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Guest Blogger–Cara Preston


Victorian Charm and Bed and Breakfasts

By Cara Preston  

Often on the quiet side, a gentleman from the 19th century wouldn’t be heard bragging about the people he’d met or the places he’d been. Decked out in distinguished vests and wearing bow ties or silk puff ties, a gentleman carried himself with pride.

            Old tintype photos show images from a genteel and charming time.  When posing for the photos, most men didn’t smile. Perhaps they thought it made them appear more masculine but then, the women weren’t smiling a lot either. Could be they had sat for so long for the camera equipment to be set up, they had lost the smile they had upon sitting down.

Chaperones were expected to accompany many on dates and holding a hand was often as far as someone went on the first date. Lingo was more proper and men greeted women sometimes with a slight bow, removing the hat and saying a friendly, “Good morning or good evening.” There was no, “Hey, how ya doin’?” as is heard today.

To recapture the mood and essence of those Victorian days gone by, there are bed and breakfast inns scattered around the country. One such bed and breakfast is the Pace House Inn in Franklin, Virginia. This turn of the century home was refurbished and furnished with the same era furniture and makes a great place to get away.

Staying at the B&B takes you back to another time. A grand dining room sets the stage for an elegant breakfast. Light filters through the led glass windows in the elegant 13,000 square foot house. A home filled with beautiful antiques, a guest can awaken to the smell of coffee in the morning. One of the house attendants tells stories of the original owners and there are several tales from the past that will intrigue those who stay there.

I stayed at the house on a writing retreat with Nancy Naigle, my co-writer, several nights and found myself including the lovely place in the story I was writing. I kept sensing the presence of someone named Ben. Turns out no one in the original family was named Ben but it was the character in my story springing to life instead. Staying in this old house, surrounded by antiques, it was almost as though I was channeling someone as I wrote Another Place and Time. (Red Rose Publishing)  The romantic ebook although set in a contemporary time, has a hero from another era. His time travel has carried him from over a hundred years back to fall in love again in today’s world. His genteel manner and charm show him to be someone from a time not her own.

Read an excerpt: 

“That’s no way to talk to a woman,” a guy behind Trina said. She turned to look at the guy coming to her defense. Whoa. He looks just like one of the men in that old-time sepia print. Same features – soft eyes and dark hair. She was dying to pull out the photo and hold it up to compare, but she held back and stepped toward him instead.

“Why, thank you,” she said taking a good look at the guy. Suddenly she felt breathless. She ran her fingers through her hair.

Shelley caught the “I’m on to something here” signal from Trina and set off on her own to meet someone else.

“I’m Trina,” she said. Her heart rate picked up its pace.

“Name’s Ben,” he said.

“You local?”

“I’m just in Virginia Beach for the day. You can usually find me in Franklin at a bed and breakfast, where I work as a host.”

She could feel Ben’s gaze hold when she opened her purse looking for her mirror to check her lipstick. Her eyes went from his down to the photo of one of the men and back up to him again. “Strange resemblance,” she said lifting the picture toward him. “This guy almost looks like you.”

“I rather think so myself,” he said, smiling.

Rather? Guys don’t talk like that here. “Why don’t we sit over here?” Trina motioned toward a bench near Catch 31. It might take a while to test her first impression of Ben. There’s something honest about him. Really sincere. Not many guys around like that. Sliding up to the bench, he lowered himself onto it, never taking his eyes off of her.

Oooh, he’s definitely memorizing every detail of me. He has unwavering attention, unlike young men who walk around either with a phone glued to their ears or walking with one girl while texting another. Whatever happened to the “Dance with the one who brung ya” mentality?

Trina leaned toward Ben, straining to hear his reply over the loud music from the band playing nearby. “Do you come to the beach very often?”

The bass reverberated and she felt the pulsating rhythm pounding along with her heart; perhaps the effect he had on her. What kind of cologne is he wearing? It seems strangely familiar, like she’d known him in another lifetime.

Strangely, she’d been to the Pace House Inn before but hadn’t seen him working there. A memory flashed, and she realized why he looked so familiar. He sure looks like someone I saw in the old photo album at the inn. How can that be? The photo had been taken around the turn of the century.

She licked her lips, feeling parched.

“I love living in Franklin. There’s nothing like the charm of a small town,” Ben said. “Of course, that pales in comparison to your charm.”

Trina felt herself grow weak. What a way with words. Most guys were always busy thinking about the ballgame the night before or whether or not it was time to change the oil in the car. I’ve got a good feeling about this one.

Check out that chest. I bet if I hugged him I’d bounce off. Man… And those muscles…


Cara Preston also writes as Phyllis Johnson (real name). Her latest book is Inkblot, from the Headline Hunters series, co-written with Nancy Naigle. (currently being marketed with agents) Phyllis has three poetry books out, Hot and Bothered By It (midlife humor), Being Frank with Anne (poetic interpretation of Anne Frank’s diary- she even got a copy signed by Miep Gies last year after Miep requested copies.) and Twelve is for More Than Doughnuts (poetry and essays based on the Bible).



  1. Isabel Roman says:

    How cool that a character popped out from your stay at a B&B! And what a lovely place it sounds, too. Best of luck with sales, this sounds like a great book.

  2. Denise Eagan says:

    I love B&B’s, but I’ve never gotten a character from one :(. I always do wonder if they’re haunted though.

  3. Great excerpt! Men of the Victorian era were a different breed. It’s no wonder a woman of our time would be thoroughly charmed by one.

  4. Nice to have you as a guest today, Cara. I love staying in the old B&B’s. I live in the gold rush area of California and we have a lot of the Victorian houses here that have been turned into B&Bs. At Christmas time they are opened to tour and an old hotel that is located across the street from the art gallery I worked in does have two resident ghosts. I love the historicals and have found living in this area to be beneficial to adding spice to my stories, too.

  5. carolyndee says:

    Cool blog! My theory on why women in those old tin types and photos didn’t smile is the difficulty getting everything ready for the photo. Unless they had servants, they’d ironed the guy’s shirt, pressed his suit, laundered and ironed their own clothes, and by the time they sat for the photo, they were pooped. LOL Now you’ve made me want to stay ing that B&B, plus your books sound intriguing. There goes my grocery money. LOL

  6. Cara Preston says:

    Hi Carolyn: I think you’re right about why women didn’t smile in those photos. They probably were exhausted. I know how it was to get two small kids ready for photos. What a job that was. Bed and breakfasts are special places to stay. You can find this ebook at Red Rose Publishing! Thanks for your comments.

  7. Cara Preston says:

    Thanks for your comments. Bed and breakfasts are very special places to stay. I really enjoyed my stay at that one. I’m sure you’re right about why women didn’t smile in those pictures. I can remember what a challenge it was just to get two small kids to look great in photos so I can only imagine the challenge of looking great in photos back in the day.

    Look for my ebook at Red Rose Publishing online.

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