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Guest blogger: Ella Carey

16 September 2017

The romanticism in old houses

Someone asked me recently what inspired me to play with time in my novels. As my last three novels have been dual narratives, I think that it’s a fair question to ask me why I like to enjoy dalliances with time!

I think, for me, the answer goes way back. When I was a child I was always be fascinated by atmospheric rooms in old houses, I was always transported somewhere else. Rather than seeing what was happening in front of my own eyes … I’d start imagining the past.

Nothing’s changed …

So, for me, setting Secret Shores around an old property inspired by Anlaby in South Australia, with its gorgeous old homestead and a fascinating history to boot, was a no brainer. Here was an old sandstone mansion filled with stories of ghosts wandering the hallways, a bedroom with a painting of two children whose eyes followed you wherever you go, sumptuous restored gardens with exotic species brought back from the Mediterranean by the women who tended the house, a soaring peacock house, winding, secret pathways and old wooden doors set into gracious stone walls that could lead you anywhere your imagination could take you …

There is an old stable block, now vast and gloomy and empty, where once seventy workers used to gather each morning when the bell was rung to signal the start of the day. Now, the stable cat lazes on the old, cracked cement in the courtyard, where it’s all too easy to imagine stable hands leading grand, proud horses around with shining leather saddles and beautifully dressed people preparing to go out for their daily rides at the turn of the twentieth century when the property was enjoying its heyday.

While staying at the once-famous property to do my research, I saw velvet curtains that were laced with fine gold thread, installed in the old mansion for a visit from the Prince of Wales a hundred years ago; a visit that never happened in the end. There was a ballroom upstairs, also built for the occasion of his non-eventuating visit, and the family owned a steamship on which they travelled to the UK with their own particular porcelain. There were conservatories filled with palms and elegant wicker chairs and shady romantic verandahs that overlooked a lawn that looked the perfect spot for a game of croquet.

There is a writing tower overlooking an old tennis court, its net hanging rather forlorn and sad these days, but you can imagine the clip of tennis balls and picture the elegance of women skipping around on the freshly mowed grass while in the nearby shelter, men would languish with drinks and slicked back hair wearing white summer suits in the searing South Australian summer …

Add to that, a wild island off the South Australian coast, where the waves crash against granite boulders, and where another story happened … a young artist who slipped into the sea while leaning down to pick up her pencil, and I had a novel.

I was inspired by the idea of artists fighting against the odds to be able to have their careers, the modernist movement in Australia after the second world war, and I had another fascinating backdrop against which to set a languishing, romantic journey, or two.

Once again, I wanted to write not one but two love stories, and that’s how I ended up playing with time. I journeyed not only to the 1940s, but to the 1980s, and Rome and New York in my latest novel, which is also partly set against the glamour of those two cities on the cusp of another one of the world’s most interesting decades.

Long-lost secrets will be rediscovered as the story goes on. Come with me on a journey that grabbed me by the heart every time I worked on it. I hope it does the same for you when you read.

Ella Carey xxx

You can find Ella Carey here: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Secret Shores

In 1946, artist Rebecca Swift’s dreams of love and a life free from convention are crashing like the waves of the Australian coast below her. And it’s into those roiling waters that she disappears.

Forty-one years later, Tess Miller’s dreams are crashing, too. The once-successful New York editor has lost her most prestigious author to the handsome new golden boy of publishing. Meanwhile, she’s stuck with Edward Russell, a washed-up Australian poet writing a novel about some obscure artist named Rebecca Swift. But Tess may have underestimated Russell. His book is not only true—it’s a searing, tragic romance and a tantalizing mystery set in a circle of postwar modernists. When Tess uncovers a long-hidden secret, she’s drawn even deeper into Rebecca’s enigmatic life and death.

As Rebecca’s past intertwines with the present, Tess finds herself falling for the last man she thought she’d ever be drawn to. On the way, she discovers the power of living an authentic life—and that transcendent love never really dies.

September marks the release of Secret Shores.

Ella Carey’s novels: Paris Time Capsule | The House by the Lake | From a Paris Balcony


  1. 17 September 2017 11:51 am

    Dear Ella. I have already been swept into your story and I’m going to be reading all of your novels on the strength of this post. I would love to stay at Anlaby (and other historical homesteads, as I too have been taken on journeys of imagination since my childhood whenever I entered older homes). We need to keep the past alive, and what better way than this? Thank you for sharing. Best wishes for your new release. Jay.

  2. 16 September 2017 9:51 pm

    Congratulations on the release of this new book!

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