A Home For A Hero: Gravetye Manor

When it comes to inspiration for our stories, I think most historical romance writers are visually-oriented.  We take research trips to historical sites, haunt the corridors of museums and libraries, and develop terrible posture and bugged-out eyes from hours spent staring at our computer screens as we search the internet for that perfect location in which to place our characters.  In actually seeing these locations, writers can more easily imagine the details and textures that bring a scene to life.

And, frankly, it helps us to get things right.  My last book, Sex And The Single Earl, took place in Bath.  I had forgotten how hilly that charming city is, and my characters spend quite a bit of time dashing about the place like Olympic athletes.  Only when visiting Bath again did I realize my mistake.  If my characters had indeed raced around the place as I had initially visualized, I’m afraid they would have all eventually collapsed in exhausted heaps at the top of one Bath’s many hills.  I can assure you, corrections were immediately made to the manuscript.

My next Regency-set historical romance, My Favorite Countess, won’t be released until May 3 but I’m already moving ahead to my next project.  I don’t yet have a title for Book 4, but I do know where much of the action is going to take place.  It will be at a lovely manor house similar to the one pictured at the top of this post – Gravetye Manor, a beautiful Elizabethan home in Sussex, built in 1598.

I stumbled across Gravetye Manor while reading Patrick Baty’s blog.  Patrick is the owner of Papers and Paints, a London-based company that specializes in many aspects of paint and color.  He’s also one of the foremost authorities on architectural paint and color, and he’s worked on and restored an incredible number of historic buildings and structures, ranging from Queen Charlotte’s Cottage at Kew to the Tower Bridge. He’s one of my favorite sources of inspiration and research, and the slide shows of his many projects are fascinating.  If you have any interest at all in architecture or paint colors – or even just in looking at beautiful historic buildings – I recommend you add Patrick to your blog roll.

Anyway, it was on one of my regular checks of Patrick’s blog that I decided that Gravetye Manor would be the perfect setting for Book 4.  I needed an old estate, preferably a little run down and not far from London.  It had to be beautiful but neglected, and need lots of care and attention from its new lord, the hero of my book.  Gravetye is currently undergoing a major renovation and looks anything but neglected, but the weathered beauty of this Elizabethan manor really appealed to me.  And the interiors of the house are lovely, too.

Can’t you just see the lord of the manor relaxing in front of this wonderful fireplace on a cold winter’s night, his hounds snoozing at his feet?  Okay, we do need to get rid of the flowers in that grate, but you get the picture.  And how about this cozy sitting room?  I think it’s going to be a perfect retreat for my heroine when she needs a bit of a break from her handsome but moody new husband.

These lovely photos were obviously taken in the spring or summer, and everything looks positively idyllic.  My book, however, is set over the Christmas holidays, so this is where the imagination part will come in.  As much as I would love to visit Gravetye in the winter, I don’t think that’s going to happen.  But with the help of a little additional research, I know I’ll be able to imagine a Regency Christmas for my characters, all played out against a fictional setting inspired by beautiful Gravetye Manor.