Gratitude In 2020

By Dianne Freeman

This has been a rough year with the Covid 19 pandemic ravaging the world. But as we approach Thanksgiving here in the US, I’ve been thinking about gratitude. I’m still giving thanks for things like the continued good health of my loved ones, but I’ve found the pandemic makes me grateful for some things I’d never thought of before.

I’m grateful that my husband is an awesome quarantine partner.

I’m grateful for friends who are willing to have Zoom cocktail parties with me.

I’m grateful I have a job I can do from home.

And with that in mind, I’m so grateful the internet is ready and waiting when I can’t travel.

It’s been a while since I last visited England, and since that’s where the Countess of Harleigh mysteries are set, writing these settings while in the US can prove difficult. There were a few locations I wanted to get an in-person feel for, so in 2019 we scheduled a trip to London and Paris for the fall. Due to an illness in the family, we had to cancel. I wasn’t concerned. We’d go in the spring of 2020. Maybe April.

I’m sure you all know how that worked out.

By Summer, there were travel bans throughout Europe that kept me home. Since I couldn’t travel, I did the next best thing—YouTube. The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden has a You Tube channel where in addition to performances, they stream rehearsals and behind-the-scenes videos. Through internet searches I was able to find historical images and even a floor plan. I’m hoping the scenes I’ve set there feel as real to you and they did to me.

Marlborough House required a little more digging. I found many images of the exterior—not so much of the interior. However, visiting in person might not have been much help in this case. The building now houses The Commonwealth of Nations and the interiors no longer look as they did when the Prince and Princess of Wales lived there. I had to rely on first-hand descriptions from long-ago visitors. I’ve found that to work reasonably well for much of my “building” research. I can view images, or use Google maps to study the exterior, and find descriptions of the interior at the time since most of the interiors have changed greatly over the years. I’m currently reading a month of wedding announcements from the winter of 1900 because they often describe the interior of the church I plan to use.

One of the best things I’ve found on the internet lately are virtual tours like this one.

Definitely check it out. I can’t tell you how much time I spent getting lost at Hever Castle (Anne Boleyn’s childhood home). I’m so grateful for sites like these that take me away at a time when I can’t travel. Finally, I’m grateful to you readers, who read my books for the same reason. Happy Thanksgiving!

The adventurous Countess Harleigh finds out just how far some will go to safeguard a secret in Dianne Freeman’s latest witty and delightful historical mystery . . .

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, 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 among them . . .