In my first novel, Burning Embers, the heroine Coral has inherited a plantation in Kenya. I so loved making her a mistress of a beautiful expanse of land, and describing the setting: an exotic and stunning backdrop for the love story that plays out. In my new novel, Indiscretion, the heroine Alexandra is, like Coral, coming home to the country of her birth which she left long ago, and to the family homestead. But this time she is not mistress; she is a newcomer in a large and colourful family who inhabit a sprawling estate.
El Pavón is at the heart of the story in Indiscretion; it is Alexandra’s home by birth, and the seat of the family’s power and passion. Today I’d like to introduce to you this central setting for the book.
First, a glimpse of the hacienda:
El Pavón was a large, rectangular edifice with three quite distinct storeys, its whitewashed walls splashed here and there with patches of brilliantly coloured purple bougainvillea that crept up to brush the rounded brown tiles of its roof. Its style was neo-classical, the proportions pure: an austere structure.
An imposing seventeenth-century portal, which she later discovered was originally from a convent in Toledo, flanked by double Tuscan columns at the top of three widely fanning steps, led into the vaulted hall. Placed at equal distances from the main entrance, at each end of the long façade, were two identical narrow doors, richly decorated with carvings and marquetry. They opened onto separate wings, the private apartments of members of the family. Together they enclosed an inner shady courtyard. The ground floor rooms at the front of the house each had French windows that opened onto an uncovered terrace which ran the length of the building, punctuated by fragrant miniature orange trees in large terracotta pots. Fronting the house was a wide gravel carriage circle that enclosed a huge round lawn, spread out like an emerald carpet beyond the foot of the main steps. Balconies with wrought-iron consoles and uprights lined the upper two storeys.
The inspiration for the main house came from my visits to Spain, and especially the region of Andalusia. There are many humble adobes there, but also imposing haciendas that dominate the landscape and tell of owners (at least once) noble and powerful.
Of course, no great house is complete without extensive grounds, and around El Pavón there are manicured lawns and landscaped gardens complete with colourful shrubs and flowers, groves of oleander trees where one may happen across a statue or a fountain, and orchards where the air is thick with the scent of lemons, pomegranates and oranges. Of course, business is essential for the De Falla family, and so plenty of land is given over to stables and pastureland for the horses they rear, and vineyards for the wine they produce. The overall estate very much lives up to its namesake, El Pavón, for its grandeur and panache: pavón is the Spanish word for peacock.
The peacock is beautiful, but it is also proud – like the matriarch of El Pavón, Alexandra’s grandmother, and like the gypsies that camp on her land. And, so goes the proverb, pride goes before a fall. That is exactly what has happened to Salvador de Rueda. Once proud, he has fallen as a result of an indiscretion. The question is whether the Spanish honra(honour) and Salvador’s self-pride will allow him to move past his transgression and forge a future with Alexandra, and let him be like that peacock once more: passionate, confident, masterful, proud.