In my latest historical novel, one of my characters stakes his entire financial future on two blockade runners to travel between North Carolina and England. Blockade runners during the Civil War were the fastest ships available and came armed and armored, enabling them to outrun Union ships on blockade patrol. Their operations were risky since the Union Navy wouldn’t hesitate to fire on them. However, the potential profits (economically or militarily) from a successful crossing were tremendous. The Union government sought to cut off all trade with the Confederacy and patrolled 12 major ports and 3,500 miles of southern coastline. Great Britain played a major role on the blockade running business, since they had huge investments in the South, and were the recipients of their cash crops, especially tobacco and cotton. Great Britain also controlled the neutral ports of the Caribbean, such as the Bahamas and Bermuda. Among the more notable of these premier vessels was the CSS Advance which completed more than 20 successful runs through the Union Naval blockade before being captured. By the end of the Civil War the Union Navy had captured more than 1,100 blockade runners and had destroyed or run aground another 355 vessels.
The Last Heiress is a stand-alone historical romance, also set during the American Civil War. My heroine, Amanda Dunn is heir to the largest textile mill in Manchester, England. When the blockade of southern ports curtails the supply of cotton, her father sends her to Wilmington to restore trade. Her estranged twin sister, Abigail, eloped at 17 with an American cotton factor, and also lives in Wilmington. When Amanda falls for a local shopkeeper, class distinction, political loyalties, and family obligations guarantee a turbulent romance. The risky business of outmaneuvering the Union Navy became one of my favorite research assignments in The Last Heiress, available now in bookstores and online.
I’m often asked where I get the settings for my stories. From real life is my usual answer. Today I’ll take you to visit the Latimer House on 126 S. 3rd St. in Wilmington, NC, home of my fictional Jackson and Abigail Henthorne of The Last Heiress. Having a real life mansion as a model makes setting the stage easier and far more accurate. The gardens, both side and back, the entrance to the subterranean level, the slave quarters, the interior rooms, and the porches all feature into my story. Of course, I embellished or changed a few details, because that’s what fiction writers do. But if you visit to the real life Latimer House, now home to the Wilmington Historical Society, I think you’ll agree I got the grand opulence of the mansion right-on-the-money!
The Latimer House, built in 1852 by local merchant Zebulon Latimer, is open to the public as an historic house exemplary of upper-class life in Wilmington during the Victorian period. With 14 furnished rooms the Latimer House lets you step back in time to a more elegant era. The house, built in the popular Italianate style, was designed with a central hallway on each floor with identical layouts on either side. The first floor contains the formal sitting and dining areas on the north side, used for entertaining and special occasions, and the less formal sitting rooms to the south.
If you are looking for a charming place for your meeting, luncheon, or party, then search no further than the Latimer House! The Victorian inspired garden is perfect for your special photography session, while the tearoom can accommodate guests in a historic atmosphere. Available seven days a week, but reservations are required. Call 910-762-0492 for more information or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Unfortunately, the house is not handicapped accessible. Next week, readers, we’ll be visiting downtown Wilmington, NC, where my handsome hero, Nathaniel Cooper had his delightful store. Stay tuned, and stay warm….. Mary