Today I am hosting a cover reveal for Don Jacobson’s upcoming novella, Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess, and I have to say that I am really excited about this story. Don’s Bennet Wardrobe series is such a creative twist based on Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice and now that he’s written a novella focused on Darcy and Elizabeth, you can imagine my excitement about digging into this new story!
As a reader who tends to judge a JAFF story by its cover, I am always delighted to see what my favorite authors have up their sleeves before they release a new book and today it’s my pleasure that Don has invited me to reveal his latest collaboration with Janet Taylor from More Agreeably Engaged; after all, what can be better than a cover created by two people whose talents I greatly admire?
If you’re new to this series, I think this post will inspire you to look further into considering it for your TBR list and if you’ve already had the pleasure of reading this series, I think you’ll mark October 1st on your calendars so you can set aside some time to enjoy this newest publication. Don has joined us today for a visit to share with us the inspiration behind this story and an exclusive excerpt just for my readers.
Please join me in welcoming Don Jacobson to Just Jane 1813…
The Process Behind the Cover of “Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess”
By this point, Janet Taylor and I have firmly established the overall cover format for the Bennet Wardrobe stories. There have been two in the “new style” –The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey and The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque. This latest novella will be the third utilizing the unifying “look.”
One might suggest that if you have the frame, it is a relatively simple process to drop a picture into the hole. However, there is a peculiar zen behind an art director’s craft. As opposed to being almost incidental, what truly drives the underlying creative impulse for the cover design is the core visual. Even if Janet is not creating a new image, she derives the primary background color for the title block and then the complementary colors for the type itself. Wrong choices can have awful consequences.
For Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess, the strong visual was already in hand—or so it seemed. I had originally been composing a story called The Darcys Meet Frankenstein. As such, I had already begun focusing on the Villa Diodati where Byron, Godwin, and Shelley had gathered during the summer of 1816. Because Mary Shelley’s immortal Frankenstein began its life as a short story composed at Diodati, the novel has been illustrated countless times. Early on William Purser made an engraving for a fronts piece of an edition. Later Edward Francis Finden made a colorized version of the original print.
The dramatic nighttime vision fired our collective imagination. But, would it actually fit a novella whose focus, while still keeping elements of the mature Elizabeth’s encounters with Mary Godwin, had been shifted to explore the youthful Lizzy’s interaction with the Wardrobe?
We decided that, while one could read the novella as two separate stories, both tales were so interlocked that to consider the Lizzy portion without the Elizabeth segment and vice versa would strip the deeper meaning from both. The visions besetting the adult find their roots in the child—or so Dr. Freud would assert.
Thus, the Finden color image of Villa Diodati became our only choice. Janet then picked up the yellow block background color from the moon and the burgundy type for my name from the roof and as a complementary color.
And, she created the new Rose Garland (a feature of every Bennet Wardrobe book) featuring Lizzy’s Own Red Bourbons.
I love the details that make this series so intriguing! Thank you, Don, for sharing this process behind the making of this cover. Let’s unveil it for readers…
I love covers that create a strong sense of setting, especially when the setting plays such a vital role in a story. I think you both hit the mark with this cover. Readers, what do you think of this new cover? Aren’t you curious to know more about this story? Here’s the book description:
When Reality Becomes Dreams
The universe shook again on Midsummer’s Day in 1801. The Bennet Wardrobe opened the door to the future in Longbourn’s bookroom. This time the most impertinent Bennet of them all, Elizabeth, tumbled through the gateway. Except she left not as a grown woman, but rather a ten-year-old girl who had been playing a simple game of hide-and-seek.
What needs could a child have that could be answered only by the Wardrobe? Or was it another Bennet, one who had aged into a beautiful, confident leader of Edwardian Society, who acted as the prime mover behind Lizzy’s journey? Was the enigmatic Lady Kate the force that shaped Lizzy’s destiny and that of her younger sisters left back in Hertfordshire?
Perhaps the Wardrobe also understood that Lizzy’s time in the future was destined to become the stuff of adult dreams…those mirages that rise only when the doors to the mind are most open…at the edges of sleep.
After Lizzy is transported back to that innocent summer’s day in 1801, Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess will carry readers forward to what may be considered the greatest writers’ workshop in history. T’was at the legendary Villa Diodati that Lord Byron gathered Mary Godwin (Frankenstein) 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 to transform vague ideas into timeless fiction.
Don has also brought an excerpt for us to enjoy.
Elizabeth Bennet felt tiny.
While she was acutely aware that she was of smallish size, she had been, throughout most of her life, larger than the majority of the living creatures surrounding her on Longbourn’s grounds. Perhaps the horses and cows were bigger…and the less said about the rather fractious sow that Papa insisted on keeping, the better…however they were safely separated from the youngster by fences and stalls.
However, everything about the main floor of Harrods made her feel small. Glass-covered display cases loomed over her head. Finely dressed ladies made all the taller by mountainously fashionable headwear towered above her as she and Madame Robard made their way down aisles lined with tastefully-displayed wares. The decorated ceiling flew above great arches and was supported by columns that marched to the edge of her sight before coming together in the indeterminate distance. The great atrium soared away from her, making her clutch Maggie’s hand all the tighter.
Only one time before in her life had Lizzy felt insignificant to nearly the same degree. That was when she and Papa had stopped at Uncle Edward’s warehouse in Cheapside. She had been overwhelmed by great stacks of packing crates and rolled goods stored beneath the rough-hewn beams supporting the roof. Of course, Lizzy reminded herself, that was over two years ago, and she was much bigger now! Even so, Gardiner’s Mercantile could not hold a candle to Harrods.
Maggie felt the increased pressure against her hand and guided the girl to the edge of the floor where she settled Lizzy on a padded bench before resting beside her as well.
She looked over at Lizzy who was slightly flushed, and, noticing that her eyes were dilated as well, worriedly asked, “Are you feeling well, Elizabeth? Is there something you require, something that will help you? Are you thirsty? Hungry?”
The young girl, reassured by the comforting concern running through Maggie’s questions, replied, “I will own to feeling somewhat overwhelmed, Madame Robard. I have never before seen such a large enclosed space.
“Is this truly an establishment which offers all the goods for which we would usually have to visit four or five shops to satisfy our needs? Even in our brief walk from the main doors to this point, I saw a milliner, a stationer, a haberdashery, and a counter selling scented soaps. What else can this ‘Harrods’ offer?”
Maggie chuckled as she recalled her own emotions when she had first entered through the great doors of Le Bon Marché, an edifice that had been barred to her in her old life as Maggie Small. Her bona fides had been validated with the attendants as she assisted young Kate in her wedding purchases. The aura of the Fitzwilliams and Renoirs had erased her past, whitening the soil applied by society but never by her.
“Your Papa has been teaching you Latin, I believe. Perhaps you could tell me what Omnia Omnibus Ubique means.”
Lizzy furrowed her brow and considered her assignment, “I may not be completely correct, but if I am not mistaken, it means ‘All things for all people, everywhere.’”
As her husband had been earlier, Maggie was impressed with Elizabeth’s acuity. In praise she responded, “You are not mistaken, dear. That is Harrods motto. Mr. Tomkins has heard of other chauffeurs purchasing supplies for their motorcars from Harrods. For us, though, it means that we will be able to quickly obtain all the clothing you will require for our trip.
“Before that, though, I do believe we require some sustenance to fortify us before we move to the young misses’ department. Would some ice cream make you feel more comfortable?”
Widened chocolate eyes and a blazing smile gave Madame Robard the answer she needed. She guided her charge to the pleasantly decorated ice cream parlor which had been added in the last few years, obviating the need to leave the store for any respite from the business at hand.[i] A judicious application of freshly scooped strawberry ice cream aside some biscuits restored Miss Bennet’s spirits.
Lizzy had never experienced the unadulterated pleasure of being waited upon hand and foot. After all, she was the second daughter in a household that had swiftly expanded to five…and as such she was more often the recipient of Jane’s cast-offs, although those were certainly not rags. With that many growing children on a modest estate, Mama had, perforce, outfitted her brood for durability not fashion. Thus, the Mistress of Longbourn, Mrs. Lucas, Mrs. Long, and Mrs. Goulding frequently pooled their resources to outfit Meryton’s ever-expanding girl child population.
Here at Harrods, though, Elizabeth Rose Bennet was at the center of a whirlwind of shop girls and matrons. Standing atop a pedestal in the center of a private salon clad only in her shift, she was measured for dress-up and dress-down outfits, country and city clothes. Most of what Maggie approved was quickly fetched from the prêt à porter storerooms and slipped over Lizzy’s upraised arms and head. Needed adjustments were recorded on a seamstress’ notepad before one piece was removed to be replaced by another.
To suggest that she was outraged by some of the fashions with dresses only covering her to mid-calf would have been an overstatement. Lizzy was one who looked before she offered up her opinions about the behavior of others. She had been observing this world of motorcars and flameless lamps that swirled about her for over four hours now. What she had gleaned was that the measure of modest clothing had changed since her day. Ladies dressed like Madame Robard were considered properly covered even if a gentleman could ascertain the color of their hose.
There was one area, though, under which she drew a red line—even at the tender age of ten years. This happened after the salon’s matron softly conferred with Madame, and then approached Lizzy to address her.
“Madame Robard tells me that you are a dear relative of our Lady Fitzwilliam and will be travelling to the family beach house at Deauville. You will discover that the sand and waves will call out to you, especially as the summer deepens. For that you will require a bathing costume.
“I would not presume to fit you for one here today. Even in private, you may become uncomfortable. However, I do have an illustration of the style that I think you would find most becoming. T’is made of cotton, is cut loosely, and is a periwinkle blue with white accents.”
She held the plate[ii] up before Lizzy’s eyes. The girl’s breath caught in her throat and her orbs widened in complete amazement.
Lizzy violently shook her head. But, while she was occupied with another outfit, Maggie nodded to the matron who quickly added the bathing suit to the list.
After some two hours of intensive shopping and fitting, punctuated by respites for restorative lemonade and small sandwiches brought up from the terrace restaurant, Maggie and Lizzy prepared to leave. Her purchases had been carefully packed in a modest-sized cream leather covered traveling trunk at Madame’s request in recognition that there would be little time for such a task when Matlock House had been regained. The salon’s matron and salesgirls all gathered around wishing “the young miss” a bon voyage. More than one gushed about how they wished they could be journeying to the mysterious foreign shores of the French side of the Channel.
Elizabeth graciously spoke with each one, expressing her thanks for their attention. The matron fussed over Lizzy for a final moment, straightening the girl’s new frock, before suddenly clucking her tongue against her teeth. She looked up at Maggie and exclaimed, “We forgot a hat. Miss Elizabeth surely needs a new hat to wear as she boards the train to Southampton!”
The woman dashed off, followed by two of the older shop girls. In two minutes the three women returned, each bearing three or four different examples of the milliner’s art.
Broad brim, turban, or derby-style; straw, silk, velvet, or gauze…some with feathers, others with entire birds…the choices astounded the Hertfordshire miss. Many seemed suitable only for taller, more hawk-faced, older women. Others were designed for young girls, but impressed as being almost infantile. Lizzy calmly looked at each selection, tending to favor the darker motifs. None, however, appealed to her.
After the last chapeau had been picked up, tried on, and then ultimately judged to be wanting, Lizzy glanced at Maggie and the lead attendant. One of the assistants pursed her lips, leaned over to her manager, and whispered in her ear. The matron then whispered to Maggie who tipped her head and gave a Gallic shrug.
“Perhaps Miss Elizabeth would care to view our storeroom of young lady’s hats?” the forewoman asked. And then indicating one of the associates, she continued, “Myra here would be pleased to guide you behind the curtain. You might find something which suits.”
Led away into a dim recess filled from floor to ceiling with hatboxes, Elizabeth gasped at the task before her. However, Myra had been behind the counters at Harrods for nearly five years. She believed that any woman, young or old, instinctively knew what style would suit her. Given time, even this strangely serious young lady with the remarkable dark eyes would find her hat. So she urged Lizzy to wander around while she, Myra, would watch her reactions in the hopes of going to school on them.
But, Myra’s attention was diverted for a moment when a few hatboxes suddenly tumbled from their months’, if not years’, long perches. Surprised at this unusual occurrence, she picked up the errant packages and stowed them away. Turning back to the aisle, she was startled to see Lizzy almost beneath her feet holding a head form in both hands. Displayed atop it was a hat that Myra had never seen before.
The rich burgundy crushed velvet material was dusty from its long night in the tombs. The most distinctive feature, which transcended even the dimming properties of the city’s dusky powder that had winkled its way into this deep bowel of the giant store, was the oversized red rose that graced the bucket-style hat’s band.[iii]
Myra solemnly took the form from Lizzy’s out-stretched hands, set it on a workbench, and lifted the hat free. Carefully brushing the dust off, she adjusted the rose petals and lowered the hat onto the girl’s chocolate curls. The hat settled nearly to her ears, being slightly oversize, perhaps originally destined for an adolescent or even a diminutive woman. Yet, Lizzy’s happy smile told Myra that the old hat, unwanted until today, had found its kindred spirit.
[i] And removing a danger that had been exploited by Junius Winters in July 1892.
[ii] Accessed from https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/50/d8/6e/50d86ef3e486ee833580ad3ece8c594d–retro-summer-antique-photos.jpg on 8/12/17.
[iii] For reference, see https://www.victoriantradingco.com/item/25-ht-2517968/103/crushable-velvet-merlot-hat# accessed 8/13/17.
Meet Don Jacobson
Don Jacobson has written professionally since his post-collegiate days as a wire service reporter in Chicago. His output has ranged from news and features to advertising, television and radio. His work has been nominated for Emmys and other awards. Earlier in his career, he published five books, all non-fiction.
He holds an advanced degree in History with specialties in Modern European History and the History of American Foreign Relations. As a college instructor, Don teaches United States History, World History, the History of Western Civilization and Research Writing.
Don turned his passion for reading The Canon into writing JAFF. He has published six works in the genre since late 2015. As a member of The Austen Authors Collective, Don joins (and he is modestly bowing his head to admit that he is the knave in this deck of Queens and Kings) other Janeites who seek to extend the Mistress’ stories beyond the endings she so carefully crafted.
Works by Don Jacobson
The Bennet Wardrobe Stories
Miss Bennet’s First Christmas
The Bennet Wardrobe: Origins
The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey
Henry Fitzwilliam’s War
The Exile (Pt. 1): Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque
Other Pride and Prejudice Variations
Lessers and Betters Stories
Of Fortune’s Reversal
The Maid and The Footman
He is a member of the Jane Austen Society of Puget Sound (JASNA) and lives just east of Seattle with his wife, Pam, and their rather assertive four and twenty-pound cat, Bear. Besides JAFF, Don also enjoys cooking, dining out, fine wine and well-aged scotch whiskey.
IT’S GIVEAWAY TIME!
Mr. Jacobson is once again offering a giveaway for my readers; an eBook of Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess. The eBook is also open to international readers.
To enter this giveaway, please leave a comment below this post and let us know your thoughts on the newly released cover. Comments for these giveaways should be made no later than September 29th. The winner will be posted here on September 30, 2017.
Thank you, Mr. Jacobson, for once again sharing this lovely giveaway with my readers and for inviting me to host this lovely cover reveal at Just Jane 1813!
You can visit Don Jacobson’s Amazon Author Page on release day to buy this story.
October 1, 2017, IS THE RELEASE DATE FOR THIS BOOK.