Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The story behind the story - A Contemporary Countess



Today for my story behind the story I'm going to talk about A Contemporary Countess, but first here's a remnider of the synopsis (if you've read it before just scroll down a little).


A Contemporary Countess
A contemporary playful and sensual novel of approximately 51,000 words
A former American foster child and a twenty-first century English Earl, what could they possibly have in common? They are about to find out.
 When Darielle St. James became the sole winner of New York’s biggest lottery jackpot in history, she knew her life was about to change. But even she had no idea how great the change would be.

She began by using her new found wealth to help her closest friends, her two foster brothers and sister, and Mom Miriam the lovely woman who had been her foster mother. And then set about assessing her own goals. Hounded by the curious press and fortune hunters, she moved into a small secure apartment building overlooking Central Park, and started work on her first novel. Now she had both the time and the means to write.
Online research for her novel, leads her to the estate of Adam Darfield, the Earl of Avanleigh, a struggling English aristocrat whose name is oddly similar to that of her Regency hero. Adam, she discovers has only recently inherited the title. He and his sister Susie run Avanleigh Estate, which is sadly in need of funds due to the enormous death taxes imposed at the loss of their father.
Dari’s childhood dream of living in a beautiful stately home suddenly comes to the forefront, and she writes to Adam with an interesting proposal. She would like to come to Avanleigh for six weeks to write her novel in the historic setting for which she is willing to pay a large fee, giving them a chance to get to know each other, and if all goes well, to marry. Citing arranged marriages from the past, from Jennie Jerome to Consuelo Vanderbilt, Dari makes a good case.
Adam, stunned at the unusual request, is encouraged by his romantically inclined sister Susie to take Dari up on the offer. Six weeks will give him a chance to get to know the beautiful young American, and the fee she has offered will help with the taxes. While he is not committed to anything, marrying her would ensure the financial future of the estate for many generations to come. It was after all, what his own ancestors had done.
Dari arrives at Avanleigh to find both Adam and Susie are easy going and fun to be with. Things are going incredibly well. But as time goes on, both Dari and Adam, each begin to think the other is just a little too good to be true and are both afraid to hope that what is developing between them could be real.
When Susie’s quirky and playful aristocratic friends from her childhood boarding school years arrive at the estate for their annual vacation, Dari discovers the truth. Adam has a reputation as an aristocratic playboy. From his youthful nickname the Voracious Viscount, to the current epithet the Randy Earl, his nicknames are numerous. Furious at her discovery, Dari confronts Adam, who reluctantly admits his past. But Adam has decided he adores the unpretentious Dari, and he convinces her to stay.
Dari is head over heels in love with Adam and loves the estate, with its historic connections to the infamous Henry the Eighth, ghost stories, hidden passageways and long time easy going staff. And Adam has awakened a sensual side in her that she did not know she possessed.
On the eve of her wedding, Dari and her new friends are celebrating her bachelorette party in the historic ‘Henry Room’ at the estate Dower House where the infamous king himself once slept, when they discover something that changes everything.

The story behind the story
This may contain spoilers if you haven't yet read the book
A Contemporary Countess

We’ve all wondered at some time or other what we would do if we won the lottery. Whenever the lottery jackpots rise to epic proportions we find ourselves rushing out to buy a few tickets and having those chats with friends and family about how exactly we would make our dreams come true. A Contemporary Countess is Dari’s story of winning the lottery and following her dreams.
I visited many stately homes growing up in England, and as a child always wished I was a titled lady and spun many fantasies of living there, but I think as I grew older one of my favorite daydreams was to be allowed to simply spend a day there, alone. To walk the ancient halls and go behind the red velvet ropes that held back the tourists and experience, touch, and enjoy everything that once belonged to some favorite historic characters and truly feel the history as Dari is able to do at Avanleigh.
My favorite stately homes were Chatsworth House and Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, both have been used in several movies. You might recognize Chatsworth from a recent production of Pride and Prejudice staring Keira Knightley.

Dari has a particular fascination with Henry the Eighth, something I own to myself. And feels he was maligned by tabloid historians, amusing Adam with her adamnt defense of the most notorious king in British history. Recent studies have shown that it is very likely that Henry was a diabetic, hence the out of control weight and ulcerated leg that wouldn’t heal, in an era that didn’t understand the disease. Henry’s sister Margaret who married James the 1V of Scotland, was also a known diabetic.
Henry is usually portrayed as glutonous, when he may have simply been a victim of a disease that didn't properly process, but instead stored his food.
Henry is known through England for the magnificent castles, fortresses and ships that he built. No, he was no saint, but he was a man of many sides. Dari simply chooses to see mainly his good side. The athletic young King who fell in love easily, led his armies to war, wrote poetry, laughed a lot, played tennis and built fortresses that still exist today. I like to think of him that way too.

'More wives than mistresses' this was often said about Henry. How true is it? I don't think we will ever really know. His most well known mistress Bessie Blount gave him the son Henry Fitzroy, who is sadly reputed to have died in his late teens though there are several other stories circulating that he may have lived on. (Fitzroy was a term commonly used to define an illegitimate child of a king.)
Dari is a natural born optimist, always making the best of everything around her. I chose to make her foster family sweet in this story, mainly because I have worked with children for much of my adult life in private homes and for a while in a children's home. I've met many of the folks that care for children in the system and have seen a trend in romance novels in the last few years where a child is reputed to have been 'tossed from foster home to foster home', or had bad foster parents. In many cases the foster parents are true angels and deserve so much better than this odd reputation they seem to have acquired through fictional depiction in movies and books. They do it because they love children. Dari has her own little family, a wonderful foster mom, two foster brothers and a sister.
The Estate Characters. Well, from Tom, the head ranger, to Alma and Freda the two cleaners, the estate employees always see the estate as belonging to them as much as the owners. Throughout history generations of the same families often lived and worked on the same estate. Usually developing a friendly cammaraderie with the owners within certain boundaries. Those boundaries are much less clear today than they would have been in the past. Hence Tom became almost a second father to Adam after his own passed away.
Anything you'd like to add, feel free to post a comment.


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