I was one of the lucky ones to purchase a poppy from the Tower of London. As you know, I dedicated Lady Grace to my fallen cousins who lost their lives in World War I. I’ve been able to replant the poppy on this wonderful website! Please visit, comment, and read their story of where the poppy has been planted. Find my Tower poppy at:
The call to war is evident by the myriad of propaganda posters encouraging the general public to enlist, serve as civilians, donate money, or to take in the downtrodden.
One of the scenes in Lady Grace touches on the heroine’s thoughts of a poster she sees at the train station depicted below, “Women of Britain Say GO!” Rather than inciting empathy for the cause, she questions the ability of any rational woman to encourage their husbands to join and face the probability of certain death. Writing about this era in England has been a challenging exercise in examining the struggles of those left behind and the fears they may have endured. Of course, there is often passionate love based on the uncertainty of survival.
As you can see from the examples of posters below, each carries their own theme that is meant for the very purpose of moving individuals to action. These posters are termed propaganda, which for me has a negative connotation. We think of it as brainwashing or the evil side spreading untruths.
However, propaganda, in the sense of these posters, is a general message designed to persuade the citizens of England to think and behave in a manner that supports the cause of war. They stir emotions in the hopes of action.
Here are only very few I’ve chosen that are relevant to Lady Grace. If you Google the subject matter, more will come up from not only the United Kingdom but the United States, who entered the Great War in 1917.
Mimi Matthews is my go-to expert for anything Victorian. She’s a fantastic resource for 19th-century etiquette, fashion, beauty, and more. It is worth subscribing to her newsletter and blog if you wish to learn more about the era.
Below is a link to fashionable gowns that will make you want to throw away your jeans and tee-shirts. Enjoy!
“The 1880s ushered in an era of tailored, close-fitting gowns, some of which were almost masculine in appearance. These gowns exemplified women’s changing roles in society.”
As part of my research for Lady Grace, I needed to know how families were notified of the death of their loved ones. The next of kin of officers often received telegrams, while the families of non-officers received a letter. The link to the article below talks more of the sad process during World War One and contains examples of correspondence.
From looking at the demise of my distant cousins in the war, I discovered that their bodies were never returned to their homeland. They were buried where they fell in the distant lands of France, Belgium, and Turkey. Not having their bodies returned to be buried near their families surely added to the grief.
I’m reminded of the movie Water Diviner, with Russell Crowe, that was released a few years ago. It’s a story about three of his sons who died in the battle at Gallipoli, Turkey (where Thomas Holland, my second cousin also fell). He travels to the far away land to search for their bodies and give them a proper burial. You can read my review about the movie at my entertainment blog by CLICKING HERE. (“This film is dedicated to all those who remain ‘lost and nameless’ and who live on in the hearts and memories of their families.”)
The book Lady Grace is a bit more somber than Lady Isabella and focuses on loneliness, young love, and grief as its themes. Grief can come in many forms and is not always about losing a loved one in death. We grieve over bad decisions, the things we never did, the love we never knew, and the love we lost, among other events in our lives.
When I set Lady Grace during World War I, there were two choices for her manor home. One was to take in wounded soldiers for recuperation like those in Downton Abbey, and the other was a lesser known occurrence during the war – the influx of 250,000 Belgian refugees integrated into society. In the end, I decided to take the second route, because I had read quite a bit about it during my own ancestral research in Manchester during the war years.
I discovered that Salford, where my grandparents were born, welcomed refugees. The city, at first, set up temporary housing using schools and other public buildings. However, as the wounded returned from the front and hospitals filled, the refugees needed to find other places to live. As the influx increased, many British households opened their doors to families and housed them until the war ended. A Belgian Relief Fund was established to aid in the expenses of their accommodations.
Linked to this post is an article that I discovered on BBC News, which is an excellent look into the refugees and how they were quickly forgotten after the war ended. The migration of refugees to foreign countries is not new by any means and often occurred during historical periods of world strife.
In my book, Lady Grace, her household takes in two families. They are the center of the story and the avenue upon which Grace discovers how easy it is to become a fallen woman during stressful times.
My recent promotion on The Price of Innocence has once again skyrocketed the book into bestseller sales ranks, giving it more exposure than usual. It appears that I am having a repeat of my 2012 experience when I participated in May with a free giveaway.
Since this book was first released in 2009, I have consistently advertised it as historical fiction, with romantic elements. It is not historical romance. If you’re looking for traditional feel-good romance, that is not The Legacy Series. If you read the series, proceed with caution. It’s not the normal cookie-cutter story to sweep you off your feet. It is a family saga that covers twenty-plus years. My characters face hardship and challenges. The story is filled with reality; and its themes are the price we pay for innocence, deception, love, and passion.
The Price of Innocence has been reviewed by Writer’s Digest (read here the critique), Coffee Time Romance, NightOwl Romance, Mama Kitty Reviews, and others. The book was my debut novel. It has been read worldwide and accepted by many fans who followed the series to the end.
Lastly, I want to thank all of my new readers for downloading the book. Whether you love, hate, or average me out, it’s been wonderful meeting you all. I’m not offended if you find the story difficult. Read according to your tastes. However, like any author, I am blessed and graciously thankful for those who have supported the series and sent me communication letting me know how the story moved and touched their hearts. It has taught me the power of how readers can get emotionally involved with characters regarding their struggles, love relationships, and overcoming family discord to find happiness.
And thanks to BookBub! They are a great source for getting books in front of readers.
I love being an author. One of my favorite scenes from the movie Silver Lining Playbook is below that puts things into perspective and keeps me smiling. I do apologize for the strong f-word language, but it makes a humorous point that not everyone will love your books, even if you’re Ernest Hemingway.
My visit to Lyme Park while visiting Manchester UK this October was for the purpose of taking my book, Blythe Court, and standing in front of the estate and snapping a picture. Lyme Park is on the cover, as well as “The Cage” on a hill in the background. Of course, most of my readers are probably more interested in the fact that Lyme Park was Mr. Darcy’s Pemberley in Pride & Prejudice with Colin Firth.
Getting to Lyme Park is fairly easy coming from Manchester. I took a train from Piccadilly Station to Disley, which took approximately 36 minutes. When I exited, there is a steep climb up to the roadway. The directions I received from the National Trust was to turn left and walk a half-mile. There is a sidewalk the entire way but the road is extremely busy with cars and trucks whizzing by your side only a few feet away. When I came to the entrance, it turned into a 200 yard downhill walk to the gatehouse. There is no fee to enter the park itself, and if you’re on foot, like me, they have a shuttle who will drive you the mile walk to the manor house.
(Note: Click on the picture to enlarge.)
Like anything else, you usually have preconceived ideas of what you are going to see. When I arrived, I pictured one grand entrance door into the house itself. There is an archway you walk through that enters into a courtyard. This is the North Entrance. The house is a huge rectangular shape but the center is an open courtyard instead of the interior of the home. There are a few steps off to the left that lead to the entrance itself. There is a ticket office and giftshop off to the right of the courtyard. If you walk to the other side and exit the courtyard, it brings you to the gardens.
The house is managed by the National Trust so I took a few minutes to understand how these estates, which the families cannot afford to keep any longer, end up in the National Trust and are preserved. The guide told me the history of how the estate came into the hands of the Trust. It was an interesting education, but I won’t go into detail here. You can visit the website and learn more about the process. Richard II in 1398 granted Lyme to Piers Legh and his wife, Margaret, as a reward for heroic deeds in battle. The main home began in late 16th century but was rebuilt and updated by subsequent generations. (As a tidbit of information, during the 1700’s they were Jacobites and loyal to the “rightful” occupants of the throne, holding meetings in the house.)
Once you get your ticket, the amazing tour begins. I climbed the stairs and entered into the grand entrance. There is no large foyer of any type. Instead, you step into the entrance way and face what they call the Entrance Hall, which is a huge room that takes your breath away. It was used for in the Edwardian period for daily reading of prayers, after-dinner games, and conversation, and for the Servants’ Ball on New Year’s Eve. You can take pictures, but here it’s the no touch – no sit rules because much of the interior is filled with the original furniture. In each room stands a volunteer guide, who can give you information. Also, on nearby tables are booklets with extensive history regarding the room should you wish to learn more. These stay in the rooms are to be read as you pass through them.
There are many stunning rooms in the manor house, but this one is my favorite – The Drawing Room. Elizabethan and Jacobean room is very different than the Entrance Hall. Dark paneling and the rich interior is accented by a beautiful stained glass window. I spoke with the guide who stated that this was the room that the ladies retired to after dinner for tea, while the gentleman stayed behind for cigars and drinks to discuss their mistresses. Let your imaginations wander!
As you step through the door, you enter into The Stag Parlor. It’s a small room with a beautiful tapestry hanging on the wall. Here is this room where the gentlemen plotted the return of the Stuarts to the throne. They retired from the dining room here to have port and plot.
The next room is the Dining Room, and again you are stunned by its beauty and stately silver settings. The Edwardian Chippendale-style chairs are from the early 19th century. The fully set table is adorned with silver cutlery, fine china, and crystal. It is one of those rooms that you stare at for some time, imagining the dinners and the guests. Just outside the dining room is the Ante-Room, where the family and guests proceeded to the Dining Room from the Library.
The next room is the Library, which contains medieval manuscripts and 15th-17th century books. Look, but don’t touch. The room itself is beautiful.
The next room is the Saloon (not a place to drink) but a room for receiving guests. It leads out to the grand staircase, which is impressive and grand indeed. The woodwork is dark, the carpeting red toned, and it leads upstairs to the Long Gallery.
The Long Gallery is an impressive room that goes from one end of the house to the other, with a fireplace in the center. Unfortunately, my shaky hand didn’t take a very clear picture for which I apologize, but you will get the enormous length regardless. The brochure states that it was used for, “gentle exercise in bad weather and to display family portraits, but it has also been the setting for the family’s theatricals.” It’s been redecorated over the centuries.
Beyond this point, there were a few bedrooms but not many to see. Frankly, they were much smaller and less impressive, except for one gorgeous mahogany poster canopy bed. Quite a few rooms upstairs are closed to the public.
I also toured the downstairs, where the servants ate and the butler and housekeeper ran the household. There is a list of the household staff and how many it took to run the household before the Great War.
Afterward, the garden grounds were perfectly manicured. The day, however, was cold and windy with a few raindrops, so I didn’t take an extensive walk among the grounds. Below are pictures from the South Entrance.
This concludes my tour of Lyme Park, and yes I have a picture of myself holding my book Blythe Court. If you happen to visit by train, I only have one word of caution. If the volunteers tell you to take Red Lane back to the station rather than the main road, I can only say – BEWARE. It has a few strenuous uphill climbs and a rather frightening steep decline down the hill through the woods to bring you to the train platform. If you are young and in shape, no problem. If you’re older, take care.
I hope you enjoyed this long post as much as I enjoyed visiting Lyme Park.
Today I had a wonderful and inspirational experience visiting the home of Elizabeth Gaskell in Manchester, UK, at 84 Plymouth Grove. Her most memorable works were Cranford (1851-53), North & South (1854-55), and Wives & Daughters (1865). She also authored many other works over the years such as short stories and novellas.
After arriving at the home, I was greeted by informative volunteers placed in each of the rooms ready to give visitors the background on the house and the fascinating lives of its former occupants. The home itself is actually Georgian in design, but the interior, of course, in the mid-1800’s was Victorian. Elizabeth and her husband William moved into the home in 1850 (it was built in 1838). The home has welcomed many to its doors, including Charlotte Bronte and Beatrice Potter, The narrator told us that the doorbell knob had been pulled by others, including Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Ruskin, and Charles Dickens who had stayed at the house. A few of us ran out the front door and pulled the same doorknob to hear the ring and touch the apparatus!
Apparently, the home fell into disrepair and remained empty. It was acquired by Manchester University in 1969, and then by the Manchester Historic Building Trust in 2004. Money was raised to restore the building, and it was reopened in 2011. Today, there were quite a few visitors.
Elizabeth married William Gaskell in 1832, who was a Unitarian preacher. His study, located to the right of the front entrance, is filled with books that reminded me of Mr. Hale, the preacher, in North & South. I found it surprising to learn that Elizabeth’s husband was very much like the character of Mr. Hale because he brought poor students into his home to teach them one-on-one. Elizabeth’s husband had also been an inspiration and guide in her developing stories.
The house itself is a beautiful restoration of the residence. Many of the artifacts are original, and you are allowed to touch, sit, and take pictures to your heart’s desire. Elizabeth sat in her dining room to write, though, she did use other places in the house. However, her writings indicate that she spent the majority of her time at a round table in the dining room near the window. The dining room itself is quite large, which a long dining table in front of the fireplace. At the table, were photocopies of original letters from Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte to Elizabeth, but their handwriting was difficult to read. Thankfully, there were readable transcripts of the letters.
In addition to these wonderful historic correspondence pieces (see below), Elizabeth’s writing for her last work, Wives & Daughters, is there for you to pick up and read from her small writing desk. It is a photocopy of her original work. She died in the home before finishing this story. It was serialized and her notes indicated that she intended another portion. Apparently, the movie version added an ending they felt was consistent with plans for Roger expressing his feelings.
Elizabeth and Charlotte Bronte were close friends. One of Charlotte’s letters to Elizabeth is below regarding what she thought of Elizabeth’s story, Cranford. Click on the picture to enlarge and read.
Below is a slideshow of the interior of the home.
Yesterday, I also went to the British Library in London and saw Jane Austen’s writing desk and a page from her manuscript from Persuasion. What surprised me the most was the size of the paper and the small handwriting! After speaking about it with a tour guide a Gaskell’s home, he stated that paper was an expensive commodity during Jane Austen’s day. I estimate the size of the paper about 5″ x 8″ if not smaller. It was fantastic to see Jane’s penmanship, though tiny, it was readable as the name of Captain Wentworth jumped off the page, making me smile.
Needless to say, these two visits were wonderful. Seeing the home and manuscripts were inspirational, to say the least. I hope you enjoy this post about some of your favorite authors.
One more picture – Elizabeth Gaskell and Charlotte Bronte – two talented authors who have made their mark in history.
Stay tuned for my next post on my visit to Lyme Park. I have a picture of the infamous lake that Colin Firth took a dip in for Pride & Prejudice. It was another wonderful and memorable visit.