In my second post of the day I am delighted to welcome author Anita Davison to my blog to discuss the characters in her brilliant new book, Betrayal at Cleeve Abbey, but before I pass you over, I have a confession to make, I am a secret historical fiction fanatic! They are my complete guilty pleasure, Catherine Cookson is a firm favourite of mine and I sometimes think I should have been born as Lady of the Manor!!!
It is for this reason that I was delighted to be offered the chance to read a book that not only has a dead body (WOO HOO!! Order is restored!!) but also that brilliant back drop of Edwardian England. Anita really brings the era to life in her writing, I could easily have walking the halls of Cleeve Abbey, wandering over the rolling fields with my gentleman on my arm!
I loved the mystery and the beauty that Anita brought to her book, Flora Maguire is a superb character and she now has a firm fan in me! I cannot wait for the next instalment!
So, welcome Anita and thank you so much for joining me today, I’d like to find out more about Flora if that’s ok?
When where and how did you create Flora?
For my first Flora Maguire mystery, I wanted to create a ‘closed room’ environment where the victims and suspects are part of a small group, thus an ocean liner seemed an ideal setting.
I discovered the ship first, the maiden voyage of the SS Minneapolis took place in Spring 1900 between New York and London, with first class only passengers.
I read somewhere – probably a book on writing, that every human is a cliché, and to create one from scratch is bound to be unconvincing. Thus I started with a basic idea: a young woman, pretty yet not too striking who could move between the classes undetected. A governess, because they were upper servants, usually the educated daughters of middle-class families, who were both discreet and intelligent by necessity. I worked out her general appearance, but her character developed naturally as the story progressed and she began telling me what she wanted to do next.
What do you like most about her?
Flora doesn’t accept what she is told, but prefers to check the facts first and make up her own mind. She’s resourceful, intuitive, and aware of her social status so discretion is second nature to her. She’s unsentimental and pragmatic – shocked by some things but doesn’t dwell on self recrimination or angst, and she functions well under pressure.
What do you like least about her?
Her insecurity – in that she is attracted to Bunny Harrington, but her first thought is that he couldn’t possibly interested in her as he is from a wealthy background – ignoring the fact that the signals he gives out say the opposite. It takes some persuasion on his part to convince her otherwise. But when she is convinced, she is secure in his love and isn’t averse to testing the boundaries now and then. Like accepting an invitation from another man if to do so helps her progress with her enquiries.
Flora also tends to become over enthusiastic when she discovers a clue and jumps into situations without thinking of the possible consequences.
What are your plans for her and Bunny?
Flora’s adventurous spirit is irrepressible, whereas Bunny becomes more serious as time goes on – perhaps because he has an impulsive wife to take care of. Flora dabbles in the Womens’ Suffrage Movement, has a social conscience, admires women with the courage to forge careers and sees no reason to restrict her life to domesticity simply because she is married. Bunny adores her and as a modern man himself interested in new innovations, he’s indulgent towards her, even proud of her. Nor does he mind when he has to come to her rescue as it makes him feel needed.
Did everyone like Flora and Bunny to start with or did you have to change them in any way?
Flora and Bunny are still evolving as individuals and as a couple with each new adventure. Their responsibilities change and thus so does their relationship but the cases they become involved in also contain social and moral issues, so they feel compelled to carry them through.
I had a problem with the fact everyone loved Flora – there isn’t much not to like about her apart from some frustration with her impulsive nature, so I had to give her an antagonist. What better character but a difficult mother-in-law? Beatrice Harrington is a bit of a caricature, widowed social climber with one adored son whom she considers too good for any woman, but readers like to dislike her and sympathise with Flora.
Are there any similarities with anyone real?
In a word – no. My readers might recognise people they know from the books, but I haven’t based any of the characters with people I know. I did that once, and I’m still waiting for them to challenge me on it. The only reason they haven’t is, I suspect, because they haven’t read the book.
Thank you Anita, I always love to find out more about the background of the characters I read about, it helps to have more insight into these people who us readers invest our time and emotions in.
I certainly love Flora, I think she is strong and formidable and would love to have her on my side!
Readers, you can get your copy of Betrayal at Cleeve Abbey now over at
And be sure to follow the rest of the tour as detailed below
Born in London, Anita has always had a penchant for all things historical. She now lives in the beautiful Cotswolds, the backdrop for her Flora Maguire mysteries.