Guest Post: Blue Plaque Inspirations from Grace Elliot

I’d like to welcome today’s special guest, Grace Elliot. Grace is the author of The Huntley Trilogy; Eulogy’s Secret, Hope’s Betrayal (review here) and the forthcoming Verity’s Lies, as well as her extremely favorably received debut, A Dead Man’s Debt. Reviewers have been comparing Ms. Elliot to Georgette Heyer. High praise, indeed! 

I enjoyed the glimpse into the hardships that drove people into the smugglers’ life, as embodied in the heroine of Hope’s Betrayal. But as Ms. Elliot tells us in her guest post, there was more reality in the story than I thought.

Read on for the details…

Blue Plaque Inspiration*

Hello, it’s lovely to be here and thank you to Marlene for hosting me. I love Marlene’s strap line, ‘Escape reality, read fiction,’ and it inspired me to post about how real life inspired my latest historical romance, ‘Hope’s Betrayal.’

Everyone needs an escape from the pressures of everyday life and one of my safety valves is visiting theIsle of Wight. It is a beautiful, tranquil place with secret beaches, ever changing seas and wonderful wildlife – especially birds. We are lucky enough to stay within sight of the sea, in a place where the village green is flanked by Georgian fishermen’s cottages. The pace of life is so relaxing there, plenty of time for walks, reading and letting the imagination run riot – which brings me back to the inspiration behind ‘Hope’s Betrayal.’

In the 17th and 18th century the long coastline, with secluded inlets and treacherous shallows, made it an ideal for the local fishermen to take up the lucrative business of smuggling. On one of my walks in the village, I spotted a blue-plaque (*) mounted amongst the wisteria on a cottage wall. The plaque marked the birth place of a fisherman’s daughter, born in 1792, who eventually married a Prince from the royal house of Bourbon. This whetted my appetite to find out more and I started researching the ‘Lady of Chantilly.’

I found out that this woman, a humble fisherman’s daughter, was reputedly so beautiful that when caught smuggling, the Revenue officer couldn’t bring himself to arrest her. Now whether this local lore is true, or a romantic embellishment of the facts, it set my writer’s mind whirling. What a fantastic starting point for a story – the tension between two people, who live on opposite sides of the law, falling in love! Which would be stronger: the values they were raised with, or their love? What would be the price of such a love?

And thus ‘Hope’s Betrayal’, was born:

(* – In the UK, places of special note, i.e. birth places of famous writers, politicians, etc. are marked by a blue-plaque on the wall which lists the details of their life.)

Situated in the Solent, just off the south coast of England, the Island has a rich maritime history, and one especially linked with smuggling. In the 17th and 18th centuries it was a perfect stop over for fisherman secretly importing goods from France to England.


Book Description

Hope’s Betrayal (The Huntley Trilogy, Book 2)

One wild, winter’s night two worlds collide. 
Known for his ruthless efficiency, Captain George Huntley is sent to stamp out smuggling on the south coast of England. On a night raid, the Captain captures a smuggler, but finds his troubles are just beginning when the lad turns out to be a lass, Hope Tyler. 
With Hope as bait, the Captain sets a trap to catch the rest of the gang. But in a battle of wills, with his reputation at stake, George Huntley starts to respect feisty, independent Hope. Challenged by her sea-green eyes and stubborn loyalty Huntley now faces a new threat – his growing attraction to a sworn enemy. And a love where either Hope betrays her own kind, or Captain Huntley is court-martialed, is not an easy destiny to follow.

A little more about the author, Grace Elliot:

Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night. Grace believes intelligent people need to read romance as an antidote to the modern world. As an avid reader of historicals she turned to writing as a release from the emotionally draining side of veterinary work.

Grace lives near London and is addicted to cats. The Elliot household consists of five cats, two teenage sons, one husband, a guinea pig – and the latest addition – a bearded dragon!

You can follow Grace on her blog “Fall in Love With History.” or her Grace Elliot website and of course Facebook and twitter.

I’d like to thank Grace for being here today, and for this fascinating glimpse into the writing of Hope’s Betrayal. And also for that marvelous cat picture! He does not look best pleased to be photographed. I’ve seen that disgruntled expression before. I think there’s another story there!


Review: Hope’s Betrayal by Grace Elliot

Hope’s Betrayal by Grace Elliot is the second book in her Huntley Trilogy (after Eulogy’s Secret).  The Huntley Trilogy are unusual historical romances, not just because the Huntley brothers seen so far definitely work for their livings and because the heroines are definitely not society chits. It’s a refreshing change.

Hope Tyler is a smuggler. There’s no romance in her choice of occupation, nor any adventure. For Hope, it’s a matter of her family’s survival, pure and simple. Hope’s home on the Isle of Wight has lost too many of its men to the war (Napoleon), to disease or to fishing accidents. When the economy is bad, the English coast turns to smuggling. There is no other work. Hope and her brother are in the smuggling trade to put food on the table.

Captain George Huntley works for the Crown. His current assignment is to put a stop to, or at least a dent in, the smuggling trade. It keeps him occupied while his ship is undergoing refit in Portsmouth. Then he’ll be back at sea, and away from land, from the Isle of Wight, from the family estate, and from his mother, Lady Constance.

There are two serious problems with George’s mission. One is that everyone in England seems to be a party to the smuggling trade. Everyone wants luxury goods, like tea and French lace, but no one wants to pay the tax.

The second problem is a raid that goes horribly wrong. One of George’s men is killed. And the only smuggler he manages to catch is a boy. A boy he knows can’t be guilty of the actual shooting, because George was chasing the boy at the time.

But since the boy is the only smuggler available, he’ll probably hang anyway. But when George carries him to his house to get him seen to – the boy was only caught because he broke his ankle – George discovers that this smuggler, this criminal, is a young woman.

And George can’t make himself sent her to jail. He says it’s because she might lead her confederates to rescue her. It’s really because he wants her for himself.

But his mother finds her first. And discovers that Hope might be more than she appears. Even if she is still exactly what she appeared, a smuggler who should be hanged for her admitted crimes.

Leaving George trapped between his duty and his desires. With his mother standing guard over his prisoner, and his men howling for justice.

George does the only thing he can under the circumstances. He requests a transfer. How could George know that leaving would only make everything worse?

Escape Rating B: It was great to see a view of the Regency/Napoleonic Wars period from a perspective other than that of the upper crust. Even though George’s mother is Lady Constance, the family seems to be from the “squirearchy” more than the aristocracy. (The third book is about the oldest brother, and it could prove me totally wrong.)

However, George is a naval man, not a lord. His only title is Captain, and he earned that one.  And Hope is definitely no lady. Her family is so poor, she’s turned to smuggling just to keep eating.

Hope’s plight is what makes this story different. It’s not a romantic view of the smuggler’s trade. There are no dashing pirates here. It’s all about bone-deep poverty. Her village will starve if they don’t turn to smuggling. And that’s the point she brings home to George and Lady Constance.

There is no other work. It’s the free trade, or starvation. And plenty of supposedly law-abiding people will happily buy their smuggled goods as long as they don’t have to get their hands dirty in the actual smuggling.

There’s also a sweet love story between George and Hope. It is very sweet, and just a tad bit unrealistic. Not that they wouldn’t fall for each other, but that love (and his family’s position of privilege) would manage to conquer her very real criminal record.

But you want the happily ever after enough to let it go.