Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Blog Tour: The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque by Don Jacobson - with giveaway!

I am thrilled today to be part of the blog tour for Don Jacobson's latest release, The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque.  My thanks also goes to Janet Taylor for inviting me to take part.

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.

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.

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 and in the process carry the eternal story of love and change forward to even the 21st Century.

Atmospherics in JAFF

All sorts of questions bedevil authors.

Are my characters believable?

Is the plot believable?

Is the world in which my characters interact with the plot itself believable?

How often have we read a book that has a compelling plot only to start wondering why the characters are responding to the cruxes as they are? In other words, if Lizzy is kidnapped, she fights her attacker every conscious moment. She does not sit primly like a young miss awaiting a dance at Almack’s. That would not be Elizabeth Bennet. Darcy, in his search for her, braves every conceivable trial. He does not hire the Bow Street Runners and then retire to Darcy House. While he is reserved and keeps his inner Colonel Fitzwilliam under strict regulation, the moment one of those he cares about is threatened, he becomes “a one-man assault.”[i]

How often have we begged an author (much as John Adams argued with Rousseau or Wollstonecraft in his ephemeral but remarkably revealing Marginalia) to ‘Just have them do something that reveals their inner discourse.’This is different from characters moving in relation to plot. Rather, it is regular behavior that informs us of the mindset of the character. Thus, our Elizabeth tramps all over the countryside as she burns off her impertinent energy and shows her resistance to the social constraints bearing down upon women of her class. The oleaginous Collins bows and scrapes to all betters, but especially those who control his next meal.  We never need to hear a word from his mouth to understand his true nature.

However, even if characters act as they ought in response to the plot movers and show us their inner workings, the setting of the world in which they exist must accurately contribute to the reader’s comprehension of why they are shaped as they are, why they move as they do. 

Atmospherics are the one feature that unites the book’s realm and the reader’s world.

There is a code which we in Western Civilization have developed over the nearly three thousand years since the Greeks.  We use it to understand why persons act as they do based upon a complex interaction of factors that form a matrix of perception.

Consider this…

The rain is pouring down outside of the drawing room. Lady Catherine is upon her “throne.” Suddenly she begins to laugh.  Is she happy or is she insane?

Admittedly it is Lady Catherine. But, a rainy day is not conducive to jolly behavior. Your conclusion that she is playing with less than 52 cards would not be amiss.

See how rain may be one atmospheric that sets a tone in this excerpt from Chapter VIII of The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque.

She rested her face against the rain-speckled glass that cooled her flushed cheek. The soft patter of the early afternoon shower washed away all of the noise worrying her thoughts and settled the troubled knot in her middle, an unwelcome and periodic companion since she peeked out of the Wardrobe in Henry’s room over four years ago.

Now twenty-one, Kitty is home from school on the night of Henry Fitzwilliam’s engagement ball. She is not sad, but rather wistful. The chapter develops from there.

The mood can be further darkened by forcing the mercury to drop. Consider this fragment from Chapter XXVII, deep in Kitty’s troubles.

Peering out between the folds of dusty, worn cloth, Kitty had gazed over at the frost creeping down the tattered wallpaper that had been new when Napoleon III ruled. Her world had become so small, circumscribed by the walls of this tiny icebox. She could not find the energy to shift from the chair. Even if she did, where would she go? The tiny circuit of bed to commode to table to chair and back again already defined her life. No variation could be found that could relieve the boredom.

Ennui is certainly a curse, especially for those caught in an unending cycle of seeking and disappointment. Here Lord Henry Fitzwilliam battles the depressing feeling that nothing is going right…and he cannot concentrate on anything else in Chapter XXIX.

He made a disgusted sound and pushed back from his desk, walking over to the sideboard to pour a dram of whiskey. Slipping on his dark glasses, he then gazed out a window into the barren garden behind the townhouse; for how long, he was unclear. These brown studies, a feature of his personality since 1883, had become more frequent as the absence of young Miss Bennet had lengthened. Staring out the window seemed as productive a use of his time as anything else. Little mattered to him.

There is but one word to describe the atmosphere created in the next excerpt from Chapter XXXVI…and the French is more powerful than the English…paix.

Henry stepped out into that expanse seeking solitude beneath the drooping willows that cooled the manicured lawn surrounding their trunks. Spying a bench hidden behind an ancient tree, he settled onto the white-painted iron filigree and tipped his head back against the rough bark. He stared at, without really registering, the fragmented and refracted rays that were split by the foliage. A singular peace he had not experienced for nine years—plus thirty-odd—overtook him as the worry that had been his constant companion since July drained away.

To this point, weather and place have shaped the context within which characters establish themselves. There is one more element…perhaps the most powerful—light.

Two excerpts each use light to set the mood for two proposals.

The first is from The Maid and The Footman where Annie Reynolds has been sent to the Blue Parlor at Burghley Houseto await her love, Sergeant Henry Wilson. Here, the room is nearly monochromatic.

A cheery coal fire popped and sizzled in the grate, giving the room a distinctive reddish brown cast. Annie dug into her memory trying to recall where she had seen such a shade before; searching about for something that nagged at the edges of her conscious thought. …

Titian…that is the color named after the Venetian artist who portrayed many of his women subjects with auburn hair. I remember when young Mr. Darcy returned to Pemberley from his Grand Tour with one of the Master’s portraits of a young lady. Her hair was exactly the same hue![ii]

Curious, Annie began to wander around the modest-sized room looking at the paintings that graced the walls. …one, obviously by Sir Thomas Lawrence, was clearly a copy of Lord Tom and Lady Mary’s wedding portrait. Lawrence had captured the image of love.

She studied the unusual composition of Lord Tom standing directly behind his seated wife, both hands on her shoulders. Lady Mary’s head was tipped slightly upwards and turned away from the painter—not enough to obscure her features but making it obvious that the focus of her attention was not the artist behind his easel, but rather her husband whose tender touch had stirred deep emotions. Her left hand, the jeweled wedding band clearly visible, reached up across her bodice to caress his right where it rested on her bare skin.

Would the portrait have set as profound a tone if the room had been awash in afternoon light? Perhaps…but dimness removes all the other influences that may have competed for Annie’s attention. And, we know what is to come.

And, we are equally prepared for the final denouement in The Exile when, in Chapter XL, we come across this scene in Renoir’s studio. Consider the mention of Renoir’s wife and Kitty’s friend, Aline Charigot-Renoir, as emblematic of the tone leading to where we know the tableau will lead.

Now, in the late afternoon, golds and oranges gave dimension to barren worktables. Yet the room was neither dead nor stripped of life. On the contrary, one could still feel the undercurrent of potential, as if the very walls had absorbed the surfeit of Renoir’s creative energies. 

 Kitty wandered through the studio herself bathed in that remarkable light streaming in through the floor to ceiling glass walls. Given Renoir’s version of ‘freedom of the city,’ she opened cabinets filled with pigmented wonders…landscapes here, group scenes there. His portraits of Aline, a lifelong passion, some just studies, others completed except for varnish, were stored in a special place reserved for her alone.

She did not hear Henry enter, so entranced was she with the artist’s genius.

To Henry’s eyes, Kitty was a gilded statue come to life. Her white summer gown captured the golden hue. Her straw blonde hair was burnished and enriched by the late afternoon glow.

Writers have an exquisite toolbox when it comes to the way they craft a reader’ s experience. The three elements of character, plot, and atmosphere set the stage for the transformation of common words into a river upon which the reader is borne to new worlds of understanding.

[i]Arthur Jackson, WWII Medal of Honor recipient.

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 published the first volume of The Bennet Wardrobe SeriesThe Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey, novel that grew from two earlier novellas. The Exile is the second volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series.  Other JAFF P&P Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” and “The Maid and The Footman.”

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

            He lives in the Seattle, WA 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).

Contact Info:

Buy Links:

Blog Tour Schedule:

06/15From Pemberley to Milton; Guest Post, GA

06/16My Jane Austen Book Club; Guest Post, Excerpt, GA

06/17Just Jane 1813; Review, Excerpt, GA

06/19Diary of an Eccentric;Excerpt, GA

06/20Savvy Verse and Wit; Guest Post, GA

06/21Darcyholic Diversions; Author Interview, GA

06/22My Vices and Weaknesses; Review, Excerpt, GA

06/23Babblings of a Bookworm;Character Interview, GA

06/25My Love for Jane Austen; Vignette, GA

06/26Interests of a Jane Austen Girl; Review, Excerpt, GA

06/27So little time…; Guest Post, GA

06/28Laughing With Lizzie; Guest Post or Vignette, Excerpt, GA

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.

A winner may win ONLY 1 (ONE) eBook of The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque by Don Jacobson. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My thanks again goes to Don for this interesting post! My thanks also to Janet for setting up this tour.

I wish Don all the best with this release as well as any stories in the future!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Blog Re-launch tour: The ABC's of Regency Costuming: How to Achieve the Proper Look by Laurie Vallee-Dallaire

Our first meeting in 2015

So today I am welcoming my lovely Canadian friend Laurie Vallee-Dallaire, with her informative post on putting together a Regency outfit. 

I have known Laurie since 2015, when we met at the Jane Austen festival. Since then, we have become firm friends, meeting up again at the next festival, and spending time together both beforehand and afterwards. I have had many enjoyable and entertaining adventures with Laurie, and I am sad I won't be seeing her this September, as she is having a break this year. See you in 2018, Laurie, and thanks for the post! 

Visiting Jane Austen's house in 2016

Jane Austen Festival 2016

And now, to her post:

My favorite part of being a Janeite and going to Regency events is of course the costuming. And I must admit I have trouble watching modernized adaptations of Jane's work because to me they are not the same without the amazing fashions of the late 18th/early 19th century.

In this blog post, I'm going to explore how to get the perfect Regency look, the different styles,  and some tips on where/how to get the pieces made.

First of all, as for every other era, the best way to achieve the perfect silhouette it to have the right undergarments. A good shift/chemise, and a pair of stays will work wonders even with the plainest of gowns.

My own undergarments are a simple set of short stays (they're the easiest ''corset'' you'll ever make, and the most comfortable) and a simple shift.

I made my stays and shift from the book ''period costumes for stage and screen'' by Jean Hunnissett. I know that Sense and Sensibility patterns also makes a good (and maybe easier to follow) pattern for undergarments. 

Then, usually you need one petticoat, or bodiced petticoat that goes over next, but I admit I often skip this step. Some of my gowns have a sewn-in petticoat. It's cheating but it works! 

Then the gown! There are a few different styles to chose from, and they are pretty easy to make. The easiest by far is a drawstring dress, because you can make it slightly larger and adjust it by pulling on the drawstrings. It's also my favorite style. So feminine! 

Three drawstring gowns. In the last picture you can clearly see the ribbons that serve as drawstring to tie it in the back. All my dresses were made from the book Period Patterns for Stage and Screen. 

There's also the Bib front dress (Blue dress on the left) and the crossover dress (red, right). The bib front dress has a bodice piece that attaches at the front, under the ''bib'' piece, which is then pinned/buttoned over, and ribbons, or laces are tied in the back to hold everything in place. The Crossover/wraparound does exactly this, it crosses over and ties in the back with ribbons or laces. 
Crossover (day version)

Back and front of a bib-front day dress. 

You also need proper shoes! As these are way more complicated to make than gowns, I like to order mine from American Duchess, who makes very decent and quite comfortable historical reproductions. She also sells proper 18th century reproduction silk stockings. 

Hairstyle is also important. I often refer to Locks Of Elegance, an awesome blog with hairstyle tutorials from various eras, including Regency. 

Then, you need decorations. Use your imagination! A simple ribbon at the waist can do the job nicely, but you can also add a chemisette, or a small brooch. Look at fashion plates of the time for inspiration!  Then for outdoor wear you need either a shawl or a spencer (a short jacket) or pelisse (long, high-waisted coat). 

My red spencer! Nice wool can be costly if you want a authentic look, but try to look at old, out-of-fashion coats and re-use the fabric. This spencer used to be an ugly 80's jacket with shoulder pads and big plastic buttons! But the fabric is this gorgeous red cashmere and wool blend with a satin lining, and curly wool cuffs. So I basically just cut into the coat and re-fashionned the whole thing using the Sense and Sensibility Spencer Jacket pattern. It's the only one of the S&S patterns I've actually tried but I liked it very much. It was put together very quickly and the instructions were easy to follow. 

Then, of course, you need something to cover your head, as no fashionable lady of the Regency era would dare go out without a bonnet or some sort of head covering. A turban, like in the previous picture, is an easy and alternative to a bonnet. It's also a lot cheaper as you can just learn to drape a pashmina or scarf around your head, and it's easier to carry in a suitcase without risks of crushing it. American Duchess gives a very good demonstration on how to drape it properly. Then you can complete the look with feathers or a brooch! 

As for a bonnet, you can get a plain straw bonnet base and decorate it (like the bergère hat in the picture with the pink drawstring gown), or make one completely from scratch. There are also a lot of options for buying them, but they can be quite costly. I made one a little while ago, quite simply. I bought a 1$ straw hat from the dollar store, Cut out the crown of the hat and trimmed the brim in a sort of crescent-shape. Added a gathered fabric crown, trimmed everything with ribbon and Voilà! The Merry Dressmaker made a nice tutorial for a very similar bonnet. And Here is another pretty good tutorial too. 

If you're looking to buy one there are a lot of options on Etsy, and Farthingales Costumes makes gorgeous ones too! 

And, to finish the look, you will need a good pair of gloves (vintage shops are the best for these!), look for leather or lace ones, or knit yourself a pair!  And a reticule, which is a small purse with a drawstring. Some of them can even be pineapple shaped! I sell some in my Etsy shop (Pineapple and non-pineapple, and knitting pattern too, along with linen caps and baby bonnets), if you're interested.

My friend M and me with our pineapple reticules at the 2016 promenade! My bonnet in this picture was also made from an old straw hat that I cut and trimmed with silk bias binding. 

The open-robe, which is another, more formal style. That one was made with a pattern from the book Patterns of Fashion by Janet Arnold.  

One more thing I want to mention is how I love working with saris for evening/formal regency wear.  They are easy to find, can come quite cheap over Ebay, are often made of pure silk and are already embroidered or decorated with lovely patterns. Also, they come in 4-5 m lengths, so you have more than enough fabric for one whole dress with one sari, and may have enough leftovers for a half-robe or accessories of you're very petite. The trick is to be smart about where you cut your pieces, and to take advantage of the lovely embroidery and borders that are already on the fabric. Plus, they are totally historically accurate, and look AMAZING!

Speaking of saris, here is my favorite dress of all my regency wardrobe. It was made with a orange embroidered sheer silk sari. It's a bib-front style. For evening wear, you need a formal dress like one of these, gloves (lace, satin or silk), and dance slippers. In this case it was a masked ball so I added the mask. 

Hope this article was helpful, and good luck putting together your own Regency outfit! 


Twenty lucky winners will receive a prize from my giveaway, ranging from books, audiobooks, jewellery, prints, and more! I will randomly draw the winners and whoever is drawn first will have first choice from the prizes, and so on. 

How to enter: 

1. Comment on any of the posts throughout my re-launch - one comment per post counts as an entry! 
2. Follow me by email, using the box in the right hand sidebar  - if you already do, tell me and you'll still get the extra entry!
3. Like my page on Facebook - again, tell me if you already do (here, or on Facebook)!

4. Invite your friends to like my page - tell me and tag me so I can see! 

5. Share my posts on Facebook - again, if commenting only here let me know! 
6. Comment on Facebook - let me know here if you do!
7. Follow me on Twitter - let me know, or if you already do!
8. Retweet my posts - let me know (here, or on twitter)! 
9+1 any of my posts on Google+ - again, the more posts you do, the more entries you can get!.
10. Subscribe to me on YouTube - tell me if you do, or already do! 

**IMPORTANT** Please leave your email address, Facebook name, Twitter name, Youtube name or whatever is needed so I can keep track of and check all entries as there are many ways to gain entries. If you are the lucky winner, I will be in touch by email to sort the prize out. 

Good luck! And a massive thank you to my dear friend Laurie for that informative post - I hope it might give you some handy tips! 

Other posts from my re-launch tour - comment on each one for more entries to the giveaway!