Launching a career as a fiction writer…let alone an author of JAFF…meant a whole new world of “firsts!”

  • First time writing novels and novellas
  • First time finding gracious beta readers willing to endure what might be drivel
  • First time working with a brilliant cover designer like Janet Taylor
  • First time wrestling with the wonders of the new self-publishing model
  • First time sweating out reviews…and then going to school on them

Oh…and the first time doing a blog tour.

That is the next step for the roll out of the latest entry in the Bennet Wardrobe Series…The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Epoque. Needless to say, in spite of every JAFF-world friend of mine saying ‘Have fun,’ I am approaching the two-week tour with no small degree of trepidation. Thankfully, every one of them is doing an admirable job at talking me in off the ledge. Given that wonderful support, I am furiously composing guest posts, finding excerpts and assembling little vignettes; all in the belief that blog visitors will get a better sense of what the Wardrobe is all about.

And to that end…a reminder about The Wardrobe:

The Bennet Wardrobe Stories have grown out of my interest in the side characters found in Jane Austen’s majestic Pride and Prejudice. I felt that the three younger sisters were 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 as well as their father, Thomas, needed 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 have been sufficient for the three young ladies to realize their mature futures…or for Thomas finally to take a stand on his daughters’ behalves (note…archaic use). Hence the Bennet Wardrobe…a remarkable device created by the great cabinetmaker, Grinling Gibbons, who was also a natural scientist and contemporary of Isaac Newton. The Wardrobe can transport those of the Bennet bloodline into futures which will meet their needs (not desires). Of course, as with any good time machine/magical transport, and as Lydia Bennet Wickham Fitzwilliam so aptly put it, “The Wardrobe has an unusual sense of humor.”

I launched the stories with the novella Miss Bennet’s First Christmas in 2015.  That was quickly followed up by The Bennet Wardrobe: Origins. I was getting my feet on the ground and gradually began to understand how The Wardrobe fit into my imaginary universe. The roots of Volume One…The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey…can be found here. I discovered how to use the Wardrobe to help Bennets change their destinies…much as the original Pride and Prejudice clearly demonstrated how both Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy changed theirs over the majestic novel.

Faced with the next book–The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque–exploring how Kitty Bennet would become a woman in full through finding herself and her love, I needed to understand the man destined to play opposite her: Viscount Henry Fitzwilliam, Kitty’s grandnephew and Lydia’s great-grandson. That led me to compose a character study/story which resulted in the brief novella Henry Fitzwilliam’s War. References from HFW found their way into The Exile. Henry used the Wardrobe and learned what he needed about manhood and masculinity, but in the process fell in love. That is the story of The Exile.

But, The Bennet Wardrobe has much more work to do…for Lydia…for Thomas…and then there is the one reason that unites it all.

Some Bennets will travel further and remain in the future longer than others. We may not be privy to accounts of all of the journeys they take. Rather, we may see whispers of those trips as they impact others. Consider the open question of whether Lizzy Bennet ever used The Wardrobe.

The Wardrobe Series is currently projected as six books to realize the grand arc of the Wardrobe’s Plan.

The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey (2016)

The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque (2017) (Pt. 1)

The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn (proj. 2017) (Pt. 2)

The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and the Father’s Lament (proj. 2018)

The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and the Soldier’s Portion (proj. 2018/19)

The Grail: Saving Elizabeth Darcy (proj. 2019)

Now, back to the Blog Tour…I am hoping to touch many of my friends…new/old, known/unknown…with the story of how the Wardrobe reshapes the Pride & Prejudice universe to allow Mary, Kitty, Lydia, and Thomas…as well as other characters…to step beyond the caricature and into, I hope, a deeper reality.

To give you a small taste of the wonderful world of the Wardrobe, please enjoy this vignette from Henry Fitzwilliam’s War, the novella I wrote to get a handle on what shaped the young Viscount’s personality before he met Kitty Bennet that fateful May day in 1886. And please be sure to enter the drawing for a copy of the e-book by leaving a comment below. The giveaway will end at midnight EDST, June 15th.

Reverie

December, 1881

The sense of loss paralyzed him. As he sat in Matlock House’s library staring out the window at the winter-dimmed London street scene unrolling in front of him, he despaired over what he had left behind in Deauville thirty-plus years in the future. The worst of it was that his memory of her began to evaporate as soon as his eye wrappings had been removed by Campbell.

The sound of her voice receded from his memory so quickly that there were moments when he could not recall the subtle undertones that revealed her deepest emotions. For days on end, that voice…The Voice…was all he could cling to in his continuing darkness. Now he was losing even that rock of audible security, of unspoken affection.

Her breath on his neck that last night burned as she had stretched firm legs alongside his quilt-shrouded limbs. She pressed full breasts into his muscled back; high and proud they felt, tips hardened by an excitement that no blanket barrier could disguise. Her denial of the power of his youth only deepened his anguish. Would he ever know that desire again?

Then a last touch, a farewell, as her ungloved hand delivered a final gentle caress after Jacques had helped him into Campbell’s auto to be evacuated back to England. She had branded his cheek with a shimmering charge that had prickled in his imagination for the past several weeks. He was lost without her touch.

No woman could ever mean to him what this woman had meant. None could match what he saw in his mind’s eye, what he felt on the raw edges of his consciousness. She had been his only love…at first sound…at first touch…at first smell. He snorted at how trite it seemed, the stuff of a Bronte novel; for him thinking of her as his soul mate. And, she was lost to him, trapped in a future he might never reach.

Now, after a month of ministrations by his mother, Gran and even Ellie, although just twelve, only her scent remained fully imprinted on his brain—cut grass fresh in the morning dew underneath rose bushes in full bloom. That remarkable perfume was so her. Being bathed in her fragrance was like strolling through Matlock’s gardens in the cool twilight of a June evening after the heat had been broken by a storm that had rolled in off the Peaks.

The vibrant yellow Lady Annes and blood red Lizzy’s Own Bourbon roses were Gran’s favorites. When he was just a boy and she ancient even then, Gran would tell seven-year-old Henry the story of the roses as they walked along the manicured paths.

“These flowers could be my sisters. There were five of us you know. The “Roses of Hertfordshire” was what they called us—the Five Beautiful Bennet Sisters. And, each of us married well and for love; some of us—well me—more than once.

“Yellow was Jane’s color, Henry. Just like these Lady Annes. You know they were named after Mr. Darcy’s mother. Janie was pure elegance and light, brightening every room she walked through. Her eyes were sky blue, almost purple at times. Bingley claimed he would forget to breathe when he stared into them.

“You cannot imagine how crimson would set off Lizzy’s hair and eyes. Her mane was the color of Dutch chocolate, liquidy rich, like it was being poured out of a pot. And her eyes? Well, as Mr. Darcy would say, she had ‘a pair of very fine eyes.’ Nearly black they were. When she became angry, usually at Darcy, although frequently at Mama and me, they would flash like a squall rising up over the Channel.

“Mr. Darcy had a vase of fresh cut Red Bourbons sent up to their suite every morning before Lizzy awakened. Even after she passed away, the gardeners would place a new arrangement on a stand outside the door to her sitting room.

“And if Jane and Lizzy were the flowers of summer, Mary was the bush in autumn…you know, after the gardeners would prune it back. Some people might look at those shortened canes and see nothing but grim brown waste. But, from those rusty stunted sticks, next year’s beauty would flourish. To the uninformed, they seemed boring, but if you knew roses, you understood that they were only waiting to awaken. They were the foundation upon which all would grow.”

He would look up at her as he held onto her right hand—the one of flesh and bone. Every child of clan Bennet knew the story of how Gran and Aunt Mary survived the Peterloo Massacre[i] back in 1819; of how Gran’s left hand ended up in the dust of St. Peter’s Field while she protected the old General from certain death. Henry would feel the pulse throbbing in her fingers as he asked the inevitable question.

“What about Aunt Kitty, Gran? Which rose reminds you of her?”

She would stop and lift her emerald green eyes to sweep across the garden. Then, in a voice that would catch on the edge of every word, she would tell him the reason she had planted rose bushes wherever she had lived in her long life.

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

[i] See “The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey” Ch XLIII to XLV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the blog tour schedule…and I want to thank all of my blog supporters in advance:

14-Jun More Agreeably Engaged http://moreagreeablyengaged.blogspot.com/
15-Jun From Pemberley to Milton Http://frompemberleytomilton.wordpress.com
16-Jun My Jane Austen Book Club http://thesecretunderstandingofthehearts.blogspot.it/
17-Jun Just Jane 1813 Justjane1813.com
18-Jun Free date  
19-Jun Diary of an Eccentric https://diaryofaneccentric.wordpress.com
20-Jun Savvy Verse & Wit http://savvyverseandwit.com
21-Jun Darcyholic Diversions darcyholicdiversions.com
22-Jun My Vices and Weaknesses https://myvicesandweaknesses.wordpress.com/
23-Jun Babblings of a Bookworm https://babblingsofabookworm.blogspot.co.uk
24-Jun A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life www.madamegilflurt.com
25-Jun Free date
26-Jun Interests of a Jane Austen Girl https://interestsofajaneaustengirl.wordpress.com
27-Jun So Little Time… candy-m.blogspot.com
28-Jun Laughing with Lizzie http://laughingwithlizzie.blogspot.co.uk