The winner of A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder is KaraLeigh2! Watch for an email from Diane.
I’m so excited to welcome back Diane Freeman to the blog. I loved the first book in her The Countess of Harleigh Mysteries and am reading the second A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder. Here’s a bit about the book — look for a chance to win a hardback copy (US only) at the end of the blog!
Though American by birth, Frances Wynn, the now-widowed Countess of Harleigh, has adapted admirably to the quirks and traditions of the British aristocracy. On August twelfth each year, otherwise known as the Glorious Twelfth, most members of the upper class retire to their country estates for grouse-shooting season. Frances has little interest in hunting—for birds or a second husband—and is expecting to spend a quiet few months in London with her almost-engaged sister, Lily, until the throng returns.
Instead, she’s immersed in a shocking mystery when a friend, Mary Archer, is found murdered. Frances had hoped Mary might make a suitable bride for her cousin, Charles, but their courtship recently fizzled out. Unfortunately, this puts Charles in the spotlight—along with dozens of others. It seems Mary had countless notes hidden in her home, detailing the private indiscretions of society’s elite. Frances can hardly believe that the genteel and genial Mary was a blackmailer, yet why else would she horde such juicy tidbits?
Aided by her gallant friend and neighbor, George Hazelton, Frances begins assisting the police in this highly sensitive case, learning more about her peers than she ever wished to know. Too many suspects may be worse than none at all—but even more worrying is that the number of victims is increasing too. And unless Frances takes care, she’ll soon find herself…
Dianne: One question I’m asked frequently is “Are your characters based on real people?”
Well, yes and no. Kind of?
Frances, the Countess of Harleigh and my amateur sleuth, was originally a conglomerate of various real American Heiresses of the day. In my mind, she looks a great deal like Consuelo Vanderbilt, who later became the 9th Duchess of Marlborough. Her mother was every bit as pushy as Alva, Consuelo’s mother. Frances’ family came from Ohio, like Helena Zimmerman. Her wit and confidence were much like that of Jennie Jerome, though that confidence took a beating while Frances was trapped in a loveless marriage.
I knew once her mourning period for her late husband was over, Frances would want to move away from her grasping in-laws and create a life for herself and her daughter. As this was 1899, she could not simply pack up and leave. She had to win at least one member of the family over to her way of thinking with a little misdirection; make them think it was their idea. As the youngest of four siblings, I learned to employ these tactics at an early age. So, Frances is even a little bit me.
While I was inventing Frances, I started working out, sometimes with a fitness trainer named Fran. Perhaps you can see where I’m going with this. Frances would be bringing her little sister, Lily, out to Society. Lily was not as good a student of the social graces as Frances had been. She’d require some coaching, a guiding hand, and gentle, but firm, correction—all for her own good, of course—much in the way Fran worked with her clients. Not tough, but firm and insistent—you are going to do those crunches.
By the end of the first draft, Frances, and all her friends and relatives, were fully formed, well-rounded characters. None of them were based on one person, but they were all influenced by real people.
For a chance to win a copy of A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder answer the question below or just say hi!
Readers: Do you know anyone who should be a character in a book? What kind of book and what would be their role?
Dianne Freeman is the acclaimed author of the Countess of Harleigh Mystery series. She is an Agatha Award and Lefty Award winner for best debut novel, as well as a finalist for the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark Award from Mystery Writers of America. She spent thirty years working in corporate accounting and finance and now writes full-time. Born and raised in Michigan, she and her husband split their time between Michigan and Arizona. Visit her at www.DiFreeman.com.