Victoria here, to share my eagerness to read the newest release from best-selling British author Nicola Cornick. The recently-published three-tiered story centers around the National Trust’s Ashdown Park in Oxfordshire, a 17th-century house filled with mystery and secrets.

Here is the official “blurb” for the books, which tells its story much more efficiently than I could do —
“Bestselling author and historian Nicola Cornick investigates the untold story of Elizabeth Stuart, the Winter Queen, and her connection to Ashdown House in Oxfordshire.  

February 1662
On the eve of her death Elizabeth Stuart hands her faithful cavalier William Craven an ancient pearl with magical properties to be kept safe for her rightful heir. Craven, distraught with grief, builds Ashdown Estate in Elizabeth’s memory and places the pearl at the centre. 
February 1801
Notorious Regency courtesan Lavinia Flyte is brought to Ashdown House with her protector, Lord Evershot, who is intent on uncovering the Winter Queen’s treasures. Evershot’s greedy pillage of the ancient house will unleash a dark power which has lain dormant for a hundred and fifty years.
February 2014
Holly Ansell’s brother has gone missing. As Holly retraces his footsteps, she discovers that her brother was researching the mystery of Elizabeth Stuart and her alleged affair with William Craven. A battered mirror and the diary of a Regency courtesan are the only clues she has, but Holly is determined to discover the truth: Where is the fabled pearl that Elizabeth gave to William Craven? What happened to Lavinia Flyte? And who is the Winter Queen’s rightful heir?”

Victoria again. Now that must excite your interest as much as it does mine!
Nicola, both an author and historian, has written many best-selling historical novels. For a complete list, see her website, here.
Ashdown House, Oxfordshire

Here is an excerpt from the Word Wenches Blog (where you will find wonderful news and views from some of your favorite authors). Cara Elliott a.k.a. Andrea Penrose interviews her fellow Word Wench, Nicola Cornick about House of Shadows.

“Cara/Andrea:  One of the things that struck me was how seamlessly you blended your historical research with your creative imagination. Can you talk a little about how your real-life work as a curator at Ashdown House inspired the book?

Nicola:  Thank you! Yes, House of Shadows is indeed a work of historical imagination in that I took the “facts” and filled in the gaps and in some cases, which I acknowledge, played fast and loose with reality. Over the years that I have worked at Ashdown I think I have absorbed so much of the history of the house and the people associated with it that I was able to draw on so many small aspects of that to make the whole – I met with a jewelry historian, for example, who had come to look at the pearls depicted in the portrait collection. She was the person who told me about the “cursed” pearl, which Elizabeth’s eldest daughter is wearing in one of the portraits. Then there was the fact that Ashdown is reputedly built on an ancient sacred site and its architecture incorporates a number of aspects that link it to the Order of the Knights of the Rosy Cross… I researched all these different stories as part of my work at Ashdown House and they all came together to inspire me and made their way into House of Shadows. One thing I did change, though. In the book I modeled Ashdown’s destruction on the true story of a different house—Coleshill—built at the same time and in the same style. I’m happy to say that Ashdown House is, of course, still standing and is open to visitors!”

Entrance Hall, Ashdown House

The National Trust owns Ashdown, but most of the house is occupied by private residents.  

On a blog last spring, Nicola wrote about some of the landscape surrounding Ashdown.  The entire blog post is here.Thursday, April 2, 2015.  Here are a few highlights:

“The Sarsen Field is the first thing you see on the left of the drive as you approach the car park. This is open to everyone to walk in and is a fascinating are of Special Scientific Interest where the huge, ancient sarsen stones lie amongst the grass as they have done for thousands of years. Legend says they are an army turned to stone by the magician Merlin….

“The woodland dates back to when this was a medieval hunting ground and the deer still live here…
 The badgers have been digging up the area around the grand avenue for almost 1000 years! There are also hidden geocaches, a tree trail and our Pixie Path. In the fields behind the wood the Balleroy ponies graze…”

The Staircase

Visitors are guided up the flights of stairs to the cupola at the top where the views of the surrounding ancient landscape are stunning. Along the way, guides relate the history of the house and the family for whom it was created.

Elizabeth Stuart, Elizabeth of Bohemia, the Winter Queen

On her blog, Nicola has also written about one of her favorite secondary characters from House of Shadows, here.

Ashdown House
 The house was originally designed as a hunting lodge.According to the 1994 edition of The Blue Guide to Country Houses of England, Ashdown’s “exaggeratedly tall doll’s-house-like proportions derive from the need to treat the house as a viewing stand for the chase–hence the balustrated platform and glazed cupola at the top of the typically 1660’s hipped roof.”

At Ashdown House in Oxfordshire, Nicola has been a volunteer guide and historian for the last fourteen years. Follow her on twitter @NicolaCornick and Facebook.

Nicola Cornick
Patience required!

Now I just have to settle in and bide my time until the book arrives! I hope to report back soon with a review and an interview with Nicola. 


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