Ask the Author V

As we wrap up the month of January and prepare for The Temptation of the Night Jasmine, let’s devote one more day to Arabella, Turnip, and all things Mistletoe!

Lauren Willig has graciously agreed to return for another session of “Ask the Author.” If you’ve always wondered to yourself, “Why pudding??” now is your chance to ask. Post your questions in the comments section below, and Lauren will pop by periodically throughout the day to answer them.

Also, the Pink Fairy will be rewarding one lucky commenter today with a Mistletoe-themed mug designed by Miss Eliza:

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Isn’t it lovely?  You can see the mugs for all the other books as well on Zazzle’s site.

Big thanks to Lauren for sharing her time with us today!

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Pink V Week 4 in Review

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Somehow, it is already time for our last Pink V recap.  Where did January go?

When we last left Turnip and Arabella, Turnip was asking Arabella to dance at the Epiphany Eve ball.  He whisks her away before Aunt Osborne has a chance to ruin everything by misplacing her shawl, smelling salts, or common sense.  As they dance, Turnip is right on the verge of declaring himself when Arabella has a Major Realization.  She knows where the list is!

Before she can explain herself, Darius Danforth announces that the Dowager Duchess (what’s with all the alliteration here?) has declared that every able bodied man should head for the West Wood for “some Epiphany Eve ritual involving gins, ciders, and a band of overexcited yokels.”  Turnip would much rather stay with Arabella, but he isn’t exactly given a choice!  He’s been dancing around telling Arabella he loves her all night – veiled references to flavors of jam and all that – but when he realizes he’s going to have to leave her for a bit, he gets straight to the point and kisses her.

After all the men depart for the Epiphany tree, Arabella makes her way straight to her room to see if she’s right about the list.  And she is!  It’s been in the pocket of her school uniform all along.  Huzzah, Arabella!  The downside – she ignored Turnip’s advice about staying with the group and finds herself all alone staring down Catherine Carruthers with a gun.

Did anyone else do a bit of a double-take when they realized that Catherine was the “bad guy” in this book?  It does boggle the mind.  Homegirl is a teenager.  A silly, immature teenager who is petulant that her parents are going to marry her off to an admittedly ancient aristocrat.  Yes, she snuck out of school repeatedly, eloped with Darius Danforth, and communicated with him illicitly through a series of pudding messages and journal placements, but all those things seem like small potatoes compared with pointing a gun at Arabella’s head.

But when we learn the truth, suddenly Catherine as the antagonist seems more plausible.  Catherine is not a deadly French spy or a criminal mastermind – she’s a sneaky, spoiled brat who is used to a certain lifestyle and willing to blackmail people to maintain it.  Now that she’s married to Darius, she knows she can’t count on her parents to support her financially once they learn the truth, so she and Darius have been selling secrets to make themselves some cash.  As she’s explaining this and backing Arabella towards a very high window, enter Turnip.  With a pudding.

Turnip and Arabella make quite a team, don’t they?  One minute, Catherine has the gun and all the advantages, and the next, she and Darius are both out cold and trussed on the floor thanks to a pudding, some bed-hangings, and a few formidable punches.  I love this scene because it’s dramatic and funny at the same time, and because I love the way that Turnip and Arabella finally announce their feelings for each other.  Arabella’s lines are so perfect here: “I love you.  I want to prowl castles with you and celebrate Christmas with you and get annoyed with you for climbing things.  And I’m terribly fond of raspberry jam.”

So it seems all that is left to do is for Turnip to officially ask for Arabella’s hand, which he is thrilled to do in front of the disgusting Captain Musgrave and despite interruptions from the Dowager Duchess.  We close with a final letter from Jane to Arabella, sent over a year after Turnip’s proposal, where Jane agrees to be godmother to a certain “baby Jane.”  Happy endings all around.

Did you enjoy Mistletoe as much this time around as you did on your first read?  Did you find yourself missing Eloise and Colin?  Are you ready for Night Jasmine??

If you need a bit more Turnip and Arabella to get you through the long haul to Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla (their next appearance, I think), check out the free read Away in a Manger on Lauren’s site.

Make sure you stop by the blog on Friday.  Lauren will be back for Ask the Author V – have all your Turnip questions ready!

Pink V: Dream Casting

This post was written by Miss Eliza of Strange and Random Happenstance.

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If there is one man in all of Lauren’s books whom I want to sweep me off my feet, I cannot deny that it’s Turnip Fitzhugh. Of course there’s every chance Turnip could trip me and literally sweep me off my feet, but nevertheless, you get my point. Like my love of Henry Tilney, I view humor and goodwill as a cornerstone of romance. For me there is only one person who could be Turnip. I know, this is a sweeping statement. While I can occasionally see many actors in the roles and even agree with many of the alternative suggestions put forth, there is one and only one person who could play Turnip.  Let us now go back into the mists of time when I was a young impressionable girl who loved to spend her time watching Mystery! on PBS with my parents, reveling in all things Victoriana, especially Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes. Total aside, but does anyone else think that as a young man in My Fair Lady he looks just like Daniel Day Lewis? OK, so it is just me, and back to Sherlock Holmes. The truth is, despite my love of Jeremy Brett and even Benedict Cumberbatch, to me there’s only one Sherlock Holmes, and that’s Nicholas Rowe.

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The first time I watched Young Sherlock Holmes my heart was forever lost. It wasn’t just that Nicholas’s Holmes is brilliant, it’s that he’s funny and cute and gangly and just perfect. Plus the love of his life was named Elizabeth, sigh. While never attaining the fame of some British actors, Nicholas consistently shows up on the television screen and is perfection no matter how large or small a role. I’m particularly looking forward to his cameo in Mr. Holmes as “Matinee Sherlock.” Apparently (or so I’m guessing), the makers of this film understand that even if you have Ian McKellen playing Sherlock, there are people out there like me wishing for Nicholas Rowe! As to why he’d be perfect as Turnip: he has a goofy, supercilious air about him that hides a heart of gold. Plus, that floppy lock of hair and that I could totally see him in a carnation waistcoat on his tall body, everything adds up to perfection.  Mmm, yeah.

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As for his better half I totally envision Claire Foy. The initial reason I saw her as Arabella is that as Amy Dorrit in Little Dorrit she has this wonderful vulnerability that has a will of iron behind it that protects her family above everything else. This is how I view Arabella. She sees her situation and makes up her mind that teaching is the way to help her family and she does it. Arabella has doubts and concerns, which is where the vulnerability enters in, but in the end, her iron will makes her take the leap. But if I hadn’t been totally convinced of her, well, Going Postal nailed it for me. She’s caustic and humorous. The key to the Turnip Abrabella union is that they genuinely like each other and know how to have a good laugh. So I give you Nicholas Rowe and Claire Foy, Mr. and Mrs. Turnip. Who do you see?

Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh played by Nicholas Rowe
Arabella Dempsey played by Claire Foy

I know Sheila has already put forward her choice for Turnip: Simon Baker!  Personally, I think Simon Woods has potential.  Maybe Simons make good Turnips??

Pink V Week 3 in Review

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Happy Friday! First order of business – we have a winner of the ARC of The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. James. It’s Amy Krebs! Congratulations, Amy. If you will email your address to ashley.pinkforallseasons@gmail.com, I will get your prize in the mail to you. Huge thanks again to Simone for graciously agreeing to be interviewed and providing a prize. Seriously, if you haven’t read her books, pick one out and get started. I promise you’ll be entertained.

On to Mistletoe!

I feel like chapters 17-18 of Pink V could be combined into one section of the book and labeled “In Which There is a Misunderstanding.” Arabella and Turnip are finally talking at the pageant, but they are having two completely different conversations. Arabella doesn’t realize that Turnip is only using the pudding as an excuse to talk to her, and Turnip doesn’t understand why Arabella would be pushing him away. And Arabella really does go off on him about the spies. It’s understandable, if you think about it – she’s never been attacked because she was mistaken for the Pink Carnation, and she doesn’t have several school friends who work for the War Office. In Arabella’s world, spies really don’t exist, so I can forgive her for being so harsh with Turnip in the moment, even if she does turn out to be wrong.

Once Arabella has laid down the law about No More Clandestine Meetings, Turnip walks around the pageant in a bit of a funk. He doesn’t understand what in the world has gotten into Arabella until he has a chance to speak to Jane for a moment. Jane is the one who finally puts the pieces together for Turnip: Arabella’s father is a vicar (i.e. her family has no money). Arabella was temporarily sponsored in London by her aunt, but her aunt opted not to adopt her. And Arabella doesn’t teach because she feels a moral calling – she teaches to earn her keep. It’s not that Turnip was too stupid to realize these things on his own. It’s just like Arabella not understanding about the spies. Things like school fees and room and board are not regular topics or sources of concern in Turnip’s world. But now that he understands a bit more about Arabella’s situation in life, he feels like a proper idiot for not seeing her position clearly before.

Meanwhile, Arabella’s bad luck continues, and she is temporarily held hostage by a man with a sword. Fortunately, the sword turns out to be a pageant prop, and once Arabella delivers a hearty stomp to the man’s toes, he takes off. But we have learned that someone thinks Arabella has a list of some sort, and she assumes that’s why her room was vandalized.

Fast forward to Christmas Eve at Girdings House. Turnip and Arabella have no idea they’ll be spending the holiday together. I’m sure we all know from watching Downton Abbey about the great upstairs/downstairs divide that makes life so different for people in different social classes. But I thought it was interesting to see how, even as a ducal guest, Arabella doesn’t have the same status as the others in the ton. No one from the family is on hand to greet her when she arrives with her maid. She gets a drafty room off on a side wing of the house rather than a big room with an estate view. And the festivities have begun without her – she has to trudge through the snow alone to where the other guests are gathering the greenery. We get a fun peek at Charlotte and Penelope in this scene. We also get Turnip trying to chop down a tree with the blunt in of an axe.

A LOT happens during this house party at Girdings. Forgive me for rushing through it a bit, but I’ll do my best. Turnip learns from Geoff that Catherine Carruthers’ father (the same Catherine who loves to run off from Miss Climpson’s) is a high ranking government employee who has recently misplaced a list of every Royalist agent working in France. Turnip understands now that Arabella really is in danger, because someone out there believes she is in possession of this list. He also comes to her rescue when Martin Frobisher, Lord Henry, and Lieutenant Danforth play a very unkind prank on her. Once Arabella meets Letty and Geoff and hears their thoughts on why strange things have been happening to her lately, she is forced to admit that she was wrong. There really are spies and they really do think she has something they need. And she was, evidently, wrong about Turnip as well. She thought he didn’t care about her, but it’s clear from his behavior in the last few chapters that he cares VERY much about her well-being. And at the end of chapter 24, he proves to Arabella that he CAN remember things when they are important. The day he met her, he promised he would ask her to dance at the next ball, and he follows through with an enormous smile on his face.

What did you think of these chapters? What were your favorite moments? I loved watching Charlotte try to be invisible while Penelope does everything she can to misbehave. How did they ever get to be friends? I suppose we’ll get more perspective on that in Pink VI. Hooray for Geoff and Letty starting a family. Also, weren’t Aunt Osborne and Captain Musgrave absolutely horrifying? I couldn’t imagine what Arabella was thinking, falling for Musgrave, but I guess it just goes along with what we know of her past. She’s used to being ignored or treated poorly, so anyone who shows her kindness (even a patronizing, pompous kindness) is special to her.

Only a few chapters left to go! Next week, we’ll recap on Wednesday, and Lauren will return for Ask the Author V on Friday.

Have a wonderful weekend.

 

The Marvel that is Jane Austen

What is it that fascinates us so much about Jane Austen? I know there are Lauren fans out there who aren’t big on Jane or haven’t read any of her books, but I would say that the majority of us are pretty enthusiastic about her.

Lauren has a short story in an Austen-inspired anthology called Jane Austen Made Me Do It. Reviews of her books frequently contain snippets like “Pride and Prejudice lives on” or “Jane Austen meets James Bond.” Lauren has spoken at meetings of the Jane Austen Society of North America (which has state chapters, y’all – this is serious) and is a frequent guest on Laurel Ann Nattress’s blog Austenprose, which is “a celebration of Jane Austen novels, movies, sequels, and the pop culture she has inspired.” So I am not exaggerating when I say that conversations about Jane and Pink frequently go hand-in-hand.

I love that Lauren included Jane in Pink V. I think it works well because Jane’s role is so small – just a few brief appearances, really, and several sweet references to how Arabella and Turnip may influence her future novels. This way, Jane fans get to be pleased to see her without feeling like any of Lauren’s descriptions are challenging a preconceived notion we have of Jane. I don’t know about you, but I never experienced a moment of “Wait a minute – Jane would NEVER have…” in Pink V. Congrats, Lauren! An impressive feat, considering many of Jane’s fans consider her our imaginary friend.

I think that if “Teen Paranormal Romance” can have its own section in Barnes and Noble, “Austen Inspired Novels” should get some space too! Have you ever noticed that you can’t walk down a row in a bookstore’s fiction section without coming across at least one of these Austen adaptations? These adaptations tend to fall into six basic categories:

  1. Continuations of the Austen novels (Death Comes to Pemberly, Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister)
  2. Austen novels rewritten from other perspectives (Colonel Brandon’s Diary, Darcy’s Story)
  3. Stories where Jane is a character (like Pink V or Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen Mysteries)
  4. Stories about Jane’s influence (Austenland, The Jane Austen Book Club)
  5. Modernizations of the Austen novels (Bridget Jones’ Diary, Persuading Annie)
  6. Just plain crazy (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters)

Am I missing one here?

As with all genres, some of these books are wonderful, and some are unbelievably dreadful. But here is what I want to know. What is your favorite Jane Austen novel? What is your favorite Austen-related novel? I’ll play fair and tell you mine first. Sense and Sensibility is my favorite of Jane’s books, and Janet Aylmer’s Darcy’s Story is my favorite Austen-inspired novel. Your turn!

An Interview and a Giveaway with Simone St. James

Continuing in our grand Pink tradition, we have a guest on the blog today.  I’m very excited to welcome Simone St. James to The Bubble Bath Reader!

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I won an ARC of Simone’s 2014 release, Silence for the Dead, from a giveaway on Lauren Willig’s website last year.  I had already read Simone’s other two novels, and I’ve really enjoyed them all.  I remember I checked out The Haunting of Maddy Clare from the library after I saw it mentioned on one of Lauren’s If You Like posts.  I am a little squeamish about reading books or watching movies that might be too scary (I always tell people I can’t watch shows like Game of Thrones because “I don’t do stabby”), but Simone’s books great!  She has a talent for creating fear and suspense in the style of Daphne du Maurier and Mary Stewart.  She won two RITAs and the Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Book for The Haunting of Maddy Clare, and I definitely understand why!  Simone has kindly agreed to spend some time with us today answering a few questions about herself and her writing – let’s get to it!

Simone, what are five of your favorite things?

Thunderstorms, coffee, the smell of books, Rebecca, chocolate chip cookies.

If you stopped writing books (please don’t), what would you do for a living?

Ugh! Well, I worked behind the scenes in the television business before I became a writer, so I’d probably go do that. Though maybe I’d set up shop and become a detective, even though I have no training whatsoever, just so I could have a legitimate reason to poke into people’s private business. I’d become a ghost hunter, but they seem to work nights a lot, and I’d probably be scared out of my mind.

If I took a sneak peek into your writing space, what would I find?

A mess! I am currently sorting through boxes of my old books, trying to pare them down, so I am surrounded by messy piles of books. Though being surrounded by books is helpful when writing, it really is an eyesore. However, you’d also find my spiral notebooks full of story ideas, my reference books, my noise-canceling headphones, and my two RITA awards, sitting on a high shelf and looking down at me, cracking the whip as I write every day.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading two books right now: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon, which is a contemporary ghost story suspense (it’s terrific), and Bride of Pendorric by Victoria Holt, one of those awesome old gothics with a girl in her nightgown on the cover (also terrific.)

What sparked your interest in writing ghost stories?

I’ve always loved ghost stories, and I couldn’t find exactly the book I wanted—a spooky ghost story that also had a satisfying romance in it. I kept reading ghost stories and thinking, “This would be better if it had a romance in it.” Eventually I had to write the book I really wanted to read. I’m not kidding!

My favorite of your heroines so far is Kitty Weekes. If you have a favorite, who is it and why?

Thank you! Kitty is a strong character—she came into my mind already complete and demanding a story. I don’t have a favorite, but I also love Jillian Leigh from An Inquiry Into Love and Death, because when I created her I consciously tried to make a heroine I’d like to personally be friends with.

What is an interesting fact or subject you’ve come across in your research that you haven’t yet included in your books?

When researching Silence for the Dead, I came across a newspaper account of the time describing a cricket match between two hospitals for shell-shocked veterans. I so dearly wanted to add something like that to the book, but couldn’t find a reason for it.

What are you working on now?

The Other Side of Midnight releases April 7, and I’m currently writing Lost Among the Living, which will be released in April 2016. It’s about a woman whose husband vanished during the war. When she takes a job as paid companion to her husband’s aunt, she discovers that there was much more to her husband than she ever knew, including a mysterious death in his family’s past.

If readers would like to learn more about you and your work, how would they do that?

My website: www.simonestjames.com

Twitter: @simonestjames

Facebook: www.facebook.com/simonestjames

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/simonestjames/

Simone, thank you so much for sharing your time with us!  And there is a seriously awesome prize up for grabs today – Simone has agreed to give away a signed ARC of The Other Side of Midnight to a commenter on today’s post!  You have until midnight EST on January 22 to enter, and you can enter up to three times. Here’s how:

  1. Leave a comment below.
  2. Follow the blog! If you are already a follower, just mention that in your comment. There are links in the top right corner of this page to become a follower.
  3. Post a link to this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter. Again, you can just let me know in your comment that you’ve done this. I trust you.

On Friday, I will use the Random Number Generator to pick a winner. Good luck!

Pink V Week 2 in Review

pudding Happy Friday! First off, congratulations to the winner of the signed copy of The Mischief of the Mistletoe: it’s carmabeth! If you will send me an email at ashley.pinkforallseasons@gmail.com, I will get your prize in the mail to you. As for the rest of you, don’t despair! There are still seven Pink books to go.

On to chapters ten through sixteen of Pink V.

Poor Arabella has realized that, if Catherine Carruthers goes for another night-time walkabout, she could very well lose her position at Miss Climpson’s. Her attempts to catch Catherine in the act lead to the hilarious scene where Sally, Lizzy and Agnes help Arabella round up a prowler. When Miss Climpson arrives on the scene, the carpets are covered in porcelain shards, furniture is overturned, and Lizzy Reid is sitting victoriously on the back of the phony music master, whose mustachios are drooping right off his face. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh at Miss Climpson or wonder why parents paid her to look after their daughters when she seemed more concerned about Signor.Marconi’s posture and breathing than what he was doing trespassing on school grounds at night.

Two incredibly sweet things happen in these chapters. First, we learn that Turnip has been watching over Miss Climpson’s at night from the gardens, with the occasional spot of relief from his valet, Gerkin (Lauren kills me). We know this is Sally’s school, but you don’t get the impression he’s standing outside all night in a wet British December from a sense of familial duty. Second, Turnip scales the trellis up to Arabella’s window. What follows is admittedly wonderful, but it’s important to remember Turnip’s intentions when he starts searching for ivy – he wants to talk to Arabella, and to make sure she’s okay. Everything that follows is icing on the cake, but I love that the only thought in Turnip’s head when he started scaling the walls was Arabella’s peace of mind.

And again, I have to say – poor Arabella. She’s having a rough time at Miss Climpson’s. Between worrying that Catherine’s behavior will get her sacked and trying to decide if Turnip’s intentions are honest, she has to deal with a terrible violation of her privacy.  She returns from a day of Christmas shopping with Jane to find that her room has been vandalized. In addition to stealing the notebook that Arabella found during the altercation with Signor Marconi, the person responsible has damaged the majority of Arabella’s belongings. She doesn’t have much in the world to begin with, only a few dresses that aren’t school uniforms and a handful of nice accessories, all of which have been torn, stained or broken. This is a prime example of why I say Arabella is scrappy. She lets herself have a ten second pity party, and then immediately moves into recovery mode: “None of it was irreparable. Ink stains could be washed out; linen could be ironed; coral could be restrung.” She’s just been dealt a major blow, but she’s already got her game face back on.

Then there is the Christmas pageant scene, which is hilarious because it’s so authentic to the real life experience of watching or participating in a school play. I never thought about this before, but Lauren includes lots of plays in these stories! Mary and Arabella have both been involved in theatricals in some form or another, and I can think of at least two more examples of plays from later in the series. But I digress.  Amidst the confusion of an entire class of teenage girls blundering on and off stage and forgetting their lines, Turnip and Arabella are having trouble communicating. I really did want to throw things at Arabella and tell her to quit being so cold to Turnip at several points during these last two chapters. But honestly, once you read the rest of the book and see what the majority of her experience is like with men of the ton, you can’t blame her. She doesn’t expect Turnip to care about her at all, because no one else ever has. EVER. Good thing we know that, as is the case with each of the Pink books, all will come to a happy end.

What were your favorite quotes or moments from this section of Pink V?