I’ve been asked about the location of my books. I usually base the places in my books on real places, so here, for those of you who might be interested in them, are the specific places. I use a bit of ‘poetic licence’ so the places aren’t exactly the same.
I set the stately homes in my books in real stately homes, but I fictionalize them, in deference to the families who really live there.
In Danger Wears White, I set the first part of the book in the breathtaking Little Moreton Hall, in Cheshire. It’s a mansion built in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and there isn’t a straight line in the place.
For the great house in Seductive Secrets, Ashby, I based it on Chatsworth. Severus’s home in Alluring Secrets is based on Longleat, and Peter’s family home in Tantalizing Secrets is based on Belvoir Castle. I’ve visited all these places and tried to convey the atmosphere in all of them.
TANTALIZING SECRETS is set in Leicester. The manor where Arabella lives is set in the haunted mansion of Belgrave Hall. The button factory is set in the house in Sanvey Gate where I was brought up.
LAST CHANCE, MY LOVE is mainly set in the village of Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. The house I chose to represent the “Blyth Arms” inn is opposite the Original Pork Pie Shop in Nottingham Street. At the bottom of the street a retail market is held several times a week, and a bit further on is the farmers’ market and the auction ring, where livestock is sold. This has been going on for centuries, and is much the same today as it ever was. If you visit Leicestershire, Melton is well worth a visit!
NOBLESSE OBLIGE has three main locations: Scarborough, York and a stately home belonging to the hero, which I based on the superb Castle Howard. I just moved its location a very little! I know Scarborough very well, and used the old castle on the cliff to stage one of the pivotal scenes in the story. York is a beautiful city, and everybody should visit the city and the old Minster if they can.
In YORKSHIRE, the action takes place in the derelict Hareton Abbey. This was based on Calke Abbey in Derbyshire, a National Trust property. It was the family home of the Harpur Crewe family, a family of eccentrics who cared more about the wildlife in the Park than the house itself. When the National Trust acquired the house, on the death of the last Harpur Crewe, they found a house filled with treasures, falling apart. In a series of cedar boxes they found a State Bed from Queen Anne’s time, which had never been unpacked. It’s now on display in a special room, and it is so fresh it could have been made yesterday. The Trust decided to restore the house, so it didn’t deteriorate any further, but keep it as they found it. So the Nursery, where some of the action in YORKSHIRE takes place, is as I saw it. Black mould on the ceilings, toys abandoned and left to rot.
DEVONSHIRE takes place in that county, on the South coast. The bay is Poole Harbour, which was known for smuggling activities at one time. The customs officers in nearby Exeter were handsomely bribed to ignore the activities. The house, Peacocks, is based on Gawsworth Hall in Lancashire, with a few architectural details changed to fit into the Devonshire vernacular tradition. I have spent quite a few family holidays in the area, so I decided to write about an area I love.
VENICE contains some descriptions of St. Mark’s Square, and the cafe in the Square, where Rose and Gervase stop for coffee, is still there today. It was one of the few places ladies could take refreshment in public. The apartment where Richard and Rose spend their honeymoon is based on the house occupied by the designer Fortuny, especially the balcony that runs outside the building. The journey across Europe to Venice is taken from contemporary accounts.
HARLEY STREET takes place in London. The house Richard and Rose buy is a typical fashionable house in a fashionable area of town. They live on the same street as William Pitt, later to become Prime Minister. Before they move to the house, they live with Richard and Rose’s parents, in one of the grand houses on Piccadilly, most of which are gone now. I based this house on Burlington House, which these days is the home of the Royal Academy. The houses were often sold so the owners could take advantage of the property boom in Georgian England. They would have a smaller house constructed on the site for themselves, and use the rest of the land to build houses and squares, which were leased or sold to people. This is how the Duke of Westminster became the richest peer in England. I described Bow Street and the Pleasure Gardens from contemporary descriptions. A few years ago the Victoria and Albert Museum had a special exhibition on Vauxhall Gardens, reconstructing some of the booths, and having a scale model of the Gardens. Unfortunately there is nothing left of the Gardens these days, but I’ve been to the site, just to get the atmosphere there.