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The Talbot Saga

If there are two things likely to hook me in a book it is an old house and a family tree. Norah Loft’s House books were early favourites of mine. Mandalay (Rebecca), The Heights (Wuthering Heights) and Bleak House all give me a frisson. I feel I know them, stone by stone.

Likewise, I love a family saga; The Forsytes, the Herries and the Poldarks all spring to mind. It is so interesting to see how the romances, feuds, obsessions and errors of one generation all impact subsequent branches of the family tree.

In my Talbot Saga I have brought all my love of these things to the page. These books—three so far—centre on a family of fairly humble origins but very enterprising dispositions, which rises to wealth in the early nineteenth century. In those days, money was invariably inherited, not earned, and they struggle to find acceptance amongst the elite of Georgian society. They aspire to the unassailable respectability of the nobility but discover that the genteel manners of dukes and earls are often a thin veneer for immorality. Women, apparently revered, pampered and treated with the utmost delicacy, are too often the scapegoats for men’s degeneracy. In The House in the Hollow, a young woman is unfairly disgraced in the eyes of society and sent away.

My most recent book in this series, The Lady in the Veil, explores the consequences of this terrible miscarriage. The next generation of the Talbot family struggles to accommodate a secret whose origins they don’t really know and suffer from the on-going effects of their ancestors’ actions. The final book in this series, Tall Chimneys, picks up the story at the beginning of the twentieth century. The Talbots’ money is all but gone, the family line erased apart from one woman, Evelyn, the last of the Talbots. Evelyn lives for a hundred years, and although the Talbot line is extinct, her legacy to those who follow is very much alive.

So much for my dynasty, but what about their house? Ah! I have built for them a sturdy mansion situated in a hollow of the Yorkshire moors. Jacobean in origin, it has been added to by new wings over the years, and very tall chimneys that give the house its name. The house’s peculiar situation gives it an air of privacy, even mystery, and those who reside there often feel left behind by the world and forgotten by time. In my mind’s eye I can walk through the rooms of the house, draw my hand across the upholstery of the furniture, hear the creak of the floorboards and the howl of the wind in the chimneys.

I foresee another two—at least—books in this series. I am annoyed with myself that I have written them in the wrong order, starting with the last, but there it is. The next instalment of the story will—I think—cover the period between the end of The Lady in the Veil and the beginning of Tall Chimneys, and centre on the Harlish family, faithful retainers of the Talbots and caretakers of Tall Chimneys. Then I will have to go back to the beginning. Having stated that the house is Jacobean I must travel back to the early 1700s, a period that is new to me, to find out who built the house, and why they chose that out-of-the-way location.

The House in the Hollow, The Lady in the Veil and Tall Chimneys all stand alone and do not have to be read in chronological order.


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