The Naval Adventure Jane Austen Might Have Written
The Sailor’s Rest, the latest Austenesque novel by Don Jacobson, has been released worldwide on March 28, 2023. Published independently, this is the author’s twelfth variation using Austen’s Canon as a basis for the story. The book is a cross-over (not a mash-up) of Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. For plot purposes, the novel (approx. 117,000 words) is set on the Persuasion timeline in 1815. However, the age and plot constructs from Pride and Prejudice have been maintained to establish context.
According to the author, the book grew out of his interest in learning how the two pairs of lovers would interact with each other when placed in proximity. “One of the more popular plot tropes in Pride and Prejudice variations is the kidnapping model. However, this usually is limited to the premise Darcy and Elizabeth are kidnapped—usually by Wickham.
“The core question is How will they escape from their assailants? The secondary one would be How will they overcome the attendant scandal which will force them to marry even though their relationship is on uneven ground?
“Certainly, this is interesting and entertaining.”
However, Jacobson wished to explore the strengths of thewomen and the men.
“By situating the story after the betrothals but before the weddings—where their loves is established—I was able to move the plot in a different direction.
“In The Sailor’s Rest, the kidnapping is the device that throws Wentworth and Darcy together as well as teaming Elizabeth Bennet and Anne Elliot. One pair seeks to survive their captivity while the other seeks to survive the possible deaths of their heartmates.
“Also, where many kidnapping-motif Pride and Prejudice variations focus exclusively—and logically so—on ODC’s struggle to free themselves, The Sailor’s Rest considers the emotional costs on both the seekers and the prisoners.”
Jacobson also engaged in one of his favorite activities when writing the book: the building of secondary characters. “I imported several characters from my other works including Sergeant and Mrs. Wilson. Then there were new characters like the pair of lovers—the maid Sarah Small and Wentworth’s Coxswain Michael Tomkins—who echoed and enhanced my belief that the deepest love is not solely reserved for the gentry.
“However, my favorite bit of development—one which I hope readers will enjoy—is the treatment of Admiral and Mrs. Croft. I always felt that he was treated as a bit of a ‘Colonel Blimp’ type. My research showed that only thirty seagoing admirals were active at any time in the Napoleonic Wars. The Croft’s leased Kellynch upon their return from a Far Eastern command.
“Admiral Alfred Croft was not a fool. He was a well-experienced fighting man. As such, his wife would also be most capable, and, as a rector’s daughter, she was no society wife. Both are imbued with their own brands of common sense. I brought that out, I hope. This makes a difference for both Anne Elliot and Elizabeth Bennet.”
According to Alice McVeigh, the author of Susan: A Jane Austen Prequel, the book is “Part mystery, part adventure - and all heart - This has the feel of a Hornblower epic.”
AUTHOR'S GUEST POST AND EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK
In his groundbreaking television series The Day the Universe Changed, James Burke asserted that the modern world finds its raison d'etre in a nearly three millennia-old philosophy: binaries. By this he meant up/down, good/evil, hot/cold, and right/wrong.
So, too, did Jane Austen treat her world: Pemberley/Longbourn, Elizabeth/Darcy, Anne/Wentworth, and Mrs. Bennet/Mr. Bennet. While these may have a positive/negative flavor, they are essential pairings that allow readers to compare and contrast virtues and vices. Of course, that simplifies the complicated human dynamics, for unless Austen paints them with a caricature brush, none find themselves entirely in either the debit or credit column.
In my latest book, The Sailor's Rest, I decided to shake up the pairings Austen used. By the third chapter, I had split Darcy and Wentworth away from Elizabeth and Anne, not in the sense of broken betrothals but rather forced separations that required Darcy to hew closely to Wentworth for his survival.
The matching of the two most substantial male leads in all of Austenland allowed me to consider how "out to sea" Darcy was when he was…well…out-to-sea on the Persephone.
Wentworth whispered, "Keep your voice low, mate, until we have sorted this out. I'm not sure what's happening, but it cannot be good." Then a name flashed before him. "Are you called Darcy? Were we dining together?"
Darcy rolled away and onto his side, "Yes on both counts. I am Darcy, and you must be that navy captain the innkeeper introduced: Wentworth. What sort of fiendishness is this?"
"Fiendish is correct, Darcy. I have heard of such things, but usually only in the Carib trade. A hostler will pocket silver to help a merchant captain man his ship by slipping his customers rum laced with something more."
Darcy's voice was stronger now but low in keeping with Wentworth's injunction. "Illuminating, Wentworth, but it tells me nothing about why we were taken."
"That remains to be seen. I assume our captors have other plans for us because we are breathing air and not North Sea brine," Wentworth replied.
Darcy grumbled and began moving with purpose. "Well, you may be content to kneel here, but I am a Darcy, and I will meet whatever fate these dogs wish to mete out on my own two feet!" He began to stand.
Throughout the book's first two-thirds, Darcy is moving through Wentworth's domain—Darcy cannot return to his familiar confines until he has passed through battle's fires. Captivity aboard the HMS Persephonewill doubtless be deadly for Wentworth and only less so for Darcy because of his association with the captain. Not only did Wentworth's bravery and sacrifice protect Darcy from his ignorance, but also that of a dozen men who had served under Frederick. Even then, Wentworth's fate would have been sealed—and likely Darcy's as well—if not for Napoleon's continuing desire for European domination. The Tyrant's escape from Elba puts paid to plans for Wentworth's disgrace and demise.
I had to create a broader understanding of Wentworth's nature to show who had become Darcy's mentor. Austen gives us his nobility and constancy. However, in the brutal and (to use an anachronistic word) Darwinist realm of the Regency Royal Navy, I had to build a Wentworth who could stand on a frigate's quarterdeck. The following excerpt suggests the type of man I imagined would be worthy of Anne's and our regard.
This excerpt from The Sailor's Rest is © 2023 by Donald P. Jacobson. Reproduction is prohibited. Published in the United States of America.
From Chapter 30
Persephone with Naiad in sight
Wentworth stood by the great wheel, hands clasped behind his back, inhaling and exhaling great gusts. His eyes flicked about, but little else betrayed his alertness. From time to time, his lips moved. "Not yet…not yet."
Darcy stood as close to his friend as he dared for Wentworth had transformed in the past half-hour. The friendly, earthy sailor was gone, and a British Romulus stood in his place, preparing to slay a French Remus. Are not all who answer Mars's call that grim god's children, stained red in battle day raiment? Even in his two months aboard Persephone, Darcy had learned that a ship's captain—whether good or evil—was a hallowed being, and the space about him was sacred. Mere mortals, even those of great social consequence, impinged on the deity at their peril.
As Darcy waited to be 'seen,' he observed the French ship veer slightly toward them, plumes of smoke bursting from her bow chasers. He watched Wentworth's face register the reports. His head spun as he followed the balls' flight toward the other ship.
The French activity appeared to be the final daub on the canvas, inspiring Wentworth from contemplation into action. The first of a series of orders rang out. "Mr. Twombley: my compliments to the Gunner—you will find him in command of the gundeck—and would he kindly attend me. I wish to give him my orders directly."
The youngster shot off down the quarterdeck stairs to speedily return with heavy breathing in his wake. Wentworth spared Hephaestus's minion and made his way across the quarterdeck. The old salt stopped before the stairs to the throne, respecting the division between his sulfurous netherworld and pure heaven.
"Ah, Gunner, thank you for taking a moment away from your darling girls," Wentworth began, "I need your attendance on a particular matter.
"I realize that what I am about to order will conflict with your inclinations. However, I promise you I have not lost my mind.
"Since my Admiralty masters are not here to question me for performing contrary to Naval convention and custom, I plan to act out of character to confuse our adversary.
"Just as the frog captain over there tried to be a bit English, we will become somewhat French—oh, do not be insulted when I suggest that, Gunner. Where he fooled us by pounding us between wind and water, we will return the favor—at least partly. I would have you lay the bow five starboard guns to aim into their rigging. Double load chain over ball. Reload with canister over ball. Let's see if we can slow him a bit.
"Do not run out 'til he cannot escape. Be ready for my order!
"First-rate crews only on those guns, Gunner, and a cask of the Navy's best rum for the gun that brings down a mast. Double grog, though, for all hands! I may join you in a tipple at the end of our labors. I find giving orders to be dry work."
The dark arts sage nodded his understanding before clambering down into his dungeon-dark world.
The captain turned to the man who had shared his trials. "Darcy, I am not attempting to insult you since you already have felt the dragon's breath this morning. However, while dangerous, life in the gundeck is still life behind a foot of oak. Here on the quarterdeck, we officers—and I know you have not received a King's commission, but you are my lieutenant in all but title—never duck down. The men must see us exposed and unprotected to the same winnowing blasts they face.
"Take the glass and look across to Naiad. Blue coats line her quarterdeck railing. The one with a surfeit of gold would be my brother Croft. He's been putting himself in front of American, French, and Spanish iron since before I was born.
"We always wear our number one uniform when we sail into a fight. There is no honor in appearing the pirate. I have heard that Wellington eschews tradition, preferring to look like a shopkeeper with only his Bath star pinned to his topcoat. However, he is Army: that may explain his behavior."
Darcy handed Wentworth the telescope. "My cousin, the brigadier, has told me as much. On the other hand, Fitzwilliam hangs every ounce of regalia he owns. He told me he wanted to make a rich man of the crapaud who drags him off Imperator. His only concession to old Miltiades—Marathon's Athenian general—is his 1796 Pattern Heavy Cavalry Sword. No shiny pigsticker for Richard Fitzwilliam. He prefers nearly three feet of cold gray steel.
"I assure you, Wentworth…Captain…that you'll not find me shrinking below the bulwark to avoid what is to come. I regret not packing my best superfine topcoat and a fresh chemise before we left Barton on this cruise. Of course, my valet, Bates, would lament my lack of a decent cravat. Perhaps, though, that is for the best. I would not wish our opponents to think you had a political minder to ensure your dedication."
Wentworth laughed and then fell silent for a ten-count. The rigging creaking and Persephone's spars flexing in their braces filled their ears.
Wentworth's shoulders coiled. The shout, when it came, startled Darcy even though he was expecting it. "Now, he's in the bag! We own him, damme me, Darcy!
"Quickly, men! Cut away that mast!
"Helmsmen, keep her hard to starboard but be careful when she bites. Correct to a course that closes on the frog."
Axes slammed down on the remaining cordage snaking over the side. The lines parted with a whistling snap crackling like a coachman's whip above four bay backs. The portside list vanished, and the ship bobbed like a cork in a child's bath.
The stern that had pointed toward French danger snapped away as Persephone's bows answered the rudder's command.
Darcy raced over to the gundeck companionway and relayed Wentworth's next orders. "Starboard battery: open gunports. Roll out. Prepare to fire on my command!"
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Don Jacobson has written professionally for forty years, 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 nonfiction. In 2016, he published the first volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series,The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey. Since then, Meryton Press re-edited and republished Keeper and the subsequent six volumes in the series. In 2022, Meryton Press published the eighth and final book in the series—The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy. Other Meryton Press books by Jacobson include Lessersand Betters, In Plain Sight, and The Longbourn Quarantine. All his works are also available as audiobooks (Audible).
Jacobson holds an advanced degree in history. As a college instructor, he taught United States history, world history, the history of western civilization, and research writing. He is in his third career as an author and is a JASNA and Regency Fiction Writers member. He is also a member of the Always Austen collective.
Besides thoroughly immersing himself in the Austenesque world, Jacobson enjoys cooking, dining out, fine wine, and well-aged scotch whiskey.
His other passion is cycling. He has ridden several “centuries” (hundred-mile days). He is incredibly proud of having completed the AIDS Ride–Midwest (five hundred miles from Minneapolis to Chicago) and the Make-a-Wish Miracle Ride (three hundred miles from Traverse City to Brooklyn, both in Michigan).
When not traveling, Jacobson lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, with his wife and co-author, Pam—a woman Miss Austen would have been hard-pressed to categorize.
Miss Bennet’s First Christmas (2015)
The Bennet Wardrobe: Origins (2016)
Don Jacobson will give away 10 e-book copies of “The Sailor’s Rest” to randomly selected winners. No purchase is necessary.