The Viscount's Lady Novelist by Alissa Baxter
Harriet Linfield is a lady novelist who has been disillusioned by love. She sets out to write more realistic tales about the emotion when she returns home to Linfield Court for the summer. Vowing to avoid any romantic entanglements along the way, she focuses instead on her writing and her plan to turn the estate she inherited from her uncle into a refuge for orphans.
Oliver, Viscount Wentford, is determined to restore his family fortunes. But his plans for the estate he inherited are in direct opposition to the wishes of Harriet, his new neighbour. Upon meeting her, Oliver is amused when, in response to his provocative comments, she informs him that she intends to make him the villain of her next book. But his amusement swiftly turns to dismay when circumstances align to show him in that exact light.
When an enemy comes back into Harrietâ€™s life, she sees that love isnâ€™t as clear-cut as the romantic tales she pens. But will the viscount manage to discard his villainous mantle to become Harrietâ€™s real-life hero?
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"Alissa Baxter's writing is period perfect." ~ Mimi Matthews, USA Today bestselling author of The Matrimonial Advertisement
"This book is gorgeous!" ~ Rachel Burton, author of The Tearoom on the Bay
"A truly traditional Regency romance, with lots of witty banter, very reminiscent of Georgette Heyer. Recommended for anyone who likes a completely clean traditional Regency, with strongly authentic writing, historical accuracy and a satisfying romance. Baxter's writing is excellent, and her dialogue, manners and settings are true to the era." ~ Mary Kingswood, author of traditional Regency romances
"While immersing the reader in the mores and life of the Regency era, Alissa Baxter manages to write strong, independent heroines whom modern-day women will cheer and root for. Plus the addition of little details that wrap around the plot and the characters make reading her books all the more special because you never know when you might land on a little Easter egg morsel in the beautiful and engaging prose. Historicals with heart and engaging characters that read realâ€”that's what you get in Ms Baxter's books." ~ Zee Monodee, USA Today bestselling author
After university, where she majored in Political Science and French, she began writing her first Regency novel, before moving to England, which gave her further inspiration for her historical romances.
Alissa has lived in Durban and Cape Town but she eventually settled in Johannesburg where she lives with her husband and two sons. Alissa is the author of two chick-lit novels, Send and Receive and The Blog Affair, which have been re-released as The Truth About Series: The Truth about Clicking Send and Receive and The Truth About Cats and Bees.
Alissa's Linfield Ladies Series features women in trend-setting roles in the Regency period who fall in love with men who embrace their trailblazing ways... at least eventually. The Viscount's Lady Novelist is the second book in this series, following on from The Earl's Lady Geologist.
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In 1796 Humphry Repton remodelled Blaise (Blaize) Castle, a folly built in 1766 near Henbury in Bristol, England. The castle sits within the Blaise Castle Estate, which also includes Blaise Castle House, a Grade II listed 18th-century mansion house. The folly castle, situated on a hill above a gorge, is also Grade II listed. Repton was also commissioned to lay out the park in the early 19th century.
The folly was built in the Gothic Revival style, and the structure has three round towers with crenellated parapets, equidistant to each other. They form a triangle around a central room accessed from one of the towers. Its geometrical staircase leads up to an open-air circular chamber and is, in effect, a miniature castle.
In Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, Catherine Morland is eager to visit the castle:
“Blaize Castle!” cried Catherine. “What is that?”
“The finest place in England—worth going fifty miles at any time to see.”
“What, is it really a castle, an old castle?”
“The oldest in the kingdom.”
“But is it like what one reads of?”
“Exactly—the very same.”
“But now really—are there towers and long galleries?”
“Then I should like to see it...”
However, Jane Austen mischievously misleads her readers with her ironic description of the castle. It is by no means the finest place in England nor the oldest castle, and there are only three towers and two floors—not dozens of them, as she wrote.
Catherine Morland never gets to visit Blaise Castle and therefore does not discover that the castle is a fake. However, when I came upon some information about the folly while researching my recently released Regency romance, The Viscount’s Lady Novelist, I thought it would be fun for my heroine, Harriet Linfield, to visit Blaise Castle. I wanted to explore the themes of reality versus fantasy, authenticity versus fakery, which Jane Austen hinted at in her description of the castle.
Blaise Castle proved to be a wonderful metaphor for the journey of discovery my heroine embarks upon as she struggles to reconcile her idealistic view of the world with the painful reality of her lived experiences. Although Jane Austen never sets Catherine (or the reader) straight about Blaise Castle, Harriet has the opportunity to discuss the trick Austen played on her
audience when she talks to the hero, Oliver, Lord Wentford. Here is a snippet of their conversation:
“Ah...but it is still a castle—and one designed to inspire romance.”
“It is a folly. And, indeed, that is a far more suitable word for it,” she said tartly.
He gave her a sideways glance. “Why, Miss Linfield! As a romantical lady, I would have thought you would glory in the place.”
“Blaise Castle is a fraud, my lord, and a silly one at that. The place serves no purpose. A real castle with a rich history is far more appealing. I don’t care for fakery.”
The gardener admitted them, and in single file, they ascended the geometrical staircase which led up to an open-air circular chamber.
Lavinia’s lips parted. “But this is a tiny castle, Harry! Does it consist of only one room?”
“I am afraid so.” Harriet raised one shoulder. “It is, in fact, a folly, and it was built around the middle of the last century—not in medieval times.”
“Oh.” Lavinia’s expression cleared. “I suppose I would have become fatigued walking around a larger castle. Blaise has all the appeal of a proper castle with none of the disadvantages.”
She wandered away to observe the view, and Lord Wentford smiled. “I see your friend is more easily pleased than you are, Miss Linfield.”
“I enjoy history far too much to appreciate a building that is nought but a sham.”
“You are a purist.” He leaned against the ashlar stone wall and eyed her lazily. “Surely if this building is a source of pleasure for so many people, it has fulfilled its function?”
“I suppose so. But I cannot like it.”
“Such high ideals...”
“And what is wrong with high ideals?” Harriet folded her arms.
“I did not say anything was wrong with them... But you may find they cause you a deal of disappointment.”
Modern-day authors are fortunate in that the internet enables us to explore the world via our fingertips. We can now easily research the places featured within the pages of well-loved classic novels and sometimes even include them in our own books.
The Viscount's Lady Novelist
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