Pink VII Week 1 in Review

Today’s post was written by Abby.


First, a reminder of the chapters and dates for the recaps:

Friday, March 6: Prologue and Chapters 1-7

Friday, March 13: Chapters 8-15

Friday, March 20: Chapters 16-23

Friday, March 27: Chapters 24-33

There are also other things I will be talking about throughout the month, and Miss Eliza will again be bringing us her casting ideas and if anyone wants to do a guest post, let Ashley know.

As we covered over the weekend, this book opens with the food of love- grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches. It’s February of 2004 and Eloise and Colin are just starting to settle into a relationship with each other. Eloise’s thoughts are turning towards India and matchmaking for Colin’s sister Serena and Colin’s friend Martin. A later Eloise chapter will take us back to Mrs. Selwick-Alderly’s ever helpful archival collections, though once again these will help Eloise both with her research on both the nineteenth-century and her growing understanding of Colin and his family.

In the meantime, the fall of 2004 takes us to a ship entering Calcutta harbor where Penelope Deveraux’s marriage to Lord Frederick Staines is proving challenging for both of them. Freddy has been assigned to “gather intelligence” on James Kirkpatrick, the English Resident in Hyderabad, whom Lord Wellesley fears has “gone soft. Too much time in India, you know.” Penelope, however, doubts that Freddy has much intelligence to offer anyone.

By the end of Chapter One, Penelope has met Colonel William Reid and, more importantly, met Alex Reid who will be escorting the Staines to Hyderabad and we continue to hear more about what both Alex and Penelope think about each other throughout the early chapters. Future chapters will find Penelope hunting among Alex’s papers for information on his activities, discussing human sacrifices, outriding Alex on Alex’s horse, Bathsheba, and diving into a river to rescue a groom, while Alex remains ever perplexed (and ever more intrigued) by her behavior.

Two major themes throughout this book are family and loyalty and, perhaps more importantly, where these elements intersect with each other. The Reid family offers Alex and his twin sister Kat, children to Colonel and Mrs. Reid, George and Lizzy, children to one Indian woman, and Jack, son to another Indian woman. However complex their relations, their affection for each other is apparent in Alex’s letter to Lizzy and George’s greeting of Alex and Colonel Reid’s discussion of all his children. Even in these early chapters, however, it is becoming clear that while relations among Colin’s family are equally complex, that same open affection may not be part of the equation. Pairing the period and contemporary and chapters is, of course, a common trope among time slip novels and the parallels here strike me as important ones. What do any of you think of the families we see in this book, even at this early point? What hints do we have about Penelope’s own family?

By the time the first seven chapters are completed, we have a thorough (re)introduction to Penelope and Freddy and an introduction to shifting Anglo-Indian relationships in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. If Alex, James Kirkpatrick and Colonel Reid are the eighteenth-century lace (to use my earlier analogy, Freddy and Lord Wellesley are decidedly the leather of the nineteenth-century in which the lives of English colonists and Indian natives are intended to be lived on separate tracks. While all of Lauren’s books provide us with historical figures among the fictional characters, this book is particularly filled with them and I will talk more about this in my next recap. What other books have you read in which the author did this? What do you make of this as a literary and a historical strategy?

And for anyone wanting to read more, Lauren provides suggestions of titles in the afterward and the “Two Nerdy History Girls” blog has, entirely coincidentally, also been addressing eighteenth and nineteenth century India in the past few weeks- here’s a link to a recent post for anyone who is interested:


9 thoughts on “Pink VII Week 1 in Review

  1. I have two comments: I tried to post this the other day and somehow messed it all up: Penelope and I hate when she is referred to as Lady Frederick (LOL) That is so stupid, does anyone know the history behind that? I’m not sure if it is the feminist in me that rebels against that, I don’t even like for instance Mr. & Mrs. Husband First Name and last name…. Secondly I think Penelope has more affection for her second family (friends and friends family) than she does for her real family and husband (and misses them more too) which echoes Alex’s sentiment about his family including his half siblings.

    • I’m curious as to the reference to Penelope as Lady Frederick also. Having read a number of books from this time period, I’m used to hearing wives referred to as Lady ***** using the name of their husband’s title, or if untitled using the last name. In a recent book, the wife of the Marquess of Deene was called Lady Deene. Another would be Lady Carrington, using the husband’s last name. So that’s why Lady Frederick seemed a bit strange to me rather than Lady Staines. I have no idea what the proper form would be, because I haven’t done the research.

  2. This is my first post in this reread and I want to say how much I have enjoyed it. M. M. Kaye wrote 2 really interesting novels on British residents in India in the 19th century, Shadow of the Moon set during the Mutiny in 1859 and Far Pavilions a saga stretching from about 1856 to about 1887. M. M. Kaye herself was born and grew up in India from a family which served in the British army in India through this time. I think I remember reading that Lauren said she had read them too. I enjoyed Betrayal of the Blood Lily as showing the generations before Shadow of the Moon.

    • Hi Helen! Like you, I fell in love with M M Kaye’s books about India. Which is your favorite? I really can’t decide. Lauren says her favorite novel by Kaye is Trade Winds, which is set in Zanzibar. Have you read that one? I haven’t. Also, I keep meaning to read “The Sun in the Morning,” the part of her autobiography that takes place in India, but I haven’t yet.

      • Has anyone else read M.M. Kaye’s The Ordinary Princess? It’s the first of her books I read and I loved it as a child. I can’t remember if this is before or after this part of Blood Lily but Mrs. Seldwick-Alderly does mention being friends with M.M. Kaye, which must have been a fun connection for Lauren to create.

  3. I’m so excited for this month’s read. I love Penelope! She’s so different from the other heroines we have met so far. And I think this was the perfect time in the series to take the characters somewhere else in the world. I feel like India gives Penelope a setting to become a truer version of herself than England ever would have. I do think it’s interesting (and sad) that when Penelope longs for home, she doesn’t miss her own family, she misses the love and comfort from the Uppington family. And how opposite her feelings for her family are from Alex’s. His is obviously a loving and supportive family despite their differences.

  4. Well said, Bekah! I, too, was happy to see the setting change to India and think it is perfect for Penelope. I like the way she is ready to charge right in and tackle whatever comes before her – riding a horse instead of traveling in the palanquin (sp.?), jumping into the river of crocodiles to rescue the groom, and not wilting in the harsh climate. She is an example of spunk. I believe one reference was to her taking after her paternal grandmother who liked horses and thought time was wasted in a ballroom – quite the opposite of Penelope’s mother. I think Penelope would have felt more comfortable as a member of the Uppington family. I hated it when Freddie didn’t even wait to see if she was all right after jumping into the river. She really has no one to rely on in this new environment, and it is easy to see how she could come to have little feeling for Freddy.

    As far as other books that make use of historical figures, I will mention two series. The first is Jennifer Donnelly’s Rose trilogy, The Tea Rose, The Winter Rose, and The Wild Rose. These books begin in 1888 in London highlighting the Finnegan family, living on the edge of poverty but with determination to improve their lot in life, and moving on to WWI in the last book. While a new main fictional character is introduced in each of the following books as a friend/associate of a family member, historical figures include Jack the Ripper, mountain climber George Mallory, and T.E. Lawrence. The setting switches back and forth between England, America, and Africa.
    Second is a series by S.J. Parris based around real life former monk Giordano Bruno, who flees to England and seeks help from his friend Sir Philip Sidney, son-in-law to Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster (all real characters). While their stories intermingle with fictional characters, we are also introduced to other historical figures such as John Dee and Sir Francis Drake. I think this is an excellent literary technique because it teaches me so much history in an entertaining way.

    • Betty, I haven’t read either of those series and they both sound good. While the more recent Outlander books have been challenging at times, Diana Gabaldon does a very good job with blending fictional and historical figures. The most recent one, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, was set in part around the battle of Monmouth from the American Revolution and I liked reading her portrayals of all the officers involved with that battle- they were quite the cast of characters and must have been fun to write about.

      And I love Penelope too! It’s so wonderful seeing all her energy beginning to have a place to be used for purposes other than balconies.

      • My husband read the Outlander series up until the last three, but was then getting tired of them. While they sound like something I would enjoy, I have never tackled them because of the length. I dont mind a long book, but haven’t had time for so many together. Too many on my tbr list. Maybe someday.

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