Friday, February 8, 2013

Not Even for Marvelous Blue John

Oh, lovely, lovely research. I absolutely adore the things I find when I least expect them. My next series of books, the first of which comes out in August after I end the Everard saga in March, is set among the peaks of Derbyshire. While doing research on the area, I came across the mention of Blue John, so of course I had to work it into a story!

So what is Blue John, you might ask? It sounds as if it’s the title of a child’s nursery rhyme or maybe the horse that won at Ascot in 1815, doesn’t it? It’s actually a unique type of fluorspar or fluorite, found only a particular area of Derbyshire. The name is thought to be a corruption of the French words for blue and yellow, bleu and jaune. Bands of purple, blue, gray, and yellow run through the semiprecious stone in swirls, making each stone also unique. And when fired to a certain temperature, the stone can turn red or pink.

Blue John is mined from limestone caverns in the hillsides. It’s relatively easy to dig out and shape it into vases, candlesticks, jewelry, and cups or bowls. Beginning in the 1750s, it was very popular with aristocratic families.

And the legends about it abound. Supposedly the Emperor Nero had dishes made of the stuff, brought back from the Roman conquest of Britain. In more recent times, men exploring for lead were said to have discovered the caverns where it’s still mined today. Nearby Chatsworth, home of the Dukes of Devonshire, had two entire columns built from the stone as well as a number of other pieces such as the table at the left and the bowl to the right. In fact, articles made from Blue John can be found in the White House, Windsor Castle, and the Vatican.

So what did I do with such a wonderful stone in my current work in progress? Fashion it into a ring for my hero to present to my heroine? Create a set of goblets with which they could toast their love? Light a romantic dinner with Blue John candlesticks?

Nah. I sent my couple tramping through the cavern, where my hero was promptly pushed over a cliff. But not by the heroine. Though she did help rescue him.

Yes, I know. I’m hopeless. My agent keeps telling me I need to write a straight romance, no evil villains, no mystery or suspense. I can’t do it. Not even with all that lovely Blue John to tempt me.


QNPoohBear said...

That's incredible! I can't wait for your new series. You SHOULD listen to your agent. Some of your earlier stories are straight romance. My favorite is The Unflappable Miss Fairchild. You have a real knack for creating believable characters who get to know each other in ways appropriate for the time period instead of just lusting after each other and then living happily ever after.

I hope Marissa is on that island and escaped the blizzard. It's not at this exact location but it's worse farther inland.

Regina Scott said...

Thanks, QNPoohBear! Marissa, alas, did not make it to her island, but last I heard all family members were hunkered down and safe at home. Hope everyone else we know is in a similar position!

And, actually, according to industry standards, none of my books are a straight romance. Straight romances involve only boy meets girl-boy loses girl-boy regains girl. I always seem to throw something else in. In The Unflappable Miss Fairchild, there was the whole backstory of Chas and his brother's complicated relationship. In The Incomparable Miss Compton, which I believe you are also fond of, there's the subplot with Persephone and the dastardly Rupert. I'm not sure even dear Jane Austen would be considered a romance by today's standards!

And that doesn't bother me one bit. :-)

Michelle W said...

So glad to see that you are starting a new set of characters. Very much enjoyed the Everards.
Bluejohn is lovely. Being addicted to Antiques Roadshow, they have had some beautiful examples. However, I thought I had heard that Bluejohn had been mined out. Still, you are following in the footsteps of Conan Doyle.

Regina Scott said...

Oh, Michelle, thanks for the mention of Conan Doyle! I hadn't heard of his short story "The Terror of Blue John Gap" until your comment led me to searching. Love his works!

From what I saw online, there is still sporadic mining being done for Blue John, but very carefully now so as not to deplete the resource. And the caverns are now on my "next time in England" list of things to see. :-)