While I’ve visited Newport before on several occasions, it was never with the intention of gathering first-hand research for scenes which will play out on the pages of my book. Newport in 1912 continued the heyday of the Gilded Age which began in the 1870s. Every “cottage” hosted the elite of Boston, New York and Philadelphia as they attempted to replicate European monarchies. For the past two days, I’ve felt the pull of the ocean along the Cliff Walk, sat in a wooden chair courtside of the Newport Lawn Tennis Club (and now Tennis Hall of Fame), put my toes in the fine sand of Goosebery Beach unlike the rocky shore of Easton’s Beach, imagined the view from a confectionery store on Thames Street across to a bustling Bowen’s Wharf (before hideous, modern day and over-priced hotels were built), and toured several of the mansions, including The Elms (above) and the Vanderbilt’s Marble House. I needed to place Eliza inside these settings and wonder how they would affect her.
Eliza walked through the front door on Freddy’s arm. The opulence and richness of color surrounded her as if she had drunk from the glass bottle in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and shrunk small enough to walk through a Queen’s jewelry box. Dressed in one of Bea’s flowing evening gowns which no longer fit her, Eliza felt like a princess as she strolled through the rooms embellished with emerald greens, ruby reds, and sapphire blues. Twinkling diamond crystals hung from a chandelier in every room as if tiaras had been strung together with golden thread. Gilded gold adorned every surface; perhaps King Midas had been the first guest to the house. Life during a Newport Season played out like royal fairy tales.
“Let’s go out. The moon on the water is magnificent. You can’t really get a good view here with the privet growing so high.” Harrison lifted the gate’s latch and stepped out onto the rocky swath of ground, less than eight feet from the cliff’s edge. He reached back for her hand. An imminent danger lay before them. One loose rock, one slip of her boot and they would plummet onto the jagged shore below where the heaving waves crashed onto themselves. A lone seagull cried into the wind as it returned to shore, searching for a sheltered spot for the night. Overhead, one by one stars appeared, sending their shine down onto the sea like silver nuggets sparkling on the black water. Eliza took his hand and followed him toward the ledge.
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A pivotal event occurs in Newport and I wanted these scenes to be as authentic as possible. I am fortunate to have found a great little studio in Middletown, half a mile from Easton’s Beach, for easy access to Newport for research, a quiet nook for writing and sunshine overhead to glimpse out to the waves hitting on the other side of the inlet against the Cliff Walk area, and very affordable. Staying for just Sunday night, the owner even accommodated a late check out so I could spend nearly two whole days here. I highly recommend this gem of a spot available on Homeaway: https://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p423789vb?noDates=true