What woman in Regency England would not be thrilled to be imprisoned with the dangerously attractive Duke of Ulvercombe? Lady Clara Tinniswood, apparently, who suffers from claustrophobia, as well as a hearty dislike of men. Sparks fly when the pair become trapped in a camera obscura on the Duke’s roof.
I thought that, if the English aristocracy could have dining rooms on their roofs, why not a camera obscura? This contraption is like a man-sized pinhole camera, used by artists historically to capture life-like landscapes. I used the roof of Dyrham Park as a model for Kessington House, the duke’s Devonshire residence. In a stunning piece of left-field thinking, the National Trust, who run Dyrham, decided that, as the house had to be closed while the roof was mended, their visitors could observe the roof repairs from a raised (and covered) walkway supported by scaffolding. Not being too fond of heights, like the characters in the story, I didn’t look down a great deal…
You know that moment when you suddenly realize you have fallen in love? When you look at someone in a different way and see that they are absolutely perfect for you? The Duke of Ulvercombe experiences this moment with Clara while sheltering from the rain on a riverside walk.
The setting was inspired by a hidden gem of the Somerset countryside which is a step right back into history. Superbly dark, green and mysterious, with the rippling water and intriguing ruins to ramble through, the Great Elm riverside walk is pure magic.
Ulvercombe enjoys the sea, including the opportunity to throw off all responsibility (along with his clothes) and go for a swim. This is where Lady Clara watches him through a telescope (not her original plan of course!) and gets caught in the act. But by whom, and what are the consequences?
The beach I describe is a private one, part of the Holkham Hall estate, and Holkham Hall itself, a magnificent example of Palladian splendor, doubles for Wroxham, the duke’s summer residence.
If you’ve read “Distracting the Duke”, are the places above anything like you imagined? Are they the kind of place you might find romantic and, if not, what sort of location would get YOUR romanctic juices going?