Mastodon The Writing Desk: Special Guest Post by Deb Stratas: The Time Traveler’s Wife meets Downtown Abbey in The Royal Key

28 July 2022

Special Guest Post by Deb Stratas: The Time Traveler’s Wife meets Downtown Abbey in The Royal Key

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Annabelle is struggling to overcome a personal tragedy without losing the man she loves. Suddenly, she finds herself locked in a Victorian country home, nannying royal children in a strange time and place. How did she get here? Is she meant to influence the future of the British monarchy? More importantly, how can she unlock the key back to the modern life she desperately misses? Travel back to the nineteenth century with Annabelle, and share her unexpected healing journey.

A Tale of Two Annabelles 

Meet Annabelle, a young Montessori teacher in Toronto, Canada. She loves her life with Ryan, her contractor fiancé and their dog, Lucy. She has a job she adores, a warm family, and a terrific bond with her soon-to-be-husband. What’s missing? Annabelle wants a baby, and is recovering from a painful miscarriage. Was it her fault? Does she even deserve to be a mom? How can she marry Ryan if she can’t provide him with the child he also craves?

One day, while going through old books of her father’s, she happens upon a picture of the Duke of Windsor, as the Prince of Wales. Suddenly, she feels peculiar, and falls to the floor in a faint. 
Meet the second Annabelle! Waking up in a strange garden, she is greeted by an oddly-dressed man asking after her well-being. Assuring himself that’s she’s alright, he urges her to get to the nursery straightaway to report for her duties as a fill-in nanny. Bewildered, Annabelle decides to go along with the ruse until she can get her bearings and find a way home to Ryan.

Thus begins her journey to fit in until she can get out. It’s quickly obvious that she’s in an upscale country home somewhere in England. Feeling as if she’s in an episode of Downtown Abbey, Annabelle draws upon her Montessori training to assist the senior nanny with the upbringing of two young boys and a baby girl. She soon realizes these are royal children, and as time goes on, she identifies them as the oldest children of the Duke and Duchess of York - Edward (known as David), Bertie, and young Mary. She was in the presence of three future Kings!

Taking her role seriously, she tries to instil behaviours befitting two future kings. Given the restrictions of the late 1890’s, it’s a difficult challenge without giving herself away. In the Edwardian era, and children were meant to be seen and not heard. Annabelle perseveres while trying to sort who in the household are friends vs. foes. She hatches many plans to escape, which all come to nothing.

Meanwhile, she makes an extraordinary discovery in the garden one night – a larger-than-life King Edward VIII, just weeks before his 1936 abdication. How is this possible? A grown-up and still petulant King outside, while his childhood self sleeps soundly in the nursery? Annabelle struggles to get her mind around the unsettling events of 1897 blending with 1936, but soon realizes that the grown-up David is the key to her escape and return to 2019 and her much-missed life Canadian life.

Time is running out for Annabelle, as some household staff get more suspicious by the day. Annabelle must risk a daring escape. She’s discovered the secret of the house, and can’t waste another minute for fear that her 21st century self will be revealed.  Do Ryan and Annabelle reunite? What is the secret of the house? Did Annabelle make any impact on her young royal charges? You’ll have to read The Royal Key to find out. 
Why did I write a time travel novel?

I wanted to explore the idea of a modern-day teacher travelling back to Edwardian Britain to perhaps influence the personalities of future kings. I also wanted to set the story in a house that will be familiar to royal followers – but not obvious until well into the story. Above all, I wanted to share Annabelle’s healing journey as she comes to terms with her own personal losses, and future happiness.

What did I discover about the royal children’s childhoods? 

Young Princes David and Bertie suffered at the hands of a very nasty nanny early in their childhoods. I personally believe this trauma may have affected them both physically and emotionally for the rest of their lives. Add the repression of the late 1890’s and early 1900’s, and you can understand why young David never really grew up, and Bertie suffered lifelong stomach problems and the famous stammer – both of which he overcame to be an incredible wartime king. 

What are my impressions of King Edward VIII and the abdication crisis?  

As with all my books, I did extensive research on the reigns of both King George V and King Edward VIII. I found that the adult David was in many ways a spoiled child that insisted upon his way, no matter the cost. He was determined to abdicate in order to marry the divorced American Wallis Simpson, and desert his kingship as soon as possible.

My personal belief is that he was horrified at the boredom and duties that came along with ruling England and the empire. I think Wallis did the world a favour by marrying David, as the Duke of Windsor would probably have been a weak monarch, and even our modern-day democracy could have been at stake.

Can I tell the secret of the house in The Royal Key? 

I’m afraid not. You’ll have to read The Royal Key to find the extraordinary secret of the royal country house where Annabelle found the strength and courage to find her way home. I hope you enjoy the book and welcome your feedback!

Deb Stratas

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About the Author

Deb Stratas is a writer based in Toronto, Canada. She’s a proud royalist with a lifelong passion for the British monarchy. Deb is best known for her Diana Spencer historical fiction trilogy with its accompanying non-fiction At Home with Diana. Go back to Edwardian England in The Royal Key. Her latest book The Kingston Twins, Bravery in the Blitz explores WWII London through the eyes of brave sisters, Tillie and Maggie. Deb cherishes spending time with her two amazing adult children, their spouses, and two grandchildren. Find out more at Deb's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @deb_stratas

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