Today's topic: An excerpt that describes Lancaster House!
If you missed yesterday's post about the mansion that served as inspiration for writing Lancaster House, click here.
The below excerpt is when Zoe first enters Lancaster House. The amazing Winchester Mystery House inspired me to add secrets to Lancaster House!
Barbara seemed hesitant to enter, but Zoe walked in enthusiastically, followed by Mrs. Pearson. The entrance was grand with a large foyer and a magnificent staircase. The upstairs landing was open to the floor below, providing a feeling of space. Zoe zigzagged through the house, taking in every detail, commenting excitedly, deliberately seeking out the oddities and squealing with delight when she discovered them. The downstairs held three spacious living areas, each boasting small built-ins, some with shelving, some with window seats. As she wandered through the rooms, she opened every door she came across. Most revealed storage closets or coat closets. However, the next door she discovered opened simply to a wall. It was wallpapered like the wall surrounding it. The shock at seeing a wall where you would normally see a room of some sort was disconcerting. Zoe found herself wishing the door led to some kind of amazingly interesting alcove she could investigate. Still, she laughed aloud at the craziness of it all and continued her search for bizarre features. She wasn’t disappointed as she found three more doors that opened to blank walls. The downstairs was somewhat of a maze and it took her a few minutes to get her bearings. She loved the mysterious nature of the floor plan; it didn’t follow the usual norm. The hallways had alcoves that seemed to serve no purpose other than to provide interesting architecture. Every unexpected twist and turn led you to a new area of the house. In one corner, a circular staircase led straight up to a small landing with one window, and that was it. It served no purpose whatsoever.
It was fantastic.
Zoe spent several minutes scrutinizing the kitchen. It was brilliantly modern and updated which pleased her immensely. The previous owners had obviously spent much of their budget here. Off the kitchen, she noticed another staircase. Hoping this one really was another way to get to the second story, she approached it with mounting excitement. Two staircases? How cool is that? Instead, she found a staircase that simply led to the ceiling. Just for the heck of it, she walked up it till her head hit the ceiling and she had to hunch over to go any higher. Zoe sat on one of the stairs with a satisfied smile on her face. Never in her life had she discovered a house like this. It made her positively giddy.
Next, she tried the door just off the kitchen. It was a huge butler’s pantry, lined with useful deep shelves. At the back was a second door leading to another staircase. This one went down, she assumed to the basement. Upon opening the door at the bottom of the stairs, there was simply a brick wall. Her laughter echoed off the walls. She should have known. Nothing is what it seems in this house.
Once the excitement of finding the eccentric features was over, she began to study the intricacies of the home. She was fascinated with the woodwork. Once sanded and polished it would be beautiful again. The floors were amazing, done with hand-inlaid parquet. Elegant chandeliers still graced the ceilings, but they were missing crystals and hung dejectedly. Marble fireplaces with heavy gold mirrors above them graced each room. The mirrors seemed to have a fog over them. It would take some elbow grease to bring them to life once again. Frescoed ceilings with elaborate cornices kept her walking from room to room just staring at the amazing ceilings—a work of art in and of themselves. Some walls still held the original damask wallpaper, faded and peeling, but evident nonetheless. Rich, dominant wainscoting covered the bottom half of nearly every wall. The damage and neglect throughout the home was evident, but Zoe saw it through rose-colored glasses. She didn’t see the disrepair, she saw what it could be—she saw its potential.
She fell in love with the house almost immediately.
They made their way up the overly long staircase with Barbara sticking close to Zoe. Zoe didn’t comment, but knew instinctively that Barbara was uncomfortable in the close confines of the house. She had to suppress a giggle. Imagine that—a real estate agent who was scared of old houses. It would appear she was in the wrong business. Meanwhile, Mrs. Pearson spoke almost non-stop, fluttering about with useless chatter. Barbara and Zoe both ignored her.
The lengthy staircase was a striking feature that commanded attention. Unusual to Victorian homes—it wasn’t merely functional—it was the centerpiece of the house. Zoe was immediately taken with the banister. She ran her hands over it respectfully, letting out her breath in wonder. It had obviously been hand carved and the detail was incredible.
“The builder of the house hand carved that banister himself. It was his pet project. The history of the home states that it took him nearly a year to complete it.” Barbara went on, oblivious to Zoe’s reaction. “I realize it’s now marred, scraped, dented, and filled with dust in all the crevices of the carvings, but it could easily be re-created. After all, in this day and age, new railings can be made with machines, then delivered and installed in a matter of days.” Zoe was so fascinated with the handiwork, she hardly heard her. “You could use the old banister for firewood. Waste not, want not,” she added with a glittery laugh.
“Bite your tongue. This banister can easily be restored to its original majesty. It’s so beautiful. I just can’t get over the detail. What an amazing man he must have been.”
I think peculiar fits him to a T,” Barbara muttered under her breath, perhaps hoping Zoe wouldn’t hear her. But Zoe did hear and considered her revenge for such blasphemous words. Perhaps she should hide in a closet and jump out at her. The reaction would be priceless.
Once upstairs, Zoe again searched out the oddities first. She loved them and found they gave the house character. The upstairs held eight bedrooms of irregular sizes and proportions. Zoe found three secret passageways between bedrooms. They were obviously meant for children to crawl through for fun and were never meant for nefarious purposes, removing all the mystery surrounding them, but she loved them all the same. In some rooms, the only way to the next room was through a door in the closet. If you didn’t look in the closet and discover the door, you would never know the room existed. It was amazing and fun and she felt as though she’d just discovered the funhouse at a carnival. Barbara found no need to give the standard tour, nor did Zoe want one. Zoe was like a hummingbird, flitting from room to room. She could hardly contain herself, feeling akin to a child on Christmas morning. Some of the bedrooms were shaped as octagons, and some seemed as though a wall had been built right down the center, with the express purpose of cutting the room in half. Most of the rooms had vaulted ceilings and interesting windows, some in circular shapes and several with stained glass. Each work of stained glass was designed with open buds of red roses, beautifully crafted as though the sun had just graced the flower with its presence. Several rooms held dormer windows with window seats that begged you to come and relax, bask in the sun, or curl up and read a book. The design was remarkably creative. The upstairs architecture was just as ornate as the downstairs.
Kinda creepy, huh? To be honest, I scared myself while writing this book!
COMING NEXT: Learn why I scared myself while writing Lancaster House! (Just click and follow!)
This was originally posted during a book tour at The Reading Diaries. (Also see the five-star reviews of Lancaster House and The Middle Aisle!)