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Friday, 23 January 2015

The Historic House Locations for Wolf Hall

Scene with Anne Boleyn, Wolf Hall

A copy of my National Trust Magazine arrived yesterday and there is an article which details the locations used in the series Wolf Hall. I really loved the first episode, but my NT magazine did not have room for all the properties that will be featured apart from Montacute House. So here, without further ado, are a few images to whet your appetite. If you love historic houses like I do, I strongly recommend that you join the National Trust - free entry to most of these stunning locations. Click on the pictures to get to the National Trust sites for more stunning pictures.
Laycock Abbey was also used for the filming of the Harry Potter films, and was originally an Abbey and a Nunnery. It is now also home to The Fox Talbot Museum of Photography.

Great Chalfield Manor is a Medieval Manor House with a beautiful garden with lily pond and summerhouse.
Chastleton House is an impressive Jacobean Manor House built in 1607.
Horton Court in Gloucestershire was originally built in Norman times, but is now a small manor house.
More details about each house can also be found here.

Montacute House, picture from Wikipedia

Laycock Abbey

Chalfield Manor

Chastleton House

Horton Court

Horton Court
I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of the series and seeing these stunning locations. I'm also eagerly awaiting Mantel's next book, though according to the BBC she has told us all to 'be patient'. The pressure on her must be enormous, and they are very big books. Wonder if she'll be the first Triple Booker Winner?!

Monday, 24 November 2014

A Saga Lover's Christmas Stocking - two books to hit the spot

amber keeper

I was lucky enough to attend the launch of Freda Lightfoot's new book, The Amber Keeper, and dived straight in to this gorgeously evocative tale of love and treachery in the Russian Revolution. Impeccably researched, the book  tells of how, in the 1960's, single mother Abbie tries to uncover the reason behind her mother's suicide. The trail leads her back through her grandmother's history as a governess in 1911. Being local to the Lake District I particularly enjoyed all the local references and descriptions of the English Lakes in the sixties, and thought they made a wonderful contrast to the snowy landscape of turn of the century Russia. The characters are well-developed, and the Countess Belinsky and her family provide Abbie's grandmother with much more than she bargained for in terms of danger and deception. Freda Lightfoot's well-written sagas are always a delight to read, and this is no exception, with themes of revenge and jealousy, hidden family secrets and enduring love.


The second book I've been lucky enough to review this week is another treat for saga lovers: Christmas Fireside Stories. Our central heating boiler broke down last week, so we have been surviving by layering extra jumpers, lighting the log fire in the living room, and by carting electric fires from place to place in the bedrooms. So I was able to sit by my log-burner and read this selection of great stories and extracts - a perfect place to enjoy them. The six stories include a poignant re-telling of the 1914 truce during the first World War, expertly re-told by Margaret Dickinson. Although most people know the facts of this event, it was lovely to have it brought skilfully to life in this timely version. My favourite story was 'Christmas at Thalstead Halt' by Annie Murray, in which a shy railway worker finds that a broken down train brings him an unexpected Christmas gift. All the stories were well worth reading and enjoyable, fans of Diane Allen, Rita Bradshaw, Pam Weaver and Mary Wood will find they are well catered for in this anthology. If you like to look back to your childhood Christmases, to paper chains and coal fires, wartime rationing or clogs in the snow, this nostalgic collection hits the spot. The book contains anecdotes from the authors, recipes, and introductory extracts from their novels. AAh, all I need now is another mince pie!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Attraction of the Highwayman Image - with Henriette Gyland

Both Henriette Gyland and I have new books out about  a female highwayman. Fascinated by finding this out, I invited Henri to come and enlighten us about her novel. Henri's novel is called The Highwayman's Daughter.  I asked her:

Did you base The Highwayman's Daughter on a particular highwayman?
This is a hard question to answer. Initially I would say “no” but the idea of the highwayman is firmly lodged in our collective consciousness that I probably did base it on a particular highwayman – or a conglomeration of several – without even realising it! In addition to that I wanted to work from the premise of an “ordinary decent criminal”, the otherwise upright character forced into a life of crime due to personal circumstances.

As a writer of romantic fiction it was important for me to maintain the myth and the romance of the highwayman. Of course, the reality was quite different – most highwaymen were ruthless thugs, and many were rapists and murderers too. Some even did it for kicks rather than necessity, like Lady Katherine Ferrers whose gutsiness I can’t help admiring despite her dubious reasons for taking to highway robbery (she was bored, apparently).

Yes, I agree. The myth and romance is what attracts readers to the idea. The reality may have been somewhat different! I had to think hard about how ruthless I wanted my female highwayman to be before I started writing, and I'm interested to know what you think makes a good female highway robber.

She has to be daring, but she can also be frightened. In the 18th century, who wouldn’t be scared of sustaining a wound from a victim determined to protect his (or her) property? Even if the wound itself wasn’t fatal, it could so easily turn septic, and our highway robber would die an agonising death. Then there was the risk of disclosure and being caught which would lead straight to the gallows, with only the rarest chance of a reprieve.

Like any other thief, our female highway robber would also have to be clever enough to dispose of stolen goods without drawing attention to herself and to blend in with everyday life.

From a purely writerly perspective, in order for her to be an effective female heroine, she has to have to have a Good Reason for committing her crimes. Even though she breaks the law and technically threatens innocent people into submission, she still needs a strong moral code.

Yes, I think you're right - the motivation is everything. But with such a compelling female protagonist,  how can the hero compete?!

Good question! To avoid the gutsy heroine taking over the story, in my opinion the only way the hero can compete is by having his own strengths. By that I don’t mean physical superiority, although he would likely have that, or an I-must-conquer-this-female attitude, but an inner strength which leaves him in no doubt about who he is and his place in society. However, if he belongs to the upper echelons, he should never pull rank over those less fortunate than himself, including the heroine.

He must be noble, honourable, and even when he makes mistakes, he must possess the courage to admit to these mistakes and do whatever it takes to right those wrongs. Can he break the law too? Sure, but like the heroine he must have a strong moral code.

I have just downloaded The Highwayman's Daughter and I'm looking forward to meeting your characters. I'm hoping that our two heroines don't meet on the road - or there could be a bit of a battle! Fortunately novelists are a bit more polite, and it's been a pleasure to have you here, Henriette.

You can find Henriette Gyland on her Website
On Twitter: @henrigyland or on Facebook

You can never have enough books about Highwaywomen!
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