A few years ago, around the time I first had the idea for the book that became A False Proposal, my husband and I were walking in England. Along with a group of friends, we were in Shrophsire, a beautiful county sitting along the English-Welsh border not far from the better-known Cotswolds. Afterward, we planned to visit various locations I was considering as a setting for the new book.
On the last night of the walk, we attended a performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in the courtyard of Ludlow Castle. I remember thinking this was a perfect way to inspire my research for a romance novel!
But things did not go well later that night. We were staying above a pub –always a bad idea. The crowd noise and music kept me awake into the early hours, and the next morning, I was exhausted. But I trudged on and boarded the train, hoping for a little nap once we were underway. Just as I was nodding off, a suitcase came loose from the storage rack and crashed into my head.
I burst into tears, not from any real harm (there was none), but from fatigue and embarrassment.
Our first stop was Ironbridge, on the River Severn, in time to see the famous cast iron bridge. The town is sometimes called the “Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution” because Abraham Darby improved the technique of smelting iron with coke here. The highlight, however, was touring the beautiful Darby home, Rosehill House. Its façade is a wonderful example of Georgian architecture. I kept a photo of it as my desktop for a long time, reminding me what lintels, pediments, and quoins are, and showcasing the perfect symmetry of a Georgian home.
A few days later, we headed south to Haselmere in Surrey. I had chosen it as the primary setting for A False Proposal for its political history, the beauty of the surrounding countryside, and its romantic name. The high street was much changed since the nineteenth century, but several wonderful examples of half-timbered and tile-hung buildings remained, all set against the lush backdrop of the Surrey downs—a great inspiration for the country house party in the story. I love a good house party, a perfect setting for female protagonists to evade their chaperones and get up to some mischief! Cass and Adam’s growing attraction for each other becomes one they can’t resist during this one.
At the end of the trip, we stopped in London and made a repeat visit to the home of Sir John Soane, a prominent architect in the Regency. The façade of the house reflects his enthusiasm for Neo Classical design, with its simple, elegant geometric shapes. Collecting classical antiquities during the Regency was a popular hobby among the wealthy. The museum boasts a collection of antique marble fragments, including a female torso from a temple on the Acropolis.
In the final room on the tour, the Drawing Room, there’s a portrait of Sir John’s two sons. Sadly, his older son died young; and George, the younger one, led a debauched life and ridiculed his father’s work in a series of newspaper articles. In the portrait, the brothers look like a couple of Regency “bucks,” carefree and cheerful, and it would be impossible to guess the unhappiness to come.
I didn’t get to visit all the sights in A False Proposal. I would have loved to visit the Cowdray ruins, but I had to leave it for next time. If only in the small details, nearly everything I did see made an appearance in the book and hopefully made the various locales and settings more real and believable.
About the book:
A false proposal, a fake engagement – true love?
War hero Adam Grey returns home with a burning ambition to run for Parliament. But he needs the support of the local baronet, who controls the seat. Adam’s plans are thwarted by his dissolute father, who has promised him to the baronet’s daughter in return for forgiveness of his debts. Adam wants nothing to do with marriage or his father’s problems, so he fakes an engagement to Cass Linford—his best friend’s sister.
Cass has been through hell since she last saw Adam. Her betrothed committed suicide, forcing her to withdraw from London society. Heartbroken, she’s given up on marriage. So when Adam suggests a temporary engagement, she agrees. He needs help with his campaign, and Cass can’t resist his charm or the chance to be involved in politics. It all seems so easy, until she finds herself falling in love with her fake fiancé.