I love the depiction of the quintessential English village in novels, TV, and film. I’m a big fan of regency romance, and Agatha Christie, both of which tend to have the big country house as the focal point of the stories, then the surrounding village with all its wonderful and strange characters.
I first explored village life with my Courting The Countess series. When I wrote the third and final book, Wooing The Farmer, I didn’t want to leave village life behind, just explore a different kind of village.
In The Duchess And The Dreamer, Clementine Fitzroy, the Duchess Of Rosebrook, is in the difficult position of having a title but no land, and no money.
People often think that those blessed with titles and a grand family history, to be rich and powerful, but in this modern world that is not always the case. Over the years the land and family homes of a good portion of British aristocrats, leaked money.
Large out of date country estates are expensive to keep. Many sell off their land piece by piece just to keep up with repairs and taxes. But Clementine’s family had been luckier than most, and her grandmother inherited a very rich estate, and a lot of money.
Her grandmother Isadora was a woman full of dreams, inspired by those great 19th century British social reformers like Elizabeth Fry, Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts, and Robert Owen, who all in different ways wanted to build a better fairer society.
Unfortunately stubbornly chasing that dream bankrupted the family, and by the time Clementine was a young girl and her father inherited, the money was gone, along with most of the land, which was sold off to pay debts. Watching the stress and strain of her parents trying to keep the family afloat, had a big effect on Clementine, and her resentment of her grandmother grew.
Then when her father died and the family home sold off, Clementine was left with living in the former gatehouse and, as she saw it, a useless title.
The villagers still looked to the Duchess as thier community leader but she had not the means to do anything, like make repairs on village housing or buildings. The title had become a milestone around her neck. Unfortunately there was no abdicating her title, unless she committed a felony or died, so she was stuck with it. Dreams had cost her family dear.
Evan Fox runs her family toy business, but her real passion is saving the world. An ardent environmentalist, she believes dreaming is the only way society learns from its past and moves on to better things. Evan’s hero is Isadora Fitzroy, and although Isadora’s dream failed, she admired everything she stood far.
Along with fair wages, decent housing, and community spaces for the people, Evan wants to build a safe place for the LGBTQ community, and others marginalised in society. On top of that Evan has the dream to build a village based on environmental principles, as an example to the world on how we can live in harmony with the natural world.
But...to win over the suspicious farmers and villagers to her dream, she needs the Duchess on board. The Duchess who doesn’t believe in dreams. So it's up to Evan to prove to Clementine that dreams really can come true... ;-)
“Once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairytale.”