by Judith Ingram
The Morey Mansion in Redlands, California, was my inspiration for Rosswood House, the ancestral home of time traveler Katherine Rostnova in my romantic fiction trilogy, Moonseed.
Dubbed the “Orange Empire House” and “America’s Favorite Victorian,” the enchanting Morey Mansion itself has a romantic history. A shipbuilder named David Morey dreamed one night of a woman walking toward him in a pink dress. The very next day a young woman named Sarah walked toward him, wearing—you guessed it!—a pink dress. Although he was much older than she, the two were married. Sarah owned a successful nursery, and when she sold enough orange seedlings, at $1 apiece, to purchase land, David set about building their dream house in 1889. To honor Sarah, he carved orange blossoms into the woodwork and featured them on hardware throughout the house, from doorknobs to drawer pulls.
Sarah died mysteriously in the house in 1901. Heartbroken, David never set foot in his mansion again. In 1902 in a San Diego hotel, he ended his life with a gunshot to the head.
I first saw a photograph of the mansion in a bed and breakfast guidebook. With its classic Russian onion dome and aristocratic elegance, I fell instantly in love with the house and knew it was the perfect home for my fictional Rostnova family settled in Sonoma County, California, in the mid-1800s. I let my imagination run wild, furnishing the interior of the house, laying carpets, hanging tapestries, and populating the bedrooms with people from my story. My mind painted the parlor walls a soft green, fitted them with mahogany wainscoting, and hung white lace curtains at the windows, giving readers a peek at a sheltered front porch and lush green formal gardens.
Please join me on a little excursion into the upstairs halls of the Morey Mansion—aka Rosswood House—in this excerpt from BRIDGE TO THE PAST, Book 1 in the Moonseed trilogy:
In her excitement, Amanda all but pushed me into Isabel’s bedroom. It was the circular room I had admired from the drive and was situated in a corner of the upstairs hallway, directly beneath the onion dome. Our group breathed a collective gasp of wonder as we stepped across the threshold into sheer Victorian elegance.
My gaze caught immediately on the high ceiling, which echoed the curve of the onion dome and was carved like a cathedral’s, accented with pale blue and gold. The graceful half-circle of windows filtered light through snowy lace panels. A thick comforter striped in royal blue and purple covered the bed’s high mattress and complemented the canopy and bed curtains. A bold crucifix hung above the bed, incongruous against the dainty flowers of blue and violet that danced across the wallpaper.
The bedroom unquestionably belonged to a lady. Across the room from us Isabel’s dressing table displayed silver-backed brushes, crystal perfume bottles, and small porcelain boxes. A tall silver vase offered a spray of hatpins. I longed for a closer look, but another velvet rope guarded Isabel’s treasures against visitors with curious hands and clumsy feet.
The docent pointed to a small table beside the bed. On the wall above the table hung a painting of Mary holding the infant Christ.
“Isabel was Spanish and a devout Catholic,” the docent said. “Here she prayed and lit candles daily for her family. She also had a small chapel built on the property, which you are welcome to visit after you leave here today.”
Lisa was examining a framed embroidery sampler when Amanda touched my sleeve. I turned, and she pointed through a low archway to a small sitting room behind us.
“Look in there.” Her whisper was pitched high with excitement. “That’s her. That’s Isabel.”
Above the carved ivory mantel of a small fireplace rested the portrait of a stunningly beautiful woman. Her dark, wavy hair was piled loosely on top of her head, softly framing a perfect oval face and luminous eyes of a color somewhere between dark blue and violet. She wore a black silk dress with a froth of lace at her throat, caught by a round decorative brooch of some kind. In her lap she held a nosegay of violets. I remembered Amanda saying that violets were Isabel’s favorite flowers.
“Isn’t she gorgeous?” Amanda breathed.
Read the exciting story of Victoria and Katherine, two women born a century apart who unexpectedly assume each other’s lives and find love in the borrowed months they are given before fate must return them to their own times.
Available now through Amazon and Barnes & Noble Books:
BRIDGE TO THE PAST: Book 1 in the Moonseed trilogy
BORROWED PROMISES: Book 2 in the Moonseed trilogy
INTO THE MIST: Book 3 in the Moonseed trilogy
Facts about the Morey Mansion came from the following sources:
Worth, C., Berger, T., Black, N., & Poshek, L. (1991). Bed & Breakfast Guide: California. New York: Prentice Hall Travel.
Visit Judith Ingram’s blog at JudithIngram.com.