What’s behind Home From Nowhere?
‘Home From Nowhere’ is the seventh book in the ongoing series, The Clearwater Mysteries, and it is slightly different from the other novels. After the wild and often dangerous adventures of books one to six, I thought it would be good to slow the pace and write what they call a ‘cosy’ mystery for Archer and his crew to solve. ‘Home From Nowhere’ is also a coming of age story and the beginning of a romance.
In it, we meet a new character, Jasper Blackwood, a hall boy from Kingsclere House who has lived all his 18 years in the workhouse or in service. In book six, ‘Artful Deception’, James briefly meets Jasper, and later learns that he has been used as a whipping boy by the evil Earl Kingsclere. When Archer, Lord Clearwater, hears of this, he poaches Jasper and his only friend, Harvey Holt, a footman, and brings them to Clearwater House in London. Jasper brings with him an old tin box in which is a book of folk songs, but this is no ordinary book of songs. Its uniqueness, and a handwritten inscription set Archer’s mind wondering. Calling together his newly formed Clearwater Detective Agency – his lover, Silas, his butler, Thomas, and his valet, James – Archer sets about investigating the meaning of the book’s inscription: To Jasper Blackwood. A caprice in Lutèce leads to overtures which will, I pray, lead to a full life. Take this with my tears and my regret. FR.‘
And so the story unfolds. It is set against Jasper coming to terms with his new life working for a master who cares, and with ‘men of a similar heart’, which, by the way, is the working title for book nine. As Jasper accepts his good fortune, so he is able to develop his remarkable and intuitive skills in music. Allowed to be himself, and under the mentorship of James, he accepts that he has an attraction for Billy Barnett, another new character, and so a gentle love story begins. That story is continued in book eight, ‘One of a Pair’, due for release in September.
The historical facts behind Home From Nowhere
All of my Clearwater books contain a mix of fact and fiction. For example, in book one, ‘Deviant Desire’, we have the East End of London as it was in October 1888 when Jack the Ripper was stalking Whitechapel. In my story, however, ‘The Ripper’ is stalking male prostitutes in Greychurch.
In ‘Home From Nowhere’, we learn much about what goes on below stairs in a noble house. Jasper takes up a new position and must learn what it means to be an assistant housekeeper. Much of what you read on that subject is based on research, from ‘sad irons’ to boot polish, and it was fun to show below stairs at Clearwater House as it would have been.
The mysterious inscription leads to a discovery, and without giving away any spoilers, I can tell you that the characters the inscription leads back to, were real people. You would definitely have heard of one, but maybe not the other; a woman who was from where the book says she was from, did what it says she did as a profession, and who was involved with… the man I can’t name without giving away the ending.
And on the subject of the inscription, this piece of dialogue from chapter thirteen is, to the best of my knowledge, factual in its content:
‘Exactly, Tom, and that makes sense when you ask the question none of you has yet asked.’
‘I think I was just about to,’ James said. ‘Where or what is Lutèce?’
Archer grinned and hugged Silas tighter. ‘Lutèce comes from the Latin, Lutetia Parisiorum. Lutetia is Latin for mud, or a swamp, and Parisiorum…’
‘Is Paris,’ Thomas interrupted. ‘Lutèce was the old name for Paris?’
‘Which just happens to rhyme with caprice, a musical term more usually known in the Italian as capriccio, meaning lively or in high spirits, but with a different meaning in English. So, Tom, I leap to my conclusion with those few facts and suggest that this inscription sends Jasper a message…’
With regards to the songbook: its paper was invented and used as I have written, as were nigrosine ink, the chocolate manufacturer mentioned, the concert piece (including the name of the lyricists which came as a surprise to me), and the makes of the pianos. The men Archer goes to for advice were the directors of the music colleges at that time.
The book is unimaginatively titled Chanson Populaire, which translates as popular song, or folk songs as they are fashionably called. [Also from chapter thirteen, and factual.]
Also, although the workhouses are imaginary, everything down to the forms where Silas finds information is based on actual forms still in existence in the records office, and the wording, again, is accurate. There was a Kingsclere Workhouse in Hampshire, and although my description of it varies from the original, the figures quoted in the story are real.
When you read the book, you will see that music plays a large part in the mystery and in Jasper’s development from cowering hall boy to, in book eight, confident youth with an incredible talent. In ‘Home From Nowhere’ he sees his life as a piece of music and talks about when he first played a church organ. The names of the organ stops are real, and the experience of playing such an instrument is taken from my memory – not that I could ever play as well as Jasper. The Oetzmann and Plumb piano was a real make, as is the Blüthner grand in the library, but whether Brahms owned it or one like it is debatable, but he did have a fondness for Blüthners, so it’s not impossible.
What’s next for Jasper Blackwood?
As I write, my husband is beta reading the first draft of ‘One Of A Pair’, the eighth book in the Clearwater Mysteries. This story starts six weeks after ‘Home From Nowhere’ ends, and it continues Jasper’s story, his growth and coming of age, and concerns his friendship with our other new, and often comical character, Billy Barnett. There is a mystery, of course, and in this case, fact and fiction are mixed like a chemical formula – and that analogy will make sense when you come to read the book. You can expect the usual combination of love, friendship, romance and mystery, fact and fiction, but also, a more significant role for the bisexual, brilliant but scatter-brained, Doctor Markland (who briefly appears in ‘Deviant Desire’ and other books in the series). I shall be redrafting that novel and improving it during August and aim to have it with you sometimes in September.
Look out for more and regular blog posts in the future where I will not only talk about the new books, but the published ones, the characters, their history, the facts behind the fiction and how I set about writing the Clearwater Mysteries, and other MM, romantic novels.