps.
Lydia’s eyes, often focused upon the scenery as it flew past, would, however, drift back to caress him with their velvet fingers. For his part, Richter would turn her way and, from time-to-time, throw a brilliant grin, his even teeth blinding in the midday sun.
Oh, to be young and without care, if only for a moment.
Mrs. Wickham had taken both Kitty’s lessons as well as her own ruminations to heart. She would be that calm center—no, not like Jane as seen by Darcy, but rather the soaring mistress of the drawing-room, Miss Bennet of the calm and still waters running deeply as she quelled a fractious crowd—that would draw Richter into deeper communion. She would neither entice him nor use her arts and allurements to bend him to her will.
He would move from storge to agape without the need for either the Fifth or Sixth Loves…or he would not. Eros would come eventually.i
Or it would not.
Too much time devoted to wondering what could be would ultimately detract from the immediacy of what was.

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Caen was impossibly ancient. The Dukes of Normandy long called the city home, consolidating their power around the old port built where the Orne had poured into the Channel. Now, however, with a thousand years of sediment filling in the estuary, Caen like its old trading partner, Bruges, further north was land-locked, ceding its pre-eminence to the aptly-named metropolis of Le Havre.
Much as Vienna was an imperial city without an empire, Caen was a warlord’s domain without his august self, lands, knights, or peasants. Yet, the Château de Caen attracted crowds of German tourists—mostly day-tripping Wehrmacht non-coms—who were stunned by the inherent power of Duke William’s massive castle. If they were not able to travel to Berlin or Nuremberg to delve into Albert Speer’s architectural musings, German soldiers could, none-the-less, marvel at a structure that had already endured 900 years, a scant century shorter than the Führer’s promise for the Reich.
Lydia and Hans parked the KW near the Caen Kommandantura before crossing into the center of town to climb up to the fortifications built on a rise, once remote and now overlooking encroaching houses and shops. They passed through the great gatehouse—the Porte des champs—that had overlooked the sprawling grain fields that fed William’s cavalry.
Massive blocks of granite and limestone could only hold so much appeal to a pair of young people using sightseeing as the medium to learn more about one another. Lydia eventually expressed weariness and begged a demitasse et petits fours before they searched out a suitable spot to dine al fresco. They retraced their steps back into town.
Blog Tour: The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier's Portion by Don Jacobson
As they entered the place de la ville, two sides of which were occupied by a great church and the hôtel de ville, they spied several cafés huddled beneath the eaves of old, but well-maintained, buildings. As t’was just past the noon-hour, most tables were taken by businessmen, merchants, and others who navigated around the edges of Occupation France’s officialdom.
Lydia cast a worried look at the busy restaurants and said to Richter, “Hans, this seems to be an idea doomed to fail. I cannot see any open seats. Perhaps we should just get the car and head down the river road.
I did so wish to rest my feet, though.”
Her weary appeal set Richter’s head to swiveling as he scanned the terrace. His eye caught a small two-seater in the far corner, directly against the building. Tactically, this would have been the table he would have chosen if the entire café had been empty. While not the most obvious, this little table had a commanding view of the entire place.
Better to see than be seen.
Firmly gripping Lydia’s hand, Richter made his way to the tiny two-top, weaving around protruding elbows and bowed chairbacks. He did not bull his way across as would many of his kind living and breathing the assumption that they had greater rights than others thanks to their successful conquests. He was polite: numerous utterances of pardonnez-moi, m’sieur or ‘schuldigung mein Herr floated behind the couple as they did their best to avoid unduly disturbing others.
Once settled at their table, Lydia and Hans placed their order, the same as they would have at Villet’s…café et deux macarons et deux eclairs…ample food to keep Richter’s Fallschirmjäger and Lydia’s farmgirl appetites at bay.
The conversation, after all, was what was important. Much of what passed between them would have been accounted as bordering on meaningless little nothings. T’was true that, if exchanged between two persons who only had met this day, such bon mots would have been accounted as idle chit-chat. However, this courting couple would—and did—discover even idle words would illuminate their understanding of the object of their affection. Mrs. Wickham and Hauptmann Richter were oblivious to all persons surrounding them in the café or passing by in pursuit of their business in the old town. Their heads were bent together as they chatted and nibbled and sipped.
In their newfound bliss, Lydia and Hans ignored that which would have been obvious to any observer. The streets of Caen were not those of Deauville. What was accepted as perfectly normal in the pâtisserie Villet rankled, disgusted, and left the bitter taste of incipient collaboration within the breasts of those who only saw a filthy bosche and his consort whiling away an afternoon.
Two pairs of eyes grimly watched the man and the woman. When the couple rose to leave, the men, near-identically dressed in shapeless umber pants and jackets, their caps pulled low to hide their observational focus, tailed them, walking beside bicycles ever-present in a petrol-starved world. Their hearts were hardened by the exigencies of war. Keen deep-set eyes were narrowed in hate. The watchers carefully noted which Kübelwagen ferried the blonde woman and the equally tow-headed German away from Caen and down the Orne River Road.
They did not follow: neither had ridden the Tour de France. Besides, they did not know if the bosche in mufti was a big fish or small fry. The woman was unimportant, likely a whore who would be purged once the nation’s soul was cleansed of the stain of June 1940. They had questions which needed answers as these were new and unfamiliar players on the invisible board where black and white pieces only left the field through death and destruction. Surprise and indiscriminate terror were their tools.
One of the men approached a motor pool Unteroffizier and exchanged a few friendly words, a bottle of something labeled Monnet cognac but almost certainly not the bonafide nectar, and two packages of American cigarettes, the leavings from a late-night gift launched from a low-flying Stirling. Stranded in the Autolaager for long hours with nothing to see but greasy crankcases and leaking gaskets, the corporal became gossipy, especially with those who fed his smoky alcoholism.
The two maquisards walked away knowing that the suspect KW belonged to the Deauville Kommandantura. Its most frequent passenger, a blue-chip target, was a full-blown German Oberst, a Graf of the old blood.

i After January 1815, with Mr. Bennet’s death, Lydia had become her mother’s companion and had listened to the lady expound on all Six Loves.

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Author Don Jacobson
Author Bio

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 began publishing The Bennet Wardrobe Series—

The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey (2016)
Henry Fitzwilliam’s War (2016)
The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque (2017)
Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess (2017)
The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn (2018)
The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament (2018)
The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion (2019)

Jacobson is also part of the collective effort behind the publication of the upcoming North and South anthology, Falling for Mr. Thornton: Tales of North and South due out in the Fall of 2019.

Other Austenesque Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” (2016) and “The Maid and The Footman.” (2016) Lessers and Betters offers readers the paired novellas in one volume to allow a better appreciation of the “Upstairs-Downstairs” mentality that drives the stories.

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.  Likewise, Don is a member of the Austen Authors collective (see the internet, Facebook and Twitter).

He lives in the Las Vegas, Nevada 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


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The Pilgrim is available to buy now in paperback, kindle and kindle unlimited:

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Book cover: The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier's Portion by Don Jacobson
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Blog Tour: The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier's Portion by Don Jacobson
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  1. Loved the excerpt and the cover is lovely.

    1. Than you so much. This is the fifth excerpt in sequence. The next three stops will bring all of us toward the end of Lydia's story.

    2. So glad you enjoyed the excerpt, Darcybennett!

  2. So has Lydia picked another wrong one

    1. Wrong? Hans Richter, you will discover, is a Boy Scout...a paratrooper and an intensely honorable man. He could not have served as an aide to the Graf von Schiller if he had been otherwise. And, he becomes a new partner with whom Lydia travels and from whom she learns the concept of selfless purpose.

    2. I am glad you asked Vesper, as it's good to hear that Lydia's taste has improved!

  3. I am so excited to be part of the conversation here at BoBW!

  4. Congrats on your newest release Don, I'm looking forward to reading Lydia's story. Hopefully she's redeemable...

    1. I always like to think that Lydia had scope to be redeemable, as it's sad to think of a whole life being derailed by your behaviour as a teenager!

  5. Exagoras Agapis, my friend...the Fifth Love is potent indeed.

  6. I always wondered how the flowers came to be employed in the stories. Somehow missed that reference each time I've read P&P. Very cool!

    1. Thankfully I discovered the Bennet Wardrobe Universe. Thus, Sir William was able to introduce the Bennet Ladies as "the five roses of Hertfordshire." Of course, her could have said "six" and included the mother rose, Mrs. Bennet, in the bouquet. The rose imagery allowed me to create a metaphorical picture of the ladies.

    2. It must be great to be able to weave in these concepts and have them present in all the stories.

  7. Carole in Canada1 October 2019 at 15:40

    Just loved the reasoning behind each of the roses and how they have been translated on to each book cover. Janet did an amazing job! All those little details/clues make the covers so interesting. Lydia's journey and the men she loved and who loved her is so poignant. I must say though, Richter has a special place in my heart. Congratulations!

    1. Yes, there are fun breadcrumbs are there not? The music for "Until We Meet Again" (for Mrs. B...and also for the long Pilgrimage)...the Schiller diamonds (both wealth and as a reference to the value of each of the Bennet daughters)...the Kintsugi Cup (explained in another blogpost)...and the Vorobiev's "Oak Fractured by Lightening" (ineffable loss). Glad you like the man Hans Richter was.

    2. I'm glad you enjoyed the post, Carole. I enjoyed reading about it, and the amount of thought that had gone into the concept.

  8. I enjoyed this post, Don. Thank you for talking about the roses. I've always liked that as one of the themes for The Wardrobe. I've wondered if anyone ever noticed the rose wreaths on the spine or thought about what they might represent. It would be interesting to know! :)

    Thanks for hosting, Ceri!

    1. I have to say, Janet, that I have never realised that the roses were significant, so I am glad that Don highlighted it!

  9. A very fascinating concept that you shared on roses, Don. I like the hints of rose garland that is on the spine of the paperback books. There's trouble ahead for Lydia and her German beau but I am interested to see how their courtship goes from there.

    1. So glad you enjoyed the post, Luthien!

  10. Thank you again for your interest. I am working to work in a holistic approach to create the best possible experience for readers when they engage the totality of the Wardrobe.


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