Tuesday, 25 August 2020

The Longbourn Quarantine by Don Jacobson - Guest Post, Excerpt and Giveaway

I’m happy to be bringing you a post from Don Jacobson today. Don has visited Babblings of a Bookworm many times and his posts are always popular. Many of his visits have been to do with his Bennet Wardrobe series, but this one is a stand-alone novella, The Longbourn Quarantine. Don has brought us a guest post and an excerpt of the novella, and Meryton Press are offering an ebook giveaway of The Longbourn Quarantine on this blog post. Let’s look at the blurb and then I’ll hand over to Don.

Book Cover: The Longbourn Quarantine by Don Jacobson
Book Description 

“Papa handed Mama a brace of pistols. Her tears, Mr. Darcy, her tears: yet, all she did was nod when Papa looked at us and said, ‘You know what to do if they enter the icehouse.’”

Refugees flood the roads. A feared specter has escaped London’s grimy docklands and now threatens the wealthy districts. Amongst that ragged steam is a single carriage jostling its way toward Meryton. Inside are the Darcy siblings along with Charles and Caroline Bingley. They desperately seek the safety of Netherfield Park.

For all their riches, they could not evade the epidemic’s dark hand. Bingley’s leasehold had been reduced to rubble as roving bands raped, pillaged, and burned. The only sanctuary was Longbourn where, once installed, the Darcys and Bingleys were barred from leaving by a fortnight’s quarantine.

Events converge with disease in The Longbourn Quarantine. Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy abandon old prejudices to face grief and mourning. Pride is set aside as Death hovers nearby. The couple forges ahead knowing that love unexplored is love lost: that words must be said lest they remain unspoken in the time of smallpox.

* * *

Guest Post from Don Jacobson - 220 Meter Dash or the Marathon?

Authors are strange creatures, to be sure, but we are creatures of habit. Each of us finds a lane within which we are comfortable and tends to stay there. We become used to the forms, the ways the characters grow, and the way the plotline marinates. Changing from novel to novella or short story to novel can feel like clothing that simply does not fit: the pants are too tight or the coat is too loose.

My writing journey in 2019-20 reminds me of a passenger faced with a cruise ship (when will those ever again occur?) buffet. So many tasty choices, but each with their pluses and minuses.

This past year has seen me stepping from a 151,000-word serial novel to a 12,000-word short story and then from that most concise of disciplines to a 120,000-word self-contained novel. But, wait, there is more! The keyboard had barely stopped smoking from In Plain Sight when the world tilted on its axis. As part of my drive to process what was happening, my thoughts again began shaping themselves into a story. The result was the 38,000-word Longbourn Quarantine.

The difference in length between a novella (generally seen to be anywhere between 25,000-words…where the novelette ends…and 60,000-words) and a novel is more than the Dickensian wordcount. An author is still required to build a story populated with interesting characters that move them through a plot with a beginning, a middle, and an end. However, the length restriction of a novella (I would suggest that anything over 45,000-ish words qualifies as a short novel and leaves me wondering if there was no more to say…or not enough had been said.) places a burden on the author. Should character development be sacrificed or must plot suffer? This is a difficult and very fine line for any creator of fiction.

Those who write #Austenesque novellas can lean on established character developments; Jane Austen went before us peppering the Hertfordshire landscape with compelling and rich main characters. That, though, is not the only source we have of characterizations to employ. Consider that several thousand #Austenesque variations have been published since 2009. Readers now have a very clear picture of all of Pride & Prejudice’s secondary characters. Authors can use that understanding to offer a plot-rich story based upon notions that have been emphasized for years.

While I might have picked any of the personages at Longbourn to explore here, I commend Sir William Lucas to you. I understood the knight to be a rotund man-of-the-people sort. His overly dramatic flair was seen at the Meryton Assembly in Canon. Since then, Sir William has been portrayed hundreds of times not only providing comic relief (I am a fan of that…recall Richard Fitzwilliam’s conversations with his horse Imperator in In Plain Sight) but also bedrock: never flashy, but a man to be counted upon. Who else would find a friend in the master of Longbourn?

The Longbourn Quarantine uses both sides of that image…the foppish and the firm…the jester and the magistrate. He is the voice of authority, but that power is ridiculously cloaked.  In its way, it echoes the way the country gentry viewed the disarray of the monarchy. Yet, although they may have found the Prince Regent to be repugnant, thy did not argue his right to command. Not one soul in Longbourn’s parlor that April day (once Darcy had stoppered Miss Bingley’s protests) considered defying Sir William’s edict despite his outrageous plumage. I am indebted to the authors who refined the nature of Sir William Lucas. 

Please enjoy this excerpt from The Longbourn Quarantine. I look forward to your comments.

This excerpt ©2020 by Donald P. Jacobson. Any republication or use without the expressed written consent of the author or Meryton Press, Inc. is prohibited.

Book Cover, full wrap: The Longbourn Quarantine by Don Jacobson
Excerpt from The Longbourn Quarantine, Chapter 3

The crowd in the parlor recoiled in surprise when an apparition in a long-beaked plague mask followed Mr. Bennet into the room. Above the goggled eyes, his head was topped with an archaic broad-brimmed hat. His form was hidden beneath a long, leather greatcoat that swept the floor, obscuring his boots. The garment did little to disguise his round figure and short stature. The guests had no idea who was concealed beneath the costume. Darcy and Bingley shared wide-eyed glances. Caroline’s lips were locked into an “O” that made her look akin to one of the fishmonger’s prize offerings. The family looked at each other, trying to guess which of their neighbors would choose to descend upon them while wearing such a ridiculous outfit.

Lydia’s raucous laughter preceded her exclamation. “Oh my Lord, is that you, Sir William? What possessed you to step out looking like you had escaped from the pages of one of Mrs. Radcliffe’s fever dreams.”

“Lydia, you forget yourself,” admonished Elizabeth. “If it is Sir William—and I have no idea who is lurking beneath those layers—you should offer him your respect befitting a man of his stature”—at this, all of her sisters groaned at her unintentional pun—“and even if it is not he, this gentleman is Papa’s guest and is worthy of your compliments.

“How have you concluded that our visitor is none other than Charlotte and Maria’s papa?”

Lydia, barely chastened, snickered back. “Because Maria and I were rifling through boxes and trunks in Lucas Lodge’s attics. We were looking for costumes for our theatricals. And, when we came upon this…this…” Her reply stumbled to a halt as another giggling paroxysm disabled her.

Darcy immediately admired the firm manner with which Elizabeth had taken her youngest sister in hand. That the correction had not been sustained redounded to Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s discredit and not Miss Elizabeth’s.

A voice, muffled by the headgear, confirmed what the girl had sputtered. “Miss Lydia is correct. It is I, Sir William, your neighbor. I came across this ensemble when I was rummaging through my home’s storage areas trying to locate something to protect me from the miasmas that spread this fell disease as I execute my duties as a magistrate.

“Lucas Lodge is an historic home, like Longbourn, in our little town,” the former mayor expounded. “Its bones go back into the last years of the Tudors. I believe that one of the earlier owners had fled town during the Great Plague and had worn this as protection. After King James was chased off, there was no more plague—something I am sure my son, Mr. Collins, would argue is the result of our country having overthrown the Papist pretenders.

“While the children had gotten into its trunk, the clothing is none the worse for wear. A liberal application of oil put paid to any stiffness,” he concluded.

He gripped the coat’s skirts and performed a credible curtsey causing the room to dissolve into laughter.

Mr. Bennet’s voice rose above the chattering. “Peace. Please! Sir William has not ventured out from the safety of Lucas Lodge to engage in the japing high jinks which are far too common in this room. Attend him now. I think you will discover the virtue in seriously contemplating the official requirements with which he will task us all.”

Sir William clasped his gauntlets in front of his belly and began speaking, testing the composure of every person in the parlor. The words he uttered caused his beak to bob up and down. Mary, who had abandoned the pianoforte, scrunched her face, bit her cheeks, and squinted her eyes to avoid dissolving into gales of laughter. The same held for every Bennet, Bingley, and Darcy until Sir William’s message sank in.

“Meryton is in a terrible situation. The disease is burning through the shantytown by Watson’s Mill. The way those people are packed in together virtually guarantees its spread. More than seventy souls have already gone home to their maker. There are probably more, but we cannot convince anyone to enter the shacks where nobody has been seen for days.

“We have been trying to move the bodies up to a grave on the parade grounds. However, every time the wagons go through with the collectors calling, ‘Bring out your dead,’ the wains are filled before they pass halfway through the warren. And, anybody who touches those afflicted, either living or dead, comes down with the illness.”

Darcy interrupted. “Have you thought of using only those who have survived an earlier epidemic or have been vaccinated using Jenner’s method?”

Sir William pointed his beak at Darcy and, if his mask could have rendered an expression, looked dolefully at the master of Pemberley before replying. “Our community has been luckier than most, sir. We have escaped the big outbreaks since the seventies. There might be some folks who took sick and survived. However, I would have the same luck chivvying them to roll a barrow down by the mill as a Methody recruiting sergeant would have trying to get farm boys to take the King’s shilling without the help of pots of ale.

“We may be only four-and-twenty miles from town, but Meryton might as well be four-and-twenty leagues. Most folks have not heard of Mr. Jenner let alone be willing to consider sensible something as radical as giving a person one disease to prevent another.”

Caroline scoffed at Sir William’s assessment of the rural community’s reluctance to experiment with medical breakthroughs.

Mr. Bennet added, “While you may find amusement in considering our follies, Miss Bingley, Hertfordshire is slow to throw off the old ways, even those of dubious efficacy. Besides, bringing Jenner across the country would be no small expense. Most of us hereabouts, even the Cambridge-educated, have decided to place ourselves in the hands of the Good Lord. He, though, apparently has decided that forty years was long enough to spare us this plague.”

Bennet now turned to his neighbor and asked, “Well, Lucas, the town is in need. We have three gentlemen. What can we do to assist?”

Sir William had begun shaking his head before Mr. Bennet had finished speaking. His response cast a pall over the entire assembly.

“I am sorry, Bennet, but Longbourn will be forced to stay in deep reserve. Your guests have only this day arrived from town. According to Jones, who has read some proceedings from the Royal Society, we shall not know whether any of them are infected for about a fortnight.”

Mrs. Bennet squeaked, “Infected? But the Bingleys and Darcys have homes in the best areas and do not associate with the rabble who inhabit the rookeries near the Thames.”

Bingley spun out of Darcy’s grasp and rounded on the woman. For once, he did not spare her by being the lighthearted gadabout. “You know not of what you speak, Mrs. Bennet. My dear sister, Mrs. Hurst, is abed even as we speak because she is in dire straits from this monster! She and Hurst live at as good an address as any.”

“Louisa?” cried Miss Bingley. “Louisa has contracted smallpox? How could you leave our sister like this? We must go back at once. She will need me to care for her.”

Darcy restrained his agitated friend and calmly answered in his stead. “Returning to London is the one thing we cannot do, Miss Bingley. If you went to Mrs. Hurst, you would likely contract the ailment as well, and then you would do her no good. Who would tend you—Hurst? Bingley says your brother survived the scourge back in ’98. But he has his hands full with his wife.

“And, you would likely be writing Bingley’s death warrant if you dragged him into the pall. He, like you, has no immunity.”

Darcy’s pronouncement had a profound effect on Jane, who blanched at the words ‘death warrant.’ Her reaction was not lost on Elizabeth.

……..

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. 

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

Other Austenesque Variations include the paired books
 “Of Fortune’s Reversal” (2016) and “The Maid and The Footman” (2016). Lessers and Betters (2018) 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 the Austen Authors Collective and JASNA. He lives in Las Vegas, NV with his wife, Pam.

Connect with Don

Website    

Buy Links

The Longbourn Quarantine is available to buy now for Kindle. It's also available in Kindle Unlimited. 

Amazon USAmazon UKAmazon CA • Add to Goodreads shelf

Giveaway Time!

Book Cover: The Longbourn Quarantine by Don Jacobson
Meryton Press is kindly offering to give away an ebook of The Longbourn Quarantine to a commenter on this post. To enter, just leave a comment on this blog post by the end of the day worldwide on Monday 31 August

Note about comments: Unfortunately, due to spam comments I have had to turn on comment moderation, which means that your comment won’t appear straight away. If you have any problems adding your comment please contact me and I will add your comment for you :)

* * *
If you don’t want to miss any of my future posts, please subscribe:


If you'd like to be friends on Goodreads then please invite me - just say that you visit my blog when it asks why you'd like to be friends with me.


58 comments:

  1. A very apt story at the moment I think! I also think they could have done without Caroline but that’s just me! :)
    I loved IPS and am loving this idea as well. I have added it to my list and look forward to reading it.
    Thank you so much for the excerpt and the giveaway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Appreciate your anticipation...I only hope you don't wait too long.

      Delete
    2. Hi Glynis. I sometimes like the dash of sour from Caroline in a story for extra flavour! Hope you enjoy this when you read it.

      Delete
  2. So excited to be here and to share this new book with everyone! Look forward to your thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad to welcome you back, Don! Your posts are always popular :)

      Delete
  3. Thank you for hosting Don, Ceri. I enjoyed your post and excerpt, Don!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I enjoyed the post and excerpt, Don! It sounds like a compelling story!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cannot wait for your thoughts on the whole book. I think you will appreciate (as you do this, too) the character development.

      Delete
    2. Glad you enjoyed the post Kelly.

      Delete
  5. That was most interesting, especially as a commentary of the modern contrast between solid science and apathy/ineffective remedies. Thank you for sharing this excerpt.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I also enjoyed using Sir William as a stand-in for the authority of the Prince Regent cloaked in a skin suit that would make him unrecognizable.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for commenting, Jen.

      Delete
  6. Definitely an apt topic for our times :( Thanks for the post & giveaway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope that the product of my reflections...articulated in the same of the characters...offer you an engaging reading experience.

      Delete
    2. It's very apt for the times isn't it, Nightstitcher.

      Delete
  7. Bold choice of subject--bold and brave!
    Stepping out of one’s comfort zone when it comes to the length of the prose is always difficult but picking a subject that is so close to our reality is risky. Especially when it comes to art projects where we don’t want something didactic but rather something distilling the author’s POV, something relevant regardless the period.
    At the same time, what better way for a writer to express himself than to use his medium?
    That said, I have complete faith that you’ll nail this, Don. :-)
    Thank you, both, for the giveaway!
    Alexandra Rivers

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. AR...you offer a stiff challenge and high praise here. I do hope I will live up to both.

      Delete
    2. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment Alexandra!

      Delete
  8. Good excerpt. This looks like it will be a fun read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fun is relative. Even in the greatest operatic tragedies, there is still somethoing offered up to make the audience chuckle and relax even in the midst of unremitting awfulness.

      Delete
    2. Hope you enjoy it when you read it, Ginna.

      Delete
  9. At least is sounds like Collins is not there, so thankfully Mary can't be married off to him.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Somebody had to stay in Kent to attend to Lady Catherine. Mary will find an unexpected (not life) partner in Miss Darcy.

      Delete
    2. That's a blessing for Mary for sure. I know you want something better than Collins for her.

      Delete
  10. As I have enjoyed other stories by this author I will plan to read this one way or another. Thanks for a chance to win it. Putting it on my Wish List until the drawing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. SLM...thank you for your continuing and long-time support! Good luck on the drawing!

      Delete
    2. Thanks for stopping by, Sheila, and good luck in the giveaway.

      Delete
  11. Wow! With the Corona virus causing chaos, your story reminds us that other diseases and viruses have ravaged the world. I can't wait to read this story! You have hooked me with the excellent plot premise!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That other diseases have run rampant allowed me to pull up a feared devastator to use so that my charcters could experience that which I/we ha been feeling since February/March. I picked small pox because even though Jenner had been popularizing vaccination since the 1770s, it was expensive and fraught with some danger (Read John Adams's letters to Abigail from Philadelphia when she and the children went to a pox house to endure vaccination.

      Delete
    2. It's a good reminder that we are not so advanced as we think, a new disease and we feel almost as vulnerable as we would have felt two hundred years ago.

      Delete
  12. VERY appropriate for our times. Enjoyed the excerpt and look forward to reading this book. Thank you for the giveaway!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much. I look forward to reading your thoughts on the entire novella!

      Delete
    2. Isn't it! Hope you enjoy it when you read it.

      Delete
  13. The feel for how people reacted to an epidemic in Regency times comes across clearly in this excerpt. I enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing, Don, and thanks for hosting, Ceri!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. SL...appreciate your kind words. 'Tis always such a fine line to walk...to talk about topics of current interest without injuring the authenticity of the timeline context within which the story is set.

      Delete
  14. Looking forward to reading this, Don. Thanks to Ceri for hosting and thanks to Meryton Press for the generous giveaway. Good luck to all in the drawing. Blessings, Don on the success of this story. It is relevant and applicable to today's situations. Be safe, everyone, wear your masks [archaic or not], and stay healthy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. TLQ rose from my own reflections during this time. I hope I offered my musings through the characters in such a way so that their own truth also shined through.

      Delete
    2. Thanks Jeanne. If you see somebody out in a plague mask like Sir William, make sure you snap a picture.

      Delete
  15. Great excerpt. Lydia is not daunted even by these circumstances and Sir Willam’s appearance must have been a shock. I suspected that Louisa was sick. It was very smart of Sir William to keep the newcomers in quarantine, but it must have scared Mrs. Bennnet.
    I’m looking forward to see how this story unfolds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As I noted in another forum...while the quarantine was a sound medical practice, it also forced the characters to interact with each other for two weeks. All artifice and pretensions would be striped away...and they could follow their own paths to reach their truths.

      Delete
    2. It's an interesting premise isn't it, and sets us up for a good story.

      Delete
  16. This is such a great idea for a story. Enjoyed the excerpt. Thanks for the giveaway!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! Look forward to your thoughts on the entire story1

      Delete
    2. Thanks for stopping by and good luck in the giveaway

      Delete
  17. I have a comment to post on behalf of Eva:

    What a great idea for this story! I find it amazing that Jenner had discovered the vaccine for small pox at this early date. It is a good reminder for us during this pandemic. Thank you for the excerpt and giveaway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thank you so much. this story helped me articulate my emotions during isolation. A historical note: Jenner in 1796 developed the concept of vacination using cowpox...but an african slave (owned by Cotton Mather in Boston) passed on the knowlege to Mather of the Turkish and Chinese practice of innoculation (not vacination)in 1716. The practice was put to use in 1721 during an epidemic in Boston. see https://www.history.com/news/smallpox-vaccine-onesimus-slave-cotton-mather

      Delete
    2. Thanks for your comment Eva, and to Don for the additional fact! I believe that having had chicken pox leaves me immune to smallpox, but it doesn't help with coronavirus, unfortunately. I have a pox scar on my face for no benefit!

      Delete
  18. I remember another story where Elizabeth and Jane had been vaccinated against smallpox while they were in London. Afterwards, E had to nurse her sick brother and sisters all of whom died and she was blamed: The Sins of the Fathers". This book will be an interesting read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have to find that book. Seems like a perfect companion to TLQ. Thank you for your comment!

      Delete
    2. I haven't read that one, but I have heard that it is good.

      Delete
  19. The Sins of the Father is written by Joy Dawn King.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Got it...re-read it. But what of the next two in the series...the Jane and Fitzwilliam books? Did JDK unpublish them?

      Delete
    2. Thanks Sheila. I'm sure I read somewhere that JDK is still intending to write other books in the series but her muse has other ideas first.

      Delete
  20. Congratulations on your newest book, it sounds like a really good read for during these strange times that we now find ourselves in. Thank you for sharing this with us here as well as for the chance to win a copy of the book.

    Hope you are doing well and staying safe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi...thank you so much. The book grew from my own reflections on this time of plague. I wanted to see how our characters would respond if they were put under the same stresses we have been...how they would grow...and the path their respective loves would take.

      Delete