Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Temptation Tuesday - Dream Homes (er Palaces)

Today our columnist, Annie West, reveals one of the great temptations – dreaming of the perfect house. A palace, in fact.
I confess, I think big. Hey, I write for Harlequin Sexy/Presents/Modern – dreaming big is a prerequisite! I dream of temptations I’ll never own, but that’s part of the fun. Jewellery, artwork, furnishings that are way beyond my budget are so tempting to look at and dream about.

And when it comes to the dream house? Well, let me just say I’ve got a strong Cinderella streak. What could be better than dreaming of a palace? Or if you’re particularly romantic, a castle, complete with turret and moat? Even if you can't picture yourself as a royal, a home like this would have you dreaming the most romantic dreams.

Recently my family planned a trip to Europe and, you guessed it, we even managed to book one night in a castle. A real top-of-the-mountain castle, with turrets and vineyards and a view to die for. I’m hoping to explore the place from top to bottom and, believe me, I won’t shift out of there till the absolute last moment. I spent too many hours as a girl reading romantic stories, gothic stories, adventure stories, even supernatural stories, not to be thrilled to bits about staying in such a place, not leaving at the end of a quick tour.

What’s so tempting about palaces and castles?

The view, for a start. You can’t go past a location like this. And just think what marvellous exercise for the legs and hips going up and down all those stairs!

Inspiration for your next book. Hm...I think I can feel a royal story brewing here.

The luxury. Face it. If you dream of palaces, you’ll include a hefty income and plenty of staff to keep the place as it should be maintained. You don’t want it falling around your ears. And, with an army of staff you’ll never have to worry about dishpan hands again.

Quaint architecture. Moorish design or central European, Indian, Scottish... each have their own style and craftsmanship.

You don’t have to worry about the neighbours. Lawnmowers at 8am on a Sunday? Forget it. You’ll have the place to yourself.

The perfect reading room. I have to say this is one of the most appealing things to me. Turrets are just made for snuggling up with a book.

The wine cellar. Who ever heard of a palace or a castle without a cellar? It stands to reason there must be some nice bottles tucked away in there.

Outdoor entertaining. If you can afford a palace you can afford a sumptuous outdoor living area.

High quality construction. These places are built to last. So they might need just a little maintenance...but they’re mainly craftsmen-built!

A sense of history. Wonderful for a dreamer who loves other people’s stories.

The sheer romance. OK, I know that if I were the cook slaving in a cavernous kitchen, or the woman who had to clean all the bathrooms, or for that matter install all the new plumbing, I might have a different view. But leave me to my lovely daydream, where that mundane stuff doesn’t matter and all I have to do is imagine myself enjoying the good life in a wonderful setting.

A ring side seat to see the pageantry of the Grand Canal.

Is there a palace or a castle where you’d like to stay? An opulent, over the top palace or a quaint tiny castle clinging to an alp? What would be your fantasy palace stay?
Annie had enormous fun dreaming of royal houses for her current UK release, THE DESERT KING’S PREGNANT BRIDE. Khalid, her hero, has several luxury homes but, like the hero he is, they mean nothing to him compared with the love of his own special woman. You can buy a copy here.
Annie will give away a copy of this book to one of the people who post a comment (chosen at random). To read an excerpt of the story or find out more, visit her website.



42 comments:

  1. I think I could be suitably entertained at the Biltmore House. With 250 rooms, a movie theater, a bowling alley, and an indoor pool and fabulous gardens I won't lack for something to do. Plus, I wouldn't even have to leave the United States.

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  2. I would love to stay at the Taj Mahal that is really a work of art.

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  3. An ltalian palazzo is my idea of a perfect place. l cant remember the name butthe photo of the interior, was spectacular

    Carol

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  4. Well the most famous of them all, the buckingham palace would be my choice

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  5. I like windsor castle the best, it is my favourite.

    Beth

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  6. Castle del monte in Italty is what l call a place fantasy is made from

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  7. wow nice choices l am seeing here, but l like the tower of london, hi annie, l love this post.

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  8. l love windsor castle, l find english castles remind me of my historical romances, and really capture my attention

    Daisy

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  9. Annie, what a marvellous post. It really set me to dreaming. I love the idea of a palace - a chateau on the Loire, a Schloss in Austria, a baronial mansion in the Hebrides, a palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice... Actually I could go on! Actually one of the nicest houses I can think of is in Sydney. It's called Boomerang and it's a mini version of the Alhambra in Granada. It's right on the edge of the Harbour and has beautiful tiled fountains outside and in. I think officially it's Sydney's most expensive house but it is gorgeous - Russell Crowe nearly bought it at one stage!

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  10. Fabulous post, Annie. Castles are so evocative of romance and... ooh just imagine the library (or libraries) one could have!

    My favourite would have to be Lyme Park - it featured as Pemberley in the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice - you know, the one with Colin Firth as Darcy.

    I have to say, house and man suited each other perfectly.

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  11. Great post, Annie!

    I remember I absolutely LOVED Hampton Court palace when I visited London. It was my first taste of palaces in Europe, and for those who don't know, was once home of King Henry VIII. I'd love to sleep there and see all the ghosts come out and play!

    Mind you, I ADORED Windsor castle as well. Gosh, I would love to dig around in there and find out all the secrets it hides. It's an absolutely stunning place.

    I also loved Venice (I think the most romantic city in Europe)and think it would have been very exciting to live in the Doge's palace. I can't wait to go back there.

    And the Palace of Versaille. I think it's the jewel of Paris. I know people will be shocked to hear me say this, but Paris left me cold! If it wasn't for this spectacular palace and its gardens, I wouldn't have enjoyed my trip. I can just see the daggers from disgruntled Paris-lovers shooting my way now!!

    Anyway, I would love to stay at all of these places, especially if I was allowed to visit secret tunnels and other interesting parts of these buildings. Very romantic and mysterious :-)

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  12. Arkiern,

    Biltmore House sounds amazing with its own bowling alley and theatre. Now that's style! What part of the US is it in?

    Annie

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  13. Avi,

    The Taj Mahal would be interesting. Such a gorgeous building, though I think you'd need to do a complete refit to add bedrooms and so forth.

    Annie

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  14. Oh Carol, I'd LOVE to stay in a Venetian palazzo! I've stayed in a little pension in Venice, with a marble staircase (!) and looked out at those old palaces. Wouldn't it be romantic? Particularly during carnival with masked revellers everywhere.

    Annie

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  15. Hi Dina,

    Hm, but you'd be looking out on the traffic. On the other hand Buckingham Palace would be very central...

    Annie

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  16. Beth, Windsor Castle is another place on my must-see list. I've heard wonderful things about it.

    Annie

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  17. Lisa, I've never even heard of Castle del Monte. Hm, I'm making a list. By the time I've read all these posts I'll have a map of my next big trip!

    Annie

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  18. Hi Gina, obviously you don't worry about ghosts and clanking chains if you're opting for the Tower. I'd guess that if any place is haunted it would be.

    Ooh, I'll be staying over near there when I'm in London in...less than 2 months (yippee!).

    Annie

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  19. Daisy, another vote for Windsor Castle! You girls do have high aspirations! I know what you mean about English castles reminding you of historical romances. That works for me too!

    Annie

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  20. Hi Anna, I can see you've made a study of top class houses. Obviously and expert! I didn't even know there were baronial mannsions in the Hebrides.

    I know Boomerang! Isn't it the most fantastic place? I wonder who lives there? I wonder if they'd mind a romance writer snooping on their premises to get colour for an upcoming book? Hn, could be worth a try!

    Annie

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  21. Hi Michelle,

    Glad you enjoyed the post!

    Lyme Park would be lovely, wouldn't it? And yes, I agree, it did fit Colin F as Mr Darcy admirably.

    Absolutely love the idea of a library in a grand house. Preferably one with a ladder that you can slide around the wall to get to the books up high on shelves you can't reach. And big comfy, squishy chairs and a lovely fireplace...

    Annie

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  22. Ooh Monique, what a great point - secret staircases and passageways. No castle would be complete without one!

    Like you I loved Hampton Court Palace. Even the kitchens were amazing.

    Would love to see Versailles. Unfortunately not on this trip, but maybe later.

    Annie

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  23. By the way, apologies to people who had to scroll through acres of white space to find the comment box. All fixed now. I posted this blog in a distracted mood - obviously day dreaming about a palatial visit!

    Annie

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  24. I guess I will have to wait until heaven to walk on streets of gold, walls made of pearls, jasper, and precious stones. I sometimes wonder if I'll ever even see it. But that is a dream. The best castle anywhere.
    But I think we all like Cinderella stories because we are all looking for that happy ending as life can be so hard. It gives us dreams to hope for.
    I loved the pictures. I like the white castle with the water and I like the color on the water of the one castle but not so much the castle.
    I want secret entrances and tunnels and places to explore - adventure.
    Enter me to win.
    jrs362 (at) hotmail (dot) com

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  25. Hi JRS, how interesting that you enjoyed the scenery rather than the palaces and castles. I have to say it's the location that is magic in a lot of these places. I kept getting drawn to the view out the window when I was in a castle up above a river on a tourist visit. The inside was marvellous, but that cliff top perspective was tremendous.

    I think you're right about the lure of the Cinderella story. It's not so much that we want to be rich etc ourselves, but we want to dream of happily ever afters.

    Annie

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  26. Hi annie

    Have to say I've always been partial to Hearst Castle on the Californian coast. Went on a tour there yonks ago and it has that amazing Grecian themed swimming pool overlooking the sea and then the inside is even more hilarious with medieval banqueting rooms bumping up against Roman saunas. It absolutely slayed me, and the thought of bumping into Clark Gable or Errol Flynn sunbathing on the deck didn't hurt. What a hoot. No wonder Orson Welles renamed in Xanadu in Citizen Kane - a pleasure dome indeed.

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  27. Hi Heidi,

    Hearst Castle sounds like a real mish mash, and maybe fun too? I remember the house in Citizen Kane and how over the top it was. So vast and echoing. Sounds like it's got a great location, looking out over the sea. One of my yet-to-be released books has a castello on a promontory in Sicily and the inspiration came from a photo of a real place. It just looked so fantastic - to wake up and look out across the sea from your window would be lovely.

    Annie

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  28. I would love to stay at Buckinham Palace.

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  29. I have never seen a palace or a castle in person, only pictures but it would be so exciting to do so. How wonderful for you that you get to stay in one.

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  30. I would love to go to Thornewood Castle in Lakewood, Washington. It is beautiful and is the house they filmed Stephen Kings Rose Red. They say it is actually haunted, that would be fun.

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  31. Crystal, another vote for Buckingham Palace! It's a shame they don't open a few reooms to paying guests, isn't it?

    Years ago I worked with someone whose brother was an advisor there and I gather the artworks in particular are fantastic.

    Annie

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  32. Maureen, thanks, I am so excited. The whole trip is a thrill, being able to take our children to some of the places we used to know, as well as some we haven't visited before. It will be wonderful catching up with friends, as will seeing and experiencing places first hand. The night in a castle is a real treat. It looks like there's lots to explore there and the town at the bottom of the hill is fascinating too.

    Annie

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  33. Hi Rebekah,

    Staying in a haunted house would be fascinating, as long as you managed to get your sleep! I don't think I'd be sitting up reading Stephen King before I went to bed.

    Annie

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  34. The Tower of london sounds exciting. I'll like to go there one day

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  35. Hi Rosa,

    I thought the Tower of London was fantastic, mainly because of the sense of history. The crown jewels were pretty amaazing too (G)!

    Annie

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  36. It's morning here in Australia and I have to go out for the day. I realise it's still Tuesday afternoon in other places and I don't want to cut off anyone's chance to be in the running to win a prize.

    I'll pop back in later (it will be after the next blog post is up) to draw a random winner for a copy of THE DESERT KING'S PREGNANT BRIDE. So please, feel free to comment or, if you already have, do check in later for news of the prizewinner.

    Annie

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  37. One library talk later - and half a bottle of wine - but I need to put in a vote for Cotehele House in Cornwall. I defy you to find a more romantic place (even if the weather can be a bit iffy).

    http://www.cornwall-online.co.uk/heritage-trail/heritage-national-trust/cotehele/Welcome.asp

    I know, hideous link!

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  38. Great post Annie.....loved the neighbor mowing the lawn comment.

    How about King Louis XIV's
    Versaille, France palace? Of course I've not been there but the photos lovely.

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  39. Hi Natasha,

    Lovely! And I adore Cornwall. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Annie

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  40. Hi Marlyn,

    You do have high standards, don't you(G)! What a great choice.

    Annie

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  41. Hi everyone,

    Sorry to be so late getting back today. I've enjoyed all your suggestions. Now I have a quite a list of places to visit.

    OK, the winner of THE DESERT KING'S PREGNANT BRIDE is BETH! Beth, if you email me at annie@annie-west.com then I'll send you your prize. Congratulations. I hope you approve of Khalid's palace. I have a particular soft spot for his walled rose garden!

    Annie

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  42. Thanks annie, l sent my info

    Beth

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