A Greek Odyssey

The Parthenon

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!

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New Year, New Adventures

Andrea here who returned just days before Christmas from giving myself the early present of taking one of my top “bucket list” trips: an odyssey through the Greek islands. More on the fabulous details in an upcoming blog (pictured at left are the fabulous hilltop monasteries of Meteora) But as the new year dawns, it got me to thinking of how I want to do even more traveling in the coming year. Seeing new things, experiencing different cultures, getting to appreciate in person the great historic treasures of world history is inspiring in so many ways. It’s easy to keep putting things off—I’m too busy . . . I’ll do it next year . . . packing is a pain . . . the litany of excuses is legion. But losing several friends in the last year way too early in life was for me a real reminder to carpe diem. I have a wish list, and am determined to keep working through it.

What about you? Do you love to travel and are there places you yearn to visit? Do you have a bucket list, and if so, what’s #1 on it?

The Allure of the Tree

Andrea here, musing about the allure of the Christmas tree. I was traveling for the two weeks right before Christmas Eve and decided that I would have to forego a tree this year because it would turn brittle and lose its needles without the regular watering needed to keep it in fine fettle. A rational decision, perhaps, but I was a little surprised at how much I missed its presence when I arrived home.

When I was a kid, decorating the tree was always a highlight of the season. My family would take turns adding an ornament at a time. No tinsel was ever allowed. Just lights (no little fairy lights but the old-fashioned bulbs in traditional colors)and ornaments. All of us had favorites, and it was always fun to see much-loved friends appear year after year.

But as happens, kids grow up and family traditions change . . . my Mother kept all the boxes at her house and for years she would decorate a tree with the same ornaments for when we came for our Christmas visits. When she passed away, the boxes got divided between us, and also shared nephews and nieces who wanted to have a sweet memory of their grandmother.

I eventually decided to make my own tradition and found a collection of wonderful wooden snowflakes a while back that together with my blue and silver ornament balls make up the annual look of my tree. (I find that I like a simple, minimal look.) That its familiar twinkling of good cheer and wonderful scent of pine is not there to add a festive touch to the remaining Yuletide evenings this year makes the season a little less bright.

How about you? Do you have a tradition of putting up a tree? Do you have childhood memories of Christmas trees past?


Tis the Season for Bling!

C3a6c7844469c0658b85d71301e58611Andrea here. Due to the frenzy of the holidays and various demands, I am invoking the Wenchly “Repost” Rule, where we occasionally share an oldie-but-goodie. Given that the holiday season is a time of glittering baubles and bright, festive colors, I thought I would re-share a post on Men in Uniform.

The original blog was inspired by the setting of MURDER AT THE SERPENTINE BRIDGE, Book 6 of my Wrexford & Sloane mystery—the famous Peace Celebrations which were held in London during June of 1814. I was struck by the pomp and splendor of the famous guests—especially the victorious military brass—who came from all over the Continent to celebrate the defeat of Napoleon (this is, the first defeat!) and his exile to the isle of Elba. War is ugly and brutal, leaving a trail of death, desolation and destruction in its wake. So it’s a terrible irony that the painted portraits of the military involved in the interminable Napoleonic Wars have a certain heroic splendor (not to speak of a penchant for over-the-top bling!)

What is it about about uniform festooned with a king’s ransom of gold braid and gaudy baubles that draws a fluttery sigh from the ladies? I confess, during the course of my research, I found myself pausing to admire the, er, eye candy. So, putting aside moral scruples to honor the superb artistry of the Regency painters, I thought I would share some of my favorite examples of Men in Uniform. (The Allied officers play some small cameo roles in my story!) Enjoy the view!

Horatio Nelson

Sir Sidney Smith

Joachim Murat
Auguste de Marmont

Louis-Nicolas d'Avout

Alexander I

Jean-de-Dieu Soult
From top to bottom: Charles Stewart; Horatio Nelson; Sir Sidney Smith; Joachim Murat; Auguste de Marmot; Napoleon; Louis-Nicolas d’Avout; Tsar Alexander I; Jean-de-Dieu Soult; Sir John Moore. (all images courtesy of Wikicommons )

So what about you? Does a man in uniform draw a fluttery sigh? (And even if Santa isn’t putting a hunky military hero under the tree, best wishes to all our Wenchly readers for a happy holiday season filled with good cheer—and good books!)

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Hoot, Hoot—Musings on Owls

Andrea here, musing on owls today. Perhaps it’s because the shortest day of the years is close, and owls are nocturnal—a creature of the night. I’ve always found them a fascinating bird, not only in the wild, where I find their plaintive hoots alluring (though they usually prove elusive from sight.) I also love their depictions in art, where their mystery and aloofness seem to inspire fascinating visuals, from ancient times to the present day.

Since ancient times, owls have been a symbol of wisdom and vigilance. I first became really aware of that when I was in college because the owl appears in so many decorative stone carvings on the buildings around campus. From serious to silly, owls are tucked away in nooks and crannies, adorn the walls or peer down from rooftops. It was great fun discovering them.

I’ve also enjoyed seeing their stature in ancient Greek art. The owl is the symbol of Athena, the goddess of Wisdom (as well as  War, Weaving and other crafts) It was said in ancient lore that the owl sat behind Athena so she could see the entire Truth. Its images appears in sacred sculptures, coins and mosaics and many other artforms throughout the city of Athens and Greece.

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