Langbarnby, Misterley and Rawscar.

The Manor on the Moors like it’s predecessor The Little Church by the Sea is set in the fictional area of North East Yorkshire. If it was real, it would appear on the maps north of Whitby but south of Guisborough … somewhere ….

Alice is living in Rawscar, the seaside village at the heart of The Little Church by the Sea which would look a bit like this:

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Runswick Bay (my photo)

Langbarnby is slightly further inland, it’s a moorland village about three miles away from Rawscar. In my imagination it looks not entirely unlike Goathland, but it’s slightly closer to the sea (Goathland is in the middle of the North Yorkshire Moors, surrounded by a sea of heather. It’s gorgeous. Go there!)  The two villages are closely linked: they share a vicar for a start, and a traditional rivalry that still spills over in the Shrove Tuesday football game that I’m writing about in my next novel.

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Goathland (photo from Pixabay)

Misterley Manor is on the Rawscar side of Langbarnby.  It’s not based on any real place though in my imagination, as I’ve already said, it looks a bit like Grey Towers, the stately home on the edge of Middlesbrough. Misterley is a made up name. (Of course ALL the names were made up by me in the first place …) Whereas both Rawscar and Langbarnby are names that could feasibly be of Old Norse origin (a nod to the Viking settlers on the north-east coast of England) “Misterley” was invented by the Lattimore family when they became rich (as was their own surname) because “Langbarnby Hall” didn’t sound grand enough!

I’m not an artist, by any stretch of the imagination, but this is a quick sketch that I drew for my own use of the area around Rawscar and Langbarnby. Please forgive the poor quality of drawing, the fact that it isn’t to scale and you’ll have to imagine the moors and the hills for yourself! (Basically, the moors come down to where the old railway line is).

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An introduction to … Gilbert Fox-Travers

Gilbert Fox-Travers is at the heart of the story of Misterley Manor and its inhabitants, even though he lived a hundred years ago. He was the architect employed to turn plain old Langbarnby Hall into the astounding Misterley Manor for Sir Edward Lattimore and his wife, Lady Isobel.

An up and coming young architect Fox-Travers is a young man with a reputation for two things – the first being his extraordinary artistic imagination, the second his reputation as a ladies’ man. He combines the two elements of his reputation in his best known pictures – three notoriously erotic Arthurian scenes that hang in the Painted Gallery at Misterley Manor, the last of the great treasures of the house.

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image from Pixabay

 

No sooner is the work on Misterley Manor (carefully overseen at every stage by Fox-Travers himself) than he disappears, never to be seen again. But finally, the family papers relating to the building of Misterley have been unearthed by the Lattimore family, and Alice is hoping to find out what happened.

‘Sometimes,’ [said Sebastian to Alice], ‘I think you love Gilbert Fox-Travers more than me,’ he said, sulkily.

Sometimes, recently, Alice had begun to wonder if she did too. The long-dead artist and the mystery of his disappearance had been the focus of her academic studies since her undergraduate days and sometimes he felt as real to her as the living, breathing people around her.

I should like to stress that Fox-Travers, his paintings and his romantic history is COMPLETELY fictional!

An introduction to … Aunty Marjorie.

My favourite character in the whole novel is possibly Marjorie, Caroline’s eccentric aunt. She crept in from an unpublished early novel, now banished to that shoebox under the bed, but I couldn’t quite shut the box on Marjorie, so here she is, reborn.

Marjorie is a confident woman in her seventies who knows her own mind and will not conform to what her family, her friends or society expect of her. Widely travelled and open minded she has experienced more than all of the other inhabitants of Misterley put together!  Though if you want to know what she got up to on the beach with Pedro in the 1960s you’ll have to read the novel …

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Image from Pixabay. Marjorie is considerably older than this model, but this is exactly the kind of outfit she would choose for a country walk.

‘There was an older lady in the courtyard. A tall lady, short grey hair, parrot earrings and a purple kaftan? She let me in.’

‘Ah. I see. Aunty Marjorie,’ said Caroline, with a sigh.

Who else could it have been? That woman was a law unto herself.

Like the rest of her family, sometimes Marjorie’s absent-mindedness (she regularly locks herself out of the house) and lack of focus can hinder Caroline’s attempts to keep the Manor in one piece. But Marjorie’s heart is always in the right place … even if she can’t quite remember where that place is ….

An introduction to … Duncan

Caroline refers to Duncan, her ex-husband, as “That Man” for much of the novel. Their divorce was not amicable, though they just about tolerate each others’ presence for the sake of their teenage daughter Emily (who successfully plays Caroline and Duncan off against each other whenever she wants something!)

“Duncan? He’s an ugly little man with glasses that are far too large for his face. Oily grey hair and a stupid beard. You can’t miss him,” said Caroline.

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image from Pixabay.

Duncan, a professor at the University of Saddleton, is an expert on the life and works of Gilbert Fox-Travers, the architect of Misterley Manor. It’s how he and Caroline met, when he came to the Manor in his early twenties to do some research. Caroline’s father often accuses him of only being interested in the house and using Caroline as a way to get it.

He has also annoyed Alice:

Duncan Russell was the professor she had asked to supervise her PhD. He was the leading British expert on Fox-Travers, based at Ormsborough University, thirty miles away from Misterley over the moors. But he hadn’t thought her PhD proposal was worth more than a standard rejection letter. Because of his swift and thoughtless rejection, she privately suspected that Duncan Russell might be a bit of a shit. She wouldn’t dream of saying that to Caroline though.

 ‘Yes, I’ve come across Professor Russell,’ she said, as politely as she could.

‘Between you and I, he’s a bit of a shit,’ said Caroline.

Duncan is irritating, interfering and always thinks he knows best. However, increasingly, it begins to appear that perhaps, just perhaps, Duncan might have known what he was talking about after all … so can Caroline admit that he was right and accept his help? And why, after all this time, is he still trying to interfere at Misterley?

An introduction to … Tom

I knew from the moment I started writing that Tom would have to be the “strong, silent type”. He’s the assistant gardener at Misterley Manor, a man who loves his work, he’s happy to be working where he is, in the open air, and doesn’t want to be anything other than what he is.

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Image from Pixabay.

Do you know what the hardest thing is about the “strong, silent type” of hero? They quite often just hang around in the background thinking noble thoughts and doing noble deeds but not saying very much … which makes them very difficult to write into a conversation!

Deeds mean more than words to Tom, so when he is unable to prove himself in a crucial situation (so difficult to explain without giving away too much of the plot!) it’s hard for him.

He’s attracted to Alice, but for several reasons (again, I can’t tell you too much or the plot will be spoiled) he holds back.

So, when the chips are down at Misterley Manor, Tom can be found rolling up his sleeves and getting stuck in – his hands are always dirty with working in the garden anyway – but he won’t talk about it very much …

An introduction to … Caroline.

Caroline Lattimore in “The Manor on the Moors” wasn’t meant to be a heroine at all; she was meant to be an antagonist! Where Alice was meant to be sweet-natured, obliging and kind Caroline was to be her complete opposite. And in fact she still is. If there is a situation to be handled with kid gloves, Alice will stroke the problem gently and ask it nicely to go away, but Caroline will barge in there with her steel toe-capped boots on and kick it. Caroline will not allow anyone to help her and spends most of her scenes with an ironic eyebrow or two raised in comment – but I loved writing about her. She sprang off the page, kicking and screaming where Alice sometimes had to be coaxed to do anything at all.

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It was incredibly difficult to find a picture to sum Caroline up. For a start, she’s in her fifties, and women in their fifties are not easy to find on Pixabay – but that’s a whole different post to write one day. She has distinctive short white hair – when most of the women of Pixabay have flowing blonde or brunette tresses. The best I could do was an image that seemed to sum up Caroline’s attitude to life – a slightly awkward-looking woman in a sensible coat.

Caroline is the daughter of the owner of Misterley Manor and she’s in charge of the grand stately home. But she finds her job increasingly a struggle: she’s spent “… the last few, lonely years … locked away here at Misterley Manor fighting the rising tide of debt, decay and disorder.” For a start her family are no help. A stubborn elderly father, an eccentric aunt, a daughter who spends most of the novel chasing one of the builders, and then there’s her ex-husband Duncan. “That Man”, as she refers to him, just won’t keep his nose out of her affairs. But Caroline just puts her head down and gets on with life, upholding the Lattimore family motto “Pride and Strength”.

The big question is, how long can Caroline’s “Pride and Strength” keep her going?

An introduction to … Alice

Over the next week I’d like to introduce you to some of the main characters in “The Manor on the Moors” and what you might expect from them … and we start with Alice Goudge.

Alice? Alice? Who the heck is Alice? I hear you ask. Well, that’s not quite what I hear you ask, but I’m not writing that on my blog!

Alice is the most straightforward of romantic heroines, the girl who begins the novel suspecting that she is with the wrong man.

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Photo from Pixabay.

Alice is a young PhD student who has arrived at Misterley Manor to study the mysterious disappearance of architect Gilbert Fox-Travers a hundred years ago. Her goal is straightforward – she wants to be the one to solve the mystery, with all the academic glory that it might bring her. However, Sebastian, her boyfriend, has other ideas. He doesn’t like her going off to work in Yorkshire and leaving her home in London. Sebastian needs Alice. But Alice is no longer sure whether Sebastian is quite what she needs; he’s changed since they met as undergraduates several years ago. And then she meets Tom, the handsome but slightly reticent assistant gardener, and everything gets very complicated for poor old Alice …

Alice isn’t beautiful and she knows it. “All through her life people had told her that she “looked just like an Alice!” with her thick blonde hair and blue eyes, but the hair and eyes were all that fitted with the picture-book-pretty idea of an Alice. Her face was too square, and her jaw was too strong for an Alice, her shoulders were too broad, and her teeth were too prominent.” But Alice is clever and Alice is kind. She might lack confidence at times, and she is still coming to terms with who she is and what she wants from life.

So Alice has several problems to solve during the novel: Where does she belong? Who belongs there with her? Can she trust herself to choose the right thing? And what the heck really did happen to Gilbert Fox-Travers?

I’ll give you a clue – of everybody in the novel, you can probably trust Alice to do the right thing when the chips are down.