Archive | April 2017

London to Brighton by Way of Quaint

When we took our leave of London in a hired car (a Skoda Octavia) from Hertz, it was about 11:30 this morning. Well, we didn’t exactly leave London, at least, not for another forty-five minutes. That’s how long it took to drive the six miles it took to get out of the city and on our way south. We shudder to think of how much longer it might have taken if it wasn’t a Sunday!


Driving on the other side of the road isn’t so difficult—you can usually just follow someone—it’s those skinny two-lane roads and one-car-wide roads that provide the real challenge. Those are the roads we took as we visited Horsham, Shipley, and Kirdford in West Sussex.

Those of you familiar with our book, TUESDAY NIGHTS, will recognize Horsham. The Cunninghams live there when not in London. Shipley is the home to the Waterfords, and it’s the youngest daughter, Olivia, who Michael Cunningham decides he will one marry day after he rescues her from a would-be rake in the Ship’s yard. Although the Ship, a tavern and possible inn, no longer exists, bits of the nearby medieval Knepp Castle do.



The local church, St. Mary’s, is surrounded by gravestones while an old phone box sits nearby. The brick structure is indicative of the churches that can found in most small villages.

The brown gravestone on the left side of the picture marks the final resting place of a distant relative. There are probably many more in the church yard—there are 120 people buried there—but most of the stones are unreadable.


Kirdford, another nearby village, was featured in THE GRACE of a DUKE, and the public house mentioned in the book is still there. The Forester’s Arms is undergoing some exterior renovations, but it’s still open for business—two-hundred years later! The place was packed for a darts tournament when we stopped by for a pint.


Hedgerows, trees, and wide-open fields dotted with sheep make up the landscape, a truly idyllic setting for a Regency-era novel. Or two or three.

Next stop—Brighton. Ta-ta for now.


Castles and Canterbury in Kent


Out last full day in London on this end of our trip wasn’t spent in London at all, but rather visiting Kent. We took a train (Southestern) from London’s St. Pancras International station (which we accessed using the Underground and a six-block walk) for an hour ride through the beautiful green countryside. The white cliffs of Dover were visible from miles away,  a sure sign the hour-long ride was neary over.

Our guide, Yvonne, met us at the Dover Priory station along with a driver who negotiated the many single-lane, super slim roads to get us to a number of attractions.

First up was an overview of Dover. Because this town was extremely important during World War II, there are a number of garrisons still visible in the hills overlooking the port.

Those structures silhouetted on the opposite hill were our next destination. King Henry II’s Dover Castle, St. Mary-in-Castro Church, and a light tower leftover from the Roman days are part of the fortifications that have protected the English coast for over 2,000 years.

There are a few staged rooms in the castle along with some accessories, like chain (or mail, depending on the language), a really deep well, and lots and lots of spiral staircases up the turrets to the top. The view from above is amazing, though, so it was worth the climb.

This castle featured a dry moat that’s still very must in evidence. The grass is kept trimmed by the sheep that were brought in to do the job of maintaining the grounds.

A short drive north brought us to Walmer Castle & Gardens, a fortress built by King Henry VIII to defend against the church in case they retaliated against him for replacing Catholicism with the Anglican Church. A newer facility, it’s also the home to the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. The Duke of Wellingham was one such, and he actually died while in residence here.

The Queen Mum enjoyed visiting this castle because of the tranquil gardens. The 95-foot long pond was installed on the occasion of her 95th birthday. This castle also features a dry moat, probably one of the prettiest you’ll ever see.


Next, we took a quick drive past Deal Castle on our way to St. Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury. There’s not a lot left of the Benedictine structure—it was founded in 598—, but it was this particular monk who managed to get the King of Kent, Aethelberht, to convert to Christianity (his wife, Bertha, was already a Christian). The king ordered that a church and monastery be built.

Here are some of the gates leading into the abbey. Gothic arches rein in the town of Canterbury, as do a few surprises.

We caught the 4:25 train out of Canterbury back to London and then had dinner at London’s oldest restaurant, Rules. Established in 1798, this elegant eatery features picture-covered walls, interesting statuary, and excellent service.  We’re off to bed now. Ta-ta for now!


Over a Thousand Years Makes for a Huge Mausoleum—Westminster Abbey

We used the Underground to get to Westminster Station this morning, and the view that greeted us when we emerged from below was stunning. Parliament! Oh, and that huge clock tower some refer to as Big Ben.

Today’s tour of Westminster Abbey proved the former Benedictine monastery has grown into Great Britains’s most hallowed hall. The site for coronations, weddings, and funerals, the abbey is also the final resting place for hundreds of aristocrats, scientists, literaries, and anyone who was deemed important enough. Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton are both buried there.


There are also many who are simply acknowledged with plaques or tiles or reliefs. Can you find Jane Austen among those in the “Poets Corner”? It’s a modest plaque for a modest woman just to the left of William Shakespeare.


The biggest surprise? How many women are featured! I expected Elizabeth I, of course, but James I, who succeeded her, had a chapel built for his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, on the opposite side of the abbey, so she’s here as well. As are aristocrats’ wives, Florence Nightingale, Elizabeth Warren and dozens of others.

The majesty of the abbey is best represented by its Gothic structure, so the ceilings are amazing. Just a reminder that sometimes you have to look up to see the artistry. Ta-ta for now!



Dinner with a View

On any trip, we need to spend one night splurging on an exceptional dinner. Tonight was that night as we made our way to the “Walkie Talkie”, a building that houses the Sky Gardens as well as several restaurants and bars on the 35+ floors.

Fennchurch Restaurant is at the very top, but to get there, we passed by the greenery that gives this space its name.

Since we’re traveling alone, we elected to make our reservations for the bar, where seating is side-by-side. Give our reservations were at 7:30 pm, there weren’t very many patrons—once it gets dark, though, this place fills up fast, as does the City Garden Bar below.

Dinner offerings include an eight-course tasting menu, or a limited menu featuring fresh fare done using unique recipes. The wine cellar must be immense, because the list was huge (although it’s not hard to choose a glass of wine, as there were only a few pages of those). We elected the Eroica Reisling from Chateau St. Michele. Our starter was asparagus with crab on toast, although we were pleasantly surprised by a first course of a pastry-wrapped anchovy.


Our main dish was lemon sole with mussels and a spinach purée sauce.


We ordered dessert to complete off our meal, but we were surprised by inbetween courses—an orange sauce topped by lemon fluff topped by white chocolate as well as a dish of airy chocolates. Dessert was thinly sliced pineapple topped with coconut sorbet—an excellent and fruity finish. The mint tea was amazing. Our request for honey was quickly granted, making this after-dinner drink a perfect ending. And given how late it is, this is where we’ll end this post. Ta-ta for now!


One Thousand Years of History in Three Hours—Tower of London

After an “English Breakfast” at my hotel, we grabbed our Oyster card and headed to the nearest tube station.  If you’ve ever ridden any kind of public transport, you’re already familiar with how the tube works. We just weren’t prepared for all the options. The network of tubes below London is immense, and operates on several levels, making for some interesting trip choices. We managed to make it to the Tower Hill Station on the first try.


Armed with a ticket arranged by our tour operator, Across the Pond Vacations, LLC, we made our way into the entrance of the Tower just past its nine o’clock opening.


We opted to do the wall and upper walks first, a tour that takes you up into the towers and atop the connecting walls. There isn’t much to see in the towers as very little of the furnishings or effects remain, but you occasionally come across a treasure.




Besides the crowns not featured in the “Crowned Jewels” display (where no photos were allowed), there are some coins, seals, armaments, artillery and evidence of the forbearer to backgammon, a game called Tables.

Ravens still guard the battlements and are apparently rather ornery.



The White Tower holds the armory, including all manner of weaponry and armor. There are also 204 stairs.


The chapel is in one of the turret towers, and since the Tower of London is made up of lots of towers, they come in various shapes.


Despite the growing gloom—the sky was cloudless when we started but was threatening rain as we took our leave—there were spots of color throughout.


We headed for the tube station for our next stop, but made sure to walk along the Thames. Tower Bridge is a sharp contrast to the newer buildings that line the river. We’ll be in one of those later tonight for dinner. Ta ta for now!



Two-hundred Years of London in Under Four Hours

Three airports and two continents in seventeen hours? That’s how we spent yesterday getting to London. A quick trip from Cody, WY to Salt Lake City was followed by a slight delay due to mechanical issues before the uneventful flight to Detroit. Watching Ron Howard’s “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week” on that flight was a great way to transition to hearing British accents. Detroit to Heathrow allowed us to write as well as sleep and eat (the food on that Delta flight is fabulous, as were the drinks). Once we made it through customs, though …

When we started planning this trip to England, we had several—make that many—sites  we wanted to explore, especially in London. Given the traffic, we had no desire to hire a car (rent a car) and were assured the public transport would get you where you need to go. Just fill up an Oyster Card  with 10 quid and ride any bus, underground train or even a boat. Even better? Hire Dave Cannell of Bespoke Taxi Service & Sightseeing Tours.

Dave’s services were arranged by Across the Pond Vacations, and although he offers a standard two-hour tour after picking you up at the airport, he certainly exceeded expectations on today’s tour—once we had the twenty miles to London covered (with lots of interesting background information on Chiswick) and Dave understood our desire for more information on Georgian and Regency-era sites,  the fun began. We did a drive-by of Kensington Palace, stopped at the Royal Albert Hall (currently undergoing some restoration work), and drove through Hyde Park (that’s the Serpentine in the photo with the body of water).





Just inside the Marble Arch entrance to the park is where public executions used to take place. It’s hard to imagine thirty-thousand drunken Londoners convening to witness hangings, but this was their entertainment. And the reason they had hangovers the following day.



Once we were out of the park, it was onto the city streets and around the squares. Since one of the characters in my books lives in a townhouse in Cavendish Square, we got this quick shot.


Gunter’s Tea Shop, once located at Numbers 7 and 8 in Berkeley Square, is still an eatery.


The bow window at White’s in St. James Street is the same as when it was added over two-hundred years ago. That window and who’s behind it will feature in my next book, The Honeymoon of a Viscount.


Dave pointed out several businesses which are the oldest of their kind. He’s in front of the oldest shoemaker London, just down the street from the oldest wine merchant, oldest hat maker, and oldest barbershop.



The largest squares in London are all sized to perfectly accommodate an Egyptian pyramid (should one ever be dropped from the sky). There are smaller squares, though, including Pickering Place. The original gas lamp is still hanging above the entrance.


Since most historical buildings in London are protected from demolition—they have to retain their original appearance—some have three hundred years of paint on their facades.


Over in Jermyn Street, several shops from the Regency era are still open. Floris sells perfumes but was also known for their combs and hairbrushes.


This vantage of the National Portrait Gallery and St. Margarets is virtually identical to how it appeared two centuries ago.


Horse Guards Parade Grounds now features modern seating, but the buildings are unchanged from when they were featured in several of my books.



Today’s tour also took us to Trafalgar Square, Pall Mall, and Piccadily Circus as well as the Seven Dials (once the slums of London but now gentrified) and Covent Gardens.

So what’s next? Now that we’re checked into The Bloomsbury Hotel,  a nap! Ta-ta for now.

When Online Searches Aren’t Enough, it’s Time to Travel

In mapping out the plans for our next two series of England-based books, we discovered an issue. Although it’s easy to determine how a particular locale looks today—there are any number of online tools and search engines that can display images or satellite photos—it’s harder to determine what they looked like (or if they even existed) two hundred years ago. Was the land covered in forest? Or was it farmland? What were the buildings like? Who lived there?

Old maps help. We own an entire series of maps of the United Kingdom going back at least two hundred years. So does all the genealogical research our mother has spent the last forty-five years collecting into a huge database and dozens of binders. But there comes a time when you realize it’s time to take a trip. Time to simply put boots to the ground and do the research yourself.

As a subscriber to Anglotopia -The Website for Anglophiles, we knew about Across the Pond Vacations.  ATP Vacations LLC plans tours for individuals and groups. Their expertise is travel in the UK—they only arrange tours for UK-bound travelers, so we knew they would know their stuff. We submitted a list of locales we figured we needed to visit (those where our current books have been set as well as where we were considering setting future books), provided a general budget and timeframe, and paid a $75 downpayment for a proposed itinerary. When they contacted us, the first question was, “Have you seen all these men without their shirts on in person?”

We realized right away that Anne Marie, one of the tour operators at ATP Vacations, had checked out our website,, and that she was referring to the men who grace the covers of our Regency romances. We had to admit that we had, indeed, seen a few of them in various states of undress, but not all. There are a few we haven’t even met (yet).

After a few more serious questions, she started her work. A proposed itinerary followed, one that included every single city, village, castle or attraction we had requested except for one (Lindisfarne Castle, very remote and currently under renovation). Once we accepted and signed the contract, ATP VAcations made reservations, lined up vouchers, arranged accommodations, and put together the final itinerary. Here’s the map of where we’ll be going. We’ll be sure to post more about the trip while we’re doing it!

ATP Quote Proposal 02-28-17


The Essential Mistress

Every new century seems to force at least one society to undergo a complete overhaul, and the beginning of the nineteenth century was no exception. In Great Britain, it meant a shift in the population as people moved into the cities, an increase in trading with both the Far East and the new United States, and the development of new technologies that ushered in the Industrial Era. On top of that, England underwent a complete renovation both in fashion, especially for women, and in architecture.

What didn’t change was sex outside of marriage, especially by men.

The Georgian Era, which essentially includes the nine years that make up the Regency, was a time when society allowed men to employ prostitutes without reprisals. Maintaining that sex was considered necessary to relieve tension, men turned to “ladies of the evening” in their various incarnations rather than subject their wives to their carnal appetites beyond what was necessary for procreation.

So, who was satisfying those appetites?

In 1802, London was the largest city in the world with two million denizens, yet it was a city of the not very young and not very old. Most were under thirty and had come from all over the British Isles to the thriving metropolis in order to find employment as servants, shopkeepers, dockworkers, and laborers. Around ten percent of the girls  (either 50,000 or 62,500, depending on the study) had to take up prostitution in order to survive, either because they were tricked into it by unscrupulous bawds or by simple poverty. Is it any wonder that fifty-percent of the babies born in 1802 were illegitimate?

wedding1816dressMost of those girls didn’t choose their profession, but for the lucky few who made their living as a mistress, the higher class version of a prostitute, life could be quite comfortable, and in some cases, lucrative.

Wealthier gentlemen and those of the aristocracy openly employed their mistresses. An aristocratic man’s ideal of “love and lust”, a mistress allowed him to have an intimate relationship, one where he could choose a woman to pleasure him without duty to his station in life being a deciding factor. If he wanted exclusive rights to his mistress, he would form an alliance with the woman based on negotiations performed by mutual friends. Typical financial arrangements included a private townhouse, let on the woman’s behalf, where the couple could be together without risk of interruption. Staffed with a few servants, this love nest, along with an allowance to pay for gowns, fripperies, jewelry and sometimes even a carriage, was provided in exchange for sex and conversation. The mistress would always be on call, at her protector’s convenience.

For the man, it wasn’t just about the sex with the mistress; it was about finding a woman who was everything his wife wasn’t. If he tired of her, he could move her out while he was on the lookout for her replacement. And if he didn’t tire of her, the mistress could become his lifelong companion. They could share love and even children, but due to societal class rules, they had to do so outside the bounds of marriage.

So, where does the wife fit in?

When a gentleman was around the age of twenty-seven (the average age of marriage for men back then), it became his duty to select a wife. At the very least, he needed an heir, both to inherit title and entailed properties as well as to continue the family lineage. He might also need to marry in order to form an alliance between two families or find a wife with a substantial dowry in order to pay off debts.

Since a woman, even a lady of the gentry or aristocracy, possessed very little independence, she was essentially the property of her parents until she married. Then she became the property of her husband. Parents settled their daughter in what they hoped would be a good match, opting for security over love because, in a time when divorce was considered scandalous, marriage was a lifetime commitment.

For the man who married for fortune or to form an alliance, he could only hope that love would come later, at which point he would end his relationship with his mistress. If a marriage were more of a business relationship than romantic in nature, a man would simply elect to keep his mistress. And the wife? She was free to take a lover once she had fulfilled her obligation to provide an “heir and a spare”.

Now it’s time for the surprise.

Despite all the conditions under which an aristocrat married in the early 1800’s, he usually did so because he felt affection for his intended! And his wife felt affection for him! No wonder marriages in the Regency were as diverse as they are today!

In the book, THE SEDUCTION OF AN EARL, a newly minted earl is forced to find a wife because his childhood sweetheart, who has already borne him a son, refuses to marry him. She understands the societal rules that prevent her, a farmer’s daughter, from marrying into the aristocracy. Although she was never a prostitute, her status becomes that of a mistress upon the earl’s marriage to a woman who simply wants children.

When the new countess arrives with her large dog, she explains why she’s so tolerant of her husband’s mistress. “Men have no regard for their wives and only ever love their mistresses,” she claims. Having grown up in a household with a father who employed mistresses and a mother who busied herself with charities, she knows of what she speaks. The words are a surprise to the earl’s mistress—she expected the countess to banish her and her son from the earl’s life—but those words may also make it harder for her to give up the position she no longer wants and accept a completely different offer.