Downton Abbey in Modern Dress?

February 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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Image 18Authors write sequels for many reasons, but That Summer in Cornwall, just published January 31 as an e-book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes/iBook, (print version available in March, 2013), came about because I always wondered what happened to the Anglo-American couple, the former Blythe Barton Stowe, and the life peer, Sir Lucas Teague after they joined forces to save the slightly down-at-the-heels Barton Hall from financial ruin at the end of my bestselling A Cottage by the Sea.Ciji in front of Caerhays Caslte nr. Mevagissey - Version 2

When a storyline “ten years later” began to percolate in my mind, I set off last October to reacquaint myself with the original “Barton Hall”—the wonderful Caerhays Castle perched on a cliff in mid-Cornwall overlooking the moody English Channel where Blythe had escaped to Painter’s Cottage to rid herself of the paparazzi chasing one of Tinseltown’s juicier scandals.  Soon, I began worrying what life would be like—now– for the almost-illegitimate child, Janet, born to Blythe’s first husband, the “cinematic genius” Christopher Stowe, and Blythe’s sister, Ellie Barton—the pair who blew Blythe’s marriage to smithereens in the first book.

 

IMG_6526It was so wonderful to be back along the coast of Cornwall, which stretches as far as the eye can see some one hundred miles across the water from the French coast of Brittany. This region is actually the land of my own Ware forebears, so there was an added incentive to return to the territory I’d visited several times in the last fifteen years when researching A Cottage by the Sea.IMG_6352

For the new novel, I was now able to “book in” at Caerhays Castle in the wonderful Bottom Lodge, the gatekeeper’s cottage across from Portluney Beach, a smugglers favorite landing spot in days of yore.  I was also there to research the remarkable world of volunteer search and rescue teams in Cornwall, including the amazing “air-scenting” dogs who find people who plunge off cliffs, down deserted mine shafts, or get lost on the moors.

The surprise more than a decade later was to see how beautifully the model for the fictional Barton Hall depicted in both novels had been cared for since my last visit, now that “paying guests” helped keep the coffers filled at this eight-hundred acre estate whose village church is some seven hundred years old!IMG_6478

Faced with the same problems confronting Julian Fellowes’ characters in Downton Abbey, the owners of Caerhays grappled with the notion of offering members of the public the opportunity to come to shoot pheasant in autumn, see the glorious Rhododendron gardens in spring, and pause for a nice “cuppa” in the castle courtyard when the weather is fine.  The owners appear to have made a wonderful transition from “To the Manor Born” to “Open for Business”—and I wish them every success as they, like the Crawleys of Downton, seek–and find–new ways to make these enormous houses “sustainable.”IMG_6404