Shannon here: Monarch Books author, Donna Fletcher Crow shares the real-life romance of her daughter, which became the inspiration for Donna’s romantic thriller, A Very Private Grave. Comment on any post dated Oct 25 – 29 by Oct 30, 8:00 PM Central for a chance to win a copy of A Very Private Grave. Here’s Donna:
Love in A Cold Climate
Shannon, thank you so much for inviting me to Inkslinger today to share one of my favorite True Romance stories. It’s especially fun to tell you about my daughter and son-in-law’s romance because Elizabeth and Lee in so many ways serve as models for my fictional romantic couple, Felicity and Antony in A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE. Of course, one of the ways I use our true life story is by reversing many of the facts in my fictional account— but our readers will have to wait until Friday to hear that part since I’m spending all week here on Inkslinger.
“Now, Elizabeth, you know not to get serious with anyone until you’ve dated for two years. All the studies show that it takes two years to be sure it’s true love and not just infatuation.” I lectured my daughter daily. Well, she was going 7000 miles away to study in England and I was well aware how charming English men could be.
“Oh, Mother, don’t worry. You know how sensible I am.”
Well, Yeesss. . .
Almost a year later Elizabeth had finished her Classics degree and was living with a vicar and her husband, working in the church and school it sponsored. “Serving a placement” is required of all young people preparing to attend an Anglican seminary as Elizabeth was.
When she had told her American college chaplain what she would be doing and mentioned that twenty-some young people would be doing similar service in churches in the London area, he asked if there would be an association for them to meet together. Elizabeth didn’t know.
“Well, if there isn’t, you should start one,” he replied.
Being young, American and female, that was all the encouragement Elizabeth needed. Paidos, Greek for “young Slaves,” they called themselves. And as it happened, I was with her the night of their first meeting, on the tail end of a lengthy research trip. I went off to an Alpha Course at Holy Trinity Brompton. Elizabeth, radiant in her scarlet sweater and carrying a tin of homemade cookies, took the tube in the opposite direction.
She returned hours later, like Moses descending Mount Sinai who wist not that his face was glowing.
“Who was at that meeting?” I kept my voice as level as I could.
I was back home when the phone calls started. The seven hour time gap between us meant that it was usually something like three o’clock in the morning. “Oh, Mother, he’s so wonderful.” That was late October.
In spite of the attraction, however, Lee vowed not to follow up. He was preparing to be a monk, you see. But they had each offered to stuff envelopes for a church organization. Elizabeth was the one who asked him if he wanted to go to Evensong afterwards. Then a spaghetti dinner.
Then Lee, meaning to send her a note— he swears to this day that it was entirely accidental— put it in an envelope with his paycheck. And he had nothing else to buy food with. So she took it to him. Then they went into his church to pray. And then they sat on the altar steps and started talking. And when they looked up the busses had quit running and taxis were far too expensive. So they made some soup which neither one of them could eat.
February 2, the Feast of Candlemas, he took her to a service at Westminster Cathedral, then led her to a side chapel— St. George’s Chapel, patron saint of England. For once, my outspoken daughter was speechless when Lee dropped to one knee before her and asked her to marry him. But not too speechless to accept.
Then began the fun of planning a wedding long distance. It was to be the following year in Wakefield Cathedral on April 23— St. George’s Day. After I had ordered the pale pink chiffon, short-sleeved bridesmaids dresses I got the phone call: “Mama, we can’t wait that long. It’s going to be January 4.”
In spite of the brilliant sunshine on the snow-dusted Yorkshire hills it was one of the coldest days on record. I was as glad as the attendants who had flown in from three continents that I had made cozy faux fur stoles to go over those springtime dresses.
And all the time my jet-lagged husband was gamely going along with his daughter’s plans, but grumbling under his breath. “We have churches in America. This could have been done without flying the whole family across the ocean.” But when the organ pealed forth and the choir’s voice raised in Palestrina’s Missa Brevis he was suddenly gripped with the fact that people had been getting married in that church for more than a thousand years. It couldn’t have been the same anywhere else. Seven years and two lovely children later, we all agree.
Donna Fletcher Crow’s A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, book 1, The Monastery Murders, is set in a fictionalized theological college in a monastry in Yorkshire based on the one Lee and Elizabeth attended. You can see pictures of it under Research Albums on Donna’s webpage www.DonnaFletcherCrow.com and view a trailer of the book on the homepage.
Come back Oct 27 for Donna’s fictional romantic interview.