Just click on a name below to read a little about them, then click on ‘top’ to go back to the list.
List of Characters:
Employees of the Iron Rose Inn
Bella, the narrator, is named after the engraving in an antique locket found by her mother when she was a girl of 13. Bella is the only girl in a sea of five brothers. Just entering her twenties, (In ‘Charades with a Lunatic’ she is 19) she still lives at home with her parents, Luc and Raphaela, and her two youngest brothers, Michael and Gabriel. As a Bible Scholar trained from childhood, her career of volunteer teaching not only involves educating others about Biblical history, but also how to understand and use the Bible efficiently. To support her volunteer work, she works at her parents’ inn, The Iron Rose, cleaning and preparing rooms for guests, and occasionally filling in at Reception and waiting on tables in the inn’s dining room and wine bar. Her long blonde curls are a wild and unruly version of her mother’s, as are her violet eyes, but her dark eyebrows and Irish grin are her father’s. In her words, “I look enough like my mother to make it obvious I’m her daughter, but my mouth is my father’s. Somehow that sucked the wild grace from my face and made me look as though I thought Life was nothing but a private joke. My mouth smiles by itself, even when I’m not.”
(Full name: Isabella Tatiana Wildeve)
Brandt, named after the famous painter, Rembrandt van Rijn, is the second oldest of the Wildeve sons, making him ten years and some months older than Bella. He lives with his older brother Dante and younger brother Jude in a modernized cottage behind the Iron Rose Inn. He is a Bible Scholar and volunteer teacher the same as Bella, and supports himself as a musician, playing Irish fiddle for the local pubs and restaurants during the tourist season. The only one in the family to have brown hair, a dimple in his right cheek, and eyes that are neither green, nor blue, but a hazel combination of both, has his brothers joking that he is trying to evolve out of the family’s gene pool.
(Full name: Rembrandt D’Angelo Wildeve)
Dante, older than Bella by a little more than eleven years, makes him the oldest son in the Wildeve family. He lives with his younger brothers Brandt and Jude in a modernized cottage behind his parents’ inn, the Iron Rose. The first of the siblings to follow the family tradition of volunteer Bible training and education, he supports his volunteer career as a Handyman, Builder, and Roofer, doing house repair and conversions, having had construction experience while living in London some years previously. Looking the most like his father with his green eyes and black hair, he keeps his outrageously Byronic hair neatly cropped.
(Full name: Dante Rossetti Wildeve)
At over twelve years younger than Bella, Gabriel is the youngest of the Wildeve family. In Bella’s words, Gabriel is “little-boy skinny, passionate, exuberant, affectionate, quietly clever, generous, and gallant. Already he loves females in any form, from little girls his age to octogenarians, just as long as they either smell nice, smile at him, need protection or assistance, or look pretty, which pretty well covers just about any female living, even the bearded lady at the carnival just so long as she bathed.” Presently being privately tutored along with his best friend Eli Pengarth, Gabriel has a little-boy crush on Bella’s best friend, Tamsin. He plans on asking Tamsin to marry him just as soon as he receives a bi-weekly allowance.
(Full name: Gabriel Raf Wildeve)
Jude is the third oldest son, being six years and some months older than Bella. He lives with his brothers Dante and Brandt in the modernized cottage behind the Iron Rose Inn. Also a Bible Scholar and volunteer teacher, Jude works from home part-time as an accountant and bookkeeper for a London based firm of glaziers. Even though Jude is the only son to have inherited his mother’s blond curls, he has his father’s green Irish eyes and heavy black brows, making him look, in Bella’s words, “like Dante’s negative. . . and, when he was an infant, like Cupid in an evil mood.”
(Full name: Jude Acorri Wildeve)
Luc, Bella’s father, was raised on one of Ireland’s Aran Islands speaking Gaelic. With a strong brogue and a larger-than-life presence, he has a reputation of being one of England’s most colorful artists, a reputation he earned as an artistically brilliant and gifted teenager painting, in Bella’s words, “enormous canvasses of savage scenery, or enormous canvasses of beautiful women. Or beautiful women doing unlikely things in savage scenery.” Kicked out of his childhood home by his irascible father, he found his way to Europe to study painting, and eventually met his future wife, Raphaela, in Rome. He made his reputation and fortune just after he married her at the age of eighteen. After having his first two children, Dante and Brandt, he legally changed his surname from Quinn to Wildeve, and began calling himself by his first name of Luc, instead of by his middle name Aodhagan. In Bella’s words, “Even though my father looks a bit like a bloodthirsty buccaneer with an amused grin and a haircut, my mother has always described my father as the most mesmeric man on earth, with midnight hair, green eyes the color of Irish hills, a lilt in his voice that can woo statues off their pedestals, and a passionate way of throwing himself at life that sweeps you along.” He began the family career of volunteer teaching.
(Full name: Lucien Aodhagan Wildeve, grew up as Lucien Aodhagan Quinn)
The next to the youngest of the Wildeve sons, Michael is only a scant three years older than Bella. As Bella explained, “During our childhood he had been my champion, protector, best friend, and the most creatively charismatic of all my brothers when it came to getting me into trouble. Once, when I was four years old, I ate a ladybug because he had convinced me that it was a flying jelly baby.” As a part-time volunteer teacher, Michael also works as kitchen and dining room manager, bookkeeper, and assistant chef at his parents’ inn, the Iron Rose. According to Bella, Michael’s “thick black hair and slash eyebrows are my father’s, but his eyes are the disquieting color of my mother’s – disquieting because frivolous tanzanite doesn’t belong on a black-browed man with a strongly delineated face. However, at the moment his eyeballs were beaming at me like aggravated lasers. . .”
(Full name: Michael Gaio Wildeve)
Bella’s beautiful Italian mother, Raphaela was married and began having children when she was only sixteen. She met Luc in Rome when she was fifteen, and had agreed to become a model for his paintings. The teenaged Luc had been instantly smitten when he had first spied Raphaela – a young girl with silver gilt Botticelli curls and slanting violet eyes, wearing a raspberry colored shift and standing in the spray of the Trevi fountain. In Luc’s words, “She was framed in rainbows.” In Bella’s words, “She is the best cook on the planet. . . I look a bit like her, but sadly for me, not enough.”
(Raphaela Abrielle Wildeve nee’ Dei Fiori)
(Siblings in order according to age, starting with the oldest: Dante, Brandt, Jude, Michael, Bella, Gabriel)
Two years younger than Bella’s grandmother, Bryn, Astrid spent nearly forty years with her younger sister Aurora as Gilead trained missionaries in the South American country of Peru. As the tallest of the three sisters, Astrid is also the heartiest, with a brisk, but kind, personality. In Bella’s words, “Great-aunt Astrid was so thin and tan, she resembled those bog men that archaeologists dig out of the peat.” Having recently received a change of missionary assignment, Astrid and Aurora had moved into the inn to live with Bella’s family. During Astrid and Aurora’s forty years as missionaries, one or the other, or both, have had malaria, parasites, leeches, food poisoning, snakebite, stings, insect bites, boils, pneumonia, poison rashes, dysentery, Peruvian warts, septic cutes, and mugging by bandits, but what conquered them in the end was the altitude. They had spent the greater part of their life being oxygen deprived, and as a result, their hearts have slowed just enough to make them, in Bella’s words, “wander off their orbits at times.”
(Full name: Astrid Fern Wildeve)
As the youngest sister of Bella’s grandmother, Bryn, and the also shortest, Aurora, is, as Bella once described, “plump and short, and smelling inexplicably of fruity marmalade. Her eyes are very wide and very blue behind the lens of her glasses, giving her the look of perpetual surprise, but her smile is quick, tremulous, and warm like watery sunshine breaking through clouds.” Aurora had been a Gilead trained missionary in Peru, South America, for forty years before receiving a change of assignment and moving in with Bella’s family at the Iron Rose Inn. Having lived at high altitudes during her years in Peru, Aurora suffers from the occasional reality lapse, caused by a lifetime of low oxygen intake.
(Full name: Aurora Rose Wildeve)
Bryn, Luc’s mother and Bella’s grandmother, is the oldest of the Wildeve sisters. Having been orphaned by the age of 10, Bryn, along with her sisters, had been raised by a governess hired by their older brother, Desmond. At sixteen, Bryn accepted the marriage proposal of Finghin, an Irish horse handler working for an English baron, married him, and moved to Ireland to start a family. Over fifty years later, she moved back to Cornwall with her husband to spend more time with her oldest son, Luc, and his family. In Bella’s words, “I knew from old photographs that my grandmother used to small, delicate, and beautiful, but years of living with my grandfather had brought out her steel. She is still small, but wiry instead of delicate, her face careworn and stretched over beautiful bones. Her hair is long and white, and her eyes are brilliant, defiant, and the color of polished green glass. She wears faded, but colorful dresses, sturdy leather working shoes, and her hair in a long thick braid like a silver rope down her back.”
(Full name: Bryn Lily Quinn nee’ Wildeve)
Bella’s great-uncle Desmond, now deceased, is the title character in ‘Charades with a Lunatic’. In his lifetime as an intrepid explorer with a penchant for eating chalk, fruit seeds, and anything else indigestible, Desmond ran amok, heading expeditions down rivers, up mountains, behind frontiers, exploring, collecting, and in general ageing, molding, and getting even more and more peculiar. In Bella’s words, “Most of Great-uncle Desmond’s life was spent abroad, coming home only long enough to deposit his treasures and thrash his servants. As time passed, he became legally blind, profoundly deaf, and proudly incontinent. He was a village legend, the Yeti of Halfmoon, never spotted by reliable sources, but talked about when stale spore turned up, usually in the form of his manservant, Rawlings, running errands. Great-uncle Desmond unnerved me. He would stare at me, his horn rims magnifying his faded eyes to three times their normal size. He looked like a fly. A plotting, scheming fly and I half expected to see him preen the back of his dusty suit with his legs.”
(Full name: Desmond James Wildeve)
Finghin (pronounced Fin-jin) is married to Bryn and is Bella’s impatient, irritable, brilliant, grandfather. He is a gifted horse handler, owning his own stables, first in Ireland, then in England on the Cornish coast. As Bella once said, “My grandfather looks like an aging lothario, with features that are lean, craggy, and palpably masculine – an unsettling cross between a handsome hawk and one of those gargoyles perching on the roof gutters in Paris. His wild black hair has long since turned silver, and he always wears it long because he never has the patience to groom it. His outrageous hair is always gathered out of his way at the nape of his neck with a scrap of something he can tie, usually a torn piece of horsewhip. His black eyes can glitter like ice, smolder with irritation, or just plain burn when he’s ticked. I have always been terrified of him.”
(Full name: Finghin Aodhagan Quinn)
As the youngest of Luc’s three brothers, Liam looks the most like a younger version of his father, Finghin, with his father’s strong features, black hair, and black eyes. In his mid-thirties, Liam formerly supported himself as a writer of luridly graphic espionage novels, then abruptly shifted to writing well-received travel journals. Having lived first in France after leaving home, he moved from there to Russia, and from Russia to Portugal, and now lives in Cornwall helping his father maintain the family stables.
(Full name: Liam Aidan Quinn)
Employees of the Iron Rose Inn
As head cook of the Iron Rose Inn’s kitchens, Pete, a no-nonsense “carnivore” often wrangles with Rayvyn, his opposite in every way. An American from Detroit, Pete left the US navy to settle in Cornwall with his brother, Frank, the owner of a local pub, the Moonstone. In Bella’s words, “Pete is a fifty-year-old built like a seedy prizefighter, all bulging muscle, rock-hard slabs of fat, and ears that look like they’d been chewed by cats. He says things like, “The Pope ain’t no Englishman,” which, incidentally, no one knows what he means by that.” Shrewd and kind, he is easygoing as long as Rayvyn isn’t sparring with him.
As a self-proclaimed “Child of the Cosmos”, Rayvyn is a militant vegan that, while wearing biodegradable sandals made from corn, unknowingly eats lard-laden snack cakes on a regular basis. She is focused on colon health and converting meat eaters to what she considers a less violent diet. A double-jointed, flexible, free spirit, Rayvyn expresses herself in spontaneous interpretive posing, giving them psychedelic names and scaring the diners. She works in the Iron Rose kitchens, alternately helping and harassing Pete, in the dining room waiting on tables, and in the bedrooms cleaning and preparing them for occupancy. With long black hair and spectacularly organic dresses, Rayvyn cuts a startling figure in the small fishing village of Halfmoon. And, in the words of Bella, “As a breast cancer survivor, Rayvyn has only one unrestrained breast left hanging from its gravity-challenged stem, and every time she swans about, it has a tendency to wander under her clothes like a bird seeking an exit.” In her mid-thirties, Rayvyn suffers from an unrequited infatuation with Bella’s brother, Michael.
An elder in the local congregation, Albert is in his seventies, vigorous, healthy, and amused by adventure. As Bella once said, “Albert is tall and thin with a full shock of white hair waving from his face. He looks like a superannuated spy with clever blue eyes in a spy’s perpetual squint. A retired James Bond. A retired James Bond who in actuality sold insurance for somebody in London.” Albert and his wife, Violet, are raising their young great-grandson Eli, who had been orphaned when his parents died in a plane crash.
No one knows exactly how old elderly Basil Brett is, or how wealthy he is, but as Bella once described him, “Basil is a tiny, prim man who looks like he’d been polished by wads of old money. He looks incredibly groomed, tasteful, and plush from his buffed leather shoes to his coifed silver hair. Even his voice is beautiful, polite, and discreet, making him sound like the hybrid offspring of a BBC announcer and an undertaker.” Now retired and living in Halfmoon, he used to sell rare manuscripts and antiques from his London auction house when he lived in the city.
Well over 80 years of age, Beatrix, dresses in elegant suits and tints her hair pastel colors to match. Also, in Bella’s words, “Beatrix has six fingers on her left hand and an extra toe somewhere in her geriatric shoes. No matter how you look at it, even without the Pomeranian, Buttons, that she carries in her purse, she should count for a little extra.”
A widower slightly older than Bella’s parents, with graying black hair and light gray eyes, Clive is the village’s General Practitioner. As Bella once stated, “Clive has a wickedly dry sense of humor behind a good-natured personality. He loves quoting poetry and ballads, most of them obscure. It is always disconcerting to me when I have to go to him professionally. Call me hypersensitive, but it’s hard to feel poised while he checks my armpits for swollen lymph nodes, all the while saying things like,
I’m drunk today, but I’m seldom sober,
A handsome rover from town to town.
Ah, but I’m sick now, my days are over,
Come all you young lads and lay me down…’
As a general rule, I would rather suck razors than admit I’m sick.”
Once a widow, Chloe is newlywed to Jasper Penhallow. Small, veiny, frail, and colorful, with shaggy oversized tropical print dresses and wigs that hang askew on her cantaloupe-sized head, she is not “shy about decorating herself.” As Bella once remarked, “Chloe makes me think of a tiny parrot that had been caught in a blender.”
At a hundred years of age, anointed Chlotilde is still vigorous enough to get up an hour before the sun does to milk her three cows. Frustrated at her continuing rude health, having waited 61 of her one hundred years to receive her reward, she begrudges every day she is “still stuck here with the rest of us, working her farm and raising her livestock,” as Bella says. “Chlotilde eats like a farmhand in what I suspect to be a passive attempt to hurry it along, but, unfortunately for her nothing works. She seems to blossom and thrive on vast quantities of lard and grilled organ meats.”
Excruciatingly timid thirty-five-year-old Deirdre wears her honey-colored hair loose and straight. In Bella’s words, “Deirdre avoids gazing at anything directly and turns as red as a baboon’s bottom when my father or my brothers talk to her. I am enormously fond of her, and when I’m with her, I feel as if I should be her buffer against the big, bad world. I don’t seem to be very successful at it.”
Eli, the Pengarth’s great-grandson, is only a year older than his best friend, Gabriel. Orphaned when little more than a toddler, Eli is serious, bashful, and fiercely attached to his great-grandparents, Albert and Violet. As Bella once remarked, “Next to my exuberant, darker little brother, blond, pale Eli seems as ethereal and as fragile as an insect’s wing.”
Austrian-born Elsie is over eighty years of age, nearly three hundred pounds, extremely hard of hearing, and too stubborn to wear a deaf aid. In the words of Bella, “Elsie has a tendency to shout her words loudly in a Viennese accent so thick, it sounds like she’s coughing up barbed wire.”
Chloe O’Rourke’s new husband, Jasper, was orphaned as a young boy and raised by his uncle, Rex. Described by Bella’s uncle Liam as a tall gentleman with a thatch of silver hair and a wandering glass eye, Jasper won Chloe’s heart with romance. In the words of Michael, “That’s the one. And don’t forget the humming deaf aid the size of an orange.”
Twenty-four-year-old Lamond, originally from Nairobi’s business districts, is living in Cornwall to polish up his English, intending to go back home at some point and teach others in the English speaking territory of his native country. As Bella, unaware of his infatuation with her, once described him, “His skin is blue-black, his teeth are golden, and the hair on his perfectly shaped head has the same stylized waves as the fur on a kitten’s nose. He is as literal as a highly intelligent person can get, and he likes to practice his English idioms on me.” He rarely gets them right.
Tamsin is Welsh in spite of her French surname, is a relatively new addition to Halfmoon, and is only six months older than Bella, and works at the village’s lending library. When describing her best friend, Bella remarked, “To my thinking, however, tall, lanky, leggy Tamsin with her exaggerated startle response didn’t seem to be much more of a challenge to wandering criminals. I guess my parents had thought that while one of us was being assaulted, the other one could go for help like Lassie.”
(Full name: Tamsin Isolte Hugo)
Violet is the elderly wife of Albert, the only elder the Halfmoon congregation had before Bella’s father, Luc, and her two brothers Dante and Brandt moved in. In Bella’s words, “Violet reminds me of a happy sparrow. Dressed in perpetual tweeds, she is forever hopping about on spindly legs the size of towel rods.” Violet impresses Bella with her ability to drive her Fiat Uno like Jehu in his chariot, and her willingness to plunge into the thick of any adventure, no matter how risky.
Originally from Arizona, Zephyr had moved to Cornwall with her aggressive young daughter, Aura, to take care of her aging great-grandfather, Charlie Radcliffe, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. Twice divorced, vigorously searching for a third husband, Zephyr likes to dress in layers of gauze, fairy dust, plastic fingernails, and silk flowers. As Bella once observed, “She looks a bit like a glittering faerie with talons.” Desperate to be married, Zephyr has proposed marriage to each of Bella’s brothers in turn, along with her uncle Liam. However, after being gently turned down, she remains good-natured, hopeful, and persistent.
Arabel Bunt, along with her younger sister, Zinnia Bunt-Joliet, keeps the boarding house that Tamsin stays at. Arabel is ancient, wide, and short, with a frightening talent for knowing everyone’s secrets, even secrets that they themselves didn’t know. Tamsin claims that Arabel can read lips through walls and smell fear. In the words of Bella, “Arabel Bunt made MI5 look like drunken Alzheimer patients.”
Ariel, one of Bella’s students, is a female version of an old salty sea dog. She lives on the beach in an overturned hull of a schooner with only her mentally challenged tomcat, Wally, for a roommate. In Bella’s words, after spending ten minutes enclosed in her airless boat hull, “I was doomed to smell cabbage gas and patchouli for the rest of my life. It coated the depths of my lungs like stale treacle.”
Bunny is the Pengarth’s neighbor and one of Bella’s students. A befuddled, energetic seventy-something, her passions are gardening, gossiping, and her best friend and neighbor on the other side, Ginger Tregaren. Bunny believes that divine miracles happen every day, not just somewhere behind the walls of monasteries and missions, but at her house, in her car, in the shops, even in her pantyhose drawer. In Bella’s words, “Only last week she showed me a bunion on Ginger’s gnarly foot that she swore looked like Saint Francis of Assisi gathering herbs. It looked more like a cross between a Brillo pad and the budding of a sixth toe to me, but she wanted me to touch it for a blessing anyway. I had to think quickly to find a tactful way to refuse.”
Ginger and his neighbor, Bunny Dawlish, share an obsession with miracles. He likes to think that his vacuum sucks up holy lint balls in the shapes of saints. As Bella said, “He usually sits in on my lesson with Bunny, answering and participating, but refusing to let me address questions to him. I count him as a sort of accidental ‘return visit’ since he is capable of disappearing from Bunny’s lessons for weeks at a time.”
Twice divorced in her 22 years, Jasmine moved to Halfmoon when she was eighteen and began working as a barmaid at the Moonstone pub. At five feet tall and a hundred and seventy pounds, she regularly attires herself in black thick-soled boots and mini dresses, gels her inch-long orange hair into lethal spikes, smokes like a flaming brush pile, and has blue fingernails with ochre tips. As Bella says, “She doesn’t paint them that color. They are that color. And she has a thing for Jude. A smarter woman would have given up, but Jasmine isn’t smart. That’s obvious in her tattoo choice of a third eye on her sternum.”
As one of Halfmoon’s oldest residents at over a hundred years of age, Liza’s silhouette resembles a can of lager propped on two twigs. In the words of Bella, “She is so short, I can crown her head with my armpit. Poor Liza Weebs drinks Scotch like an Englishman drinks tea, and looks a bit like Great-uncle Desmond in a dress.” Her grandson, Len, is Halfmoon’s only punk rocker.
Pansy is one of Tamsin’s Bible students. Cheerful, tolerant, redheaded, and freckled, she is under thirty, husbandless, and mother to eight busy, imaginative, and undisciplined children less than ten years of age. Pansy’s children, from oldest to youngest, are Lark Midnight, Twilight Fiesta, Orchid Sunshine, twins Prince Charles and Bravo Caesar, Buzzer, Zorro Delighte, and Lotus, her two-year-old son. They all live in Penny Cottage with Pansy’s ‘gran’, Lily Teagarden.
Zinnia, Arabel Bunts’ younger sister, married a Frenchman when she was 16 and ran away to Paris to live with other artists, to drink coffee, to argue Marxism, and to run about clad in floating scarves, berets, and black turtlenecks. Together she and her husband painted abstracts, smoked anything that could be plugged into a holder, and ate Brie until the day she was widowed. Penniless, she came back to England to live with her sister, bringing foreignness with her by way of a phony French accent.
Thea Phipps discovered mysteries as a preschooler, humorous mysteries while in high school, and discovered her own writing gene while in the throes of insomnia and boredom. She divides her energies between meetings, volunteer teaching, studying, and being happily married to Randy, her husband of 27 years. She also enjoys reading and writing books, while successfully avoiding yard work, saving money, and extreme sports.