Root Cellar as a Mortuary in Victorian England

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Highlighting the facts behind romantic fiction with Jeanine Englert on root cellars and laying out the dead.

When I began writing my Victorian romantic suspense, Lovely Digits, whose heroine is a layer-out of the dead and a poor one at that, I had to find a way for her to complete her work, preparing the dead for burial, while protecting those bodies from the elements. Thus, a root cellar, a rather common aspect of homes and cottages in England during this time became her Victorian mortuary of sorts, where she could store those supplies she used (powders, oils, etc.) as well as the bodies of those she was tending to.

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Root cellars have been used for centuries to store foods and beverages as the high level of humidity and cool temperature of the underground structure acts as a preserver. My heroine, Lucy Wycliffe, was able to utilize these same properties to cool and preserve those she prepared for burial until they had been dressed and made ready for their final viewing and funeral. To ensure the security of those she cared for, I made Lucy’s root cellar just below her cottage, with easy access through a latched door in the floorboards. While this would have been uncommon, as most root cellars were often separate structures and not often attached to the main home, it was a possibility, especially if one wished to avoid going out of doors or being exposed to the elements to gather their stored goods.

About the Book:

LovelyDigits_Kindle-200x300 Highlighting Historical Romance When two murders strike the sleepy Victorian town of Clun, England, an unlikely partnership forms. But can the killer be found before there is a third?

Lovely Digits is the town oddity…

But quirky spinster Lucy Wycliffe prefers to ignore gossip and embrace her position as the town’s layer out of the dead, despite how her parents’ deaths thrust her into such unlikely work. Lovely Digits, as she’s known to the local townspeople, no longer dreams of marriage, but takes pride in providing dignity to the dead. Desperate to hold on to her family’s cottage and support her widowed sister and young niece, an unexpected offer of employment as assistant to the constable arrives at the perfect time.

Former sailor John Brodie is the mysterious new constable…

 But John Brodie is far from a stranger to Clun or the events of its past. Accepting the position as constable in the small town is a double edged sword meant to heal his past and redeem his future, but falling for the beautiful and intelligent Lucy Wycliffe was never part of his plan. As the killer closes in, will John reveal his secret and risk losing everything to save Lucy’s life?

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About the Author:

Jeanine-Englert-Headshot-2018-Head-On-1-300x240 Highlighting Historical Romance Jeanine Englert’s love affair with mysteries and romance began with Nancy Drew, Murder She Wrote, and her Grandmother’s bookshelves full of romance novels. She is a Golden Heart ® Finalist, Silver Falchion, Maggie, and Daphne du Maurier Award Winner in historical romance and mystery. Her Scottish Highland historicals and historical romantic suspense novels revolve around characters seeking self-acceptance and redemption. When she isn’t wrangling with her characters on the page, she can be found trying to convince her husband to watch her latest Masterpiece or BBC show obsession. She loves to talk about books, writing, her beloved rescue pups, as well as mysteries and romance with other readers. Visit her website at

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Caroline Warfield, Author

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