Fashions to Die for? Fashion is No Mystery in My Cozy Books!

Just about everywhere you look, whether it’s online, in a magazine, or on the television, you can’t get away from an article or blurb on fashion–who wore what when. This is especially true for anyone deemed royal, celebrity, or actress. In most cozy mysteries I’ve read or viewed, fashion tends to either not be described at all, or takes a very back seat (with the exception of Miss Phryne Fisher, who dresses divinely, and Her Royal Spyness, Lady Georgiana, who always makes sure to try and dress for the occasion).

My main character Gemma Lancaster Phillips is rather obsessed with the fashions she wears as she roams the halls and grounds of Cherrywood Hall. Gemma has a slight boot obsession, and loves evening gowns, dinner dresses, British country attire, and anything with fringe or faux fur.  Her ma-ma, Jillian, is an actress and loves expensive, ‘gotta be noticed’ outfits as well—one never knows when the paparazzi will pop up! I try and describe the outfits these women wear in detail, so that the readers can imagine the outfits of the characters as they dress for the glamorous events held at Cherrywood Hall and the surrounding locations. Think of it as a fabulous mental fashion show 🙂

Gemma, being an American in this faux almost royal land, feels a particular obligation to dress appropriately out of respect for her new aristocratic surroundings and royal soirees. Cherrywood Hall is pretty much the opposite of her world in Malibu, and decidedly more formal. It’s rather a good thing Gemma is an heiress, she has access to designer and couture fashions most of us can only dream of. The men in the stories get their fashions described as well, although there is only so much one can say about a tuxedo–no offense. Personally, I don’t think any man can wear a scarf  or cravat with more finesse  than a British or European man 🙂

One of the fashion storylines in my books is the finding of the Lancaster ancestral garments in ‘the closet’ rooms of Cherrywood Hall. The garments range from the 1800s to present, and in my writer’s mind, are imagined creations of Chanel, Paul Poiret, and Jeanne Lanvin, to name a few of my personal favorites. They’re styled and represent the fashion trends such as art deco, flappers, and heavens—even menswear for women!

Gemma finds many of the dresses worn by her famous Aunt Pippa, and wears some of them to many of the events at Cherrywood, especially the ones in blue, Aunt Pippa’s favorite color. I must say that in my books I consciously omitted (thanks again Gwyneth Paltrow) calling out any specific designer’s creation as I describe my inspired outfits, primarily due to not wanting to be contacted by any said designer’s attorneys–an unfortunate but very real aspect of our time…sorry fashion!

I’m particularly interested in describing the costume fashions to be designed and worn in the fictional Castlewood Manor television series. The details of the design process used for a television series is extensive, involving huge amounts of research into not only the designs worn for the period, but also the fabrics, beading, furs, hats, shoes and every imaginable accessory. In my research, I found that today’s costumes must not only be period appropriate and authentic, but must also have design innovations to accommodate any wiring or mechanisms needed for production, and allow for quick change if needed by the actors (Velcro, the duct tape of the fashion industry?)

I understand from a few sources that the costumes of television shows were not cleaned after a wearing, instead removable underarm pads were used for each wear, then removed for the next shot or scene–not sure how I feel about that! I think in my stories we will clean the costumes 🙂 I’m pretty sure the costume designers of Castlewood Manor are dying to get into the Lancaster ‘closets’ to supplement their designs and get inspired. I’m sure Aunt Pippa will keep her ghostly eyes on what goes on there—I can’t guarantee that Velcro won’t fly in certain instances, especially if she sees the underarm pads!

I’ve had to learn some new rules and protocols for how one would dress for dinners and functions at fictional Cherrywood Hall. I’ve used the decorum for formal dress quite frequently in my books. I think having these mental fashion breaks allows the characters to have some time to think through the dastardly events of the day, as they dress and prep for cocktails and dinner. It seems much more civilized to talk about crime, sabotage and cozy murder in an evening dress, don’t you think? Fashion rules…

I know that clothes don’t make the woman—but for my cozy stories they will continue to be detailed. I’ll keep reading and watching my favorite royal fashion/attire blogs, fashion magazines and fashion designer shows for inspiration, and to try and keep up to date on the latest trends of the royals (how can you not love the style of Kate and Meghan and Zara–almost royal?), celebs and actresses. Do you have any suggested fashion sites for me to review? I’d love to hear from you. Fashion is one part of my writer’s research that I find quite enjoyable—and I won’t be keeping my character’s fashions under wraps!

Crowns and Kisses,

Veronica

P.S. Today’s featured picture has two of my favorite pairs of gloves that I think would fit in well at Cherrywood Hall, don’t you think? I love the faux fur and gem bling. Fashion Gemma would approve 🙂 #Gemmasfaves

 

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Can an American Living in California Write Effectively for a Cozy British Mystery Book World?

So after spending a couple of weeks at the beach I’m back home once again, outlining chapters for the next book in My American Almost Royal Cousin Series. The second installment of the series, Cast, Crew, & Carnage; the Filming of Castlewood Manor, was just published and is now available on Amazon (I will have a separate post on this latest book shortly, stay tuned!). By now some of you know (thank you for reading my posts!) that I am a confirmed American Anglophile who loves anything royal and British cozy mystery oriented. Does this love however, mean that I can write, and write well, about people, events, and locations in a country I don’t live in?

I was weaned on Agatha Christie (I consider Hercule Poirot my adopted French, oops I mean Belgian, uncle, and Miss Marple a dearly beloved great aunt). In recent years I have consumed every installment of M. C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin series and Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness mysteries (Georgie is so adorable). I’m now making my way through the Midsomer Murders series by Caroline Graham, becoming hooked after watching nearly every Midsomer Murder episode on television. The Granchester Mysteries by James Runcie are also great reads, especially now that I have James Norton’s image in my head as Canon Sidney 🙂 I’ve learned from these treasures what intrigues and captures me, making me stay up to all hours reading one more chapter. These authors have set the writing bar very high.

I’ve got to tell you it is more than a bit intimidating to even think that I can accurately describe the details of the Cotswold’s landscapes, the quaintness of village life such as in St. Mary Mead, the boutique hotels Monsieur Poirot frequents, and the beautiful yet sometimes dangerous buildings in the boroughs of London, where many cozy murders have occurred on the pages of my favorite books. I’ve been blessed in that I have travelled internationally a bit, walking some of these roads, either in actuality or what I think is a good facsimile there of, and taking pictures and notes of buildings, hotels, restaurants and homes I think might have been frequented by my favorite fictional sleuths.

We’re lucky today to have just about every Agatha Christie movie, television mini-series (Death Comes to Pemberley was a twist!), Masterpiece production (love Victoria–I need some faux royal background!) and mystery series (have I mentioned I adore Rosemary and Thyme?) available to us via subscription services and the internet. I’ve been able to watch (OK in some instances, binge watch) my favorites in detail, taking in the sites, the locations, the mannerisms, the clothing—trying to absorb in my writer’s mind how my characters and the dastardly events I subject them to would take place and be told in these fictional lands. These media have been a treasure trove for me. The only thing I haven’t quite been able to replicate in my writer’s head are the gorgeous British accents, but I try 🙂

For me when I write, I need to be able to see and taste and smell the surroundings I’m placing my characters in. I try and bring in as many of my life and travel experiences in the mix so that there’s a hint of reality in my fictional scenes. I want my readers to see and feel the weathered brown leather sofa my characters sit in, get a sense of the magnitude and grandeur of the conservatory filled with plants and waterfall duly lit with sparkling fairy lights, warm their hands by the roaring fires that always seem to be lit in these grand homes to keep the chilled air at bay. I know what it is to walk through a grassy field in a cold mist wearing my wellies, saddling a horse to ride along a sea path, and driving a British green convertible with the top down through a winding two lane road (although I am still trying to grasp driving on the left side of a road, right? Or is it….well, I’m still working on the British driving scenes).

I can imagine from my own family history what impact was had when our ancestors left England, Scotland, and Ireland to come to America, leaving family and friends behind, their emotions and conversations still relevant in my writer’s mind. So I will keep absorbing the nuances of the world that I think comprise the British cozy mystery land, and try to live up to the high standards of my British author colleagues. I may stumble here and there, but I have some pretty strong, capable women standing by my side, willing to guide me. My characters Aunt Pippa, and Gemma Lancaster Phillips, are Americans from California living in the British cozy mystery world, I trust them. Their ‘little gray cells’ are pretty impressive.

Crowns and Kisses,

Veronica

P.S. The picture featured today has my favorite ER ornament bought from the Buckingham Palace shop after I saw the Queen drive through the palace gates. She waved right to me, I’m sure 🙂

Why I Decided to Use Faux Royal Characters in My Books Instead of Real Royal Family Members—the Queen Would be Pleased, so I’ve Been Told…

Don’t get me wrong, I am a proud American Anglophile living in California who is in love with all things royal. While in London last spring, I happened to be at the Buckingham Palace gates when the queen drove in, she and Prince Philip waving and smiling at the crowds. I was able to take a video of them as I giggled like a schoolgirl, and promptly ran to the Buckingham Palace gift shop and bought everything in sight labeled ER 🙂

In the My American Almost Royal Cousin Series books, I have royal characters who have prominent roles in the various evil doing, murder and romance events in the stories. I made the decision to consciously fictionalize (Thank you Gwyneth Paltrow) the royal characters in my stories out of respect for the living members who have every detail of their lives made public. I figured they didn’t really need to be featured in my books, they have enough on their hands with the upcoming royal weddings of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and Princess Eugenie, and the upcoming births of the royal babies to Prince William and Duchess Catherine, and royal cousin Zara.

The reality is I simply can’t keep up to date with the real royals and I admittedly do not know them. In my books, I need characters in my story that I do know, so that they can speak and participate in the stories without being tethered by any reality shackles. I also have to admit in today’s litigious society, I do not want to step on any legal toes either. I’d rather face the guillotine than mess with an attorney over any legal breaches thank you.

So with my faux royal decision, I began to re-write the British royal family members and their history starting in the 1930s to better fit in my storylines without ruffling too many royal feathers (I hope). I try and follow all the title and etiquette rules for the positions and titles (including the aristocratic titles and peerages) but I will disclose upfront that I am sure there will be mistakes made by this American royal neophyte (faux royal or not).

My faux royals include Queen Annelyce and her Prince Consort husband, Prince Thaddeus. Faux Queen Annelyce inherited her title as queen when her cousin, Joseph, Prince of Kingwood, abdicated the throne to marry his true love, a many times divorced woman of his dreams, actress Sophie Jenkins. Upon abdication, Prince Joseph, who was now a Duke, joined his wife travelling the world as the Dancing Duchies, and lived happily ever after, so forth and so on.

Queen Annelyce’s mother, Queen Regent Eugenie, was a close friend of the famous Aunt Pippa in my books, the woman who gave up her American roots to bring the Lancaster British and American family factions together, and put her enormous inheritance into the Cherrywood Hall estate. Pippa and the faux queen regent became quite close after their husbands passed, and the friendship between the lady faux royals and the Lancaster women continues to be close to this today in my stories. The friendship is real.

You’ll read about other faux HRHs, dukes and duchesses, handsome single princes, and favorite nieces of the faux royals, and you’ll probably even be able to guess in some cases who may have inspired their creation 🙂 I’ve tried to take the high road when the faux royals grace the events in the books–I don’t allow any disparagements or derogatory snipes on my pages, it wouldn’t be proper. What the faux royals may not know however, is that since they are fictional, they may be subjected to an occasional murder or two given that they rule and reside in the pages of a cozy British mystery book. It’s a bit dangerous living in the land of the cozy mystery…

So I hope that my inevitable royal nomenclature, protocols, titles and behavior mishaps and faux pas won’t be too outrageous to my readers. I ask for royal forgiveness in advance 🙂 Queen Anneylyce would approve, so I’ve been told.

Crowns and Kisses,

Veronica

P.S. I have become infatuated with all things crown and have become quite the collector. Crown rings, tea towels (yes I have bought two Harry and Meghan royal nuptial tea towels to date), fairy lights with crowns, slippers, and yes, I do have a crown. Faux of course, those crowns are heavy!

 

How Meghan Markle Helped Inspire My Writing of The Crown for Castlewood Manor

Meghan Markle and I have something in common, we both began major new phases of our life journeys in 2016. For Meghan, she would begin dating HRH Prince Harry, at first under cloak and dagger, and then coming out together publically. We know they fell in love,  they’re getting married in a Royal wedding to be held at Windsor Castle on May 19th (Confession–I’ll be watching, will you?)

New flash, I did not start dating a royal prince in 2016 (I’m married to my Prince Charming thank you). I did start writing The Crown for Castlewood Manor in 2016, however, an endeavor that has completely transformed my life. I was constantly worried that I couldn’t write–I was too old–I wasn’t trained as a writer—suppose I wrote a book and no one wanted to read it….I had all the self-doubts writers have. Then I saw this American woman dating a prince, taking a risk, and transitioning into a new role in her life, in front of the world, subjected to continuous monitoring of every detail of her life. I decided that if Meghan could do it, so could I.  I wrote.

My main character Gemma knows a little of how Meghan must feel as an American in a royal world full of glamourous events and fashions–it’s magnificent and exciting, but it can be tough for an American not born into noble or royal lineage. I’m glad the family and friends of Meghan will protect and guide her just as character Gemma’s family guides her in this new world. Everyone needs a hug of reassurance at times, even a royal. I know for a fact writers do!

I think Meghan would approve of the food and wine endeavors being pursued at Cherrywood Hall (#TIG, she loved her wines and foods from around the world—my kind of woman). In my book I am excited to bring the wines and foods to life as the characters discuss the major happenings that occur in the stories–a little sherry or sparkling wine is surely needed when a murder occurs, don’t you think?

My hope is for people to get to know Meghan (and Gemma) before judging.  I think people will see the good they bring, and will get to like them more. In my fictional world, I know this will happen. I hope it turns true for Meghan, as she must live it in the real world. She inspired me, and I will always be grateful.

I’m a proud American Anglophile, so yes I will be watching the news, blogs, tweets, Pins, Instagram pics that will fill our screens in the next few months with everything royal (I haven’t even addressed #royalbaby3 yet). I’m looking forward to getting my cook book this week by Claire Ptak, American royal wedding cake maker for Meghan and Harry. I may even try the lemon elderflower cake recipes floating around (although as an American I’m not quite sure what an elderflower is or how it tastes). In 2018 Meghan will get married to her prince, and my books, once just dreams, are now being published.

BTW, Meghan and Harry will receive a copy of The Crown for Castlewood Manor as a wedding present, signed of course 🙂 Gemma would approve.

Crowns and Kisses,

Veronica

P.S. The featured picture today (red star is my add) is a screenshot of a Daily Mail ad Barnes and Noble is currently promoting for The Crown for Castlewood Manor, now available on barnesandnoble.com in addition to Amazon. I happened to snap a picture of the ad just as it came up over an article on Ms. Markle in the Daily Mail featured on March 24th. Quite frankly, I feel just as jubilant as Meghan—we both are beginning our new lives, and it’s great. I think I’ll wear my crown today 🙂

 

Character of the Day: Kyle Williams, Estate Manager, Cherrywood Hall

Today I’d like to introduce you to another of the main characters in The Crown for Castlewood Manor, and one that I personally care for a great deal, Kyle Williams. Now despite being tall, dark, and ruggedly handsome, Kyle is an extremely talented architect and innovator of all things technology at the Cherrywood Hall estate. Kyle loves the challenge of merging new technologies into the ancestral estates of Britain while preserving the historic ambiance and footprints of these architectural treasures.

Kyle has an interesting past. His parents, Christian and Honey Williams, were both born to aristocratic families, living a live of wealth and luxury. When they married (with a little help from the free spirit/free love mood of the 60’s and 70’s), they decided to put their aristocratic backgrounds in the past and pursue the careers they loved. In Christian’s case, he loved being an outdoors man, caring for the land, animals and farm operations. Christian was the estate manager at Cherrywood Hall, serving Lord Mark Lancaster, the 7th Marquess of Kentshire, husband to Lady Margaret and Lord Evan’s father. He made many improvements with the operations at Cherrywood, and started some of the programs that gave the locals access and livelihoods on the grounds, sharing the wealth so to speak, and fostering good relations between the estate and local communities.

Kyle’s mother, Honey, was an auburn hair beauty who pursued her artistic passions of painting and jewelry design. Honey maintained her friendships with the royals and aristocrats from her youth. She was kind and friendly and quite unpretentious. She loved working the grounds of Cherrywood Hall with her husband. She and Christian were good friends of Lord Mark and Lady Margaret and took great delight when their young sons became inseparable, running and riding over the grounds of Cherrywood.

Kyle and Lord Evan grew up close as brothers, attending the same prep school, playing polo and soccer, and hanging around the same group of friends. Kyle was unfazed that his parents had given up their aristocratic titles and assumed more ‘common’ livelihoods. He loved that they pursued their passions and felt comfortable doing so. They gave him the confidence to pursue his dreams.

Kyle loves the estate of Cherrywood Hall. From a young age he walked every inch of the estate, learning its layout, discussing the farming possibilities with his father and the local farmers, and exploring the cavernous rooms of Cherrywood Hall. Kyle drew pictures of the estate, and would often have drawings of the improvements and additions he would make to the estate to make it more livable and bring in new technologies to secure and automate the grounds. Whereas Evan had the duty of loving Cherrywood Hall because of his peerage, Kyle had the pleasure of loving it. Kyle was quite traumatized when Evan’s father, Lord Mark passed away. Evan became Lord Evan while just a teen, having to assume great responsibilities. Kyle was determined to be by his side to support him, as did his father Christian.

Kyle pursued his love of architecture at the fictional Oxfordshire University (I’ll discuss why I fictionalized the locations and businesses in a later post). He loved juxtaposing technologies with historical design and he soon became known in his own right because of his innovations. Sadly, Christian and Honey were killed in an automobile accident one night while driving over to take him to dinner. Evan and Lady Margaret stayed very close to Kyle during this tragic time, and the three became even closer friends.

When Kyle graduated, he decided to assume his father’s role as estate manager at Cherrywood Hall, much to Lord Evan and Lady Margaret’s relief. Kyle did not want to sit in an office, he preferred the outdoors and as estate manager he had the time and freedom to merge his architectural training and love of technology into the operations at Cherrywood. Kyle is financially well off thanks to the inheritance he received from Christian and Honey’s will, allowing him to pursue his passions. How will he react to Gemma’s arrival at Cherrywood Hall?

Crowns and Kisses,

Veronica

P.S. Pictured today, these Le Chameau Lady Jameson boots are just what Gemma would wear climbing the grounds at Cherrywood with Kyle 🙂  #Gemmasboots #Gemmasfaves

My Non-traditional Journey to the Writers World

I thought it would be good to give you a little insight as to why and how I started this non-traditional path to the world of the writer. I’m a child of the 70s, when women were being told you could do it all (false indoctrination by the way). I loved learning and tended to over achieve, archiving a collection of college degrees over the years. Academically I first trained as an engineer, bachelors and master degrees (not too many of us girls in the field back then). I expanded my degree portfolio to include a masters and doctorate in business as well (so yes, I am Dr. Veronica :)).

I started my career in the late 70’s–early 80s, when great technical advancements in the computing and software industries were on the drawing boards. I was a co-op student at NASA just before the launch of the first space shuttle.  We didn’t have PCs, tablets, iPhones, cell phones (except for those big brick monstrosities that looked like you were in fact talking into a brick)–these mundane technologies of today were just glints in peoples eyes back then. Gates and Jobs were still in high school. When I hear the word Starwars, I immediately think of the technologies we were working on during the Reagan years to theoretically protect the country from the bad guys—lasers shooting objects out of the sky, robots manufacturing and assembling everything, and these things called software and platforms that were going to make our lives so much easier and perfect.

Fast forward, I was privileged to see the world of computers and software emerge, transition, and revolutionize the way we live—personally, professionally, and economically. I was a part of this transformation in the public and private sectors, and I’m glad of it. Being in the technology industry made me used to change, to thrive on it actually, which I think is a good thing. A few years ago, I made the decision to leave the technology industry I had grown up in to pursue another career as I enter into the next phase of my life–retirement not being very appealing to me–not yet anyway. I looked at getting another degree, in another field, but in the end I chose to write, to begin this new chapter of me.

The one constant I had in my life was a voracious love of reading, and was quickly drawn into the world of mysteries and mayhem, with a little horror and sci-fi thrown in. When I didn’t have the latest Trixie Belden, I read the ancient books on my mother’s shelves, including a 1953 edition of World Book encyclopedias. I still remember getting a snack after school, laying down on the dining room rug, and pulling out a volume to skim and read. I admit it may seem strange, but there was no internet back then, these ancient encyclopedias became my glance into the world. Later when I found the worlds of Agatha Christie, Edgar Allen Poe, Ray Bradbury and Stephen King, I never stopped my devourment of words.

For my writing path, I have decided to stay in the genre of my first love, mystery and mayhem. I love the cozy path—I don’t want a lot of explicit gore and horror, unfortunately we see too much of this in real life. My love of travel has led me to base my mystery and mayhem series in Britain; in a world of castles, aristocrats and royals, glamour, fashion, food, and a little bit of Hollywood thrown in (I do live in California and we do have an American actress becoming a royal very soon :)) My hope is that my readers take this journey with me, living and exploring a world that not many of us get to experience in real life. I hope you choose to join me.

Crowns and Kisses,

Veronica

P.S. Gemma does get her love of boots and shoes and all things bling from me (shocker)–I’ll start showing them again in the next post 🙂 #Gemmasboots #Gemmasfaves

 

 

Introducing Cherrywood Hall

Cherrywood Hall is the ancestral manor house and estate of the Lancaster family, now in the care of Lord Evan Lancaster, 8th Marquess of Kentshire. Cherrywood Hall stands magnificently on the cliffs overlooking the North Sea. On clear days, you can see the continent. The stately manor house has over 150 rooms and is encased in red bricks and gray limestone. A magnificent drive leads to the estate, winding around the curves and hills of over 5000 acres. Stone bridges, marble follies, and statues have been strategically scattered around the grounds, giving visitors a magical glance of times gone by, and times to come.

As you walk through the doors, you enter the grand hallway–black and white marble tiles laid on the diagonal cover the floor. On the left, the quaint sitting room where the characters gather for cocktails in the evening, next to the beautiful dining room decorated in Aunt Pippa’s favorite colors of blue with accents of shimmering Irish crystal. The glass conservatory runs adjacent to the dining room. Gorgeous, lush trees and plants shining with fairy lights line its marble paths, highlighted by a 30 foot waterfall splashing in the background.

At the end of the grand hallway is the terrace overlooking the sea. Marble balusters and railings surround the terrace, making it a favorite after dinner spot, weather permitting of course! The grand staircase that leads to the upstairs rooms sweeps the right side of the hallway, separating the library and front parlor rooms. The walls are brilliant gem colors of magenta and blue, lined with portraits and landscapes of the Lancaster family and grounds.

Lord Evan’s cousin, Gemma, has been given Aunt Pippa’s room for her stay. The room is covered in magnificent blue silks and gold trim. A small balcony overlooks the sea. A sofa, chairs and ottoman surround the grand marble fireplace. Pippa’s portrait overlooks the room and is often gazing down at Gemma as she sleeps in the four poster bed. The blue hues give a soothing feel to all that stay.

Cherrywood Hall is a figment of my imagination that I have grown to love. I roam its rooms in my mind, exploring the secrets and mysteries of a stately manor home. Would you be brave enough to open your home to be the set location of a major television period drama? The financial benefits would be great, and would certainly help cover the expenses of maintaining an expansive home and grounds. Local communities would benefit as well as visitors come from all over the world to eat and shop in their new fantasy world.

I love visiting old manor houses and castles, touring their beautiful rooms and grounds. The British countryside has some spectacular sites to visit and take part of. As I tour and sightsee these magnificent grounds and homes, I imagine the halls filled with running children, cats and dogs, and smile. I think of the foods and drinks served–if you listen closely you can just hear the clink of the glasses and silverware. The conversations those walls have heard! I love to think of the outfits worn, from stunning silks and laces of shimmering gowns, sparkles of jewels on the heads and hands of the lucky ladies, and the classic wools and boots worn during the day as you walk and ride around the grounds.

So the next time you tune in to your favorite period drama show, give a nod of appreciation to the folks who have opened their home to you. You’re a lucky guest, enjoy!

Crowns and Kisses,

Veronica

P.S. The picture today features a few of Gemma’s favorite shoes and bags that she wears at Cherrywood Hall 🙂 #Gemmasfaves #bringonthebling

Lord Evan Lancaster, 8th Marquess of Kentshire

I want to introduce you to Lord Evan Lancaster today, Gemma’s British cousin. Evan is the 8th Marquess of Kentshire, a devoted son to his mother, Margaret, and a huge fan of his beloved American turned British grandmother, Pippa (d.). Evan became a marquess upon the sudden death of his father, Mark, when he was a teenager. I don’t think anyone is prepared to lose a parent, especially when you’re younger. I can’t imagine what a young man feels to not only lose his father, but also having to accept the roles and responsibilities of an inherited peerage. Evan also inherited Cherrywood Hall, the estate that had been in his family for many centuries. He cares a great deal for the estate, and wants to make sure it lasts for centuries to come. He takes his role as the local marquess quite seriously.

In The Crown for Castlewood Manor, Evan is presented with a unique opportunity to have his estate considered for the set location for the much anticipated period drama television series, Castlewood Manor. Over seventy estates have been evaluated and Evan’s estate, Cherrywood Hall, has made it to the final four estates being considered. Evan is drawn to this competition because he knows it would mean a great deal to livelihood of the local community, as well as helping to secure the future for his estate. Would you consider having your home and grounds be known to the world? Privacy would become a thing of the past…

Millions of pounds are at stake for the selected estate including global exposure, new business ventures, marketing opportunities and jobs and infrastructure for the local communities. Evan is particularly interested in what the selection would mean to the surrounding communities, including his favorite village, Maidenford. Evan knows that the restaurants, hotels, and shops would all receive a great deal of business if Cherrywood Hall is selected. He also knows there are several locals who would die to have the chance of being an actor on the series, especially Vicar Hawthorne.

Evan has some ulterior motives for having Cherrywood Hall in the competition as well. He has a large ranch in South Africa that he loves. He is committed to preserving the wildlife in the region. The added income from being selected in the estate competition would give him many opportunities to expand the conservation work that has become so dear to him. Evan yearns to spend as much of his time as possible at his South African ranch, gazing at the stars through his telescope, just as he does from his balcony overlooking the North Sea at Cherrywood Hall. I think there may be something else that has him yearning to be in South Africa, has Cupid’s arrow struck?

Evan knows he needs help, and he has a good resource to help him win the competition with the arrival of his American cousin, Gemma, and his estate manager and best friend, Kyle. Will this dazzling trio be able to secure the win for Cherrywood Hall and the local community? Or will the other estates prevail….by any means?

Crowns and Kisses,

Veronica

P.S. What do you think of these gorgeous embroidered tapestry boots? I think the sparkling threads are fit for a Marquess, do you? They’re Gemma approved 🙂 #Gemmasboots

Gemma Lancaster Phillips, PhD

I thought for today’s post I’d introduce you to my main character and fictional muse, Gemma. I’ve had the pleasure of “knowing” Gemma Lancaster Phillips, PhD, for some time now. Gemma is the main character and sleuth in the My American Almost Royal Cousin Series. The series begins with The Crown for Castlewood Manor, where the 27 year old American heiress from Malibu goes to England to assist her ancestral family cousin Evan Lancaster, 8th Marquess of Kentshire, to compete in an estate competition being held to determine the set location for the upcoming period drama television series, Castlewood Manor. Evan’s estate, Cherrywood Hall, has made it to the final four estates being considered.

Gemma is a true California girl, tall, long blond hair, athletic and smart. She’s an heiress, but doesn’t want to be known as a trust fund baby. Gemma followed her father David’s academic path and wrote her doctoral dissertation on “Twentieth-Century Reunification of British and American Aristocratic Families with the Influx of American Heiress Inheritances.” That’s a big title, but Gemma is very proud of the fact that her ancestral Aunt Pippa brought the feuding factions of her American and British Lancaster family together when she married her distant cousin Charles, the 4th Marquess of Kentshire, and became known as the American almost royal cousin.  She loves the history of the early twentieth century and is an avid fan of the fashions and cultures of the period.

Gemma is very close to her mother Jillian, “Ma-ma”, an American actress. Jillian and Gemma have maintained close ties with their English relatives, Evan, and his mother Margaret through-out the years. They are the last of the Lancasters and have forged a loving, supportive relationship. Aunt Pippa would be proud that her descendants have continued the Lancaster British-American family bond.

So why would Gemma leave her cozy Malibu beach cottage and put her career plans on hold to go over to England to help her cousin? I think Gemma is unsure of what she wants to do with her career. Being an heiress, she doesn’t have the financial pressures that hasten a career decision that most of us have when we graduate. Should she teach? She’s been offered professorships at leading universities, but that doesn’t seem to be her calling, at least not for now. Finding out about her cheating boyfriend hasn’t been a big boost to her ego either. A fresh change of scene is just what this PhD needs.

Gemma wants to support her cousin Evan of course, but she is drawn to going back to the ancestral home, Cherrywood Hall, learning more about her British family–especially the beloved Aunt Pippa, and delving into the competitive world of producing a television period drama series. Gemma is taken aback when she receives some British highbrow snubs for her American heritage–what would an American know about British estates or period dramas? Gemma quickly responds with her good ole American gumption and know-how, no shrinking flower here! Speaking of which, will romance blossom for Gemma once more?

I hope you get to know Gemma for yourself! She’d love to meet you.

Crowns and Kisses,

Veronica

P.S. Gemma adores boots! What do you think of these black velvet booties with crystal bees? They’re Gemma approved 🙂 #Gemmasboots

Welcome to My American Almost Royal Cousin Series Blog!

This is the post excerpt.

I’m so excited to start the blog to highlight my latest writing adventure, My Almost American Cousin Series. I am a life long lover of British cozy mysteries, and my new series gives an American twist that I hope you will enjoy! The first book in the series is The Crown for Castlewood Manorand is now available on Amazon (click on the book picture on the right-hand side).

The English ancestral manor of Cherrywood Hall is ready to compete for selection in an upcoming British TV period drama series: the grounds are manicured, the mansion is polished, and the servants are poised. American heiress Gemma Lancaster Phillips has crossed the pond to help her cousin defeat the three other stately homes vying for the prize.

What Gemma doesn’t realize is that this competition is life or death, and someone is taking that challenge literally. The occupants of one home are killed in an automobile accident, and murder becomes a frequent occurrence at the other locations. Who is behind the mayhem? Selection would be a major coup for both the estate and the community. At first the other contestants seem to be likely suspects, but no one is quite certain as the tragedies continue. Could it even be Emma’s beloved cousin Evan, the surviving heir to the Lancaster fortune, or Kyle, his best friend and estate manager? With the Royal family in attendance at each event, the puzzle becomes a crucial one for Scotland Yard, and they enlist Gemma’s help to solve the mystery.

When the competition’s winner is announced on New Year’s Eve, will Gemma’s future be forever tied to her ancestral past?

I will be writing about the characters, the settings, the events, and the beautiful clothes and delicious foods that are highlighted in the book. I look forward to sharing the world of Cherrywood Hall and the production of Castlewood Manor with you as the series unfolds. Enjoy!

Crowns and Kisses,

Veronica

P.S. So happy to begin my postings on International Women’s Day 2018!!