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Julie & Hubby
Julie and hubby at
Leeds Castle, Kent, England
 

If you are interested in reading about our research trips to England and viewing the photos, grab a basket of fish and chips, sit back, and enjoy….

(click on book titles to read and view)

Lady of Milkweed Manor
The Apothecary’s Daughter
The Silent Governess
The Girl in the Gatehouse
The Maid of Fairbourne Hall
The Tutor's Daughter
The Dancing Master
The Secret of Pembrooke Park
Lady Maybe
The Painter's Daughter
   
 

 

Lady of Milkweed Manor

 

When I first began researching Lady of Milkweed Manor, I had never been to the UK. Through Web sites and old maps, I chose Doddington (Kent) as my character’s birthplace—charmed by what I’d read about the place and how relatively unchanged it seemed. The old vicarage, however, had fallen out of church use by then and into private ownership. Even if I visited Doddington someday, I reasoned, I could do no more than look upon its exterior and try to imagine its rooms and what it might have been like to live there.

Two years later, when the book was finished and I learned it would be published, I decided I could finally justify my long desire to travel to England to see the places I’d written about. How serendipitous to discover that the Old Vicarage had just become a bed and breakfast! I could barely believe I would be able to stay in “Charlotte’s childhood home.” Nick and Claire Finley were wonderful hosts, and our stay with them was a highlight of our trip.

 
 
 
 

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The Apothecary's Daughter

When we were in London, I also did research for my second novel, The Apothecary’s Daughter. While other tourists visited the London Eye or Buckingham Palace, I dragged my long-suffering husband to less-visited places like the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries and the Museum of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. While others snapped pictures of the changing of the guard, he tirelessly photographed ancient mortars and leech jars.

I am indebted to John Williams, Beadle of the Apothecaries’ Hall, for his gallant and informative tour and for sharing a history of which he is justifiably proud. He even donned his ceremonial gown covered with golden tassels, which represent the posies that beadles of old pinned on to ward off the odors of the plague years. I am also grateful to Julie Wakefield, Assistant Keeper of the Museum of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, who gave us a detailed, fascinating tour through the changing medical treatments from early to modern times.

 
 

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The Silent Governess

 
The Silent Governess takes place on an estate called Brightwell Court. Brightwell Court is not a real place, but it was loosely inspired by the very real, very picturesque Bibury Court in the Cotswold village of Bibury, which the artist William Morris called "the most beautiful village in England." Many thanks to author Davis Bunn for recommending that my husband and I take tea there during our first England trip. We happily did so. Not only did we enjoy the ivy-covered manor, the lovely grounds bordered by the curvy River Coln, and the greedy ducks that nipped at our scones, but I also realized it would make an ideal setting for The Silent Governess. I am not the first, nor will I be the last, to set a novel in that idyllic place. If you every have the opportunity, I hope you will visit Bibury yourself.  
 

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The Girl in the Gatehouse

 

The Girl in the Gatehouse takes place on an estate I call Windrush Court. Windrush Court is not a real place, but is loosely modeled after the manor in Lower Slaughter, one of my husband's favorite Cotswold villages. If you ever have the opportunity, do as we did: park in the beautiful but touristy village of Bourton-on-the-Water and leave the bustle behind. Cross the road and walk across a sheep pasture, following the River Windrush into the quiet and lovely village of Lower Slaughter. The name doesn't do it justice, I assure you!

Note: The gatehouse pictured on the cover is the very one I had in mind while writing this novel. In reality, it is located at Deene Park, Northamptonshire, once the country residence of Lord Cardigan, the "Homicidal Earl" who led the Charge of the Light Brigade.

 
Photos of Lower Slaughter, inspiration for Windrush Court & village  

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The Maid of Fairbourne Hall

 

On our second visit to England in 2011, my husband and I focused primarily on research for The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, touring the below-stairs world and attic servants' quarters of several old country estates and town houses. (Lanhydrock in Cornwall, Number One Royal Crescent in Bath, The Georgian House in Bristol, and Tredegar House in Wales.) I highly recommend the "Butler and Housekeeper" tour, performed by actors in costume (and in character), at Tredegar House. No photos were allowed there, but here are a few from two of the other places we visited.

 
Photos of The Georgian House, Bristol  
Photos of Lanhydrock, Cornwall  

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The Tutor's Daughter

 

Bude, Cornwall was the inspiration for the fictional coastal village depicted in The Tutor's Daughter. My husband and I had the pleasure of visiting Bude during our second trip to England—a serendipitous, unplanned stop in our whirlwind tour of Devon and Cornwall. From our hotel on the north side of the harbor, I spied a large red-stone manor high on the cliff opposite and instantly thought, "I want to set a book there." When we asked a local woman, she told us the place was called "Efford." Further research revealed that the house was Efford Down House, and built by the same family who once owned Ebbingford Manor, an even older manor house nearby. I based fictional Ebbington Manor on a combination of these two historic houses. My husband and I enjoyed walking up the cliff and along the scenic coast path. Atop this headland stands an octagonal tower which inspired my Chapel of the Rock. It is actually a former coastguard lookout, known as Compass Point. There is something thought-provoking and soul-stirring about looking out its narrow slit windows toward the endless sea beyond. If you ever have the opportunity to travel to Cornwall, I hope you will visit it.

 
Photos of Bude, Cornwall, inspiration for Ebbington Manor and the Chapel of the Rock  

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The Dancing Master

 

To research The Dancing Master, my husband and I went English country dancing several times at the Tapestry Folkdance Center in Minneapolis. We learned a lot and had a great time. I also attended dance classes during the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Annual General Meeting. What fun to dance with other Janeites, many of us in costume! I also read several books written by dancing masters, like A New Most Excellent Dancing Master: the Journal of Joseph Lowe (Joseph Lowe went on to become dancing master for Queen Victoria’s children), as well as visiting web sites like regencydances.org.

Fictional Buckleigh Manor was inspired by Buckland House, in the village of Buckland Filleigh, Devonshire. Many thanks to Madeline Jane Taylor for her helpful book about the area, Buckland Filleigh, A Continuous Thread.

 
Photos of Buckland House, church tower parapet, & dancing at JASNA  

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The Secret of Pembrooke Park

 

For many months, while I wrote The Secret of Pembrooke Park, I kept photos of Great Chalfield Manor on my bulletin board, and grew quite attached to the place. Pembrooke Park is a fictional estate inspired by this 15th-century country house with its adjacent church, extensive gardens, and moat, located in Wiltshire, England. My friend Sara and I had the pleasure of visiting Great Chalfield in person while this book was being edited, and how lovely it is with its great hall, oriel windows, and topiary houses. We met several gracious, helpful people there (including Linda who secured places for us on the last tour of the day), and enjoyed hearing about its rich history and seeing the medieval architecture of the manor, often used as a film location. The exterior and grounds were much as I’d imagined them, though the interior is quite a bit different than my depiction of Pembrooke Park. Sara and I also attended an Evensong service at the church of All Saints there, where the Reverend Andrew Evans delivered a beautiful sermon that touched us both.
We also visited Chastleton House in Oxfordshire, to see its secret room. If you’ve read the book, you know why I was keen to see it!

 
Photos of Great Chalfield Manor & Chastleton's secret room  

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Lady Maybe

 

I worked on this novel over a few years, in between other projects. In 2011, my husband and I visited the Arlington Court Carriage Museum. There, I asked question after question of the helpful volunteer guides and learned the difference between a landau, barouche, traveling chariot, town coach, gig, chaise, and more. How fascinating to see so many historic carriages up close and in person, to peer into the rich interiors and imagine my characters heading off on their life-changing journey.

Initially, I searched for the location for this book using Google Earth, maps, and web sites. I wanted to find a road dangerously near a cliff’s edge overlooking the sea. I finally found it—a coastal road in North Devon along the Bristol channel near the twin villages of Lynton & Lynmouth. In 2014, an old friend and I had the privilege of traveling there. We drove on a winding, breathtakingly-narrow road as far as we could, then continued on by foot, walking on a narrow carriage road hundreds of years old, searching for the perfect spot to send a carriage careening down into the water far below. Wind whipped hair in our faces, pulled hoods from our heads, and drowned out our voices. But it’s an experience I won’t soon forget! Later, we hiked along the East Lyn River (mentioned in the book) for over an hour to reach the historic Watersmeet House fishing lodge for their famous cream tea. Those scones with real Devonshire clotted cream and whortleberry jam were definitely worth the effort! I loved the area so much, that I decided to set my next novel, The Painter’s Daughter (December 2015), there as well. 


 

Photos of Arlington Court Carriage Museum

Photos of Lynton & Lynmouth, North Devon

 

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The Painter's Daughter

 

I first visited Lynton and Lynmouth, twin villages in North Devon, when I was working on Lady Maybe, a book that required a cliff-side setting. I traveled there with an old friend and we fell in love with the dramatic coastal landscape within Exmoor National Park—also the setting of the novel Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore. We enjoyed the scenic harbor town of Lynmouth and stayed in the wonderful Castle Hill Guest House in Lynton, perched on the hill above. We hiked out to the majestic Valley of Rocks and Castle Rock on a narrow path overlooking sun-streaked water far below. While there, we learned that the area was a favorite among poets and artists in the nineteenth century (and probably to this day), and I knew I had found the perfect place to set the opening scenes of The Painter’s Daughter.

The second setting of the book is fictional “Overtree Hall,” which I based loosely on stately Chastleton House (with its secret room) in Oxfordshire. I also “borrowed” the stone-mask-squints we saw at Great Chalfield Manor in Wiltshire.

 

More photos of Lynton & Lynmouth
Photos of Overtree Hall (aka Chastleton House)
Photos of Masks/Squints (from Great Chalfield Manor)

 

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