It’s now less than a month to publication day for the second in the Cornish Secrets Pencradoc series, Lily’s Secret, which is due out on 7th July – hurrah! I can’t tell you how excited I am to have the cover art now – it goes so well with A Secret Rose , and I love how they look together.
Therefore, I thought I’d just do a little blog post to introduce you to three incredible women, who I sort of based my historical heroine, Lily Valentine on, so you know what to expect! Lily is a famous Victorian actress, and my darkly brooding historical hero Edwin first sees her on stage in the Paris Opera. Lily has quite a history of fame and fortune in her job, but the thing is – nobody quite knows how she got there, or really much about her at all. And even eight-year-old Lady Elsie Pencradoc, who is completely obsessed by Lily and all things theatrical, knows there is more to Lily than even she has learned. As an aside, Edwin, an ex-soldier, is named in honour of one of my relatives, James Edwin Brown, who died in WW1.
I’m not going to spoil the story for you, because then Lily’s secret would be revealed and let’s be honest I really want you to read the book and find out for yourself! But I can share that Lily was based on three very well-known actresses around that period: Evelyn Nesbit, Lillie Langtree and Ellen Terry.
Evelyn was part of a love triangle that resulted in murder, and the court case was deemed the ‘Trial of the Century’. There’s quite a bit about her online, and there’s one photograph I refer to in Lily’s Secret which is based on the one below, on the right.
Lillie was a Royal Mistress, and had an illegitimate child, but absolutely did not give a stuff what people thought about her – she just went for it; whatever ‘it’ was she wanted at the time. This picture was taken when she was pregnant – scandalous enough in the nineteenth century, let alone when one is not quite sure who the Papa is…
And Ellen, a good friend of Bram Stoker, also had affairs and produced illegitimate children, but was one of the most renowned actors in the world. Joyously, her entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography says that she “became a cult figure for poets and painters of the later Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic movements, including Oscar Wilde.” And if you’ve read any of my previous books in the Rossetti Series, you’ll know how much I adore the Pre-Raphaelites, so it all fits in very nicely with the theme of my timeslip/ghost stories/dual timeline novels. Even more so, when you realise that this photo was taken of her by the renowned Pre-Raphaelite photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, a lady who is mentioned in my novel The Girl in the Photograph.
Also, in another lovely twist – for me, anyway – whilst writing Lily’s Secret, Pencradoc, the house where it all happens, started to do exactly what Hartsford Hall did in the Hartsford Mysteries: it developed a character all of its own. Whereas Hartsford is like a grand old Duchess matchmaking gently from the sides of the ballroom, Pencradoc is more like a gorgeously haunted Gothic melting pot of excitement, romance and hidden mysteries, gradually revealing its secrets to the people who need to know, until they realise what it all means for them – and eventually realise, perhaps, that love is a little more pre-destined than they think, when they first step into that old Cornish mansion…
(And just in case you’re wondering, this picture is by one of my favourite Gothic artists, Selina Fenech.)