In Notorious Match, Diana struggles against the memory of her lonely childhood.
She could so very easily have been the Barbara Hutton of the Regency. You may recall the tragic life of the Woolworth heiress whose father was the wealthy co-founder of E. F. Hutton, a banking firm. Remember those funny 80s commercials? “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen.”
Not so funny–Barbara’s mother committed suicide and her father abandoned her. She died after a string of broken marriages, a broken fortune and, some say, a broken heart.
Poor little rich girl.
My heroine Diana spent most of her unhappy childhood at Northam Park, the seat of her family’s earldom in Leceistershire, England. When she became countess in her own right, she travelled frequently to her estate but stayed only for a short periods of time. Each visit she made served as a reminder she was unloved as a child. In its own way, Northam Park insisted she never forgot.
The mansion at Northam Park was built in 1724 by the English master builder Francis Smith of Warwick for the 28th Earl (yes, you read that correctly–the earldom is at least as old as that of Arundel, held by the Howard family). Northam Park’s architect designed the house very similarly to his creation of Sutton Scarsdale, built for the earl of that name. Rivalling Chatsworth House in size and splendor, Northam Park was given a massive east front with nine bays of windows separated by Corinthian pillars. Crowning the center was a large pediment, almost overwhelming in size and complexity when viewed up close and unmistakeable when spotted from afar.
But the earl of Northam did not want his coat of arms to decorate this central feature as was customary. Desiring a neo-classical design, the Earl commanded that the pediment of the mansion’s front face depict a curious scene from Greek mythology–the casting out of Hephaestus by his own mother Hera.
The fall from Mount Olympus maimed the god of the forge forever. What mother could do that to her child?
Whenever Diana is at Northam Park, her eyes are forever drawn to this terrible scene, wrought in sharp relief as clearly as any of the Elgin Marbles that were torn from the Parthenon. The sight makes her shudder. It reminds her that inside she is lame and unloveable.
Then a man comes to Northam Park. The only one who can help her heal. The only one who can love her for who she is.