Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Gothic Novel in Bath - Really?

 Opening with a repeat of one of my favorite photos: the grandgirls jumping on a sand dune in Dubai. (Other gallery photos below.)

Dubai - a stopover on the way to Singapore

 The girls have also made at least three trips to Argentina (to visit family), as well as "doing" the Mediterrean, Venice, and London with the extended family in 2015. I frequently wonder if they have any idea how privileged they are. (When speaking with them, you'd never know they'd ever been out of Central Florida.) 

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The Trials and Tribulations of 
Setting a Gothic Novel in Bath

Okay, as I admitted when I embarked on my latest Gothic (supposed Gothic), Bath—beautiful, far-from-eerie home to the elderly and infirm—seemed a highly unlikely setting for a Gothic novel. And, as I suspected might happen, the story so far could best be described by that Regency expression:  "Neither fish nor fowl nor rare roast beef." Sigh.

But as a long-time "out of the mist" author, I sit down each day, eager to find out what happens next. Yes, I made a list of possible death sites and this time I actually know the identity of the villain (villains?) in advance. (A rare occurrence.)  But, oh horrors, I have put a hero's Point of View in a Gothic novel. A POV that reveals he is not the villain.  What fun is that? Gothic heroes are supposed to be suspicious. But the supposed hero of The Abandoned Daughter did commit a sin for which the heroine is not about to forgive him. So in addition to an increasing count of dead bodies, we have the required Conflict.

But wait! Conflict is a "must" for Romance. Eerie atmosphere and mysterious deaths generally considered the only "musts" for a Gothic novel. Eerie . . . in Bath? I could, perhaps, add massive clouds of fog rolling off the River Avon, church bells tolling in the middle of the night, the sound of heavy breathing behind a hedge in the Sydney Gardens labyrinth. Oops, we already have that last one. As well as passages that sound more like Mystery than either Gothic or Regency Romance. (In addition to sounds of Grace grinding her teeth.)

So, yes, it's hard slogging with this one. Advice to my writer friends:  stick with haunted castles, ghosts, a lone heroine against the world. And yet, I'm enjoying the challenge. Hopefully, the tenet of "suspended disbelief" will hold true, and The Abandoned Daughter will be a "good read," if a bit of a Frankstein's monster.

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In a moment  oddly reminiscent of Dubai (above), three Citrus singers, including Cassidy, jump on the beach on Florida's Atlantic coast after a performance in Daytona. These jumpers, with a startlingly clear reflection.

Photo by Susie Reale

This "popped up" on Facebook. Love it!

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A classic Gothic Romance to illustrate this week's post:


After the death of her father, young Serafina Blackthorne of New Haven, Connecticut, becomes a reverse immigrant, traveling from the New World to the Old. To her grandfather, who lives on Dartmoor, a place where eerie legends abound and where she discovers, to her horror, she is marked for death by the Blackthorne Curse. The more Serafina attempts to outmaneuver the Curse, the more she seems to jump from the frying pan into the fire. She finally has but one hope left. But does her childhood friend really want to save her, or is he destined to be her executioner?

Author's Note: This book is a Gothic novel set in the Regency period—a style of story where a young woman finds herself basically alone and battling threats to her life, some from humans, some from possibly supernatural sources. But in spite of all the angst, it is also a romance. I hope you will enjoy reading this tale in a style made famous by Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, and Phyllis Whitney as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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For a link to Blair's website, click here. 

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)


Saturday, January 20, 2024

Shocking True Story


😃 Found on Facebook 😃

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Straight from the mouth of a "Reverend Canon" of the Episcopal church . . .

On Sunday morning, January 14, 2024 (and, yes, the date is significant) I was at pre-church choir practice at Church of the Resurrection in Longwood, Florida. We had just made our way through "Lift Every Voice and Sing"—a rather unfamiliar hymn that changes from major to minor and back again in the course of three phrases. Definitely not our most stellar warm-up! And, suddenly, the priest who was substituting that morning—a retired canon of the church—walked over and said:  "I have a story to tell you about that hymn. The 8:00 service sang it very poorly, and I'm hoping you'll give it the respect it deserves."

Naturally, rehearsal stopped dead, and we listened with avid ears, though we had no idea just how dramatic his story would be.

Grace note:  The most shocking part of this story up front—it is from 1994. Not the 60s, 70s, or 80s, but 1994. (Both canon and town shall remain nameless.)

Our tale-teller (just a priest at the time, not yet a canon) had recently been called to a church in South Carolina. Now, the last black church in that town had closed in 1990, yet as he looked at his congregation, he saw not a single black face. As he tells the tale, his birthday was approaching—February 13. He announced that he wanted a special birthday present from the church. They were to call every member of that black church and invite them to Sunday service. 

But when he asked the organist to play "Lift Every Voice and Sing"—what is called the national anthem of the NAACP—the organist refused. The priest actually had to threaten to fire him before he agreed to play it. (And, yes, that's the hymn we had just struggled over in rehearsal.)

Sunday morning came. And the "invited guests" wept and cried out when they heard that hymn. The priest went ahead to ask that every one of them register as a member of the church. And they did.


Our choir was both shocked and spell-bound by this tale. We begged him to tell it to the congregation - which he did, asking that all sing the hymn with "gusto." And we did, but not just the choir. I have never heard our congregation sing with such enthusiasm. It was a precious moment, which I immediatelyknew I must share with my readers world-wide. 

Repeat:  This tale is all the more shocking, as it took place in a time when most of us thought the Civil Rights movement had broken the grip of segregation in the south.

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This week's featured book is my third Regency Gothic, The Demons of Fenley Marsh, the hero based on a character in one of my first-ever attempts to write romance, maybe as long as 50 years ago while still living on Long Island Sound in Connecticut. (Just love those wounded heroes. Resurrected a somewhat similar character years later in The Abominable Major.)

When the widowed Miranda Tyrell escapes a dire situation in Kent by accepting a position as governess in Lincolnshire, taking her young son with her, she never dreams she is jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Instead of peace and safety, Miranda discovers the flat agricultural plains and salt marshes are rife with tales of mysterious fires, gutted animals, and strange sights and sounds in the night. Her new charge is a disturbed nine-year-old known as the Demon Child. In addition, rumors supported by the local curate claim that her employer, a badly scarred veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, is a demon. And those are only the beginnings of her troubles as she attempts to teach two fatherless boys and deal with her wayward heart, which she swore would never love again.

 ~ * ~

For a link to Blair's website, click here. 

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)


Saturday, January 13, 2024

Kindness - Friends, Neighbors & Strangers

From Facebook - no attribution or location

One of Facebook's spectaculars (photoshopped?)

Wow! It's Pay Up or else.



 Every so often I post to Facebook instances of kindness I have encountered, but in this dark time when words such as genocide, dictator, drone strike, censorship, and starvation are being bandied about. When hate seems to rule—religious hate, race hate, gender hate, thought hate, alleged patriotic hate—and civility seems to have disappeared into the dim recesses of the twentieth century, I believe it is important to credit the many people who still live by the rules of decency, of caring for others—even perfect strangers. In fact, these people are the world's only hope. No matter how horribly governments govern, how violent the criminals and terrorists among us, most people still come under the category called, "the salt of the earth." Those who survive without hate. Those who reach out a hand to their neighbors, even to perfect strangers. It happens all the time; only occasionally do these gestures make the news. (Sigh.) So, below, I'm going to enumerate some of my own experiences with "kindness" and hope this list will help keep the spirit of caring alive and well in what appears to be a world gone mad.  

Friends. Not so surprising when friends reach out to help in time of need, but I want to list the choir at Church of the Resurrection as what I call my second family. Knowing they are always there, whether it's just a warm greeting, helping me with the giant task of moving music folders from one file cabinet to another, or putting a stand-up footer on the bottom of my cane, someone is always ready to help.

Neighbors. I am blessed to have kind neighbors living on both sides of me. (Alas, the ones across the street recently moved away.) These are the neighbors who bring up my recycling bins from the street, the neighbors who transfer my newspaper from the driveway to my kitchen door. The neighbors who bring me the Amazon packages delivered to the their house instead of mine, the neighbors I can count on to come running when I can't reach the @#$% smoke alarm that won't stop beeping! The neighbors who consistently let me know they're always available if I need help.

Strangers. Most remarkable of all, the kindness of perfect strangers. The ones who simply smile, compliment my sparkly hat (a frequent occurrence), or hold open doors. The instance that most sticks in my mind occurred shortly after I moved to Longwood when a boy of 8 or 9, a good ten feet ahead of me, paused and held the door to a store open for me. And how many times I have asked someone taller than I—which is nearly everyone—to take my favorite yogurt down from the top shelf. Add in the nods, smiles, and excuse-me's that happen every trip to the grocery store, and yes, I have hope the world is not going to hell in a handbasket, as the saying goes. That kindness and, yes, civility will endure because without it, we are truly doomed.

CIVILITY - what a better world this would be if it were practiced outside our neighborhoods; say, in the world of politics, the world of international relations, the world of humanity. And, yes, in the world of religion where all too often kindness is reserved solely for those who think the same way we do.

Moral of this tale:  Spread kindness wherever you can. It very well may be our last resort.

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I like to think that kindness is a quality practiced in all my books, but when I went to look for examples, I had to scratch my head. Even in the mildest Regency Romance, the heroine must face adversity; i.e., kindness is sparse. In the end I decided to choose The Lady Takes a Risk, part of the Regency Warrior series and the book that would lead to The Abominable Major and the Matthew Wolfe series. And, oh yes, it is one of the many books in which Jack Harding makes a timely appearance.

The daughter of a duke, determined to escape her father's candidate for her hand, proposes marriage to the former colonel of an elite cavalry regiment, who is escaping his wartime memories as a hops farmer in Kent. Not only do the newlyweds have to learn to adapt to one another, but to their dismay, they discover that for the veterans of the Royal 10th Hussars, the war is not yet over.

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For a link to Blair's website, click here. 

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)


Saturday, January 6, 2024

A Dessert Fit for Royalty

Recipe below

Starting the New Year with samples of the wonder of the English language—the Confusing and the Colorful.

From Facebook:


A Dessert Fit for Royalty

 Today's blog features a recipe I may have posted two years ago, but as I prepared it for Christmas dinner this year, I realized the instructions could use a few more details, particularly for the grandgirls who were interested in trying it. So here is an updated version of a recipe I adapted from a 1973 magazine. 

Special notes:  

1. The mold in the photo looks great, but molded desserts have gone out of fashion, probably because they are so hard to unmold without making a disaster of all your efforts! Therefore, I make my Nesselrode Pudding in a big mixing bowl and simply dish it up in fancy cut-glass dessert dishes. It could also be transferred to a big glass serving dish where the colorful ingredients can shine through without all the hazards of "unmolding."

2.  This is a "make-ahead recipe" that needs to sit overnight. It is also time-consuming, so do not wait until the last minute. 

3.  The original recipe does not mention whipping the cream, but my family liked the fluffiness that resulted—rather than the "jel" feel—so I adjusted the instructions. If you want to use a mold, whipping the cream is likely not be a good idea.





 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
2/3 cup sugar, divided (1/3 cup goes into the stiffened egg whites)
¼ tspn salt
2 cups milk
3 eggs, separated**
1 tspn vanilla extract
2 tspns rum extract or sherry extract
¼ cup golden raisins*
¼ cup sliced almonds (toasted)*
1/3 - ½ cup candied fruit*
1 cup heavy cream [whipped]
Toasted slivered almonds (optional)
*Amounts are flexible - more to taste than to exact measurement. Chopped pitted dates are also an option. I used “Extra Fancy Fruitcake Mix.”) 

To toast almonds, heat in dry Teflon-coated skillet, stirring frequently until lightly browned.

Original Instructions (added words in brackets): 

In top part of a double boiler, mix gelatin, 1/3 cup sugar and the salt. Add milk and egg yolks and beat with rotary beater or whisk until blended. Put over simmering water and cook, stirring until mixture thickens slightly and coats a metal spoon. Remove from heat and stir in flavorings. Chill, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened but not firm. [approx. 90-115 min.] [Near the end of the chill time, whip cream, set aside.] Beat egg whites until almost stiff but not dry.** Gradually add remaining sugar and beat until stiff. When gelatin mix is slightly thickened, fold  nuts, fruits, stiff-peaked eggs, and [whipped] cream into gelatin mixture. Pour into a 1½-quart mold*** and chill overnight. Unmold on serving dish and, if desired, sprinkle with toasted almonds. Makes 8 servings.

**Eggs will likely not form stiff peaks if even a small amount of yolk falls into the bowl.

***See Special Notes above.

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This week's featured book is one of only two of my books that is more classic contemporary romance than mystery, suspense, Gothic, etc. It's set in a world I know well: Medieval Fairs and the Society for Creative Anachronism. (I gave away all my costumes only when I moved to the Orlando area in 2007.)



Kate Knight fights memories of a former abusive relationship by armed combat with male members of a Medieval re-enactment group. To Kate, men are anathema, yet somehow she finds herself sharing a postage-stamp-size tent with a Florida Highway Patrol officer who is attempting to discover who almost killed his brother in a tournament at a Medieval Fair. For Kate, trust comes hard as they deal with obsessive enthusiasts, quirky personalities, and a ruthless killer.

Author's Note:
My thanks to the Florida Gulf Coast shires of the Society for Creative Anachronism for providing so much colorful detail for this story. And to the John & Mable Ringling Museum for all the years it hosted truly grand Medieval Fairs.


"Lord and Ladies! Prepare thyself for an enchanting tale of mystery and romance! . . . I had a great time reading this novel! Bancroft's characters are funny and heartwarming. I found myself rooting for all of them. The connections between them are genuine, their troubles tugging on my heartstrings and their successes making me smile. . . . Bancroft couldn't have chosen a more original background." Heather Eileen, Romance Junkies

"Blair Bancroft gives us an excellent tale of two people who have wrapped their hearts into a cocoon of self preservation. Kate's history is a horror story of abuse and neglect. Michael's present as a patrol officer is often filled with the dregs of society. Both have felt they had to keep others at a distance to survive. The tale of Mona and Bubba, Kate's friends, is a mixture of heartbreak and strength that adds much to the book. The author does a great job of weaving their relationships while giving us an education about people who crave simpler times when chivalry was alive and well." Dee Dailey, The Romance Studio

"I just finished reading a great book. It travels through time, but not in the usual manner of time travels. There is no element of disbelief. . . . It brings the reader into the story not by guile or subterfuge but simply by telling a compelling story. The hero is a man for all seasons . . . Lady Knight an outwardly strong woman who has built a wall around her senses. Can Officer Turco scale that wall? I highly recommend this book. If you love historicals or contemps this tale is for you as it has both elements and is a great mystery. FoxladyCarey

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For a link to Blair's website, click here. 

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)