The Bennet Wardrobe Series
The Bennet Wardrobe Stories have grown out of Don’s interest in the side characters found the in majesterial “Pride and Prejudice.” He feels that the three younger sisters have been left to languish these past two centuries as readers…and writers…have focused on the eternal love story of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Recognizing that, perhaps, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia (I am trying to remember to insert the infamous Oxford Comma!) as well as their father, Thomas, need to resolve their inner personality issues, much as both Lizzy and Darcy did in the original, to become characters in full.
And, that is where the Bennet Wardrobe comes in. Perhaps remaining on the original P&P timeline (which ends in 1811-12) would not be sufficient for the three young ladies to realize their mature futures…or for Thomas to finally take a stand on his daughters’ behalves (note…archaic use). Hence the Bennet Wardrobe…a remarkable device created by the great cabinetmaker, natural scientist, and contemporary of Isaac Newton…which can transport those of the Bennet genome into futures which will meet their needs (not desires). Of course, as with any good time machine/magical transport, as Lydia Bennet Wickham Fitzwilliam put it, “The Wardrobe has an unusual sense of humor.”
The Series is currently projected as six main novels plus several novellas which enter the main plots…
(2016/17) Volume I…The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey
Mary Bennet has spent her entire life fighting to be herself. If only she knew just what that was. For years she buried her nose in the musty musing of Fordyce’s Sermons to Young Women trying to be exceptional. She suffered under her mother’s withering criticism of her looks. She was tormented by both her older as well as her younger sisters. Her father ignored everything and did nothing to guide her or encourage her.
Now, both Jane and Lizzy have married, and it is time for Miss Bennet to emerge from her cocoon. Soon, a young woman of deep faith and inquisitive mind appears. Yet, even as Mary Bennet rises from her troubled teenage years, she is challenged by her sudden and total love for a man who mysteriously appears on the night of a great calamity. And his secret grows out of a remarkable device—The Bennet Wardrobe!
Follow the story of Mary Bennet as she matures from the prosy, moralizing caricature found in Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice into a confident young woman looking to make her mark in the rapidly changing world of the Industrial Revolution. And, see how the amazing Bennet Wardrobe makes life for all Bennets very interesting. About 102,000 words
Reader Review: (5 Star)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book for many different reasons! First, it gives center stage to a secondary character in Pride & Prejudice…namely, middle sister, Mary Bennet. Second, the history woven into the story provided an added element of depth. Third, it’s unique premise. A wardrobe built for the first Bennet patriarch, Christopher, by a celebrated cabinetmaker, Grinling Gibbons in 1692 with mystical properties. Hewn from an oak tree on the Bennet property and a special marquetry pattern stained with a small vial of blood from Christopher Bennet, this wardrobe allows only Bennet family members to ‘pass through’. I was intrigued and my imagination was fired.
We are introduced at the beginning with the wardrobe’s properties, family members and some back history prior to our canon characters. It is a critical part of the story but it was a touch slow. Things certainly pick up though.
Mary was a rather severe creature who was overlooked by both her parents and her sisters. This story takes place just after the wedding of Elizabeth and Jane Bennet. Mr. Jacobson has sympathetically written a scene between the married sisters and Mary as they say goodbye. I found it honest and extremely touching. However, for me, the most enlightening and moving experience was Mary’s walk to Oakham Mount. It was eye-opening, soul-freeing and very emotional and moving. From this epiphany, the story takes off.
Much is revealed in this journey of Mary’s life…finding her true calling, her love, Edward Benton, and the workings of the Wardrobe. It is a character onto itself. The Darcy’s and Bingley’s play a small role in this story, however, Lydia’s story is larger than life, much like she is. Kitty’s on the other hand has a unique twist. Many others like Colonel Fitzwilliam, Anne deBourgh and even Wickham have their part to play in this tale. And let’s not forget our villains…Lady Catherine and Mr. Collins. Evil incarnate as far as I’m concerned and each got their just rewards!
This is not a quick and easy read to happily ever after. There are parts that were a bit confusing and connections that some may question. This, however, is a journey through the decades with touches of humour, joy, sadness, history and twists and turns that keep you on your toes. Looking forward to the saga continuing.
(2016) Volume 1.9 Henry Fitzwilliam’s War
Time is once again bent in 1883 as Viscount Henry Fitzwilliam, Viscount of Matlock, uses the remarkable Bennet Wardrobe to seek his manhood through combat as suggested by his great friend, Theodore Roosevelt. But, as Henry’s Great Grandmother, Lydia Bennet Wickham Fitzwilliam, noted, “The Wardrobe has a strange sense of humor.” The lessons the young aristocrat learns are not the ones he expected.
Henry travels over 30 years into the future to land in the middle of the most awful conflict in human history—World War I. His brief time at the Front teaches him that there is no longer any room on the battlefield for heroic combat. Rather he discovers the horrors of “modern” warfare—the machine gun, high explosive artillery and poison gas—and the incredible waste of young men’s lives.
But, it is his two weeks spent recuperating at the Beach House in Deauville, after being temporarily blinded by chlorine gas, that irrevocably changes his life forever. There he encounters an incredible woman, one who will define his near 10-year search for the love of his life after he returns to his own time–and how his personality was shaped by their emerging relationship…one that was impossible on a number of levels. Approx 20,500 words.
Reader Review (4 Star)
Poignant, Bittersweet, But Most Engaging Between Novella in the Series
Henry Fitzwilliam’s War takes place a few generations and many years forward from the events of book one telling the story of a young man from the late Victorian era desirous of being a hero. He chooses to use the Wardrobe to make this happen and learns the magical device can be rather whimsical in its interpretation of wishes. Henry is landed into the brutal raging WWI trench warfare where individual heroism isn’t possible and one battle puts him out of the action and recovering in a mysterious lady’s home in Deauville.
There is a poignant, bittersweet quality to this shorter tale that draws in the reader and does the job of leaving a desire to press forward into the next installment even while revealing something of the characters who will be met there. Well worth stopping off and getting this in between tale.
Longbourn, December 1811.
The day after Jane and Lizzy marry dawns especially cold for young Kitty Bennet. Called to Papa’s bookroom, she is faced with a resolute Mr. Bennet who intends to punish her complicity in her sister’s elopement. She will be sent packing to a seminary in far-off Cornwall.
She reacts like any teenager chafing under the “burden” of parental rules—she throws a tantrum. In her fury, she slams her hands against the doors of The Bennet Wardrobe.
Her heart’s desire?
“I wish they were dead! Anywhere but Cornwall! Anywhere but here!”
As Lydia later said, “The Wardrobe has a unique sense of humor.”
London, May 1886.
Seventeen-year-old Catherine Marie Bennet tumbles out of The Wardrobe at Matlock House to come face-to-face with the austere Viscount Henry Fitzwilliam, a scion of the Five Families and one of the wealthiest men in the world. However, while their paths may have crossed that May morning, Henry still fights his feelings for another woman, lost to him nearly thirty years in his future. And Miss Bennet must now decide between exile to the remote wastelands of Cornwall or making a new life for herself in Victorian Britain and Belle Époque France.
The Exile follows the story of Kitty Bennet as she grows from the coughing follower of her younger sister, Lydia, into a bright and engaging young woman living in the exciting world of the late 19th Century. However, she must pass through many trials before she can fully understand why the Wardrobe sent her 75 years into the future—and for her to become one of the most important fixtures in the Bennet Wardrobe Universe.
The universe was shaken once again on Midsummer’s Day in 1801. The Bennet Wardrobe’s door to the future was opened in the bookroom at Longbourn. This time the most impertinent Bennet of them all, Elizabeth, tumbled through the gateway. Except she left not as the grown women with whom readers have become so familiar, but rather as a ten-year-old girl who had been playing a simple game of hide-and-seek.
Which Where/When was her destination? What needs could a young girl, only beginning to learn to make her way in the Regency, have that could be answered only by the Wardrobe? Or were the requirements of another Bennet, one who began as younger, but had aged into a beautiful, confident leader of Society, the prime movers behind Lizzy’s journey? Is the enigmatic Lady Kate the force that shaped the destiny of Lizzy and her younger sisters left back in Hertfordshire? How do the visions of the future brought home by young Lizzy help shape her world?
Answers to these and other questions raised in the Bennet Wardrobe Series can be found in Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess. This is a medium-length novella (41,000 words) that considers a slice of time between the end of The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque in 1892 (Volume 2 of the Bennet Wardrobe) and the beginning of Henry Fitzwilliam’s War in 1915. And, after Lizzy is transported back to that bucolic summer day in 1801 proto-industrial Great Britain, Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess will carry all readers forward to what may be considered the greatest writers’ workshop in history. T’was at the legendary Villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Geneva that Lord Byron gathered Mary Godwin (Frankenstein), John Polidori (The Vampyre) and Percy Bysshe Shelley for a vacation during the Year Without Summer. Oh, Fitzwilliam Darcy and his wife, Elizabeth, were there to act as catalysts that would transform vague ideas into timeless speculative fiction. Novella of about 52,000 words.
Kitty Bennet, the fourth daughter of the Master and Mistress of Longbourn, had spent far too long as the shadow of her younger sister. The all-knowing Meryton chinwaggers suggested that young Miss Bennet needed education—and quickly—especially after the irregular circumstances that forced the wedding of Lydia Bennet and George Wickham.
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 that had been part of the lives of clan Bennet for over 120 years: The Bennet Wardrobe.
After spending 46 years in the future, the Dowager Countess of Matlock returned to Longbourn’s bookroom at that exact same moment as she left in 1811 to tend to many important pieces of Family business. However, she was now a woman of 63 years, some thirteen her father’s senior. Time can deal funny cards in the Universe created by Jane Austen and the Wardrobe.
Of course, the Countess is acting to set in motion forces that will shape the future of Britain—and the Five Families—throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries. In the process, Kitty Fitzwilliam will help her youngest sister find the love she craved with the unexpected hero who, as the Duke said, “saved us all.”
“The Countess Visits Longbourn” offers insights into the touching reunion between Kitty Fitzwilliam and her father, Thomas Bennet. Readers will also learn how the mysterious Founder’s Letters were set in motion along with the purpose behind the Bennet Family Trust. New characters, some ancestors of those introduced in Part One of The Exile, will come onto the stage to illuminate a deeper understanding of the shaping of the character of George Wickham—the Hero of Hougoumont Woods at the Battle of Waterloo.
“The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn” is the second part and conclusion of the Bennet Wardrobe Volume chronicling the life of Kitty Bennet in the Wardrobe’s Universe. This novel takes readers on a journey that stretches from the early-19th into the mid-20th Centuries. Novel is over 89,000 words in length.
Review by Fellow Author Joana Starnes January, 2018.
Who can resist the magic of time-travel? Pages of worldwide history rustle back and forth between Regency grand salons, Napoleonic battlefields and more recent conflicts as, guided by Don Jacobson’s masterful pen, the Bennet sisters grow as people and come into their own. ‘The Countess Visits Longbourn’ is a wonderful new installment, and we cannot fail to revel in the excellent writing and the abundance of detail as the mysteries of the Wardrobe continue to unfold. This captivating series, that brings together real and much-loved fictional characters from all walks of life, is one to savour, and I will revisit it again and again.
(2015) Miss Bennet’s First Christmas (novella)
Mary Bennet has only been “Miss Bennet” for a fortnight when disaster strikes Meryton in this story of Christmas 1811. Without any of her sisters remaining at Longbourn, Mary is early in her transformation from the one-dimensional troubled young woman portrayed in “Pride and Prejudice” into a profoundly empathetic character guided by her faith. During her efforts to assist the wounded of her home village, she encounters and is swept off her feet by a stranger who knows more about Meryton, her family and even Mary herself than any person has the right to know. The young man, Edward Benton, also conceals a mystery that has been held close for nearly 125 years.
Reader Review: (5 Star)
(2015) The Bennet Wardrobe: Origins (novella)
Great Britain’s magical transportation networks include J. K. Rowling’s flue network, Susannah Clarke’s The King’s Roads, and C.S. Lewis’ Wardrobe’s. The Bennet Wardrobe is another such magical device, designed to allow members of the Bennet family (and blood relations) to move between one time and the future. “The Benet Wardrobe: Origins” explores the roots of the unique Bennet Wardrobe secreted in the library of Longbourn House.
A critical Preface explains the operation of the Wardrobe. The Rules of the Wardrobe are published for understanding of all future stories and books. The story of its construction by the great Grinling Gibbons for Christopher Bennet is amplified by other travel stories of descendants Richard and Edward Bennet.
Reader Review: (5 Star)
Having just finished reading Miss Bennet’s First Christmas: A Bennet Wardrobe Story, I found this to be the perfect follow-up. It answers questions of how the Wardrobe was constructed and how it came into the possession of the Bennet family. Most helpfully, readers are now privy to the list of “rules” governing the use of this magical time shifting device.
We also learn how it has been used over several generations of Bennet patriarchs and, in conjunction, much of the Bennet family history. The Bennet ancestors prove to be diverse and interesting characters. We are provided glimpses into their challenges, joys and heartbreaks. There is a sense of anticipation that builds as the final Bennet’s story is told. He feels certain that his destiny is NOT to be the Master of Longbourn and instead chooses to use the Wardrobe to learn where he truly belongs. Thus, the identity of the visitor who arrives via the Wardrobe in the Prologue of Miss Bennet’s First Christmas is revealed.
This story wouldn’t work particularly well as a stand-alone, but it does a marvelous job of providing foundation for the other books in this series. The magical worlds created by such notables as C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling are referenced as real rather than imaginary, with the Wardrobe just another manifestation. There is a smattering of British historical factoids in the mix, as well. What’s impressive is that this works both as a chronicle/history of the Wardrobe and the Bennets but also works as a well-constructed short story leading up to the turning point when the Wardrobe is entered at the end. Nicely done!
Future Bennet Wardrobe Novels
(2018-19) The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and A Father’s Lament
(2018) The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and The Soldier’s Portion
(2019) The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy
Other Pride and Prejudice Variations
Lessers and Betters Novels/Novellas
(2016) Of Fortune’s Reversal (novella, part 1 of paired books)
A brisk early November Hyde Park morning is shattered by a child’s scream. How two adults react in those next few desperate moments sets the plot in motion in this “Pride & Prejudice” alternative focusing on twenty-one year old Kitty Bennet.
“Of Fortune’s Reversal” is a novella-length tale based upon an inversion of Mrs. Bennet’s exclamation that with one good marriage, the other girls will be thrown in front of rich men. For more than two centuries, the Jane/Bingley: Lizzy/Darcy tetrarchy has been portrayed as the solution to Mary and Kitty’s marriage difficulties, not to mention Mrs. Bennet’s housing requirements. But, what if that was not the case?
What if Mr. Bennet dies just as Jane is receiving the Bingley sisters’ invitation to dinner?
No rainy day horseback ride. No cold for Jane. No Elizabeth coming to Netherfield to nurse her elder sister…so no links forged in any way with Bingley (beyond what he felt for Miss Bennet at the Assembly) and Darcy (no fine eyes, no walk around the library, etc).
No Netherfield Ball.
No proposal from Collins because he was already wed to a shrew who convinced him to evict the Bennet women. So no trip to Hunsford cottage for Lizzy because Charlotte remains a spinster at Lucas Lodge.
Rather, the Bennet women are forced out of Longbourn—the older girls to Gracechurch Street and ultimately taking up employment away from the city. The two younger girls remain in Meryton with their mother, to be sent away to seminary for some much-needed formal education. But, the death of Thomas Bennet has changed more than the family’s financial fortunes. It has also bent the arc of the P&P universe.
Reader Review: (5 Star)
(2016) The Maid and The Footman (novel, part 2 of paired books)
There are two sides to every great story. The tale of how General Sir Richard Fitzwilliam, Baron St. Jean, fell in love with a governess, Kitty Bennet, after she was terribly injured while protecting the Cecil heiress is well known. Now discover how an unbreakable bond between a footman and a maid grew in the face of that same tragedy and a developing international intrigue.
The Maid and The Footman explores the increasing affection between a young lady’s maid and a retired Army sergeant which was as great as any love written about by the immortals. In the Jane Austen universe, the celebrated novels are written from the point-of-view of the landed gentry. Servants are rarely seen except to open doors, serve dinner or fetch smelling salts. The Maid and The Footman asserts that class is an imaginary distinction conferring no better manners on the “haves” and no lesser nobility on the “have-nots” and that the deepest human emotions are universal.
The Maid and The Footman also reveals how Annie Reynolds and Henry Wilson teamed up with General Fitzwilliam to fight the nefarious plot that had penetrated to the heart of the British government after Napoleon’s fall. The hidden motive driving the attack on Kitty Bennet in Hyde Park is gradually revealed. Throughout it all, Annie and Henry circle around one another finding remarkable depths of love in spite of the great forces tossing them about.
The Maid and The Footman is a companion and simultaneous novel to the popular novella Of Fortune’s Reversal. Readers may find that revisiting Of Fortune’s Reversal will make for a broader and more rewarding experience.
Reader Review: (5 Star)
Don Jacobson reveals a masterful command of Regency history in this companion to Of Fortune’s Reversal. It is no secret that JAFF authors must do their research carefully, because their readers are usually exceedingly well-versed in the era. That is difficult enough when the story revolves around upper classes- you know, the ones who wrote all of the material we have available. It is mind-boggling when the story delves below stairs, into a world few bothered to record.
If you have read OFR (which I highly recommend before picking up M&F), you know the action of the story, so I shall not cover it here. The heart of the story, however, is vastly different. It is a risky proposition to write the same story again from a different perspective, but Don manages to give us many new treasures to discover, making a return trip through his universe well worth the while. We enter a world where seventeen-year-old girls carry buckets which would make Charles Bingley faint and call for his horse, and where clever, handsome, able young men with no other prospects must go to war in order to survive.
We meet Annie, a tough and clever young maid who just happens to be related to Pemberley’s own Mrs. Reynolds. Don gives us many things to admire in this nameless, faceless personage, who typically inhabits the periphery of the fictional world. She is loyal and fierce and tender, never holding bitterness against her societal batters, nor hanging her head in shame. She takes the world as she finds it, and leaves it a better place.
We also meet Henry, a practical man of good sense and great strength, a man of dignity and honor despite his life’s circumstances. He would not be a man to seek out adventure and excitement, but it has a way of finding him and it has left him scarred. As a result, he is a complex figure who would really rather be a simple man of simple pleasures. He very quickly earned my respect as a character.
Of course, just crafting a love story between two sensible, wonderful people is not enough. Don also delivers more of the mystery behind the attack on Kitty Bennet, and gives us several new reasons to fall in love with the good Colonel all over again. I will not share more, but if you were left scratching your head at the audacity of it all, fret no longer!