Monday, April 12, 2010

Statements about Stately Homes!

by Anna Campbell

Hey, check out the fabulous new cover for the Australian trade paperback edition of MY RECKLESS SURRENDER which goes on sale in June. Isn't that just delicious?

One of the things I love (yeah, all right, he's so handsome, I definitely love him, but that's kinda taken as a given, snort!) is that the house plays such a prominent part in the picture. In MY RECKLESS SURRENDER, Cranston Abbey where the heroine Diana grew up as the bailiff's daughter is like another character.

My vision of Cranston Abbey, the family seat of the Marquesses of Burnley, was more baroque and formal than the charming stone manor on this cover. That charming stone manor is more like Penrhyn, the house in CAPTIVE OF SIN with its history of smuggling and Elizabethan pirates and windows opening onto the ocean.

In my mind, Cranston Abbey is more like Chatsworth in Derbyshire, pictured here with its spectacular fountain. Or in setting, like Blenheim Palace which I must say for all its magnificence, was one of the most offputting stately homes I've ever visited. It's terrifically interesting but it's cold and so big, you can't really picture anyone living there and being happy. Given the history of some of the past residents, like the beautiful Consuelo Vanderbilt who became Duchess of Marlborough in 1895, that was definitely true.

The grounds of Blenheim are glorious, just like the grounds of my fictional Cranston Abbey. Here's an aerial view of that wonderful landscape, designed by Capability Brown.

One of the fun things about creating these fictional stately homes is that you get to steal bits from all over. Inspirations for the abbey's interior were the famous Heaven Room and Hell Staircase from Burghley House. I wanted that feeling of oppressive magnificence. I mean, look at this! I think it would be a bit much to face first thing in the morning before I'd had my cup of tea! And the idea of stumbling down this when I'd imbibed a little too much claret gives me the willies!

I love 'house' stories. A few that spring to mind are Manderley in REBECCA and Thornfield in JANE EYRE and of course, Wuthering Heights. The list goes on and on. Pemberley in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Tara in GONE WITH THE WIND.

It was such fun writing the house in CAPTIVE OF SIN and a different sort of fun (because Cranston Abbey isn't altogether a benign influence in the story) with MY RECKLESS SURRENDER.

Oh, and don't forget I'm giving away an advance copy of MY RECKLESS SURRENDER in my website contest which closes at the end of April. The question is really easy! Check out the details here:

So do you like stories that feature old houses? Do you have any favorites?


Vanessa Barneveld said...

Why, Anna, nice of you to post a photo of Blenheim, my country home away from home. Ha-ha!

Really, can you imagine living in these places? Such much to explore.

I'm nosy and I love to peek in people's houses, so yes, I do love novels in which the house plays a character. The house that springs to the top of my mind right now is that Dutch colonial from the Amityville Horror. Eeek!

Vanessa Barneveld said...

I meant, "so" much to explore. Ugh!

Anna Campbell said...

I haven't seen the Amityville Horror. The house sounds a bit creepy - I'm assuming that's where the horror took place. Thanks for swinging by! You know how much I love old houses! Isn't that setting for Blenheim fantastic? Pity the house is so oppressive.

Michelle Styles said...

Blenhiem I have always thought of as more a War monument than an actual home. I did not bother with the tour of private rooms when I was there. I prefer slightly smaller houses...
It also depends on the difference between the state rooms and the rooms the family actually uses. Generally the private apparetments are much smaller...and cosier. And if you think about it, stately homes have been being opened to the public for centuries. Remember when Elizabeth Bennet goes to Pemberley?
Alnwick Castle and Castle Howard are two other great stately homes.

Helen said...


I really love those photos I have never visited any places like these only in the stories I read and I do love it when the author describes them so as I have a picture of them in my mind while reading.
One of my favourite movies is Gone With The Wind and I do so love Tara and Twelve Oaks actually my youngest daughters middle name is Tara because of that movie and the estate.
Can't wait to read My Reckless Surrender

Have Fun

Deb said...

Beautiful pics, Anna.

My favorite mansion is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It is called Brucemore and is on the National Historic Register. The home and its grounds (I think 26 acres) are beautiful.

Wouldn't it be fun to explore all of these beautiful homes? I wonder what the inhabitants did before GPS systems? I would certainly get lost, I think!

PJ said...

I loved the house in Captive of Sin but am counting the days until I meet the house in My Reckless Surrender! :)

I have the perfect house for exploring just over an hour from where I live. It's the Biltmore House and Estate in Asheville, NC - the largest private home in the United States - and it's fabulous! Here's a link:

PJ said...

Oops! Clicking on the link doesn't seem to work but if you copy and paste it into your browser it will take you to the site.

Julia Smith said...

'I mean, look at this! I think it would be a bit much to face first thing in the morning before I'd had my cup of tea!'

LOL! I agree it's hard to imagine actually living in places like these. I think it's why the inhabitants squirrel away in private apartments that mimic the homes of more regular folk.

So far I've had a castle and a keep as extra characters in my manuscripts, but I tend to write about humbler sorts who live in overcrowded tenements, prisons, caves and gussied-up cottages.

Nancy said...

Anna, I love stories that feature old houses. I've never been to Chatsworth, but I've visited Blenheim, and I have to agree that it's grand but not very homey. At least not in the public areas.

I tend to borrow from castles--a bailey here, a keep there, the drawbridge from this one. The moat from Bodiam.

Mayhem from that one's battle. *g*

Okie said...

Beautiful pics, Anna! I love old homes as well. My husband's family(on his father's side)still lives in their old southern plantation home, it's been in the family for the past 6 generations. I got to rummage around when we visited this past summer. We got to stay in the 'birthing room'. lol! Sounds kinda creepy doesn't it?! But it's actually where the women gave birth/nursery room. Like all old southern plantation homes, it's got its share of ghosts and strange noises. I loove the lore!

Anna Campbell said...

Thanks for swinging by, Michelle. Interesting thoughts! Actually I really don't want to turn anyone off seeing Blenheim (either public or private rooms) - it's terrifically interesting!

Anna Campbell said...

Helen, I didn't know about you calling your youngest daughter after Tara. How cool! I hope one day you get to see lots of stately homes and imagine the characters in all your favorite historicals wandering around inside them (and getting up to naughty things!).

Anna Campbell said...

Deb, you've mentioned Brucemore before. It sounds just lovely! The funny thing is I'd never heard of it and now it seems to pop up everywhere. Weird how that happens, isn't it? Laughed at the GPS! I'd definitely need a ball of string to find my way around - I have NO sense of direction.

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, PJ, I've been dying to see the Biltmore Estate ever since Stephanie Laurens (how's that for name dropping?) told me she was going to stay there after the Atlanta conference. It sounds absolutely wonderful! I love house books - there's something that's immediately high stakes when a house comes into the offing. I wanted to live in Penrhyn. I definitely do NOT want to live in Cranston Abbey although my heroine falls for its overblown charms!

Anna Campbell said...

Julia, I must say one of the things I love about writing Regencies is that I get to play in these very glamorous sandpits! I remember going to one National Trust property where the family had fallen on hard times (Calke Abbey which is absolutely fascinating if you ever get the chance). Anyway, as water affected the roof and then the lower floors, they just moved down and down. Until finally, the last owner lived in two really shabby rooms with a single gas ring. Rather sad - at one stage they had been one of the richest families in England.

Anna Campbell said...

Nancy, I adore Bodiam! Even a bad photographer like me can't take a bad pic of Bodiam! It's like a child's image of the perfect medieval castle, isn't it? Laughed at you borrowing mayhem! I would think you already had plenty of that, my friend!

Anna Campbell said...

Okie, that sounds absolutely amazing. I'd love to catch up and hear more about this house. I think houses develop a soul, even with only one generation living in them. Multiple generations turn them into a complete personality! One of the things I love about going to old houses is that each of them has a completely different atmosphere. It's only stone and wood and glass, after all, but there's that feeling of something alive in them. Love that.

denise said...

Wow!! Absolutely beautiful cover.
I love stories with old houses. They have so many stories to tell. You can just let your imagination run wild.

Anna Campbell said...

Denise, you can't help but imagine the lives of people who have lived in these houses, can you? It's just magical.

Anna Campbell said...

Have to laugh. At breakfast most mornings, I settle down to my piece of toast and the Antiques Roadshow on TV. This morning's AR was Burleigh House, featuring in MRS! There must be something in the air!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Anna, a wonderful old house really adds that extra element to a historical romance. Loved the stately Cornish pile in CAPTIVE OF SIN and can't wait to discover your new one in A PASSIONATE SURRENDER.
But a beautiful Olde English manor house or cottage with roses around the doorway and a glorious garden and a welcoming hearth also has appeal. (Though I guess it's even better if said heroine inhabitant of cottage graduates to the stately home on the occasion of winning the heart of its wealthy, handsome--and in the case of your books--tortured owner. Preferably with title.

Pat Cochran said...

The houses you show are beautiful
and very large! I fear that I
would need maps and a guide to
make my way through the building!
One could get awfully hungry if
she couldn't locate the dining
room! LOL!

Pat Cochran

GladysMP said...

The only story I have recently read that brings a certain house to my mind is Powerful Italian, Penniless Housekeeper, by Lydia Grey. We could use more space in the house we now live in, but living in those huge mansions doesn't appeal to me. One would need a slew of housekeepers and supervising them would be a job in itself. Rich and powerful people do not lead lives without problems. Happiness does not always come with wealth.

Anna Campbell said...

Kandy, your description of the heroine's first house sounds absolutely beautiful! I must say I drool when I see photos of those old English cottages on TV. Thanks for swinging by - so glad you've enjoyed the houses in the books!

Anna Campbell said...

Pat, had to laugh at the distance to the dining room. I think you're right! I must say I really have no ambition to live in one of those uber-palaces. And honestly, can you imagine the dusting, snort!

Anna Campbell said...

Gladys, you're right about money not being the solution to everything. Although lack of money definitely brings a raft of problems. I grew up reading Harlequin Mills and Boons - stately homes figured quite prominently in those stories. I always loved that. It's nice to dream even though, as you say, the practicalities can be a bit much to contemplate sometimes!

Michele L. said...

Hi Anna,

Ooo...I love big homes! I have been on many tours of homes. I saw Elvis Presley's home, Hearst Castle, a southern plantation that was huge, an old farmhouse that had these creepy photographs. The eyes in the photographs followed you everywhere around the room. A castle in Canada that had these awesome turrets we were allowed to go up into. That was so cool!

Yes, I love books that feature big old mansions in the story. I used to read Gothic novels when I was young by Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney that featured some really big mansions and castles. I always loved reading them! All those dark staircases and secret passageways! They always fascinated me!