Friday, May 07, 2010

Historical Romance comes to Ham House!

The news this week that Harlequin Mills & Boon has teamed up with the National Trust to offer a historical romance set at Ham House is exciting for all those of us who enjoy historical romance, stately homes and the two together. The book, Scandalous Innocent by Juliet Landon, is a commemorative novel marking 400 years of Ham House but it is hoped that this will be just the first in a series of joint Mills & Boon and National Trust books. There’s a lot of potential!

Of course using a particular house as inspiration for the setting of a historical romance is something that many authors have done plenty of times before. Joanna Maitland, Elizabeth Rolls and I used an adapted version of Ashdown House as the setting for our anthology A Regency Invitation. I also used Ashdown to stand in as Delaval in The Penniless Bride. In the book the heroine thought it was quite an unusual building (ugly was the word she used!) The hero was most offended to hear his family home dismissed thus!

The difference with the current HMB/National Trust collaboration is that the house is specifically named and the story features as characters real people who lived there. On its website the National Trust suggests Dunham Massey, Montacute and Plas Newydd as other properties where love stories might provide the potential for a book. I'm sure we could come up with other suggestions of our own! Again I think Ashdown House would be perfect since it is said that the house was built expressly for “the love of a woman who never lived to see it,” Elizabeth of Bohemia, the Winter Queen, by her devoted cavalier William, First Earl of Craven. Or, if we want something from the Georgian period there is the Beautiful Lady Craven (as she styled herself!) with her rather racy love affairs. And a generation later we have the Regency Earl of Craven, soldier and rakehell, who married an actress. Plenty of material there – and how I would love to write those stories! I imagine that my colleagues on this blog must also be brimming with ideas of houses and characters that would suit these books.

So what do you think? Is the collaboration a good way of getting more National Trust members to read historical romance and of interesting historical romance readers in visiting National Trust properties? Is there a particular house anywhere in the world that you would like to see featured in a romance? Or a particular love story you would like to see told?

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Anonymous Harriet Smart said...

My third novel, The Daughters of Blane was inspired by the fabulous Penrhyn Castle in North Wales, although I moved it to an island in Scotland! But the crazy, wonderful architecture is the same.

I shall be very interested to see how this concept goes down with readers.

9:56 AM  
Anonymous Melinda Hammond said...

I was thrilled when I heard of this collaboration. I, too, use NT properties as inspiration and background for my novels (e.g. West Wycombe for my Sarah Mallory book, The Wicked Baron). To be able to use the real house would be very exciting (and slightly scary!)

I think it coul dbe a good way of bringing more novels to more people - and perhaps more history, as well.

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Elizabeth Hawksley said...

Sounds interesting, Nicola.

I've only visited Ham House once, many years ago, and I was put off by the creepy atmosphere. I couldn't help feeling that it was haunted. Could make for an interesting story, though!

12:24 PM  
Blogger Nicola Cornick said...

I've never seen Penrhyn Castle, Harriet,but it looks extraordinary! I can see how you could be inspired by such a fascinating place!

Melinda, I remember you talking about West Wycombe in connection with The Wicked Baron. I think perhaps that we should all compile a list of inspiring properties and send it to the National Trust to show how far the houses have already inspired us!

12:39 PM  
Blogger Nicola Cornick said...

How interesting about the creepy atmosphere at Ham, Elizabeth. Some houses do strike you very strongly that way, don't they. I remember feeling like that in the nursery at Brodie Castle in Scotland - and that was before I heard the ghost story!

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Elizabeth Rolls said...

I went to Ham House with my editor, Linda Fildew, on a trip to England 5 years ago. I loved it and have considered using it in a book a couple of times since, but the right situation hasn't arisen. I did use a combination setting in Lord Braybrook's Penniless Bride, though. While the castle I was thinking of for Braybrook's home, Amberley, was very much Berkeley over in Gloucestershire, the setting I had in mind was that of Goodrich Castle on the Wye River. Authorial license, I suppose! Joanna Maitland took me to both castles, not to mention all the other places she took me to.

It was a great deal of fun using Ashdown with Nicola and Joanna for A Regency Invitation. Even more fun seeing it with them a couple of years later. I have very fond memories of that trip. Not least Joanna's amazing whiskey collection . . .

2:09 PM  
Blogger Nicola Cornick said...

Oh, I love Berkeley Castle, Elizabeth! So much history and scandal to get your teeth into there!

3:31 PM  
Anonymous Elizabeth Rolls said...

Yes, Berkeley is fabulous, Nicola. I found the scandal about the 5th(?) Earl's marriage very interesting. Wonderful place all round. I loved the butterfly house, too.

3:46 AM  

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