Since we celebrated Mother’s Day between my May posts, I thought I’d use this post to introduce Daisy Price. She’s my sleuth, Frances’ mom. The Countess of Harleigh mysteries are based loosely on the lives of the American heiresses who married into the British aristocracy in the late 19th century. Like most of those women, Frances would not have achieved that goal without the help of her mother. In fact, most of them would not have even held that goal without a good push from their mothers.
Book three in the series, A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder introduces Frances and Lily’s mother, Daisy Price. When it came to developing the character of Daisy, I immediately thought of one of the most notorious moms of the Gilded Age, Alva Vanderbilt. Alva was a strong-willed, highly disciplined, strategist. She planned her days like a general would plan a military campaign. The thought that her daughter, Consuelo might want to plan her own life, was immaterial. Alva would have her way. Consuelo would be a duchess and her training began at a very early age.
Alva, who was known to punish her children with a riding whip, supervised a rigorous education for her daughter. By the time she was eight, Consuelo could read and write in French, German, and English. She sat for her lessons with a steel rod strapped to her back to ensure proper posture. Alva supervised Consuelo’s social life—there was no contact with boys once she turned sixteen—chose all her clothing, reading material, the decorations for her bedroom, and even her thoughts. At one time she told her daughter, “I don’t ask you to think, I do the thinking, you do as you are told.”
Consuelo did put up some fight when it came to the choice of her husband, but ultimately, she gave in to her mother’s will. She married the Duke of Marlborough and became the duchess her mother always wanted.
I knew I couldn’t make my character, Daisy exactly like Alva. For one thing, I didn’t like Alva and for another, fiction has to be believable. Alva, although a real person, was just too over the top. If Frances had grown up under her care, she wouldn’t be as strong and independent as she is. Daisy is a social climber and wanted Frances to marry well. But rather than brow-beat her daughter, she persuaded her that it was the right thing to do for her family. Daisy thought she was doing the right thing for Frances too. I also wanted to find something in Daisy to like, so while she can be very pushy, I think she redeems herself in the end. But up to that point, she does cause a lot of trouble for Frances and George.