Preston Manor

While Kristine Hughes Patrone and I were in Brighton this past May, we visited Preston Manor, a near-by historic house dating back to the 13th century, but rebuilt in the 1700s and the early 1900s. The house was restored to this latest incarnation, the Edwardian period.

It was interesting for many reasons. For one, from the outside it reminded us of a shabby New Jersey Banquet Hall.

Unlike the Great Houses we had seen on the trip–Chatsworth, Kedelston Hall, the Pavillion, Apsley House–Preston Manor was a more ordinary house, the sort of house gentry might live in. One could easily imagine a family living in this house.
Lady’s bedroom
Maid’s room
Instead of fine art, Preston Manor had items of lesser value and lots of collections.
Of figurines
Chinese Buddhist lions
Even paintings of pet dogs
While we were visited, there was a special exhibition on witchcraft and on Doreen Valiente, the mother of modern witchcraft who had lived nearby.
Preston Manor was also said to be the most haunted house in Brighton, featuring a white lady, disembodied heads and hands, and lights turning on and off. Luckily we did not experience any ghostly phenomenon, just some school children learning about life in the early 1900s by making food in the kitchen.
It was another lovely England experience!

New Books!

Pre-order for Bound By A Scandalous Secret, Book 3 of the Scandalous Summerfields, is available now. The paperback is released November 22; the Ebook is December 1.

Bound By Their Secret Passion is the title of Book 4 of the Scandalous Summerfields. The final book in the series–Lorene’s story– is coming in 2017.

Cat Chronicles

Starting in late April we had a horrible flea infestation (with INDOOR cats!) that just stretched on through June and set in motion some awful events.

IM000094The flea problem just exacerbated our old cat’s health problems until we decided one day that he was just suffering too much. So we had him put to sleep. This lovely fellow had always been a very special cat with so much personality. He was 19 years old.

IMG_0028You might remember that last November we had to have the Cat-Who-Lives-On-The-Kitchen-Table put to sleep and that the pain of that was eased by our adoption of two kittens that my daughter-in-law rescued from a feral mother cat.

The gray tabby kitten (now a year old) became ill, probably from something flea-bearing, but we didn’t catch it in time and suddenly she was very sick. A week after our old guy left us, we had to have the gray tabby put to sleep. This was the most wrenching decision of all, because we could have tried to save her, but at great expense and with no guarantee. And if we’d not waited so long….

IMG_1187I couldn’t bear to think of the other rescued kitten having no one to play with, so the very next day we went to the shelter and adopted this kitten (“Spot”), three months old and another gray tabby.

She’s been a godsend. She’s lively, friendly, and playful, and the black-and-white kitten loves her. Even our old remaining cat (“Devil Cat”) has taken to her. He rarely hisses when she plays with his tail or tries to chase him.

So, once again we have three cats. The young ones have been such a joy, but it has been an awful, wrenching time to get to this happy place.

"Devil Cat"
“Devil Cat”
Black-and-White Kitten
Black-and-White Kitten



On our last day in England, Kristine Hughes Patrone of Number One London Tours and I took a water taxi on the Thames from our hotel to Southwark where the Mills and Boon offices are located.  The taxi ride itself was amazing, seeing sights like this one:
We had time to kill so we explored Southwark, wandering in to Southwark Cathedral:
Then we walked through Borough Market:
And past a pirate ship!
And wound up at 1 London Bridge Street in The News Building where we were warmly greeted!
Afterward my editors took us to a formal tea for lunch, a truly lovely time!

Derby and Kedelston Hall

On my England trip with Kristine Hughes Patrone of Number One London Tours, we stopped in Derby. Kristine was thinking about using a hotel in Derby as the main place to stay during her upcoming country house tours, but the city wasn’t really quite what we had in mind.

It did have a lovely cathedral, though:

And a short distance away we discovered Kedelston Hall.
Kedelston Hall has been the country seat of the Curzon family since the 1200s. The Curzons were the second most wealthy landowners in Derbyshire, second only to the Cavendishes–the Duke of Devonshire and Chatsworth. (To hear about our visit to Chatsworth, see my Risky Regencies Post.)

Sir Nathanial Curzon, later Baron Scarsdale, commissioned the house in 1759. The architects he originally hired designed the house in the Palladian style, but Curzon fired them and hired a relatively new architect to complete the house. The new architect was Robert Adam.

Robert Adam designed a beautiful neoclassical building and continued to design the interior in that style. The state rooms are beautiful examples of Adams’ use of decorative plasterwork, symmetry, and color.
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He also designed the gardens.
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Especially lovely about Kedelston Hall were the docents in each room. All we had to do was say, “Tell us about this room” and they told us everything, including some secrets hidden behind the walls!

It was a lovely day and a lovely surprise!

Holt Medallion Winner!

holtwinnerDiane’s Bound By Duty won, not one, but two Holt Medallions, Virginia Romance Writers contest for published authors. Bound By Duty, first book in the Scandalous Summerfields series, won for Best Historical and Best Book By A Virginia Author, a special honor. Diane calls Virginia home.

Walking Through Regency London

On our second day in England, Kristine Hughes Patrone and I walked the streets of London. We started in Mayfair, shopping and just plain enjoying ourselves.

We stopped at Lock’s, a hattery that has been in business longer than any other hat shop in the world. It moved into #6 St. James’s Street in 1765 and still uses the conformateur, a head-measuring device invented in France in 1852 by Allié-Maillard to fit hard hats to this day.
We shopped at Floris and smelled its line of historic scents, some dating back to the 1700s, just as a Regency lady might do.
We saw streets that could transport one right back to Regency London.
And took a break at the National Portrait Gallery.
We ended our day at St. Martin’s Theatre to see Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap, a play with the longest run in history – 63 years. But I can’t tell you whodunit. I promised!
A fabulous day two in England!

I’m Back!

My England trip was fabulous! I owe it all to Kristine Hughes of Number One London. If not for her invitation for me to tag along while she scouted out locations and experts for her upcoming tours, none of this would have happened.

IMG_0082XX1XDay one found us having tea and scones with Ian Fletcher, author of Napoleonic war histories like Galloping At Everything and owner of his own tour company, Ian Fletcher Battlefield Tours.

We met Ian at Buckingham Palace and walked back to our hotel, St. Jame’s Court Hotel, which was about halfway between the Palace and Westminster Abbey. Perfect location! The hotel was fabulous and they served great tea, scones, clotted cream, and jam.


IMG_0086XX1XAfter our tea, Kristine and I walked back to Buckingham Palace for the last small group tour of the season. Tour guides led about twelve of us around the public rooms of the Palace, explaining the events that take place in each room and showing the fabulous art work. We were not allowed to take photos inside, but here’s what we looked like after we finished. All smiles!

In fact, I don’t think I stopped smiling anytime during the whole trip!

I promise more about my trip later!