As most of you will know, Florence was the biggest inspiration behind The Rose of Florence, and I'm always fascinated by the settings and history behind other authors' books. Today, I'm delighted to welcome Luisa A Jones to my blog, where she shares the inspiration behind her books, The Gilded Cage, and the recently published The Broken Vow. Luisa is a fellow Welsh author and member of the Cariad chapter of the RNA. Croeso, Luisa!
Hi Angela, and thank you for inviting me to contribute to your blog. Knowing how your trips to Florence inspire your own writing, I thought I’d tell your readers a little about Plas Norton, the main setting for my latest novel The Broken Vow. My fictional Welsh mansion was inspired by Newton House near Llandeilo, which has been owned by the National Trust since the 1990s. I’ve been there several times, and its gothic towers and crenellations came to mind when I first imagined the gloomy home of Lady Rosamund Fitznorton for my previous novel, The Gilded Cage.
Although it was originally built in around 1660, the façade we see today at the real-life Newton House was remodelled in the 1850s. Built in the grounds of the ruined Dinefwr Castle, the house was the ancestral home of the Rice family, descendants of The Lord Rhys, Prince of the medieval Welsh kingdom of Deheubarth. Deer and distinctive white cattle graze the parkland surrounding it. I can recommend it as an interesting day out if you’re ever in the area - make sure you indulge in a cream tea in the café while you’re there, to give you energy for climbing up to enjoy the far-reaching views from the towers of Dinefwr Castle!
In The Gilded Cage, Rosamund finds Plas Norton’s appearance and atmosphere oppressive, as her life there is terribly unhappy. However, The Broken Vow focuses on Rosamund’s nineteen year-old stepdaughter Charlotte. Having achieved her father’s dream of securing an aristocratic fiancé, Charlotte has no further ambitions beyond being a Society wife and hostess until war threatens her plans. When the story begins, Charlotte has been living with her wealthy aunt in London. Only when she learns that her fiancé Eustace has the mysterious new condition of “shell-shock” does she decide to return to her childhood home of Plas Norton, to create a sanctuary in which he can recover.
Unlike her stepmother, Charlotte has happy memories of the house. Having always had a band of servants catering to her every whim, she now arrives home with only one maid, Miss Sharp, and the chauffeur Joseph Cadwalader, to help her convert the house into a convalescent home. She will have to grow up quickly!
Here's an exclusive extract from Charlotte’s homecoming:
“I’m back,” she breathed, greeting the house which had been awaiting her return. Although it was hidden at intervals by clumps of oak and wych elm, she took in its details: the triple gothic arches of the front porch, the pointed windows and the crenellations along the roof line. Cadwalader drew the car up just outside the ha-ha and slid across the front seat, leaving the engine running while he climbed out and opened the front gates wide. The metal hinges screeched like an eagle’s cry, welcoming Charlotte home.
She half expected to see Phelps, the family’s portly butler, waiting inside the porch, but of course there was no one waiting to greet them. It was the first time she had ever seen the house entirely empty. Without any signs of human activity, the grey stone seemed cold and bleak, the windows blank and dark. Weeds had sprung up in the gravel with no gardeners to remove them, and when Charlotte descended from the car she stepped carefully to avoid the rabbit droppings scattered everywhere. She approached the porch, hunching her shoulders against the wind, which whipped through it with seemingly renewed vigour. The largest and heaviest key fitted the lock in the oak front door, and she crossed the threshold into the darkness of the hallway...
Its emptiness made the hall feel unfamiliar. There were no flowers on the table, only a heavy white sheet to protect it. The chairs serried against the panelled walls were covered in a film of dust, and the air smelled stale and musty. It was so quiet, Charlotte could hear herself breathing: the clocks had stopped ticking without Phelps or the footmen to wind them. She spun on her heel. Had she imagined the sound of tiny, scurrying feet along the corridor? Probably not, to judge by the way Sharp had turned pale…
I hope this has whetted your appetite for finding out how drastically Charlotte’s life is about to change! Thanks again for allowing me to share this snippet from the book.
Thanks Luisa. I can't wait to find out how Charlotte manages! It's been lovely to find out more about your inspiration for your stories. I'll definitely have to visit one day.
If you're keen to find out more about The Broken Vow, you can get your copy here.