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Monday, October 28, 2013

"A Divided Inheritance" by Deborah Swift~Author Commentary


A family divided by fortune. A country divided by faith.London 1609...

Elspet Leviston’s greatest ambition is to continue the success of her father Nathaniel’s lace business. But her dreams are thrown into turmoil with the arrival of her mysterious cousin Zachary Deane – who has his own designs on Leviston’s Lace.

Zachary is a dedicated swordsman with a secret past that seems to invite trouble. So Nathaniel sends him on a Grand Tour, away from the distractions of Jacobean London. Elspet believes herself to be free of her hot-headed relative but when Nathaniel dies her fortunes change dramatically. She is forced to leave her beloved home and go in search of Zachary - determined to claim back from him the inheritance that is rightfully hers.

Under the searing Spanish sun, Elspet and Zachary become locked in a battle of wills. But these are dangerous times and they are soon embroiled in the roar and sweep of something far more threatening, sending them both on an unexpected journey of discovery which finally unlocks the true meaning of family . . .

A Divided Inheritance is a breathtaking adventure set in London just after the Gunpowder Plot and in the bustling courtyards of Golden Age Seville.


Published by:  PAN Books/Macmillan
Pages:  520
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Author:  Deborah Swift
Purchase:  Amazon


Deborah Swift used to work in the theatre and at the BBC as a set and costume designer, before studying for an MA in Creative Writing in 2007. She lives in a beautiful area of Lancashire near the Lake District National Park.  She is the author of The Lady’s Slipper and is a member of the Historical Writers Association, the Historical Novel Society, and the Romantic Novelists Association.

For more information, please visit Deborah's website. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter


Researching the Jacobean Family Home

By Deborah Swift


In A Divided Inheritance, Elspet Leviston stands to lose her family’s house and business to a cousin she never knew existed. To recreate the house in my mind I researched the late Elizabethan and Early Jacobean style – a period much overlooked, but with its own distinct characteristics.


Elspet lives in London and her house has been in the family for generations, so it is likely that the actual fabric of the building would have been Tudor or even earlier, but with more modern furnishings. She also tells us in the novel that her father is quite reluctant to update the house – to buy new drapes or replace worn items. Westview House in the novel would be quite shabby, but with good quality furniture.


I used a real house to model Elspet’s home on. I find it much easier to write if I have a good sense of the geography of a house and a real picture of where doors, windows and so forth would have been. I couldn’t find a suitable house in London of the right middling size, though I used the street map of the time to locate where the house would have stood. Much of this area of London was lost in the subsequent Great Fire of 1666.


The house I chose to use is Bampfylde House which is actually in Exeter, but was the period and style which would have been similar to London houses of the time. Sadly this building no longer stands, as it was destroyed by incendiary bombs in 1942. Such a catastrophe! But there is a fascinating article about its history here, along with interesting tales of when it was visited by the Duke of Bedford.


The paintings of the house were done by Robert Dymond, an antiquarian who visited it when it was still there, in 1864. The house has a small courtyard and the front, and a larger one behind, which I make good use of in the novel for Zachary Deane’s sword practice.


Jacobean furniture was massive, heavy and built to last. Often from oak, and built on simple lines, it is characterised by ornate carvings, and friezes of decorative designs. Chairs were probably quite uncomfortable as upholstery was little-used.


There would have been shutters at the mullioned windows to keep in the warmth, and drapes possibly hand-embroidered with crewel work. Here are some examples of crewel work designs from the Victoria and Albert museum. Elspet’s mother may have spent long hours embroidering items such as these, and rubbing them with lavender or sandalwood to keep off moths.



Ceilings were elaborately plastered, as in the Oak Room shown here - but these would have been stained with smoke from open fires and from tobacco.


It was crucial to me to have a real sense of what Elspet might lose if she failed to keep her family’s house, so the reader can empathise with that. Re-creating the dark, somewhat structured interior of the house was also vital as a contrast to what Elspet later finds in Spain when she has to pursue her cousin to hot and dusty Seville. At the time Seville is the busiest port in Europe during Spain’s Golden Age, full of new and exciting sights, scents and sounds. There Elspet finds a completely different lifestyle, architecture and customs. Not only that, but she finds a new physical freedom she could never have found in London.


By the way, those interested in Jacobean houses might also find this article of interest – how Apethorpe Hall, a Jacobean treasure, was saved by one man.

                                                             A Jacobean Bed

Thank you for reading, and thank you to Deb for hosting me.


Deborah Swift’s website and blogs: http://www.deborahswift.com



Picture Credits:

Jacobean Furniture

Bampfylde House

Crewel Embroidery - wikipedia



To say that this book has been thoroughly researched and soundly set in the 1600's, London, would be an understatement.  Richly detailed in every way, this is a novel that pleases even the staunchest historical fiction aficionado.  Ms Swift is never out of the element of Jacobean England, and I dare anyone to catch her in a flaw!

Not only is this a resplendent historical, but it is also a gorgeously written story of love and mystery.
I fell in love with the characters, as well as their turbulent relationship.  I think that's what makes a book truly enjoyable to read.  The side story of the lace and embroidery was fascinating to me, as well, since I am a needlewoman, having spent over 40 years practicing needlepoint and cross stitch myself.  Just an added bonus.

Deborah Swift's writing style is reminiscent of "The Count of Monte Cristo" in its swash-buckling and drama.  There is a timelessness about it.  She is an author who stands alone in historical fiction because of her sense not only of scene and setting, but of characterization, plot, and authentic descriptions of costuming.

If you're looking for a novel that will bring you a few hours of authenticity, escape and mystery, this is the one.  Ms Swift knows how to engage a reader.  You'll find yourself swept up in the love story, the romance and the beauty of London and Spain...

5 stars             Deborah/TheBookishDame



This review and author's guest post was brought to you in cooperation with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.  The thoughts and impressions of the book are my own.

Please follow the entire tour of reviews, interviews and other guest posts, as well as giveaways by clicking on this link:  http://www.hfvirtualbooktours.com


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