Monday, March 15, 2010

Location, Location, Location!

by Christine Wells

Recently, I had the rather surreal experience of looking for a house to live in while also searching for a location in which to set my next historical romance. You will understand that I felt rather embittered by the contrast between the mansions my fictitious heroines get to swan around in and the type of house to which my budget stretches.

One might call it "Palace Envy".*G*

Where I live, many houses are made of wood in the traditional style we call the Queenslander. These houses were built with a view to minimizing the subtropical heat. They're set up on stilts so that air can flow through in a kind of natural cooling system. Quite different from English houses that are designed to hold the heat in, as well as accommodate a large number of people, including servants.

However, despite the obvious differences, the process of finding a house for me and for my heroine is quite similar. While looking for abodes for my family to abide in while our house is renovated, I had a list of criteria to shop for:

Location (not built on a train line or next to an electricity substation, close to my son's school, etc)

Number of bedrooms (extra points if room for a study for yours truly)

Decent bathrooms and kitchen, room for children and Monty the dog to play (fenced, of course).

Likewise, when searching for a suitably palatial setting for my books, I have loose criteria such as period, place, surroundings, layout, where on the scale of grandeur this house has to fit given the status and wealth of its occupants, and how it might accommodate scenes that are already dancing through my head or inspire new ones.

Now, a fictional place doesn't have to be based on a real one, of course and if I can't find a suitable house, I make it up. I also modify the interior layout but I do like to start with what is typical in that type of house.

In the eras from which my Regency houses date, they tended to use local materials--local stone, such as the gorgeous honey coloured Ham Hill stone they used to build Montacute House in Somerset (top, left).

I set SWEETEST LITTLE SIN partly at the villain's estate and I had great fun researching that one. I wanted Radleigh to be a parvenu, a social climber who had appeared in London after supposedly making his fortune abroad.

I found an excellent house in Sezincote, an Indian phantasmagoria that inspired the Brighton Pavillion. It boasts a wonderful copper minaret and spear-like poles that give the illusion of an exotic tent. The drive is guarded by bronze elephants and there are all kinds of interesting grottos and gardens dotted around the estate that continue the Indian theme, a mixture of Hindu and Islamic motifs that echo the attempt of Mogul ruler Akbar to integrate the two cultures.

I think it's rather gorgeous, but of course the nobility at the time would have turned up their noses, just as they did when Prinny built his summer palace at the seaside. To quote one wit in SWEETEST LITTLE SIN, "It was as if an Indian palace had mated with an English manor and spawned a particularly hideous child."
Was that unfair? I'll leave it for you to judge.

Just a note--the Hindu pavillion with all the erotic carvings came from my other research and my imagination--not from Sezincote. But perhaps you'll have fun spotting the settings that do.

So here's my question to you, gentle readers! What house or setting from a romance novel would you love to have for your own and why? One reader will win a signed copy of SWEETEST LITTLE SIN when it comes out in May.


limecello said...


limecello said...

What house or setting from a romantic novel? Oh... gosh. Um - how about the Rutledge hotel in Tempt Me at Twilight? It's got most of the modern amenities, right? (Yes, that is important to me.)
Actually it seems a number of Lisa Kleypas's characters end up in very nice houses. Would love to be a character in one of her novels ;)
Otherwise houses now? Um, pretty much any category romance - especially Harlequin Presents or Silhouette Desire which also as "Prince" or "Tycoon" in the title ;) I mean, I could get used to having a number of estates, summer/vacation homes, and penthouses. I'm sure it'd be a lot to handle but, you know - a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do :D

[Which includes sleep, so Anna - maybe I will give up the GR again for a while.]

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, we're nearly ready for a Sweetest Little Sin! Woot! Can't wait for the world to read this book - rather looking forward to renewing my own acquaintance with it as well. That Jardine is one hot potato! And Louisa definitely gives him a run for his money. I loved the house there - that Hindu pavilion is huge fun!

Actually I really, REALLY wanted to marry Gideon in Captive of Sin. Not particularly because he was such a hero - well, all right, maybe that too. But what I wanted was his HOUSE!!!! The one right on the cliffs in Cornwall with the sea view and the Elizabethan architecture and the secret passages. What fun!

Virginia said...

I see myself in an old southern mansion, like Tara of Twelve Oaks before the war. I love the old southern mansions with the winding stair cases and the front poarches that wrap all around the house. I just love the old houses with the high ceilings and large rooms. You just can't beat them.

Helen said...

Well done lime

Christine the old Queenslanders are really beautiful houses I hope you have found a place to stay while the renovations are done.

I am soo looking forward to your new book I am dying to read Jardine and Louisa's story not long to wait now. As for place I would like to go to and live in firstly on the cliffs by the sea oh yea in one of Karen Ranney's books about the lost Lords of Scotland there was a castle that had a secret passage down to the ocean and it sounded beuatiful and then of course there was the House the Kylemore took Verity to in Scotland that was great as well.

Have Fun

Anna Campbell said...

Ha ha, Helen, Verity wasn't too keen on that particular house to start off with! Actually I was thinking about my books and I think the houses play a huge part in the stories. There's the hunting lodge versus Kylemore's very chilly castle in CTC. And the walled estate in Untouched. The house plays a hugely important part in MY RECKLESS SURRENDER too - it's actually the hero's rival for the heroine's affections! Clearly someone needs to give me a British stately home!

Helen said...


You get a British stately home and what a party we could all have there LOL I would be there.

I like castles and country estates they are big and have lots of gardens to roam in and get lost in I like the thought of mazes as well and there have been a few of those in some of the books I have read they are great places for a secret rendezvous!

And of course the great libraries in them and billard rooms and there have been some awesome love scenes in those libraires and billard rooms

Have Fun

Anna Campbell said...

Helen, definitely lots of opportunity for nookie in those big houses. Snork!

Christine Wells said...

Hi Lime! Congrats on the GR!

So agree about Lisa Kleypas's settings. The Rutledge sounds like a great abode--especially if Rutledge himself comes with it! I'm with you on the Presents locations, too. Every time I read an Annie West I drool over the sumptuous settings!

Anna Campbell said...

Christine, Annie West does FANTASTIC settings! It's one of the real treats in her writing. I've never been to Greece in person but I feel like I've been there in my imagination, thanks to how she describes it. Sigh. Always want to book a plane ticket once I've read one of her books! Actually C.S. Harris does a lovely job of describing Regency London too - both the high life and the low life. The doctor's surgery in particular is always really vivid - not always in the nicest way ;-)

Christine Wells said...

Hi Foanna! Thanks for holding the fort this afternoon. I scheduled the blog and belatedly realize I wouldn't be here when it went up.

Thrilled that you're excited to see SLS in print...and that wicked Jardine!

Actually, I think really you'd want to marry Gideon for Gideon, wouldn't you, Anna? He's so scrumptious! Of course, the gorgeous house would be a bonus...

Christine Wells said...

Virginia, I think Tara is a lovely setting and perfect for you! I love the swings they have on those wraparound porches. Perfect just for two:)

Christine Wells said...

Hi Helen, lovely to see you! Thanks, we found somewhere to live, so we're set now for when the reno starts. Yes, not long until Sweetest Little Sin hits the shelves.

Ah, I can see you really want to be swept away by a Scottish laird, don't you, Helen? Or do you just want Kylemore? I know, take them both! I'm sure Verity wouldn't mind. :)

Christine Wells said...

Anna wrote: Clearly someone needs to give me a British stately home!

Clearly! I don't know what those Brits are thinking, handing them over to the National Trust!

Christine Wells said...

Helen, I love mazes! I didn't really mention gardens but English gardens are truly works of art, aren't they? Wonderful settings for all sorts of romantic shenanigans.

Christine Wells said...

Yes, I know what you mean about feeling as if you've been to Greece reading Annie's books, Anna. I love it when an author can really ground fantasy in reality. We both know Annie does a lot of research on her books to really get a true flavour of the country she's writing about.

C.S. Harris is brilliant, isn't she? You see England (London, especially) warts and all in her books. Oh, and erk about the doctor's surger!! Even the cool as ice St. Cyr baulks at some of the sights and smells in that place.

Jane said...

I want to live in Cornwall, too. A couple of Stephanie Lauren's Bastion Club members have castles in Cornwall. I could enjoy the beautiful scenery and maybe catch some smugglers.

Christine Wells said...

Jane, I'd live in a castle only on the condition that it was well heated and the food arrived still hot on the table. I'm sure just a castle wing would suit me fine:) And oh, yes, the smugglers! Sounds like fun!

Kim in Hawaii said...

Christine, you pose an intriguing question. My first response is any castle in the British Isles (don't want to be too choosy). But my second response is an old planter's house in Hawaii, built for the trade winds. It would be an early version of the "green house" where I now reside near the Hickam Runway. Unfortunately, I hear the "Sounds of Freedom" at 4 am (C5s taking off for their Trans- Pacific supply routes). But I wake up to a mountain view, warm weather, and blue ocean.

Off to the Big Island for Spring Break ... there is one Royal Palace near Kona, the Hulihee Summer Palace:

Joan said...

First of all Christine, if those modern house pictures are ones you are considering...take them!!!

Oh, gosh those are beautiful stilts and all!

It's pretty early here in Kentucky but off the top of my head I would want the house in Monterary that Nora's one Donovan had. Can't remember his name right now but he was the male cousin/warlock/witch in that earlier work Donovan's Legacy??

And the one for her hero in Born in Ice set in Ireland. AGain, his name eludes me but I remember everything about that sexy Irish farmer.

Kirsten said...

I always fantasized about living in Pemberley. You know the home of Mr. Darcy. The grounds, lake and mansion itself are supposed to be overwhelmingly beautiful. Of course having Fitzwilliam there is part of the attraction LOL.

Margay said...

I'm with Kirsten on Pemberley. But I'll go one further: I don't know the name of it off-hand, but I'd love to live in the house they used for Pemberley in the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice. It was absolutely gorgeous and I just loved the grounds and how lush and green it was. I love old architecture.

Marisa O'Neill said...

Hi Christine! What a great question. I think I'd have to refer to that song - how does it go?... If you're not near the one you love, love the one you're near. In other words, I've 'fallen in love' with so many houses/settings in the books I've read it's very hard for me to choose one. Right now I'm reading a J.D. Robb book and I'd sure love to live in Roarke and Eve's mansion in Manhattan. I tend to fall in love with the houses that have in door plumbing.

Virginia C said...

Since my favorite genre is Historical Western Romance, I will choose a romantic ranch complete with a charming, charismatic cowboy. It won't take me long to saddle my horse and head West : ) I know that ranch needs a feminine touch, and that cowboy definitely needs the love of a good woman to set his world right!

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Are we assuming we have the money to keep up these dream houses too? If so then the bigger the better for me, if not then I want a manor house rather than a mansion. I want the manor house Hawke lived in. It had stone floors, and wood paneling, (I love wood and stone), only 7 bedrooms plus the master suite. Indoor plumbing would have to be worked in there somewhere though.

Christie Kelley said...

Hi Christine,

Sorry you're having to look for a place to live during your remodel. As a Realtor, I know how hard it can be to find the right place. But, you will be so glad you're not living through the remodel. Never again would I do such a thing!

You can send me to a nice big castle anywhere in England or Scotland. I can't think of any specific house/castle from a book right now.

I'm really looking forward to Sweetest Little Sin.

Donna MacMeans said...

Christine - This book sounds like so much fun, and you're right - the setting is just like another character. It carries tremendous influence over the book. Great cover!

As for my dream house, I think I would like The Cliffs from Newport Beach RI. I don't think it's been featured in a romance novel, but I used the owner's first wife's "summer cottage" and nearby neighbor, The Marble House, in Seduction of a Duke. The Cliffs is a little bit larger with fabulous views of the ocean and built with big open porches to take full advantage of summer sun and ocean breezes. Lots of room for servants - which would be a must.

I think the grand estates in England would be too large and lonely for my tastes. it's no wonder they headed off to London for the winter and welcomed guests for extended periods of time. Love the gardens, though.

Good luck finding a temporary home, Christine. I can see future blogs coming out of the experience (grin).

MsHellion said...

Okay, I'm cheating, but I would love to have Hogwarts as a house, or perhaps Tara. (I realize neither of these are really "romance" novel set houses.)


Nancy said...

Christine, a fun post!

I wouldn't mind having Mr. Darcy's house--Pemberley? (I know, all the Austen fans are shuddering because I'm not sure). I think Chatsworth maybe stood in for it in the movie, and that'd be a pretty cool house to own, too.

If I could have my pick of any famous building or home, though I'd pick Dover Castle. It'd need some work to make it liveable, but it's so terrific and in such a wonderful location overlooking the Channel.

Limecello, congrats on the rooster.

jo robertson said...

Interesting post, Christine. One of my favorite pastimes is wandering through old famous houses -- Montecello, Mt. Vernon, and the like.

I guess I'd have to say Tara from GWTW, although I've only seen it in my imagination!

Can't wait for Sweetest Little Sin to release. Whooooott!

Deb said...

Christine, I always thought the ranch house in the original "The Parent Trap" movie was neat with an open courtyard within the walls of the house and mountains in the background.

As for a house in a novel...that's not easy to decide. Settings are hard, too, because there are so many that would be lovely. But two are the wilds of Highland Scotland or the countryside of England. Or even right here in Iowa because we really do have some beautiful and scenic views.

Queen Margrethe of Denmark has a beautiful "summer" palace. (Huge, but small scale to the Royals?)

There is a historical mansion in Cedar Rapids, Iowa that is quite impressive. Here is the website if anyone is interested. My 9-year-old absolutely loves Brucemore.

I like how you related your actual house-hunting experience to your house-hunting in writing. :)

Minna said...

Only house I can think of right now is the one in J.D. Robb's books. I'm reading through that series at the moment...

Our House - Madness

Blodeuedd said...

I do have to go for Pemberley too, it is not just the house it is everything around it. I want it ;)

PJ said...

Hi Christine! Hope you've been able to find a suitable house to reside in during the remodel. I love the photos of that front porch. I'd buy the house for the porch alone!

I can't remember which (historical) book the house was in but it's a plantation home built in the hills of a Caribbean island, overlooking the sea, with large rooms, lots of windows, ceiling fans and a wide wrap-around veranda. Of course, I'd only live there part of the year. The rest of the time I'd be in a beautiful stone house with high ceilings, lots of windows and a view of the gorgeous mountains and valleys here in western NC/SC.

I'm so excited that SWEETEST LITTLE SIN is just around the corner. Can't wait to get my hands on a copy!

catslady said...

How about Tara from Gone with the Wind - this Yankee always wondered what it would be like to be a southern belle lol.

Anna Sugden said...

Oooh can't wait for Sweetest Littl Sin - love, love, love Jardine!

I'd like the mansion in New York that is Roarke's house (as in JD Robb) ... and Roarke too *g*.

I'd also like a pied a terre in some tropical paradise with its own private beach, plenty of cool breezes and frothy drinks!

No English stately mansions for me, or Scottish castles - too bloody cold!

denise said...

Great cover. I would love to live in a castle. Imagine the possibilities.
Would love this book.

p226 said...

Does it have to be a romance novel? Because my list of options would be quite short.

Come to think of it, the list is short anyway. I have too many requirements for my "perfect house." It must be on a hilltop, for example. It must have natural terrain obstacles except for one or two likely avenues of approach. It must be heavily constructed. It must have an extensive subterranean level. And while portions of the house would have to be very heavily constructed, a large portion of it would have to be open and very airy with lots of glass.

Yeesh. It'd take me a year with an architect just to draw it up, and the end result would probably be perfectly awful. :D

Janga said...

Christine, count me among those who have been waiting impatienly for Louisa and Jardine's story.

I'm not sure if it qualifies as romance, but I'd love to have the London flat from C. A. Belmond's Rather books as a second home. For a primary residence, I'll take my hero Max's home with five bedrooms, five baths, separate studio and office on 1500 acres in Tennessee, assuming cook, housekeeper, and gardener come with the house.

PJ said...

Janga said; For a primary residence, I'll take my hero Max's home with five bedrooms, five baths, separate studio and office on 1500 acres in Tennessee, assuming cook, housekeeper, and gardener come with the house.

I'll be moving in next door. :)

Anna Campbell said...

PJ, next door, huh? I'm just moving IN!

Beth said...

Fun post, Christine! I'd love to have the farmhouse in Nora Roberts' book Tribute. Loved the sound of the remodeling the heroine was doing and the setting in Virginia *g*

Christine Wells said...

Hi all, sorry I haven't been around. I have a sick child on my hands, but hope to get back to the blog a little later.

Gannon Carr said...

I love all of the pictures! I could definitely go for living in a castle, and like you, Christine, it would need to have all of the modern conveniences.

In Nora's Born In Fire, I thought Maggie Concannon's cottage sounded charming.

But my dream house is Roarke's incredible mansion in the J.D. Robb In Death series. Of course, I'd want Roarke to come with it. *g*

Suzanne Welsh said...

Lovely posts and homes, Christine! By the way, did you buy one of those lovely Queenslander homes?

What house would I want? Well for opulance I'm torn between the villa of The Count Of Monte Cristo or Mr. Darcy's home in the A&E version of Pride & Prejudice.

If I choose a house with a view then I'd either want a beach front home on Duck Island in the Outerbanks, sans hurricaines of course, or my grandparents lovely country farm house on the side of a mountain in Tennessee!

Louisa Cornell said...

Love those homes in Australia, Christine. They just look so welcoming and comfortable!

Lime, when are you adding the GR's room to YOUR house??

I have to agree with those who chose Chatsworth aka Darcy's Pemberley. The house is magnificent and the setting is just perfection. SIGH !

My current WIP is set in a house modeled after Audley End - once the largest stately home in all of England. The original structure was basically TWO houses joined with two center courtyards in the middle. Just an amazing house and the sculptures in the gardens were designed by Adams himself!

Anna Campbell said...

Louisa, saw some footage of Audley End on an antiques show here last night (Bargain Hunt - who said I wasn't young and groovy? Oh, that's right, you all did!). It looks spectacular! I haven't been to that house - it's definitely on the list now.

Pat Cochran said...

Let's see: a stately English home,
an Indian palace, a Greek home ala
Annie West, a lovely old Queens-
lander in Australia, a Royal Palace
in Hawaii, and a peaceful ranch
house in the Texas Hill Country.
Yes, I'll take one of each, please!

Pat Cochran

Kirsten said...

Hi Christine! I'm always amazed when I see the gorgeous houses that actually still exist from the Elizabethan times. I've never made it out of the North American continent, but one day I will and I'm going straight to England for a tour. :-)

Now, I must admit I don't really fantasize about having one of those huge old houses. They just look big and drafty and like way too many rooms to clean up. I'd rather have a house like the houseboat in Sleepless In Seattle. Wasn't that something?

Lady_Graeye said...

OOOOHHHH! I would love to live in Tara from "Gone With The Wind" It's the most wonderful place in the south. Talk about oozes with romance. That is definitely would be the place for me!

chelleyreads said...

whoa! such a PRETTY cover! :) as for houses, i want to live in mr. darcy's house in pride and prejudice (keira version).

Anna Sugden said...

Just want to remind you that Audley End is a spit away from our house *g*.

Pat Cochran said...

I agree with Kirsten on the many rooms to clean up in big houses!
But if I could afford to have multiple housing units, I'd also
be able to have the staff to keep
up the homes!

Pat Cochran

Julia Smith said...

Hi Christine - I'm a bit late, but I really enjoyed your post, especially since I'm working on a story where the landowning family is headed by a former officer of the British army in India. I've always been a fan of Brighton Pavillion, but I'm sure it was pooh-poohed at the time.

As far as locales I've written about which I'd love to inhabit myself, I'd say the Scottish manor house from my first-ever manuscript. Here's a peek:

Warthill Castle