In June my husband and I went to Stoneleigh Abbey near Warwick, Jane Austen’s cousin owned this property and she visited there with her mother not long after her father died, when they were required to live on the charity of family. They were going to live with her brother but he was not able to take them in yet and so they went to stay with a cousin who at that point inherited Stoneleigh Abbey. They travelled with him to claim his inheritance. On Wednesdays the house tour is a Jane Austen tour and they explain how – like me – she drew inspiration from her visit to the house for her books. There are even items there that are described in the books. And the story of Persuasion was inspired by the story she heard about an ancestor whose portrait hangs there. One of the things they discussed was Jane’s mother’s descriptions of their stay there in her letters. One fact I particularly drew from this was her descriptions of what they ate. Often notes on history are conflicting and a few authors include sausages for breakfast in descriptions – they did not eat breakfast was we do now. Jane’s Austen’s mother particularly extols the plum cake. Letters are a fabulous way of learning what life was really like in the Regency era and people wrote loads – think how many times you text or email – well they sent letters. I have a book of Lady Caroline Lamb’s letters (she of a spectacular affair with Lord Byron fame), Harriette Wilson’s memoires (a renowned courtesan of the era) and also Jane Austen’s letters to her sister. They give loads of details about life and fashion – fascinating – and when you read my books you will see these appear in them and loads of inspiration is taken from them.