Today is release day for A Thornhill Christmas, the interim novella in the final volume of the Bennet Wardrobe Series. Before I turn it over to Don, I’ll share the cover and blurb.
It is the Christmas season of 1836, and Fitzwilliam Darcy continues to suffer from the loss of his wife in April. But he is not alone. All who loved her, especially her daughter, Madelyn Anne Darcy, sense a yawning chasm in the center of their lives. Feeling the somber halls of Pemberley closing in, she escapes to Thornhill and her Aunt Jane’s calming influence.
However, the woods above this neighboring estate hold a life-altering surprise: another half-orphan—Thomas Johnson, an American from the Ohio River country—and his widowed mother, scarred by their own ineffable losses, are recovering at his Uncle Charles’s estate. A bit of snow and the need for a Yule log—along with the connivance of The Old One—conspire to bring the young people together.
Meanwhile, Caroline (née Bingley) Johnson is determined to face both the woman she hurt and the man she desired before fleeing to America twenty years earlier. Now, she begs for Jane Bingley’s Sixth Love grace whilst shaping herself to be the vessel into which her dearest friend’s soulmate can pour his grief.
Can Darcy learn the essentials as he moves forward to his destiny? In the process, can the two bereaved adversaries negotiate a space defined by their mutual love for Pemberley’s departed mistress?
This is an interim novella in the final volume of the Bennet Wardrobe Series.
A Special Note From Don Jacobson…
Sooo….I feel like Elon Musk when I leave readers Easter eggs in my newest release, a novella: “A Thornhill Christmas.” Allow me to help you settle (as folks have been having coronaries for over four years after reading the Bennet Family Genealogy in the front of the Wardrobe books) and see what I am up to.
Before you jump to unfortunate conclusions…there are points you need to remember when reading this tale.
First, this is a Bennet Wardrobe story. Ask yourself ‘what has the Wardrobe been doing with the Bennets? Why have they been moving all over the timeline? What is the end goal of the Wardrobe in a Universe powered by love?’ Perhaps to preserve the greatest love story by bending space and time to its will? See the end of “The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion” for intimations of what is to come.
Second, this novella occurs off-camera inside of the eighth and final volume (still being written). I wrote it to understand how to get an evolved fifty-year-old Caroline (Bingley) Johnson back into the story. This now allows me to have a rationale for the action that will take place in Book Two.
Third: do not misunderstand the relationship between Mrs. Johnson and Mr. Darcy. Read this carefully and do not jump to such a non-canonical conclusion (although most would argue that the Wardrobe stories are Inspired By Austen…and not Fan Fiction seeking to replicate Austen).
Caroline Johnson says to Mr. Darcy:
“I am not seeking to replace my Thomas! And please disabuse yourself of the notion that my old maiden self is rearing her head. When a lady marks her half-century, she seeks the comfort of well-tended fires, fine brandies, and intelligent conversations.”
Finally, (and most important) Mr. Johnson “dies.” Bingley and Fitzwilliam “pass away.” Elizabeth Darcy “departs,” or “Leaves this world.”
The full HEA will appear in the last book of the Wardrobe series.
The Ephemera of Memory
Sometimes I need to write a wholly different tale to allow me to find the path the characters must take to become persons about whom an interesting story may be written.
A Thornhill Christmas is a novella about memory and how it alters the lives of the characters. Without discussing the entirety of the eighth and final volume of the Bennet Wardrobe, Caroline Johnson’s shared—and separate—memories are necessary for Fitzwilliam Darcy to learn that which he must for the main novel—and series—to reach its conclusion.
When we live our lives in the present, we are unaware of the nature of the events we are experiencing. Even the most astute can never argue that the what we are enduring will be the something to shape our lives throughout years to come or not at all. Is what we see eternal alpine granite or ephemera meant for only a day?
If we were able to discriminate in this fashion, to what sort of life would we condemn ourselves? Would we waste our days in search of the truly significant? Or would we be content that the long view would show that the sum of our memories defines a life well-led?
I am firmly in the camp of the second school with the added fillip that I disagree with Elizabeth Bennet over remembrance of the past. The Roman Stoic in me insists that pleasure and pain are important parts of life. These two conditions are equally powerful in shaping who we are and how we view the world. Most individual memories are ephemeral but, when taken together, form the remarkable context through which we move. On top of that, we cannot appreciate the one without knowing the other. The search for pleasure without understanding pain would be futile: to excise one would make a whole life impossible.
There is one pernicious property of the human mind. We only see backwards. The problem waiting to pounce lies in that the past is immutable while the future is nothing but possibilities. Sadly, there is a comfort in unchangeability. All is not lost; we possess a unique power over our recollections. We can decide if they will enrich us or cripple us. Taking the wrong way, though, can lead to years of misery.
Such is the case for Fitzwilliam Darcy at Christmastide 1836. For the past eight months—since his future was ripped away when Elizabeth Darcy departed—the man has existed in a netherworld populated by memories of both the happiest of times as well as those awful weeks before…
He revisits each day ad infinitum, ad nauseum. He finds comfort in remembering her voice and mannerisms. Lest he takes too much pleasure, though, he punishes himself by imagining the unseen moments before Elizabeth’s leave-taking: fingers plucking at the coverlet, breath rasping, and tossing in delirium. This cycle echoes through the corridors of his mind and Pemberley’s halls. That road leads to madness.
Yet, there is a curative power within memory. As memories are truly personal, the sharing of them with an understanding friend allows healing. The most painful lose their power over us when they are no longer kept secret. Those which are cherished become more burnished when bestowed upon another, especially if that person is plunged to equal emotional depths. Speaking of the loved one confirms their existence.
A Thornhill Christmas examines the gift of memory—that bridge built by Elizabeth Darcy—which was conferred upon both Fitzwilliam Darcy and the Widow Johnson. Their conversations are between people equally affected by their own ineffable losses. Where before Caroline Bingley Johnson was Darcy’s decided inferior, now in their middle years, they stand at the same level.
This is a story of the Fifth and Sixth Loves which, along with their siblings, power the Bennet Wardrobe’s Universe. All begin their journey down the road to healing, to redemption, when they first forgive themselves. Such is the world of the Wardrobe.
Meryton Press is giving away two eBooks of A Thornhill Christmas by Don Jacobson. Share your thoughts with us in the comments below to be entered. The giveaway will end at midnight Central Time, December 18th. Good luck to all!