Monday, September 29, 2014

The Rich are Different from You and Me

By Lady Honora Grant
Dowager Countess of Norrance

(Lady Honora appears in Murder, She Wrote: Death of a Blue Blood, coming out next month. Blue Blood is number 42 in the "Murder, She Wrote" Series.)

It is my understanding that the writer my son invited to our New Year's Eve ball--one Jessica Fletcher--has been spreading ugly rumors about our family. I won't have it! We cannot be held responsible simply because some foolish woman got herself locked in our walled garden on a cold day. And wouldn't you know that writer was the one to discover her body. I am not certain why Mrs. Fletcher was so put out. If I give her the benefit of the doubt, she may have been swayed by George Sutherland, that Scotland Yard inspector she brought along as an escort. Be that as it may, she made such a fuss, the local constabulary were called in. If our butler Nigel had found the unfortunate person first, I daresay no one would have been the wiser, at least not until after the ball. Castorbrook has a name to maintain, after all.

Actress Maggie Smith as Lady Violet in "Downton Abbey."
Some people have compared me to her, but she lived in different,
dare I say better, times.
I'll grant you that the castle requires a goodly amount of funds to maintain, and my son may be a poor manager, nevertheless it must, it will, remain in the family. That silly woman he married wants to sell it to some hotel people. It's bad enough that we've had to open our doors to wedding people and visitors pretending to be among the nobility; I'll die before I see our ancestral home made into a common guest house for the bourgeoisie.

Mrs. Fletcher's greatly exaggerated tale about our family is being published October 7th. Kindly remember she is a writer and those people tend to see things from their distinctly middle class point of view. Such drama! We've had our misfortunes, it's true, but we will survive as we have for centuries. A hundred years from now whoever are the Earl and Countess of Norrance will still be presiding over Castorbrook Castle, you can be sure.

If you are still interested in Mrs. Fletcher's vision of Castorbrook and the members of our family, I will give you a short glance into her story. Take it with a grain of salt.

A body was found in Castorbrook's walled garden.

“What in blazes was she doing in the garden?” Lord Norrance asked, glaring at his wife.

Marielle, the Countess of Norrance,  raised a hand to tuck a loose strand of hair into her chignon. “I asked her to find a sprig of holly that I could use for my hair for the ball.” She checked her image in the mirror over the fireplace. “I didn’t ask her to go into the garden.”

“Any sensible person knows it’s far too cold to walk outside at this time of year,” said a gravelly voice belonging to the Dowager Countess of Norrance, the earl’s widowed mother. Honora Grant was a slight woman in her seventies, but her delicate appearance belied her tough nature. Earlier, when she had leaned on Nigel’s arm as he escorted her into the room, she had pointed to a seat with her cane. “Put me over there where I can see everyone. Marielle, you know that’s my chair by the fire. Find another place, if you please.”

Lady Norrance obligingly vacated her seat so her mother-in-law could take it. Nigel placed a pillow he’d carried in on the chair, and Honora settled herself down. She cast a critical eye on the room’s other occupants. “I hope you’re not planning to cancel the ball because of this unfortunate incident.”

“Oh! We hadn’t thought . . .” The earl’s wife trailed off.

This Drawing Room at Highclere Castle resembles
the one at Castorbrook Castle.

“You really should, you know,” said a young woman dressed in jodhpurs and boots. “We’ve had a death in the family.” She released the scarf around her neck and shook out her dark blond hair.

“Nonsense!” the earl said. “This event has been on the social calendar for many months.”

“Jemma, must you irritate your father?”

“Sorry, Mum.”

“We could hardly cancel now,” the earl said. “People are already arriving.” He waved an arm toward George and me.

“And very welcome you are,” said Rupert Grant, the earl’s younger son, nodding at us, causing a curl from his carefully gelled hair to flop onto his forehead. He was a boyish-looking fellow in his midtwenties. “Besides, Flavia would not have wanted to discomfort the family in any way.” He leaned forward to pluck a pastry from a silver tray. “Isn’t that right, Mother?”

“You’re correct, of course, dear. Please take a plate and napkin. Mrs. Beckwith was dedicated to Castorbrook Castle and our family.”

Wasn't she the children's governess once? the dowager asked.

“Yes, Grandmother,” Rupert said, “but she needed another job when the three of us rudely decided to grow up.” He cocked his head at his sister, Jemma, the horsewoman, and their older brother, Kip, who sat across the room and idly paged through a magazine. “And Mother gave the old girl another position.”

“Ridiculous! She wasn’t even trained.” Honora thumped her cane on the floor. “Can’t imagine she could have been a proper lady’s maid without training. But then your mother probably doesn’t know the difference.”

2014 is the 25th anniversary of "Murder, She Wrote" in print. In case you couldn't tell, we're big fans of the PBS costume drama series "Downton Abbey." Unlike "Downton,"  "Death of a Blue Blood," takes place in modern times, but a glimpse of the aristocratic life was fun to write. 

Do you have a favorite historical era you like to read about? Or do you prefer modern day mysteries?


  1. Sounds like a great book..Can't wait to read it.

  2. I like mysteries from any era, although I'm partial to stories from the Golden Age of Mysteries. I think Jessica fits right in with the classic amateur sleuths and nicely updates the genre.

  3. I like modern and historical... any period of time.

  4. Thanks for stopping by, all. Don likes modern day mysteries and Renee likes both modern and historical. But we both agree that a good story is a good read regardless of the period.