Mariah Stewart and the History of St. Dennis. . .
Dear Readers ~
Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time on Ancestry.com, the website where you can research your family’s history. I’ve been having a lot of fun and learning all manner of things I hadn’t known.For example, I knew that my fraternal grandmother was born in Scotland, but I didn’t know exactly where. Through researching on this website, I learned that she was born in Fauldhouse, Linlithgow, and that when she was nine, she lived at Bridge Street Chapel House in Whitburn, West Lothian. I don’t know where that is exactly, but it sounds like a cool thing to know, doesn’t it?
I also found that my grandmother’s parents were Thomas and Mary Brady – Thomas was an ironstone miner and he was born in Ireland. Mary’s maiden name was Mullen and her place of birth is listed as Old Monkland, Lanarkshire. I think possibly one of my grandmother’s siblings may have stayed behind when some others immigrated to the USA, which means that I could have a bunch of second cousins I’ve never met – perhaps even someone reading this. What a fun thought!
But what does all this have to do with my Chesapeake Diaries books?
Well, my little town of St. Dennis, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, has a history, too. Many of the residents are descendants of the earliest settlers who sailed up the Chesapeake Bay in the 1600s and decided to stay. For example, my Sinclair characters are descendants of a successful American entrepreneur, Daniel Sinclair, and his wife, an English beauty named Cordelia Bannister. Daniel was born in the house built by his father on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in the state of Maryland – the house that now comprises the original section of the Inn at Sinclair’s Point. I know this because Victoria Alexander, author of many historical romances set in England, wrote about Daniel and Delia in her book, Secrets of a Proper Lady, and when it came time for me to start my Chesapeake series, we decided it would be great fun if I brought her Sinclairs into the present day.
Part of the fun of writing fiction is being able to make things up – like the town of St. Dennis, which has many historic buildings and a lovely town square on Old St. Mary’s Church Road. There’s a house that was shelled in the (ahem) War of 1812 that has a cannonball buried in one of the walls. There’s a house that was an important stop on the Underground Railroad, and the cove where pirates dropped anchor in the late 1700s and terrorized the town in the early fall every year.
The pirates are gone now – well, except for the re-enactors, but the sense of history remains. Now the town is a tourist attraction and boasts some lovely shops. Bling is the place to go for upscale, trendy women’s clothing and accessories. It’s owned by Vanessa Keaton, who came to St. Dennis to find the half-brother she hadn’t known she had, and found so much more. You can meet Vanessa in Coming Home.
Grant Wyler is the town veterinarian, the boy left behind when aspiring actress, Dallas MacGregor, left St. Dennis to become an A-list star in Hollywood. Dallas is back in town to lick her wounds after a disastrous marriage – Home Again is their story.
One Scoop or Two serves ice cream made right there on the premises by Steffie Wyler, Grant’s younger sister, who’s lived all her life in St. Dennis and never wanted to do anything but make ice cream and marry Dallas MacGregor’s brother, Wade. You can read the story of how Steffie’s dreams came true in Almost Home.
The town’s new bakery, Cupcake, sells, well, cupcakes, baked by Brooke Madison Bowers, the town’s former mean girl. Now all grown up and a war widow – and a much nicer person! – Brooke’s come back home to start her life over with her young son. Hometown Girl is the story of how she learns to love again. Her brother, Clay, finds his happily-ever-after when he reunites with his childhood best friend, Lucy Sinclair (of the afore-mentioned Sinclairs) in Home for the Summer.
Totally fictional, St. Dennis seems so real that I get emails every week from readers who want to go there. I’ve even been asked if I have a phone number for the Inn at Sinclair’s Point so that a reader could make reservations to stay for a weekend while she and her husband explored the town!
While you can’t go to St. Dennis for real, you can do the next best thing: you can visit through the pages of the books. Since it’s an on-going series, you might enjoy them most if you read them in order: Coming Home, Home Again, Almost Home, Hometown Girl and Home for the Summer.
Happy reading, everyone!
All of the Chesapeke Diaries Series is now available to download from Piatkus Entice.