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 hid her light brown eyes—and herself—behind useless spectacles.
With both Jane and Lizzy married, it is time for Miss Bennet to emerge from her cocoon. Learn how a young woman of deep faith and inquisitive mind appears. Yet, even as Mary Bennet overcomes 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!
The Keeper follows the life 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, discover how the amazing Bennet Wardrobe makes life interesting for all Bennets.
I have always enjoyed time travel stories. Ever since I was a young girl, I have fond memories of getting lost for hours in the beautifully illustrated hardcover copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which was part of a collection of classic stories that my parents purchased for me and which still holds a place of honor on the bookshelf in my den. As an adult, I still savor these kinds of stories and today I am honored to present a JAFF time travel book that has been created by two talented people in the JAFF community: Don Jacobson and Janet Taylor.
Don released his very own JAFF time travel story last fall, The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey (The Bennet Wardrobe Book 1), which focuses on the life of Miss Mary Bennet and the secrets she discovers through The Bennet Wardrobe. Today, I am revealing the newly created cover for this story, which has been beautifully crafted by Janet Taylor. This book will be rereleased this week with this new cover on the outside and the same story on the inside. I have no doubt that Don has written an intriguing book of time travel set within Jane Austen’s Regency England. So let’s jump through our own Bennet Wardrobe and take a look at the new cover for this story…
Wow, isn’t this just gorgeous? I love seeing Mary here in all of her glory playing the piano!
I asked Don to share an excerpt with my readers to give you a glimpse into this story. I hope it piques your interest!
The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey
(The Bennet Wardrobe Book 1)
As the afternoon waned into early dusk, little stomachs were filled with treats; small eyes began to droop as weariness overtook even the hardiest four-year-old constitution. Eventually all under the age of six-and-ten had been dispatched to bed.
The fire crackled in the grate as the last rays of sun filtered into the parlor between the branches of Longbourn’s giant oaks. The couples sat quietly in their pairs—even Papa and Mama settled on a sofa—staring quietly at the glittering tree. Mary overheard her father quietly address his wife.
“You know Fanny, Perhaps our lives are as when Mr. Milton wrote
Was I deceiv’d, or did a sable cloud/ Turn forth her silver lining on the night[i] “If you look at how all has changed in these past few months.”
Mrs. Bennet sighed and replied, “There is so much truth in what you say, Thomas. If I consider how I was even this past summer—distracted through fear of being turned out into the hedgerows, plagued by nerves, despairing of ever having our daughters safely settled.
“Then, three daughters married…and well done at that…oh. I know Wickham is a rogue, but he and Lydia seem to suit, so be it. And now, we have little Edward. I feel so different about life. It is as if 20 years have been stripped away.”
Mr. Bennet smiled at the words so gently delivered. Perhaps the ten-year bout of silliness was a phase through which they had to pass. He looked up at Mary, a smile flickering across his features. So, too, had passed this young woman, his daughter—his beloved third child—through a trial and had emerged transformed. Perhaps, just perhaps, he might succeed as a father yet. Now, there was only Kitty, but she was beyond his reach. But, for today—
“Mary, you would do this old man’s heart good if you would play for us. A carol or two would do nicely. Perhaps Miss Darcy would consent to turn the pages.”
How rare it was for Papa to ask her to exhibit. She cringed at the thought of last year’s disastrous Netherfield Ball. But, that was the old Mary. She smiled to herself, remembering that her heart had always affected her playing…and at that time it was dark and heavy. Tonight, she was full of grace. Taking Georgiana by the hand, the two sisters moved to the pianoforte and settled side-by-side on the bench.
There was no need for page turning just as there was no need for sheet music. Mary’s hands rose above the keys and then flowed into the opening bars of a favorite.
While shepherds watched
Their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around
And glory shone around
With voices raised in song, Pemberley, Matlock, Netherfield and Longbourn all remembered the sadness of the past several days, but also rejoiced in the gift that the Father had given them.
As she moved into the second verse, Mary sensed her father standing behind her. He gently slid a letter onto her lap, its seal broken, and bent over to whisper a few words in her ear.
“This is your Christmas gift, my dear. I have read it and agree with everything he writes. Perhaps Miss Darcy can continue in your stead.”
Mary glanced at her partner, noticing that Georgiana’s hands already were hovering above hers. As Mary withdrew, Georgiana picked up the tune without missing a beat.
“Fear not,” he said,
For mighty dread
Had seized their troubled minds
“Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind,
To you and all mankind.
Mary removed to the second sitting room and studied the missive as if an emissary of his Majesty had given it to her. She observed her name scribed in an unfamiliar hand
Miss Bennet of Longbourn Estate
Truly she had feared this moment. Would he profess feelings for her? Or would he be polite and proper? He certainly had bent the rules of propriety by writing to her, but he had given the letter to Papa. That meant he had something important to tell her. It seemed he had composed it in Papa’s bookroom. He had even mistakenly used the Bennet crest in the wax seal. Or was this yet another part of his mysterious nature?
Mary huffed at herself. Whatever questions she had would never be answered if she did not read Edward’s note. She unfolded it carefully as she sensed that an object was enclosed along with his words. An ebony cross on a silver chain slid into her waiting hand. She turned to the paper for an explanation.
December 23, 1811
My Dear Miss Bennet,
Mary. Mary Amelia Bennet.
I could not here abide by even this convention. I needed to use your Christian name, to let those beautiful words fill the page as I write this letter.
I have asked your father to read this before he passes it on to your hands. He knows my feelings as I have spoken them to him this afternoon on the parade grounds where My Lady of the Field worked her magic just yesterday. Now I will write them to you, as I must journey to Liverpool to embark for the Americas.
There are so many things I can tell you now and so many more I must tell you but later. As I said to you, it is not yet time for you to know all. Your father will explain more when it is. Please trust in me, in him and in us that it is nothing dark and fearful, but rather ‘something wonderful.’
At this moment, you need to know that you have struck me in a manner unlike any other woman. Your soul is a beautiful flower, only now beginning to bloom. I know a bit of your history, the sadness of your childhood and upbringing. What I can suggest is that those years of trial have tempered you to face this new world with confidence supported by your faith.
You may have surmised that I, too, have dedicated my life to following His path. The nature of my existence at this moment requires me to keep this hidden until I can work out in the open. There is nothing sinister here. On my honor as a gentleman, there is no worldly barrier, but rather a temporal one. My current journey is my way of resolving that question.
All this is a way of telling you why we cannot be together right now. This is the truth I will have to live with and only pray that you, too, will be able to abide with it for the next span.
I did request from your father that you and I could formally court. Thusly, we could exchange letters without any impropriety attached. If you do not agree with this, please tell your father. You need not read any further and can stop knowing that I bless you and wish you a life of happiness.
She smiled at this line…oh foolish, gentle, loving man…and turned the page.
My heart floats over Hertfordshire’s fields since you are reading this knowing that my happiness is yours, dear Mary. Once I am settled I will forward my directions to you, but I am sailing to Boston to meet with a friend of your father’s who can offer advice and patronage. I recognize that it could be six months before you will be able to receive a current missive. I will write to you before I embark.
Now, allow me to address the small keepsake I have enclosed for you. This cross is made from the finest Indian ebony. My Great-great Grandfather who worked with the East India Company brought it back to England. The cross was my mother’s—a wedding gift from my father who had it made in Town. I am told that she treasured it. It came to my hands from my father who kept it on his person at all times from the moment of her death on the day of my birth. This was made in love. Given in love. And held in love. I pass it now to you as a token of the same. Please remember me when you look upon it.
I wish to mention one other item. My familiarity with Meryton, Longbourn and other people and places in the neighborhood may have puzzled you. My antecedents in the South are what the secret service calls a ‘cover story.” I truly come from Hertfordshire itself. Again, though, I cannot say more.
You have the most wonderful middle name. You may know that you were named after one of the Lucas family…Miss Amelia Lucas. Amelia was also beloved by my mother, much as your sister Lizzy adores Jane. Her death from fever when she was just a young maiden nearly broke my mother’s spirit. You have been given her name by your mama and papa to honor her. I cannot write more about this, but know that the Bennets and the Lucas family have long been intertwined.
My words grow long, but the candle is short. Unlike some, I know when I first began to love you. It was the moment I looked upon you that December morning in front of Longbourn. You have captured my heart, so please, I beg you, be gentle with it. I will return to you. We will share our love and, I pray, our lives forever.
I am yours always,
Mary’s heart swelled and tears of joy began to flow as Georgina flawlessly led the family into the final chorus.
All glory be to
God on high
And to the earth be peace;
From heaven to men
Begin and never cease
Begin and never cease!
On the London-Coventry Turnpike, Twilight, December 25, 1811
Edward leaned his head back against the squabs of the rented carriage. How decent it was of Thomas to foot the bill for private travel from Meryton all the way to Liverpool. Certainly, the accommodations on board ship would be anything but private or comfortable. So, he enjoyed the moment.
His hand slid into his waistcoat’s pocket and touched another gift from Thomas. Pulling out a miniature of a young woman with medium colored hair and light brown eyes, he gazed at it closely, Christmas’ fading light flickering into the coach. There was a solemnity in her expression, but he could see everything he knew her to be. This was without a doubt Mary Amelia Bennet—the woman of his life to be, the one he had yet to create in the future that the Wardrobe had so blessedly bestowed upon him.
[i] John Milton, Comus I, 93 (1634) http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/11186/origin-and-meaning-of-every-cloud-has-a-silver-lining accessed 1/3/16.
He is currently working on Volume II of The Bennet Wardrobe Series: “The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Epoque.” He is a Goodreads author who recently was invited to be part of the Austen Authors group.
Mr. Jacobson is offering TWO giveaways for my readers; an eBook of The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey (The Bennet Wardrobe Book 1) and a paperback copy of the book too. The eBook is open to international readers and the winner of the paperback copy must have a U.S. mailing address.
To enter these giveaways, 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 May 25th. The winner will be posted here on May 26, 2017.
Thank you, Mr. Jacobson, for sharing these generous giveaways with my readers and for inviting me to host this cover reveal at Just Jane 1813! For readers who enjoyed this book, Don hopes to release the next volume in this series later this month.
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This book is also available through KindleUnlimited.
Isn’t the entire wrapper just stunning?