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Monday, July 23, 2012

The Setting for Love in Three-Quarter Time

Stories come to authors in all different forms. Really, the impetus for this story first came from my agent who asked me to write a historical romance novel set in America during the 19th century. From there we narrowed down the setting to Virginia or Pennsylvania, the two states I know the most about. Then after several weeks of prayer, the initial idea came to me in the form of the title, Love in Three-Quarter Time. So I knew it would have something to do with the waltz.

Regency Era Waltz
I wanted it to take place when the waltz first came to America. However, I could only find absolute documentation that the waltz was officially accepted in England in 1816, when it was included in a ball given by the Prince Regent, and that it was well established in America by 1830. From there I chose 1817, figuring some daring Americans probably tried shortly after their British counterparts. And by choosing this time, I was able to give my book that popular Regency flavor.

Next I needed a place for my story. It seemed that it should start in Richmond and move to a gorgeous Southern plantation home nearer the frontier. So I created the fictional White Willow Hall just off the famous Three Notch'd Road which ran through Charlottesville, Virginia. I decided my plantation would be set in rolling hills with a weeping willow, lots of flowers, and a small pond out front. For the architecture, I thought my Beaumont family might have chosen something similar to the nearby Monticello. Oh! And I would include a few scenes at Monticello for an added historical touch.

So I went about writing my book, mostly from my imagination and my memories of Charlottesville. I did some online research. But it wasn't until I had already completed the first draft that I had an opportunity to visit while I was in Charlottesville for the Virginia Festival of the Book. It was quite a feat to figure out where Three Notch'd Road ran today, but with the help of the ladies at the Monticello gift shop, I finally figured it out. Then of course it was farther than expected, and I was running out of gas, and my GPS kept taking me to old country gas stations that weren't open.... Suffice to say, it was the next afternoon before I skipped out on the festival and managed to explore Three Notch'd Road west of the town.

Dina at Birdwood Pavilion (Now a Conference Center) on Three Notch'd Road
And it was so worth it!!!! I found a plantation about 3 miles west of town, right where it belonged, that fit my description almost precisely. The willow and pond were more to the right side than in front. The house did not have a rotunda, but the size, red brick, white pillars, and verandas all matched! You can't tell in the picture, but there are about two sets of rolling hills between me and the house. The plantation would have existed at the time of my story, although the house was built a few years later. I was so excited that I went back after the festival with my travel companion, author Christy Barritt, to snap some pictures.

Garden Pavilion at Monticello
But don't forget those few scenes at Monticello as well. I had actually found great online tours, photos, and videos. So there weren't too many surprises for me. I was, however, oddly shocked that it sat on top of the only mountain in the area. Duh! Thus the name. But I didn't realize there were any mountains that far east. My favorite place at Monticello was a spot where I had already set a pivotal scene. This lovely little garden pavilion where Constance and Robbie shared a passionate kiss for the first time in five years.

I had so much fun with the setting of this story. I hope you'll enjoy it too!

What's your favorite historical time and place? Do you enjoy Southern plantations and old mansions? If you could set a book anywhere, where would you choose?


  1. Mmm...I love waltzes :o)

    And Southern plantations. And old mansions. And the Deep South - with roads shaded by overarching live oaks, centuries old, and draped in Spanish moss...

    ...If I could bring myself to actually write something in a "real world" (as opposed to my current project in "fairy tale"), it'd be Southern. I love Georgia - coastal beckons my heart like few places do, so maybe there :o) Among the sandy roads, tall pines, and gnarled old live oaks... ::dreamy sigh::