My newly acquired "vintage" kitchen.
Since I seem to have spent the better part of my adult life hunting for houses and I’m wrapped around the process again, Jo’s recent blog at Minepast made me smile. (Not easy to do while wading through book-size stacks of real estate documents and arguing with insurance agents!) She’s found a page that gives us a history of one of Mayfair’s more famous squares—Grosvenor.
The famous characters we read about in our history books become human when we see them talking about their homes, the area where they live, the thieves who preyed on the wealthy—especially since Grosvenor was one of the last squares to add gas lights.
Reading through the little tidbits, we can watch Georgian urban development much as our suburbs develop today. In 1706, it’s little more than a cow pasture. By 1795, it’s surrounded by city and acclaimed as one of the most fashionable areas in London. By the 20th century, almost all the grand all houses had been destroyed, replaced by embassies and hotels—but still a very important urban center.
The Cato Conspiracy was designed to murder the leading statesmen of the time at a dinner in one of the homes on Grosvenor Square—rather like terrorists planning to attack the UN today had it not been for spies infiltrating the group. Some things never change—only the technology becomes more sophisticated.
The wealthy development even suffered an economic housing crash just as we’ve seen today—the builders built too quickly apparently, before the wealthy in St. James (on the left) were ready to pack up and move. Housing prices plummeted and several builders went bankrupt. Contractors are historically notorious risk takers!
They even developed a Homeowner’s Association of sorts when the park around which the square was built started to deteriorate. Of course, it took an Act of Parliament to accomplish it. I wonder if that wasn’t the start of HOAs everywhere?
My fascination with houses spills over into my books, as I’ve pointed out before. My characters tend to remodel, renovate, and redecorate frequently. I guess that’s called writing what I know! Anyway, Merely Magic, the first of my Magic series is being reissued this month in trade paper from Sourcebooks. You should see what I do to damp, dark Northumberland castles!
Oh, and if you haven’t heard about the romance trading card craze, check out http://romancetradingcards.com/ . I’ve added my Evil Genius e-book but haven’t had time to do more yet. Jeannie Lin, one of our previous guests, and some of her friends started this devilishly clever little promo device. And yes, EG contains another house as a character—a magnificent Washington DC mansion with a spook in the attic—the spy kind, not the ghost.
What other books can you remember using houses as characters?