Pat here: In today’s episode of Ask A Wench, Beth Reimer asks: Any ideas for fighting the winter blues? (Beth, you’ve won a free book! I’ll be in touch) It’s the middle of winter in the upper hemisphere, when the days seem darkest and coldest, and the wenches thought this would be a good time to throw in their suggestions!
Andrea here, musing today about another facet of The Diamond of London, my just-published fictional biography on Lady Hester Stanhope. Along with Lady Hester, the book features a number of larger-than-life personages from the Regency era whose lives intertwined with hers. By its very nature, a biography is about people. But in Lady Hester’s case, “place” also had a profound influence on her life.
She grew up at Chevening, one of the grand country houses in England (it now serves as the unofficial country residence of Great Britain’s Foreign Secretary of Great Britain) and also lived at 10 Downing Street while serving at private secretary and hostess to her uncle, William Pitt the Younger while he was prime minister. But the place closest to her heart, and where she blossomed into her adult life and sharpened her strength of character and many talents—including garden design—was at Walmer Castle, a coastal fortress in Kent with a rich and fascinating history.
So I thought I would take you on a short tour of this storied place.
Anne here, with our regular end-of-the-month post about the books we’ve read and enjoyed in the last month. This is a favorite post with Wenches and readers alike, as we share and discuss the books we have enjoyed.
We start with Christina, on Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood.
Christina says: I’ve loved all Ms Hazelwood’s books before this one and was excited to read her latest. It was good and I liked it, but not as much as the others. The heroine, Mallory, is not a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) one as in previous stories, although she is clearly intelligent and gifted in a different way to other people. Her super-power, as it were, is chess. Her father was a Grand Master and he taught her from a young age, but when he betrayed her mother and left the family, Mallory stopped playing. Anything to do with chess was simply too painful and she feels guilty because she was the one who alerted her mother to the fact that her dad was cheating, thus breaking up the family.
Four years later, she is once again drawn into the world of chess (against her will but forced by circumstances as she needs money) and meets enigmatic World Champion Nolan. Their relationship is difficult, but the attraction between them is undeniable. They are both keeping secrets, however, and the path to true love does not run smooth.
Tomorrow, The Diamond of London, my first foray into historical fiction, will release. And while creating a book is always a journey, this endeavor was particularly interesting one.
When my editor and I first began discussing the idea of a fictional biography on Lady Hester Stanhope, I had some reservations. A fictional biography? That seemed like such an oxymoron, and coming from the world of fiction, where I could happily scribble away, making things up as I went along, the thought of trying to piece together Truth and Imagination in one story seemed a little daunting . . .
And then there was Lady Hester Stanhope herself. I’ve written a number of books set in Regency England, so I’m fairly knowledgeable about the history and notable people of the era. Her name was familiar to me, but only for the later part of her life, when she was the most famous—and eccentric—adventurer of the early nineteenth century. From what little I had read, Lady Hester was considered opinionated, abrasive, headstrong, and emotionally unstable. That certainly gave me pause for thought. To write a book about her meant that the two of us would be spending a lot of time together. What if we didn’t get along?
Andrea here, wishing everyone a Happy New Year filled with all good things—including books, of course! All of the Wenches have exciting new releases coming throughout 2024—kicking off later this month with Christina and me! Check out this month’s newsletter for further details! (If you haven’t yet subscribed, just click on the sign-up button on the home page of this site!)
You’ll hear all about my new book in my next blog, but before I take you on a tour of my characters and backstories, I thought I’d share some real-life travel adventures, for a number of us Wenches do “boots on the ground” research for setting our books in faraway historical places.
I’m currently working on a new Lady Arianna mystery. The last one was set in St. Petersburg, Russia, which I was lucky enough to have visited years ago. This current one is set in Greece, and the mystery involves ancient antiquities and the controversy over Lord Elgin taking many of the Parthenon’s priceless treasures back to Britain. (Lord Byron was a vocal critic of Elgin and sought to stir public outrage in Britain over the earl’s “cultural looting.)
I visited Athens last year and climbed to the acropolis to see the magnificent Parthenon (an amazing experience) but my story also revolves around the Tomb of Agamemnon, which I have never visited. So, when I spotted a very alluring sale on a Viking cruise through the Greek Islands, with a featured visit to Mycenae and the Tomb, I jumped at the chance to explore it and many of the other incredible historic destinations of Greece.
I confess, I have wanted to visit Greece ever since through reading Mary Stewart’s marvelous romantic suspense novels, The Moonspinners and This Rough Magic, as a young teenager. History, natural beauty, adventure . . . how could I resist! So the trip was also an homage to my youthful dream of experiencing this legendary part of the world.
So, come along with me and I’ll give to a snapshot tour of all the glorious things I saw!