On this page you will find historical details, comments, and illustrations to help bring the world of Penelope Wolfe and John Chase to life. I will be adding content from time to time, so be sure to check back.
The Rose in the Wheel
St. Catherine of Alexandria was a scholarly princess who refused to renounce her Christian faith and marry a pagan emperor. When her cruel captors bound her to spiked wheels, the "machine" miraculously shattered, so Catherine was instead beheaded. She is the patron saint of young girls, those who work the wheel such as wheelwrights and spinners, students, and clergy.
An image of St. Catherine's wheel on a wall in Cambridge, England.
An 1802 engraving of the St. Catherine's Chapel high above the Abbotsbury Swannery on the coast of Dorset.
In this particular chapel there are niches or "wishing holes" in which young girls seeking a husband would drop pins and recite a rhyme:
A husband, St. Catherine.
A handsome one, St. Catherine.
A rich one, St. Catherine.
A nice one, St. Catherine.
And soon, St. Catherine.
Blood for Blood
St. James's Square (1812) where Penelope Wolfe is employed as a lady's companion, a highly unsuitable calling for one of her temperament.
George Gordon, Lord Byron, makes two cameo appearances in Blood for Blood. Upon the publication of the first two cantos of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Byron awoke to find himself famous, as the famous saying goes. The poet became a sort of rock star hot commodity in London drawing rooms that season.
As a budding politician, Byron also ineffectually opposed the bill that sought to make textile frame-breaking a capital offense. Widespread wage cuts and astronomical food prices had made the Luddites, an "army" of disaffected workers led by the mythical General Ludd, so desperate as to have nothing to lose. In fact, the title of my novel originates in a threatening letter written around this time to Prime Minister Spencer Perceval: “The Bill for Punish'g with Death has only to be viewed with contempt & opposed by measures equally strong; & the Gentlemen who framed it will have to repent the Act: for if one Man's life is Sacrificed, !blood for !blood...” (quoted. in Sale, Rebels Against the Future, Addison-Wesley Publishing, 1995).
Joanna Southcott, born 1750, was a domestic servant who at the age of forty-two felt the call of the Spirit to fulfill a great destiny. She established a ministry, wrote dozens of books and pamphlets, and attracted thousands of followers. When she was in her sixties, she suddenly announced she was to give birth to a messiah "by the power of the Most High." After Joanna's death from illness in 1814, an autopsy revealed she had not been pregnant. In my portrayal of the prophetess Rebecca Barnwell, I have "borrowed" much biographical detail from Southcott's life.
The climax of Blood for Blood occurs at Knowlton Rings in Dorset. In this beautiful but eerie spot, a Neolithic henge surrounds the ruins of a Norman church.