Book Tour of “The Exile, Kitty Bennet and Le Belle Époque”
Welcome back dear readers!
It’s been a little while since I was last here, but now its summer, and I have read yet another amazing story! This time it was by Don Jacobsen, and was called; “The Exile; Kitty Bennet and Le Belle Époque”
I was made aware of this book by my good friend, Janet, who was good enough to make me aware that this was the SECOND book in a series, so I asked for recommendation if I should read the first to understand the second – well as a very curious and avid reader, I threw myself over the first book, I quickly got to the second book, after only a few days!
I was quite amazed with the Bennet family and their heritage in the form of a wardrobe. Though I did get some connotations to “The Witch, the lion and the wardrobe” when I started reading, and maybe I also did think about the wardrobe in Harry Potter as well.
I was speaking with Don Jacobsen about the wardrobe and the series in general, and he described the series main artifact and idea like this; the Bennet Wardrobe Series is an alternative history in the Jane Austen Universe. While the characters are familiar, I have endeavored to provide each of them with an opportunity to grow into three-dimensional personalities, although not necessarily in the Regency period. If they were shaped or stifled by the conventions of the period, the time-traveling powers of The Wardrobe helped solve their problems, make penance, and learn lessons by giving them a chance to escape that time frame, if only for a brief, life-changing interlude.
The Wardrobe underlines my conviction that each of these characters could enjoy fulfilling lives once they had overcome the inner demons holding them back.
Would it have been possible for them to do so staying on the Regency timeline? Perhaps. However, something tickled my brain—maybe it was the intersection between my youthful fascination with speculative fiction and my mature appreciation of Austen and 19th Century fiction—that threw the idea of the Wardrobe up in front of me. Now my protagonists could be immersed in different timeframes beyond the Regency to learn that which they needed to learn in order to realize their potentials and in the process carry the eternal story of love and change forward to even the 21st Century. 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
This wardrobe though was made by a mysterious carpenter in the year 1650, with special abilities which could only be accessed by Bennets. A wardrobe which transport people with Bennet blood. And ONLY people with Bennet blood. Two trips, one into the future and one trip back to their original time. All of us who have wished to travel in time, to get away from our troubles of our present, well Beware of What You Wish For!
The Bennet Wardrobe may grant it!
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 decide between exile to the remote wastelands of Cornwall or making a new life for herself in Victorian Britain and Belle Époque France.
Let’s just say I was biting my nails off in the attempt not to throw a tantrum when I finished this amazing, nerve-wrecking story, and now have to wait for book III in this series! But as Don Jacobsen was good enough to inform me, we can look forward to three more books, and possibly three spin-off novellas associated with this series – Take NOTICE readers, book III can be expected to be published in November!!
My review of “Exile; Kitty Bennet and Le Belle Époque”
To be honest, I thought I would hate the book when I opened the cover – but to my surprise and delight, I couldn’t put the book down!!! It was bold, daring, adventurous and nerve-wrecking!
Surprise was the first emotion, which made itself present when I started reading; Kitty going through the wardrobe – and better yet, a change to a character I thought was annoying and childish from Austen’s original work. And then to be introduced to dashing Henry Fitzwilliam, who was swoon-worthy from the first moment! Though also a man with a mysterious past.
We are also introduced to the concept of The Five Families; Bennet, Gardiner, Darcy, Bingley and Fitzwilliam, who have gained titles, power and social position by investments, knowledge and luck and are in Victorian Britain some of the wealthiest people in London. The wardrobes abilities are guarded by not only the five families but also a firm, which is run by descendants of known characters like Reynolds, Fitzwilliam and Darcy.
Well, to follow Kitty as she grew as a character was quite an impression, especially away from her family. We see a childish coughing ignored Kitty Bennet blossom into a strong, independent and intelligent woman, who survives everything which is thrown at her during her adventures.
New characters appear, and you start to question if your impressions are right about them, even your impression of Henry Fitzwilliam and Kitty are shaken.
If you are a literary buff, you will recognize the names of; Watson, Holmes, Colonel Sebastian Moran and Moriarty immediately – but by this time, you will have forgotten you were in the Victorian Britain with Kitty, I will assure you! We are also introduced to Dr. Freud, any who have read a little psychology knows he was a pioneer of working with peoples mind, not only their bodies – and much to my surprise we are introduced to not only Victorian London, but also Paris, and its hayday of impressionist painters who will play a somewhat crucial role to reunite Kitty with her beloved. And the ending, my god what a cliff hanger, enough to torment even the best of readers!
A slight warning to younger readers, mentions of kidnapping, rape, prostitution and beatings will appear.
I know dear readers, I know, it’s WAY too long this entry, but Don Jacobsen couldn’t help himself but allow us a glimpse into “The Exile; Kitty Bennet and Le belle époque” and his favorite chapter of the story;
The Madeleine, Paris, Evening of November 7, 1891
Jacques Robard was freezing. No matter how deeply he huddled into his old woolen overcoat, the wind cut through him and froze his breath as it left his nose, the vapor leaving a rime on his coal black moustache. He pulled a doubled over blanket tighter around his waist to shield his rapidly numbing legs. Robard sat hunched over on the bench seat of his empty hay wagon so as to present the smallest possible target for the fierce wind roaring out of the Ardennes, Jacques’ alienated homeland. His draft horse suffered as well, shaggy head dropped low into the blasts, lugging into his collar, making clopping steps to slowly move the big cart away from the great market at Les Halles in la Deuxieme Arrondisement.
With the last of the sun vanishing from the sky well before dinnertime, snow-laden clouds had been chased south by those vicious gusts. The precipitation was nearer ice than snow, stringing exposed skin and dancing in tiny whirlwinds spinning down dim and deserted streets.
Hein, mon vieux Porthos, this weather may undo us yet, no? Still a long way to go to St. Denis. If le patron had not insisted we make that delivery down to Les Halles, you’d be in the stables, and I would be warming up little Odette with a bottle of vin ordinarie.
Jacques Robard was a typical example of the classic French paysan…square built with powerful shoulders hardened by years of lifting and hauling. His shock of coarse black hair was well hidden under three ragged scarves. He would never be called handsome with his face a map of hard work and hard living. But he would not frighten small children either. Robard was quite pragmatic about his life, as befit his station, knowing that the aristos and bourgeoisie would allow him to exist on the margins as long as he knew his place and kept to it.
Truth be told, he found that knowledge to be comforting.
He had been born in the lost province of Lorraine, in Bar-le-Duc, just two years after the politician Poincaré. Now twenty-nine, Jacques had bounced around northern France, first with his parents after they fled the Prussians in 1870 and then, after his two years of compulsory service in the Army, on his own. He had considered doing another two as a rich boy’s remplacement, but he had thought better of it. Instead, he had chopped coal and iron in the Northwest near Nancy. He had worked barges running up the Meuse through Belgium into Antwerp. Gradually Paris had made her Siren’s song, capturing him as she had so many others. He had spent the last two years as a teamster guiding Porthos in from the hay market in St. Denis to the massive terminal at Les Halles where Paris came to shop.
The road from St. Denis through the Madeline was beginning to wear on him. There was little variety with the exception of new construction as the city stretched itself with the provinces draining excess labor into its center. He was not sure what he wanted to do with himself, but he was certain that he was nearly done staring at Porthos’ hindquarters day in and day out. Maybe a small farm with a good woman and a crowd of les petits.
Those dreams had to hold, however, until he had returned Porthos and the wagon to M. Laurent’s lot. However, Robard was beginning to doubt the successful outcome of his passage from the city; the air held a promise that Paris would be buried under several inches of snow and ice before dawn lightened the rooftops. If they had been outside of the city, he could have guided Porthos off the road and into the woods where the trees could have shielded man and beast from the worst of the storm.
Sadly, he had several miles to go before that form of relief could even be considered.
Tonight is no night to be caught outside. I’m going to have to keep my eyes open for a stable and just hope that I can presume on the good nature of the hostler.
Maggie was sure that both she and Kate had seen their last sunset. Moving down the long stretch of the deserted Rue Vignon had taken what had seemed like hours. She had been half dragging, half carrying the weakening woman as the miscarriage, the drug, and the infernal cold sapped the lady’s remaining strength.
The first part of their flight had gone as smoothly as could be hoped given the circumstances. Not a soul interrupted them. The working girls had all taken to their rooms knowing that there would be no customers on such a miserable night. Madame Flournoy had stationed herself and a bottle of cognac in front of a cheerful coal fire snapping away in the grate of her sitting room. Winters’ man was nowhere to be seen.
Maggie had stripped the sorry bed of its quilt and cover, reconciling herself to the modest theft with the knowledge that Madame had been well compensated for the use of the garret room and its furnishings. After the two escapees slowly clumped down the rear stairs, Maggie scoured the “lost and found—but never returned” closet. Holding a failing Kate against a wall by the kitchen, Maggie had first wrapped her in the bedclothes and then draped a cape over everything. She had discovered an old pair of felt workman’s boots that she tied to her friend’s lower legs with strips of torn sheeting. Rifling through the rag bin again, Maggie then appropriated for herself a man’s greatcoat, left behind by a customer seeking to flee without paying for his pleasure.
Ears and faces protected by some drapes that had finally been deemed too decrepit to grace even a whore’s boudoir, the two had struck out from the house.
Earlier, in the garret room, while Kitty still had had her wits about her, she had dug her treasures out from their hiding place behind the commode cabinet. She thrust them into Maggie’s hands, saying only, “Sacre Coeur…Montmartre. Safe there.”
Now with their boots and outer clothes clogged with snow and ice, the idea that two women—one terribly ill, the other having taken most of her exercise either running up stairs to the garret room or on her back in her own—could slog over two miles in an early blizzard was proving to be ruinously optimistic. Leaning Kitty against the post of yet another unlit streetlamp, Maggie looked back upon their path and was both pleased and horrified to see that their footprints were already nearly filled in. She could not see more than one hundred yards ahead. In her heart, Maggie knew that they were on a fool’s errand…that they would never get to Montmartre.
But try they would.
Porthos dragged one tired hoof in front of the other as Jacques turned the wagon onto the Rue Vignon, finally pointing toward St. Denis. The surrounding buildings cast the street into a gloom that was enhanced by the lack of any streetlights.
Hmmmf…even the lamplighters have gone to ground.
Rue Vignon was usually inaccessible to Robard as the gendarmes would have chased him off the residential thoroughfare. He would have had to keep to the alleys or take the long way around. Tonight, though, he could drive down the middle of the street without fear of reprisal. There was neither a soul to slow him nor an omnibus to compete with his tired horse.
Nearing the intersection with the Rue Tronchet, he noticed someone straining to make their way north. He had plenty of time to realize that the snow-crusted form was actually two people, one clearly helping the other. They were struggling.
Never one to hold himself immune to another’s misery, Jacques urged Porthos along with a quick flick of the reins. Pulling up alongside the pair slowly weaving along, Jacques shouted to make himself heard over the weather.
“Hien…puis-je vous aider?”[i] (can I help you?)
Robard’s world stopped and would never again spin the same. The taller of the pair quickly turned toward him. A gust of wind whipped down the canyon between the apartment blocks and lifted the wrappings off of the greatest present the Frenchman had ever received…a vision of his future found in a cloud of auburn hair and brilliant green eyes set in the palest of skin.
Maggie held out a sagging Kate to Jacques who had leapt from his seat. Settling her birdlike weight on the wagon’s bed, he scraped the few remaining pieces of hay left behind on the warped floorboards around her body for the tiniest bit of extra insulation. As he helped Maggie up to lay her down beside Miss Bennet, a frisson jolted through him when he grasped her forearms, even though she was wrapped in layers of coat…and he wore massive workman’s gauntlets.
Regaining his composure, he asked a simple question.
Without a word, Miss Small, late of Poplar, handed him a dog-eared carte de visite, a hand painted rose gracing the reverse side.
Giveaway Time! I am sure you are thinking FINALLY! So bear with me for another 2 minutes 😀
I am also very pleased to be able to be giving you a chance to enter this giveaway for this amazing book! Even if I were you guys, I would go straight to the buy option *smiles sheepishly* Just follow this link;
Terms and Conditions:
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.
Or you can follow these links and buy BOTH books, in this amazing and unique series!
Though if you want to know more of Henry Fitzwilliam and his mysterious past, then follow this link;