- The concert that opens the story is the 1825 Smythe-Smith musicale, which makes it the same one that appears in It’s in His Kiss. (Hence the later reference to the rakish Gareth St. Clair.) It also appears in the epilogues of Just Like Heaven, A Night Like This, and The Sum of All Kisses. And yes, it’s difficult to keep all the facts straight.
- The Shepherdess, the Unicorn, and Henry VIII was by far the most fun scene to write in the book. This disaster of a performance was first mentioned in It’s in His Kiss, when Hyacinth and Gareth attend what they think will be a poetry reading. When I introduced the Pleinsworth girls in A Night Like This, and I realized that they were the ones who would have performed this play, it made it a breeze to create their characters. Harriet (the oldest) would be the playwright, and Frances (the youngest) would be obsessed with unicorns. Elizabeth (the middle child) would be the middle child. (I am also a middle child; read into that what you will.)
- The baby sheep in The Shepherdess, the Unicorn, and Henry VIII was inspired by a young acquaintance of mine. For your viewing pleasure:
- Winston Bevelstoke makes an appearance in the early chapters of The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy. Winston is one of my most popular secondary characters, having previously appeared in The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever (brother of the hero) and What Happens in London (brother of the heroine). Readers ask for his story all the time. He’s not on the agenda for the next few books, but he is definitely on the radar.
- The Treaty of St. Petersburg got a mention mostly because I needed something Iris might have read about in the newspaper. The treaty defined the boundary between Russian America and the North Western Territory, or, as we would say today, between Alaska and Canada.
During the early part of the 19th century, the British Royal Family was more German than anything else. George III, who ruled from 1760-1820, was the first of the Hanoverian monarchs to be born in England and use English as his first language. He married a German aristocrat, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and his son and heir, George IV, also married a German, Princess Caroline of Brunswick. (It was a spectacularly unhappy marriage, but that’s another story.) Queen Victoria’s first language was German, and it was most likely her only language during much of her early childhood. Her father, Prince Edward, died before her first birthday and she was raised primarily by her German-speaking mother, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.
- Iris reads Mansfield Park in the carriage on her way north, later commenting that it’s much less romantic than Pride and Prejudice. I wrote the Afterword for the Signet Classic edition of Mansfield Park in 2008 and must concur with Iris. Fanny Price is no Lizzy Bennet! (To say nothing of Edmund Bertram and Mr. Darcy.)
- Maycliffe Park was modeled after Norton Conyers, a late medieval manor house in North Yorkshire. I later discovered that Norton Conyers was also the inspiration for Thornfield Hall, the home of Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre. Charlotte Brontë visited Norton Conyers in 1839. There was already a legend of a madwoman locked in the attic; it’s certainly possible that Brontë heard the tale.