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Tag Archives: Lake District

I just returned home from the Number One London tour of the Lake District. What a fabulous time! We saw vistas like this:

And this:

What an inspirational trip! I just so happen to be starting a new book and I can set the book anywhere in England, so why not the Lake District?

The Lake District was a popular destination for English travelers during the Regency, perhaps because Europe was closed to them or maybe it was because William Wordsworth wrote a guidebook popularizing the place.

Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth, Cumberland, and with his sister Dorothy, settled in Dove Cottage in Grasmere, soon to be joined by a wife, the wife’s sister, and three out of their five children. We visited Dove Cottage and, while it had a charming exterior, inside it was dark and small. There were only three bedrooms, one for the Wordsworth and his wife, one for Dorothy, and one for the children. The poor sister-in-law slept sometimes with the children, sometimes with Dorothy and sometimes in a cot in the sitting room, if none of Wordsworth’s frequent guests were visiting.

It was pretty clear to me that my book would not put my hero and heroine in such a small, dismal house.

Another choice was a castle. We visited Sizergh Castle, a residence of the Strickland family since 1239. This house was quite atmospheric, with dark oak panelling and oak carved fireplaces and winding castle-like staircases.

Or perhaps a stately Georgian house would be a better fit. We also visited Dalemain House.

With its beautiful gardens.

Decisions. Decisions.

What do you think?

(By the way, this was only a fraction of the wonderful sights we saw in the Lake District)

I know there are reasons why college financial aid paperwork and income tax paperwork have to done at the same time, but I don’t have to like it!

When I am up to my eyeballs in Things I Don’t Enjoy, I take the odd moment to fantasize about travel. Lately I’ve been dreaming about a trip back to the UK.  I lived there for three years while on international assignment, but that was twenty years ago. I am really longing to go back and hoping it may be possible in a few years.

Of course I will want to revisit London and perhaps other major cities. But my heart is really in the countryside. Since I don’t have a lot of time to write about my favorite locations (have to get back to that annoying paperwork), I hope you will enjoy some pictures from some of my places I’d revisit in my dream tour.

I would definitely go back to Sussex and revisit favorite walks and pubs there.

Countryside in Sussex

I couldn’t miss Cornwall—so craggy and romantic.

Lands End in Cornwall, UK

The Cotswolds are how I imagine as the Shire, from The Lord of the Rings. 

Evening time near the pretty Cotswold village of Ilmington, Warwickshire, England

The Yorkshire moors—breezy and other-worldly.

View from the top of Hasty Bank into Bilsdale, North Yorkshire Moors

I think my favorite area may be the Lake District.

Stone Barn overlooking Ullswater in the English Lake District

Where would you most like to go, whether in the UK or elsewhere?


This week, the ebook edition of The Incorrigible Lady Catherine, the first of my “Three Disgraces” series, went live.

Catherine is the most flawed heroine I’ve written so far and she’s drawn a lot of mixed reactions. In any case, readers have loved the hero, Philip. He’s been described as the perfect Beta hero. The way I see it, he’s a strong man to deal with a mess like Catherine.

This is a story about healing and since I often seek healing in nature, I decided to set it in one of the most beautiful places I visited in the UK: the English Lake District, near Ullswater, where Wordsworth was inspired to write his famous poem about the daffodils. My husband and I paddled around it in a canoe, enjoying the play of light and shadow cast by scudding clouds over the hillsides, until rain forced us back to shore.

We also hiked to see Aira Force, a waterfall that the characters visit in the story and that is featured on the new cover.

Below is a picture of Castlerigg Stone Circle. Since I have this fascination with “old rocks”, I invented a similar fictional stone circle and set it on Philip’s lands.

I’ve set other stories in Kent and Sussex (where I lived during my assignment). I’ve also used the Cotswolds and Cornwall. I have a story in the idea file that would feature the North York Moors.

What are some of your favorite places, in the UK or elsewhere? Where would you like to see more stories set?

I’ll be giving away 5 Kindle copies of The Incorrigible Lady Catherine to commenters chosen at random. If you win, you can also nominate a friend to receive a free copy. Void where prohibited. You must be over 18. No purchase necessary. Post your comment by midnight EST on December 2. I will post an announcement on Saturday, December 3, so please check back to see if you have won.


I’m writing this a week in advance, because on the Saturday it will post I will be returning from a week in Florida, where we are visiting family during my children’s spring break.

Frankly, I must say that Florida is not my favorite vacation spot. There are fun things to do, of course, and it’s good to see relatives. But the Orlando area is Too Crowded and Too Hot. I am hardened by our upstate NY winters, I guess!

I did enjoy my visit to the Florida Keys, because I went scuba diving and saw a shark, just the right kind: about four feet long and swimming the other way! Tropical vacations for me have to include some sort of snorkeling or diving.

Otherwise, I prefer temperate climates, lakes and mountains. I love Maine, especially Acadia National Park, and I’ve had many wonderful vacations in Canada. I think I’d enjoy going out to the Rockies sometime.

During the Regency, the trend for seeking out the picturesque was satirized in William Combe’s poem “The Tour of Dr. Syntax in Search of the Picturesque,” illustrated by Thomas Rowlandson. I wouldn’t have cared; I would have gone anyway.

Here are some of my favorites among the picturesque spots I visited while on international assignment in the UK. My own pictures are buried; these are all from

First, the Lake District. There’s a famous incident where a visitor, after boring Beau Brummell with stories of a tour in Scotland, asked him which were his favorite lakes. To depress the bore’s pretensions, Brummell consulted with his valet before replying “Windermere, will that do for you?”

My own real favorite in the Lake District is Ullswater, of Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” fame. My husband and I rented a canoe there one breezy afternoon. We paddled against the wind both ways (it turned just as we did) and enjoyed the movement of the clouds and the play of light over the hillsides until a light drain drove us toward shore and a nice pub in Glenridding.

Tintagel: crags, ruins and Arthurian legend. Who could ask for anything more?

The Isle of Skye: more fantastic scenery and sheep with an attitude. At one point in our travels, a ram planted his feet in the middle of the road in front of us and glared at us. I had to get out to shoo him out of the way and frankly, I was a little unnerved!

The Cotswolds: pastoral countryside, churches, cottages all built of a lovely golden stone. When my husband accidentally damaged our old brick fireplace in a fit of home improvement, we decided to rebuild it with stone that reminded us of the Cotswolds.

Do you enjoy the picturesque? What are some of your favorite destinations, in Britain or elsewhere?


Diane’s post on Mapping the Ton had me thinking about settings and how we use them in our stories, whether they are real places or our own creations.

I often like to do country settings, perhaps because I have so many happy memories of walking and riding through the English countryside. I sometimes choose counties I’ve visited. Sometimes I choose an area based on the mood of the story or what seems right for my characters.

I used a Sussex setting for LORD LANGDON’S KISS, as that’s where I lived during my UK assignment and thus knew best. For THE INCORRIGIBLE LADY CATHERINE, I wanted a setting that was wilder, to match my rather tempestuous heroine. I ended up using the northern Lake District, around Ullswater. I even had my characters stroll through the area that inspired Wordsworth’s famous poem about the daffodils and was delighted with how the art department depicted that scene (I am less delighted with the depiction of the hero, but enough of that!) I used the Cotswolds for THE REDWYCK CHARM; I felt the more rolling, pleasant landscape suited to the lighter story.

SAVING LORD VERWOOD had a darker thread, which I thought worked best in the far reaches of Cornwall (all sorts of cool ancient sites and great craggy cliffs to push people off). When inventing fictional stately homes, I like to use real houses from the same area as inspiration. Not that I incorporate every detail of the architecture or imitate exact floor plans, but I like to know some of the materials and building styles used. Though I adore Palladian mansions, for Verwood’s home I wanted something older. I found what I was seeking in Trerice House, pictured above. I think the art department captured the essence very nicely (the hero looks hot, too.) 🙂

For LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE I used Finchcocks as inspiration. It’s a lovely Georgian manor in Kent that also houses a museum of historical keyboard instruments (well worth a visit). Among the cover art suggestions, I also included a picture of an orchard in Kent, with a traditional oast house (used for drying hops) in the background.

So I don’t know how the cover ended up the way it did. Though I do like the overall layout and the color, the close up is reminding me of how very UN-Colin-Firth-like the hero looks. And that hair is giving me the shakes!

Moving on to my current work-in-progress. Part of the story will be set in Norfolk, so I have been looking around for inspiration from real stately homes there.

Holkham Hall (home of Coke of Norfolk of agricultural fame, pictured to the left) is gorgeous but not quite what I have in mind for this story. Felbrigg Hall (on the right) is a possibility.

However, Mannington Hall (pictured below, a medieval manor house now better known for its gardens) is very appealing. It even has a moat! I’ve already written a hero who owned a stone circle but never one with a moat. That could be interesting…

What sorts of settings do you enjoy? Do you have favorite counties, or favorite stately homes?

If you write, how do you come up with imaginary settings?

And do you enjoy seeing settings used in cover art? Personally, I tend to prefer them over clinches and headless male torso covers. Maybe like Elizabeth Bennet, I’m a pushover for “beautiful grounds.”


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