What’s real? From the people and places to wartime events and pirates, there was a lot to research. Including how to fire a cannon. You can get a glimpse behind the scenes of the mess in this copy of parts of my working document where I’d pasted in the real research of the various battles…and made notes of how it would affect the lives of my fictional characters.

The song – I searched high and low for a song from the era that mentioned lilies since that was her dad’s nickname for her. (Susannah means “lily” so it was appropriate.) However, when I stumbled upon “The Flowers of the Forest” I knew I’d hit a goldmine. For not only was it sung in that region during that time period, it has long since been used as a lament for the fallen in military conflict…thereby adding layers of meaning for Nicholas as well. Plus, flowers and gardens played a role in the overall story. Here is a pdf of the lyrics and a translation of the odd words. And here is a YouTube video of the song played over images honoring fallen heroes.

The place: There is a very real Muncaster Castle outside Ravenglass at the mouth of the Eskdale valley in Cumbria (on the northern border of England) and it has been owned by the Pennington family for something like 800 years. I took a little creative license since the terrace was actually built in the 1780’s but the grounds are famous for their rhododendrons and the story about King Henry VI and his bowl is definitely part of Muncaster’s tradition.

There is also a very real place called Dalegarth Hall historically owned by the Stanley family with the nearby Dalegarth Falls (currently also known as Stanley Ghyll Force). During my research, I learned that one family member died in 1806 (a couple years before fictional Susannah’s dad died) and left such generous gifts in his will that the remaining property had to be mortgaged and was later eventually sold to Muncaster to cover the debts.

When looking for places in the Cumbria region as the setting for this story, having these two real places just seven miles apart was quite a find. However, while the family names and locations are real, my characters and others in the area are completely fictional…

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