Guest Author: Hannah Dennison

Hannah DennisonPlease join me in welcoming Hannah Dennison back to the Lair! Hannah is one of my dearest friends in the mystery writing community and I’m so thrilled about her fabulous new Honeychurch Hall mystery series. I guarantee you will absolutely love it. Welcome, Hannah!


When Kate invited me to blog on Romance Bandits I was thrilled because although my new book Murder at Honeychurch Hall is a murder-mystery, one of my main characters secretly writes steamy bodice-rippers under the pseudonym of Krystalle Storm. In other words … I finally get a chance to take a wild stab at writing romance myself—albeit, vicariously.

Murder at Honeychurch HallOf course, just like love and life, nothing ever quite works out how we expect. The same holds true for my protagonist, Kat Stanford. Kat stars in a hit road show called Fakes & Treasures. Weary of being permanently in the public eye and the target of her boyfriend’s estranged wife who hosts “Walk of Shame: Celebrity Family Secrets Revealed,” Kat switches careers initially to set up an antique business with her newly widowed mother, Iris. Kat’s mother, however, has other ideas and Kat is horrified to learn that not only has Iris secretly purchased a dilapidated carriage house on a crumbling country estate several hundred miles away from London, she’s actually an internationally best-selling author of erotica, writing under the pseudonym of Krystalle Storm.

So what prompted me to make Iris Stanford live out my own romantic writing aspirations? I always like to give each one of my characters a secret—this could range from some shameful act in the past or an unhealthy obsession for collecting paperweights (a good murder weapon if anyone is interested). In this case, Iris is a conventional, prim and uptight housewife who had been married to—and controlled by—a tax inspector for almost fifty years. I thought that by having Iris write about “tiffin”—her pet name for sex— it couldn’t have shocked Kat more than if Iris had announced she was taking up break-dancing.

Hillersdon HouseAny hesitation I had soon vanished when I began researching into one of the two private houses in Devon that I have based the series on. As a teenager, I grew up living in the gatehouses at the bottom of the main drive of Hillersdon House in Cullompton, Devon. When Hillersdon came up for sale in June of 2009, I discovered that it had had a reputation for holding wild society parties during the 1890s or “naughty nineties” as they were then known. Elinor Glyn, who was rumored to be one of the first writers of erotic fiction, was a frequent visitor.

Men were to say:

“Would you like to sin with Elinor Glyn on a tiger skin?

Or would you prefer to err with her on some other fur?”

Elinor Glyn was said to popularize the concept of “It” as in, “You either have it, or you don’t.” She claimed that “With ‘It,’ you win all men if you are a woman and all women if you are a man.” By modern standards, her books are pretty tame but well-worth reading. She said, “Romance is the glamour that turns the dust of everyday life into a golden haze.”

Yet, murder and romance aside, at the core of my new series is the relationship between a mother and daughter facing new and uncertain beginnings. I’m fascinated by the notion that it’s those who are nearest and dearest to us who are often the most duplicitous of all.

Who do you think has “It” in our modern age? Here are my top three—Catherine Deneuve, Angelina Jolie … and my mum who is still vibrant at 85 with a mischievous sparkle in her eye and a beautiful smile.

About the Author

Born in England, Hannah relocated to Los Angeles with her daughter and two cats to pursue a career in screenwriting. Along the road to publication she has been an obituary reporter, antique dealer, private jet flight attendant and Hollywood story analyst. Hannah is the author of the Vicky Hill Mysteries (Constable UK) and the first, in her new series, “Murder at Honeychurch Hall” (Minotaur). Now living in Portland, Oregon Hannah continues to teach mystery writing at UCLA, has served on numerous judging committees for the Mystery Writers of America and still works part-time for a west coast advertising agency. She is married to an advertising executive and enjoys hiking, horseback riding, skiing and seriously good chocolate.

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  • Helen says:

    Is he coming to visit me ?

    Have Fun

  • Helen says:

    Hi Hannah

    This one sounds very interesting the setting sounds awesome I am not sure has “it” in modern times I am not a big movie or TV watcher I think I will have to agree with you and your Mum sounds tops 🙂

    Congrats on the release

    Have Fun

  • Anna Sugden says:

    Hey Hannah! Welcome back to the Lair! I didn’t realise you were a fellow Devonshire lass! 🙂

    I agree with you about Catherine Deneuve and Angelina. I also think a few of the classy ladies from the era of Golden Hollywood, like Lauren Bacall, Audrey Hepburn and Katherine Hepburn were definitely IT girls. Leslie Caron is another. Let’s not forget the guys – George Clooney and Brad Pitt to name but two. Martin Shaw too!

    My ‘IT’ people are Susan Sarandon, Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, with Helen Mirren thrown in there too.

    • Anna – a fellow Devonshire lass? Where are you from? I’d love to know. I’d forgotten about Lauren Bacall – she seemed to have an air of mystery about her. Now … if we’re talking MEN … I agree with your choices and would have to add (dare I say this) David Beckham.

      • Anna Sugden says:

        I was born in Exeter and went to Uni there, though lived in other places, including the US in-between 🙂 More recently we lived in NJ, then came home to Cambridge. I have a split soul *g*.

        • In that case I have a split soul too! I miss Devon so much but I love the USA … I know Exeter really well. It’s a beautiful city. Love the cathedral. I also like Cambridge and always vote for Cambridge in the Oxford-Cambridge boat race 🙂

    • Ooh, Anna, I love the IT people you mention, especially. Audrey Hepburn. She was my favorite actress growing up.

      How sweet that we have two Devonshire lasses in the Lair today!

  • Amy Conley says:

    3 interesting women, alive now? Of course Angelina is on the list, but I am totally stumped as to any others. This is a strange time for this question since my cousin and I were talking about what makes a person “attractive” and I was listing several, not un-good-looking men, but we never mentioned any woman other than Angie. We both agreed the attractiveness came as much, if not more from their inside as outside. Maybe if I thought about it some more I could come up with two more. I would say Princess Kate, but she’s a bit young, new to her job, and while people love to love her, she really hasn’t proven herself, as far as I’m concerned at least. Maybe add Renee Zelwigwer to the list, she seems to be more than just looks and has an altruistic way about her.

  • Debbie says:

    I agree with Angelina, I can’t say that I know many of the newer crowd now days. I would probably add Michelle Pfeiffer, and Halle Berry. Anne Hathaway seems to be hitting it too.

  • Hey Debbie! I think Halle Berry personifies IT! Besides being a gorgeous person, she’s a fabulous actress.

  • Good morning, everyone! Getting a late start here on the “left” coast. 🙂

    I’m so happy to have my friend Hannah visiting today. I hope you all have a chance to read her new mystery. It’s really fabulous! It’s the first in a new series that takes place at a great home in Devon and the characters and situations and the “upstairs-downstairs” element are all so charming and funny and intriguing, you won’t be able to put it down!

    • Kate … thank you – that’s praise indeed coming from someone whose books I love so much. (Oh and I adore you of course) I really appreciate the opportunity for being in the lair. But I have a question – what is the story behind the rooster?

      • I adore you, too! 🙂

        The first person to comment gets the Golden Rooster for the day. It’s like the early bird getting the worm, only our early bird gets the GR.

        It may seem like a reward, but … he does tend to sneak into the liquor cabinet on occasion, or God forbid, suck up your chocolate stash. But he’s helpful around the house if you’ve got dishes to wash or dusting to do. All those tail feathers, you know… 😉

  • catslady says:

    All wonderful choices. I think those that have “it” are usually the ones that are liked by both sexes. A few that think they are it really aren’t lol.

  • Hi Hannah! Hi Kate! Hannah, congratulations on the release of A MURDER AT HONEYCHURCH HALL. It looks right up my alley. Did you get the name from Lucy Honeychurch from A Room With a View? That’s one of my favorite movies! And how lucky were you to live in the gatehouse of a wonderful old house. I have a bit of an old house obsession, a bit like Pepe le Pew had a slight crush on the black cat!

    • Ha – love Pepe le Pew – he is one of my favorite cartoon characters. Actually there is a tiny hamlet called Honeychurch in Devon. It was only afterwards that I remembered Lucy. Great movie. I love Julian Sands. In fact, when I created the stable manager at Honeychurch Hall I wrote him visualizing Julian Sands!

      • Oh, how interesting. I wonder if Forster knew the same place and used it. Loved Julian Sands in that too (and the young DDL). Poor Julian Sands – his career never really lived up to his promise. Perhaps when they film your book, you can give him the part!

    • Anna, A Room With A View is one of my favorite movies!! I just loved every character in there, especially Charlotte Bartlett, who could never come up with the right amount of change. LOL!

  • Jenel Looney says:

    Hannah, I *loved* reading about the inspiration behind Honeychurch Hall. And by the way, “Honeychurch” just might be my new euphemism for my girl parts! 😉 The book sounds wonderful!

  • Hey Hannah and Kate!

    What fascinating facts you’ve learned. I always wondered who termed the “It” factor. I thought it was in the 1920’s Hollywood. Glad to learn it’s origin.

    If I had to say who had the IT factor these days for men it would be Hugh Jackman. For women…hmmm…I’d say Angelina Jolee, not because I’m a big fan, but something about her definitely appeals to men.

    • Angelina Jolie seems to get the most votes. A friend of mine saw her on a plane once. AJ was dressed in sweats, hair pulled back, no make-up and my friend said she was mesmerizing. I wonder what it’s like to be mesmerizing?

    • Mmm, Hugh Jackman. Isn’t he just the best, Suz? He’s the perfect example of a man that both sexes would want to be friends–or more than friends–with. Such a great guy. 🙂

  • Lisa says:

    Your books sounds fascinating. I like the idea of a secret sin. 🙂 As for modern day ‘IT’ girls, I agree with Angelina Jolie and would add Scarlett Johansen and Jennifer Lawrence.

    • I hadn’t thought of Scarlett but you’re right. There is something about her … good one. I like Jennifer Lawrence too.

    • Ooh yes, Lisa! Scarlet and Jennifer are perfect candidates for “IT-hood.” They’re both fabulous!

      “It-hood” is my new word for the phenomenon. Because I’m fabulous, too. Snork!

  • Becke says:

    I agree about Catherine D. She always blew me over. I’m not that in to Angelina J. Not sure why. Maybe she’s too much in your face.
    I’d add
    Annette Benning
    Kate Hudson
    Sophia Lauren
    Stana Katic

  • Dru says:

    I love the premise of this book.

  • Shannon says:

    Strange but maybe not–Whoopi Goldberg.

    Oprah Winfrey.


    Maybe I have a strange definition of IT. These women light up a TV screen, if not the big screen.

  • Hello Kate and Hannah!

    Late to the party, but I had to work at the DDJ today (Dreaded Day Job!) I do love a family with secrets – the more eccentric the better. And what a wonderful setting for a murder mystery!

    I spent three years in a little village in Suffolk and I must admit secrets abounded and the village was full of wonderful characters!

    As for those who have IT, I would have to say Helen Mirren, Dame Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and from earlier days Eartha Kitt (I’d rather be burned as a witch, than never to have burned at all.) Jane Seymour and Olivia Hussey come to mind as well.

    • How could I have forgotten Helen Mirren? That red bikini … sigh … I can’t see myself ever wearing one of those again. Thanks for stopping by … I know exactly what you mean by the DDJ!

  • Pen Mettert says:

    I don’t know of anyone else besides those mentioned who might have IT. Truthfully, all I can think of is reading about Clara Bow, and my Granny saying she may have been the It Girl, but Rudolph Valentino was the It Man. And that was all she cared about. 😉