Tessa Arlen

The other day I was asked why I chose to write a historical mystery series and the simple answer is because history was the only subject in my English school, apart from literature, that held any genuine interest or that I was particularly good at. I was a terrible student; a real day-dreamer!

My father was a career diplomat which meant we lived everywhere. The contrast between my boarding school at the top of a windy hill in the Chilterns with its drafty dormitories and frightful food was a stark one compared to my earlier life of rich and exotic tropical beauties. I was in such culture shock I simply disappeared into my own world for four years; rescued from complete academic disaster by my history teacher, Elfreda  Lady Neale. She was a strange old lady: tall, rather stooped with straight, iron-gray hair. She spoke in such a low tone we had to lean forward to hear her. But my goodness she made her subject come alive! She was very fond of telling us that history was simply “very old gossip.” I have been a fascinated amateur historian ever since.

Which brings me to my grandmother.

My father’s mother was a true Edwardian: softly feminine and quietly spoken -she had such a gentle voice. But she was in her own pastel way a force to be reckoned with, no one wandered from the rules in her house. I loved her stories of when she was a girl, the conventional arrangements, the nursery, the little walks in the park, the thrill of coming-out and above all the romance of being in-love when they hadn’t a clue about anything!

The early decades of the 20th century have always been intriguing to me, so it was easy to choose this era for my books.  Life for the privileged few was idyllic thanks to their servants, their money and the rigidity of the class system, whereas the ‘have-nots’  had a much  grimmer time of it.

My two amateur sleuths in the Lady Montfort series are from opposite ends of the class system, and struggle with issues in context with their time and place in history. Clementine Elizabeth Talbot the Countess of Montfort is from of one of the oldest families in England, and her housekeeper, Edith Jackson, was raised in a parish orphanage. Together these two remarkable women step lightly across the great class divide to unite their considerable talents in clandestine inquiries that take them into all walks of life in the early decades of the 20th century.