A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of Back to the Bonnet: The Secret Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Miss Mary Bennet, by Jennifer Duke  

Back to the Bonnet, by Jennifer Duke 2020From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress: 

Happy Friday readers. I hope that you are ready for Halloween. I understand that it will be the first night since 1944 that all three time zones in the US will have a full moon. How appropriate.

To put you in the mood for the season, I am happy to welcome debut author Jennifer Duke to Austenprose today in celebration of her first novel, Back to the Bonnet. This new novel is a time-travel reimaging of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice featuring middle sister Mary Bennet as the primary character. Mary Inherits a bonnet from a Bennet family member that has special time-travel powers that give her the advantage of moving back and forth within the story of Pride and Prejudice. Will her abilities affect the outcome of the relationships and events within the story?

Please check out the complete book description and exclusive excerpt compliments of the author. Enjoy!


Uncover the secret life of Mary Bennet and the extraordinary adventures you had no idea were hidden between the lines of Jane Austen’s classic tale.

Matrimony is not a destiny that attracts plain but clever Miss Mary Bennet.

With her family’s fortunes threatened by their own foolish mistakes, deceptive rogues and the inconvenience of male heirs to her family home, the future looks unstable, even bleak. But Mary possesses a secret weapon . . . a bonnet that allows her to travel in time.

In orchestrating events according to her own inclinations, Mary takes an unconventional route to protect her family from ruin. However, she is unprepared for the dark path down which duty and power will lead her.


“Pray, explain yourself, Mr Chamberlayne. What might you possibly have to thank me for?”

“No, I suppose you wouldn’t know,” he said, laughing again. “Come, let us talk.”

“But I am unaccompanied, I can hardly—”

“Oh really, Miss Mary!” He lowered his voice and leant closer. “Does convention hold you back? You who deny all conventions of time, twisting it from its proper course?” His gaze lifted to my great aunt’s bonnet again and I instinctively put my hand to it. He nodded.

“How do you—?” I looked around. The street was too busy. “Come on,” I said. “I know a place where we can speak alone.”

“But what of my reputation, Miss Mary?” he said when he had caught up with me.

I ignored that remark as well as his childish smirk. This was serious. I had to know how much he knew about the bonnet and what it could do.

We had just walked into the alleyway which led to the graveyard when I froze. In front of me was Lydia, entwined in Mr Denny’s arms, her lips secured to his.


Mr Denny started, breaking away from her.

Lydia looked at me in surprise, her gaze darting between me and Mr Chamberlayne.

“Oh, Mary!” she said. “You’re not interested in the officers too now, are you?” She did not scruple to stifle her laugh at the ridiculousness of this idea.

“Lydia, you really cannot behave so—”

“Oh, don’t make such a fuss, Mary,” she said, frowning at me. “You really can be a miserable old bishop, do you know that?”

“I can’t believe you just . . .”

Lydia walked off before I could finish my sentence. Mr Denny bowed, lowering his eyes sheepishly – though his lips twitched into a wolfish smile – before making himself scarce.

“I’ll talk to Denny later,” said Chamberlayne, frowning.

“He has no right to kiss a girl in public like that, let alone my sister!”

“Eyebrows would be raised even if he was seen kissing his fiancé.”

“His hypothetical one, I hope?” I said.

“No. He’s engaged to Miss Morris. That is, he’s meant to be.”

“Insufferable!” I repeated this word several times as I meditated on the ungentlemanliness of apparent gentlemen on our way down the alleyway.

“Have you finished mumbling?” said Chamberlayne, looking around. “Well, you’ve chosen a cheery spot.”

“The graveyard’s nearly always quiet. I was being practical.” I nodded good morning to the headstone of an ancient, forgotten Bennet. “Now, I shall try to put that business with Lydia and Mr Denny out of my mind for the time being and focus on what you have to tell me. What do you know of . . .” I hesitated, not wishing to betray more information than he might possess.

“Of that bonnet of yours?”

I opened my mouth to speak, then closed it.

He was not smiling. At once, he looked older and more sensible. “The reason why I have to thank you – why I am indebted to you . . . How to explain?” He took a breath. “You came to The Bull. You heard something that made you come around to the yard at the back. You saw—” a flicker of emotion darkened his expression, “you saw Captain Ramton.”

“That horrid-looking man with the brows and the frown?”

He nodded.

“Yes, I saw him there.”

“But what you don’t know, Miss Mary, is that you saw him before. That is – now it seems you did not.” He shook his head. “I’m fumbling my way through this – the truth being that I lack comprehension of the whole thing – but you saw him hitting me.” He looked away. “You saw the blood that ran down my face. You heard what he said about me.” Chamberlayne’s voice had become strained.

“But I did not.”

“Just let me finish. You approached when Ramton left and crouched beside me where I was slumped against the wall. You asked me for a penknife which you then used to adjust something on your bonnet. I could not see what you were doing, one of my eyes was closing up and the other was streaming. You said: ‘This will send you back three hours. Get yourself away from that man.’ You put the bonnet on my head and everything went . . . strange. I thought it was all in relation to the blows I had suffered to my head but then you were gone. I was in my room. The bonnet was gone too. I checked my pocket watch and it was indeed three hours before the time it should have been. I felt a trifle unwell, though the pain had ceased, I could move freely once more without discomfort and I saw no sign of injury upon inspecting my reflection in the glass. Recalling your advice, I left The Bull at once and came into the high street, well before I might run into Ramton.”

“I gave you the bonnet? I sent you back?”


  • “Mary Bennet takes matters into her own hands in this hilarious and enjoyable time-travelling version of Pride and Prejudice.”— Cressida Downing, The Book Analyst
  • “I love how this matches up with Pride and Prejudice despite being a completely different story…a wonderfully unique and well-executed story.”— Debbie Brown, Goodreads
  • “A fun and enjoyable well-written story. A delightful story about the forgotten sister.”— Susan, Vesper’s Place


Jennifer Duke grew up in Basingstoke – a town in Hampshire, England – not far from Jane Austen’s last residence, Chawton Cottage. She went to Bath Spa University to study English Literature with Creative Writing and gained a 2:1, later going on to achieve a distinction for her MA in English Literature at Oxford Brookes University. A longstanding love of Jane Austen’s novels led to her first published novel Back to the Bonnet, a reimagining of Pride and Prejudice.


  • Back to the Bonnet: The Secret Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Miss Mary Bennet, by Jennifer Duke
  • Independently published (September 10, 2020)
  • Trade paperback & eBook (312)
  • ISBN: 979-8682545865
  • Genre: Austenesque, Regency Romance, Historical Fantasy


We received a review copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review OR we purchased a copy of this book for our own enjoyment. Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cover image, book description, author bio, and exclusive excerpt complements of Jennifer Duke © 2020; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2020, austenprose.com.

7 thoughts on “A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of Back to the Bonnet: The Secret Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Miss Mary Bennet, by Jennifer Duke  

Add yours

  1. This sounds fascinating and fun! I do enjoy trying to wrap my mind around time travel timelines, and Mary Bennet as time traveler and heroine sounds delightfully entertaining. Added to my TBR!


  2. I have read and enjoyed time travel stories even several in JAFF but the ones I read took Elizabeth into modern times or took a modern Elizabeth back to the early 1800’s. So this sounds interesting…now to find time. Thanks for sharing.


    1. Thank you very much! I wonder if you’ve seen ITV’s ‘Lost in Austen’. If not, I recommend it if it’s available where you are. It’s a series about a young woman from our modern world who ends up taking Lizzy’s place in P&P.


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