Pink VIII: Ask the Author

It may be a dreary Thursday (not sure how the weather is where you are, but it’s pretty ominous-looking outside my window), but I’m going to focus on The Orchid Affair and keep visualizing a spring day in the French countryside!

Today, Lauren is returning for another round of Ask the Author.  What questions do you have about Miss Laura Grey, Andre Jouen, and the rest of the Pink VIII crew?  Post your questions in the comments section, and Lauren will pop by later this afternoon to answer them.

As always, the Pink Fairy has a gift for a lucky commenter today.  The prize is a Pink VIII mug designed by Miss Eliza.  Et voilà:

pink viii mug

Want to see the mugs for all the books we’ve read so far?  They are all available on Zazzle.

Go forth and ask your questions, good readers!  And happy last-day-of Pink VIII to one and all.

Pink VIII Week 4 in Review

Before I hand this post over to Miss Eliza of Strange and Random Happenstance, I hope you will all join me in saying a big MERCI to her for hosting our April reread of The Orchid Affair.  Miss Eliza, thank you for being our tour guide through Paris in the springtime! And now, on to the last recap for Pink VIII.


Chapters 27-35 “They’re not the sort of characters who get happy endings.”

French Countryside, Beauvais, and Dieppe 1804: Laura is nearly frantic, why is acting so hard? If everything fell apart because of her she could never forgive herself. It’s infuriating how much a better actor André is then her. As he justly points out, he has had a lot of practice hiding his true self for the last few years, otherwise he wouldn’t still be alive. Seeing Laura’s vulnerability and trusting her despite knowing she isn’t fully honest with him, he opens up about his involvement with the Bourbon plot. The destruction of the revolution’s ideals proved to him that a stable government, even a monarchy, was better than living in a state of fear where allegiances shifted daily and your friends could be your enemies or your downfall the next minute, something his wife Julie could never see. André had forgotten how liberating it is to have someone to confide in, someone to share his burdens. They curl up for the long days ahead that will bring them to Beauvais and their first performance on stage.

Laura’s acting skills still haven’t improved and she is desperate. Laura and André are putting playbills up around Beauvais as she becomes more and more rattled. Finding Jaouen and Daubier’s wanted posters is almost the last straw. Her emotions, trapped for so many years behind practical gray wool, are resurging. André uses the simple expedient of covering the wanted posters with their playbill, but emotions between them are high, as is the danger of appearing in public. So high that Laura is threatening leaving the troupe to protect everyone, even against the Pink Carnation’s orders she can’t even dare to mention to André. The tension and emotion breaks in a revelatory kiss between the two. Breaking apart Laura realizes her folly and how their forced intimacy might just ruin everything. Rushing back to the inn the troupe has commandeered she slinks off to her room, hoping that André might just pass the night below stairs drinking with Leandro and Pantaloon. Once in bed she starts to parse out her emotions and realizes that she has been constrained for far too long and wants to be free again. André’s arrival in the room allows her to put action to thought and they fall on each other in faux connubial bliss. The only problem they now face is continuing to play a loving couple to the troupe, without hinting to their own smaller group that their relationship is far closer to the lie they are playing at.

Over the weeks that follow Laura and André become closer, and she even starts to become a competent actress. But the night has come to give up the stage. This night in Dieppe will be their last performance and then they shall sail for England. What happens next does have Laura worried. There is so much she has kept from André and she only knows that she wants to be with him, though she knows that is the true farce. Laura thinks she sees Delaroche in the audience but convinces herself that she is seeing things. Once onstage she realizes that she was horribly mistaken, it is Delaroche and he is making his way to Gabrielle! This can’t be happening. They are mere hours away from escape and the net is closing. Fearing Gabrielle’s capture when the little girl appears backstage they are relieved beyond measure, until she delivers Delaroche’s note; he has taken Pierre-André and his nurse Jeanette! André is willing to accept Delaroche’s offer of himself and the Duc du Berry for the two prisoners. Laura finds this unacceptable and says that at the boat they are to depart on that night, the Bien-Aimée, they shall find reinforcements.

Aboard the Bien-Aimée Laura’s world comes crashing down. They are greeted by non-other than the Purple Gentian, Lord Richard Selwick, who not only knows Jaouen, but congratulates Laura, Miss Grey, on a successful first mission. Laura knows that she has probably lost Jaouen, it’s never good to tell someone in a crisis that “I can explain.” It just doesn’t seem adequate enough. But explanations can wait for when everyone is safe. They devise a plan. Pierre-André and Jeanette are being held on the Cauchemar, two of Richard’s agents will cut the boat loose from the dock, then Lord Richard, Daubier, Jaouen, and two of Richard’s crew will use a dinghy, create a distraction, and rescue the captives, all while Gabrielle, Laura, and the Duc du Berry, stay safely on the Bien-Aimée. The rescue of Pierre-André and Jeanette goes too smoothly and they realize too late that Delaroche has truly lost his mind and created this elaborate distraction with prisoners tied to the main sail to get the Duc du Berry on his own. Rushing back to the Bien-Aimée they see through the windows of the cabin that they might be too late.

Though inside the cabin things aren’t as dire as they look to outsiders. Laura has decided to one up Delaroche and tries to convince him that she is also an agent working for Fouché and that he has now ruined months of work and he will be in for a drubbing. This distraction gives Richard and his men time enough to get into position and attack. Delaroche is captured and everyone is safe! Miss Grey has excelled at her first mission, though she feels it a pyrrhic victory. Laura retires to solitude on the back deck of the ship, which is where Jaouen finds her. She bares her soul saying that he did know the real her. Luckily he understands that life is made up of shades of gray and that “there’s honesty and there’s honesty” and as they embrace André asks for her hand in marriage, Laura agrees if the children will have her. They will no longer be alone.

Paris 2004: Jeremy’s announcement about the upcoming film shoot at Selwick Hall feels like a grenade has been launched at Colin and Eloise. It’s incomprehensible, Selwick Hall isn’t Jeremy’s family place, no matter how much he dreams it is and how many times he has offered to buy it. He has no right to be conferring access, only Colin, Serena, and Caroline have the right. Ah, but Jeremy is cunning. He obviously has Caro’s vote, she couldn’t care less, and he has bought Serena’s vote with the paycheck from the film company that will allow her to buy into the gallery she works at becoming a junior partner. Serena’s nerves are now explained as the betrayal dawns on Colin and Eloise. After all Colin has done for his sister, to do this! They exit the party, taking their leave of no one. Retracing their steps back to the hotel Colin is bottling up his feelings with regard to his family; his feelings to Eloise though are quite amorous. He might be trying to escape the reality of the situation in Eloise’s embrace, but she’s there for him, however he needs her.

The next morning Eloise is up bright and early, ready to head out to the Musée de la Préfecture de Police while Colin is at loose ends. His plans with his family while Eloise did her research must assuredly be cancelled… surely. Eloise decides that discretion is the better part of valor and Colin will talk when he feels like talking, and right now she has research to corroborate. Colin wasn’t kidding when he said the museum was in the police station. The displays are what she expected, the setting is not, but she at least found the place, after a few wrong turns. There in a far corner are the artifacts of the plot to restore the Bourbon monarchy, Jaouen’s wanted poster, Cadoudal’s arrest record. Digging into the archives Eloise finds all Jaouen’s paperwork and she has a secret smile for the only reference to the Silver Orchid as a governess who might be questioned with regard to Jaouen’s disappearance. Little did they know she was the mastermind. Colin reunites with Eloise after a long day of research, with the promise of coffee and a romantic time in Paris, with no family entanglements. During their time apart he went back to the museum he found Eloise at the day before and bought her the exhibition book for Artistes en 1789: Marguerite Gérard et Julie Beniet because he is such a wonderful boyfriend. In the glossy pages of the book Eloise learns that Jaouen and Laura married and moved to New Orleans, where Jaouen established a law practice, going on to become a state court judge. Pierre-André became a celebrated naturalist, while Gabrielle became quite the hoyden with a predilection for writing memoirs and discarding husbands. Knowing the fate of her research subjects, Eloise is ready to face the future with Colin. They will be there to monitor the interloping filmmakers and thwart any of Jeremy’s plans, just after this cup of coffee and a marzipan pig.

Pink VIII: Dream Casting

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


I admit that in my casting of Laura Grey I might have done a little typecasting. The thing is, I might actually be one of a few people who actually knew who Michelle Dockery was prior to Downton Abbey. Why you ask? Because of Terry Pratchett. With his recent death the world has lost one of the most amazing writers I have ever met, but luckily he lives on in his books and his few television adaptations. Hogfather was the first live action Terry Pratchett adaptation and was also Michelle Dockery’s second ever acting gig. She made quite an impression as Susan, the granddaughter of DEATH, so much so that she IS that character for me now. As it happens Susan was a governess. The same year Downton Abbey premiered Michelle was also the ill-fated governess in a new adaptation of The Turn of the Screw, ironically enough with Dan Stevens, her ill-fated Downton Abbey husband! Therefore she’s became kind of the go-to governess for me. But more than that, she has this ability to withdraw into herself that can mask her inner turmoil when needed. For some reason I had totally convinced myself that Downton Abbey didn’t play a part in Michelle being Laura for me, but looking at the fact that I first read this book only two days after watching the first season finale of Downton Abbey… I think that perhaps it played a little part.


As for Jaouen, the first time I read The Orchid Affair his casting was a mystery to me. I couldn’t see anyone playing him. This frustrated me more than a little and might have been a tiny bit of the reason as to why I fell behind on my dream casting for Lauren’s later books. So, as my OCD nature demands it of me, I’d occasionally be watching a show and think, hmm, could he be Jaouen? Sometime last year I thought I had finally found my André while watching the newest adaptation of The Three Musketeers, The Musketeers with Doctor Who! OK, so it doesn’t REALLY have Doctor Who, it’s just that the show was better before Peter Capaldi was killed off for him to go be The Doctor. There was Santiago Cabrera, the heartthrob Sir Lancelot from Merlin, oh, and the comic guy killed on Heroes. I thought, yes, I have found him. I have found my Jaouen at last! And then I started to re-read the book and in walked Dominic West. Dominic West has hijacked my dream casting! Yes, he’s a fabulous actor, if you were ever in any doubt watch The Hour. But seriously, I don’t know how he did it, whether he’s been lurking in my subconscious since I watched The Affair last fall waiting to pounce, or what. But, aside from surprising me, I do have to say, he’d make a great Jaouen!

Laura Grey played by Michelle Dockery
André Jaouen played by Dominic West

Pink VIII Week 3 in Review

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


Chapters 18-26: “If he is playing a double game, it’s a very deep one.”

Paris and Surrounding Countryside 1804: Laura’s discovery of the Duc de Berry throws everything she knows into turmoil. If Jaouen was helping to hide him that means she and he might be on the same side, making spying on him a little more than unnecessary! But when Jaouen rushes into Daubier’s studio he is just as wary of Laura as she is of him. Jaouen doesn’t have time to work out if he should trust Laura, if he should confide in her that he has spent all his time in Paris trying to make a better future for his children, a future that was the original dream of the Republic, not what it has degenerated into, a culture of fear and death. That his plan to restore the monarchy was destroyed by incompetence and ill timing all while his neck was on the line is his burden to bear, not hers. They don’t have the luxury of time in order to work out the mess they are in as Delaroche has already sent two guards to the studio.

Laclos and Maugret stumble into the studio to find Jaouen brazenly out in the open, hoping to forestall a search of the premise as Laura and the Duc de Berry are hiding in the next room. Just when Jaouen thinks he has the two guards under control a loud crash from the other room looks to destroy their plans, but Laura saves the day. Stripping down to her chemise and wrapping herself in a red throw, she undulates into the studio pretending she has just woken up from Daubier’s bed. Her dishabille is enough to distract the men, Jaouen included, as she revels in a role that is so antithetical to whom she is. Hopefully her performance goes a little way to convince Jaouen that she is to be trusted as she sends the two guards on a wild goose chase to a warehouse supposedly used by Daubier for his Royalist activities. That should keep the guards busy for a little while at least!

The three of them return to the Hôtel de Bac where the Duc de Berry will watch over Laura while Jaouen goes into work and sees what he can do for Daubier. As Pierre-André appears on the steps having awoken from a nightmare Jaouen realizes all that he has risked. He is a stranger to his children and has now placed their lives in danger all for a plot that is quickly unraveling and to which his feelings were equivocal at best. At dawn he returns home unable to have helped Daubier, he realizes that to free the painter he has to play the only card available to him, claim to be transferring him on Fouché’s orders, while in reality releasing him. The only problem is that following this drastic step Jaouen’s life is over and he must disappear. This is where Laura offers to help, not offering up the Pink Carnation, but claiming it as a service needing to be rendered to Daubier as an old family friend. But Laura is placing all her hopes in the Pink Carnation not knowing whether Jane can deliver.

In the misty morning at the Jardins du Luxembourg, Laura and the Pink Carnation share a shelter as the rain conveniently falls. Laura recounts to Jane that Jaouen has really been a Royalist all along and that they had planned to get access to Napoleon through Daubier, who has now been arrested. Their plan is obviously destroyed with Daubier’s imprisonment, but Jane is delighted that Laura has found the Duc du Berry. It is imperative that the prince of the blood is removed swiftly from Paris, and Jane thinks she just might be able to help. But a person needing to leave a city whose gates are barred is hard enough, make it a party of seven people, and you’re talking serious planning with only 24 hours in which to do it. But the Pink Carnation isn’t a thorn in the side of the French without reason!

The next dawn finds Jaouen at the Temple Prison collecting Daubier prior to his rendezvous with the rest of his party at a rundown tavern. Daubier is despondent, Delaroche in his zealotry has shattered the old painter’s will to live by destroying his right hand, finger by finger, joint by joint. Despite this Jaouen gets the old man free and gets to the rendezvous where he realizes that his family, now increased by several members, will be hiding in plain sight as a travelling Commedia dell’arte troupe, the Commedia dell’Aruzzio! The troop of seven members “lost” two actors recently, and it is a stretch for five actors to properly put on a show, so they are grateful for the arrival of this motley family. Jaouen and Laura will play husband and wife, with Daubier and Jeanette as their parents as well as the new scene painter and wardrobe mistress respectively. Only one of the troupe is in on their secret, so they will have to act for their passage to the coast, both onstage and off, following the troops month long prearranged performances.

Safely escaping the checkpoint to get out of Paris thanks to Gabrielle putting in a star turn as an actress, they trundle out into the countryside, living rough to save money, and to conceal themselves as best they can without arousing the suspicion on the rest of the troupe. Laura didn’t realize how hard it would be to be Jaouen’s wife, with all the intimacy that requires. At least she is able to take on that role far easier than that of Ruffiana. Laura, it turns out, is an atrocious actress. She can dissemble and become anything offstage, put her onstage and she can’t act to save herself. But that’s the crux of the problem, she is acting to save herself and her fellow travelling companions. If she can’t find some way to be convincing, or at least passable as Ruffiana, then how long before the rest of the troupe catches on and they are once again in imminent danger?

Paris 2004: The gallery opening cum birthday party of Caroline Selwick-Selwick-Alderly, or however she hyphenates her name now, has begun. Caro isn’t what Eloise expected, thinking that she was a belittling and abusive mother straight out of Mommie Dearest, resulting in her children’s issues, but it appears she’s more indifferent and distant; but lack of love can be just as bad as the wrong kind. Serena’s advice to Eloise that her mother wouldn’t even notice her because she had nothing she wanted was spot on, Eloise being dismissed in an instant from Caro’s personage. This leaves Eloise time to look at the paintings. They truly are beautiful, but they are devoid of portraits, Caro obviously doesn’t like to paint them, but she does like to surround herself with people, all of the Eurotrash variety. Speaking of the devil, Eloise bumps into Melinda, whom in fairness Pammy had warned her about as lurking in Paris. Melinda is there with her client, she is PA for the hot new actor Micah Stone. Melinda’s presence ties into the speech that Jeremy is currently making. He has eschewed all pretense that the night is about his wife and has made himself the center of attention as he ominously announces that Micah Stone’s new movie, a musical version of Much Ado About Nothing, is going to be filmed at Selwick Hall; Colin’s Selwick Hall.

The Commedia dell’arte

This post was written by Miss Eliza of Strange and Random Happenstance.1_Commedia

The reason I became a theatre major is primarily because so many classes were cross listed with art. I took set painting and design, lighting, props, drafting, costumes, makeup, I took so many hands-on crafting classes that one day it came as a shock to me that I was only a few classes away from getting a second degree. So I decided to bite the bullet and take those few classes that remained: history, writing, and acting. Of all these, acting was by far the one I dreaded the most, and I also got an injury during it because of a tennis ball. The history classes were actually quite fun, except for all those Greek plays, seriously, ugh. Basically the history classes were reading plays. Yep, all it was was reading! Occasionally we’d have to act out screens, my group might not have been the best actors, but we always had the best props, and yes, there were sheep, and no, I’m not joking. Aphra Behn to George Bernard Shaw, Aristophanes to Eugene O’Neill, we studied the texts and the greater movements these plays fit within. Therefore it should come as no surprise that we studied the Commedia dell’arte.

The Commedia dell’arte is interesting though in that it’s based on stock characters represented by their costumes while the story itself is conventional plots revolving around certain subjects from sex to jealousy with completely improvised dialogue. Commedia dell’arte was the Whose Line is it Anyway? of the day, to a certain extent. Seeing as there’s no script to read you are studying the costumes and the archetypes, which fascinated me. Especially the costumes! Yes, I adore costumes, seriously, what fan of historical fiction doesn’t? The thought of slipping into the clothes and becoming someone else, it’s so liberating. So not only was the Commedia dell’arte covered in just my theatrical history class, but in my costuming class as well. If I thought reading plays was fun, costuming was watching movies like Elizabeth with Cate Blanchett and talking about beadwork! Bliss! But, one thing is certain, if you haven’t had a little primer on the Commedia dell’arte, you might be a little lost with regards to the characters, and that’s what I’m here for!

Because the Commedia dell’arte is based on stock characters, you can pick and choose which stock characters to use in the production of a travelling troupe. This is why when Jaouen says he sees himself more as a Scaramouche then as Il Capitano, Cécile says that if he really wants to be that character it can be arranged. But let’s just look to those characters that make up the Commedia dell’Aruzzio.


Pantaloon (head of the Commedia dell’Aruzzio, no one knows his real name):
Pantalone is the metaphorical representation of money in the commedia world, having the look of a hunch-backed old man from protecting his money bag. Being based on currency and ego he is sinister and often inhumane in his treatment towards his fellow characters. Pantalone is presented either as a widower or bachelor; and despite his age, makes numerous unsuccessful passes at women. He regards intelligence highly but is the butt of every conceivable trick. He is usually the blustering father figure to one of the lovers, another stock character found in commedia, whom he strives to keep from their respective lover.


Innamorati, The Lovers: Leandro and Inamorata (gawky youth and Rose, the lover of powerful men):
These characters sole purpose is being in love with one another, and moreover with themselves; being young, very attractive, and elegant, wearing the finest silks and jewelry, as well as being some of the only unmasked characters. Despite facing many obstacles, the Lovers are always united by the end, usually because of the help of other characters because they are too stupid to figure out anything on their own. But they are more in love with love then in love with each other. Overly dramatic, they fret and pout, but are shy in the presence of their lover, needing the help of servants as a go-between, think Cyrano de Bergerac. They are also aware of the audience’s presence, adding to the audience participation and mutability of the Commedia dell’arte. They can have any of a variety of names, Leandro and Inamorata are just two of many options available.


Harlequin (the short, ferret-faced man):
The Harlequin is characterized by his chequered costume, this role being where the costume name comes from. While in essence a buffoon carrying a wooden sword or magic wand, his role is that of a light-hearted, nimble and astute servant, often acting to thwart the plans of his master. He spends much of his time pursuing his own love interest, Colombine, with wit and resourcefulness, while often competing with the sterner and melancholic Pierrot, Colombine’s husband. While Harlequin inherits his physical agility and his trickster qualities, as well as his name, from a mischievous “devil” character in medieval passion plays (here passion plays aren’t about romance, they’re about the bible and the life of Christ and might have sheep in them) he also embodies the prototype of the romantic hero. Therefore, he’s a bit of a Rake!


Columbine (Cécile, aka, the only one in the troupe in “the know” whose onstage character mirrors this):
Columbine is a comedic maidservant playing the tricky slave type. She is married to Pierrot, who is oddly missing from the Commedia dell’Aruzzio, all while being Harlequin’s mistress. Her costume is a ragged and patched dress, appropriate to a hired servant, but occasionally she is in motley to mirror Harlequin. She’s often the only functionally intelligent character onstage, able to aid the lovers, carry on an affair and thwart the unwanted advances of Pantalone, who she often hits with a tambourine.


Ruffiana (Laura’s assumed character, after the troupe’s Ruffiana “stayed behind” with Capitano):
Ruffiana is the older female of the cast, therefore being categorized as the shrewish matron or witch. She has a shady past and quite possibly used to be a prostitute. As a character she is associated with the older antagonistic male characters, Pantalone and Capitano, who are referred to as the vecchi. Ruffiana is most often romantically involved with Pantalone, though his love may easily be unrequited if it suits the plot.


Capitano (Jaouen’s assumed character):
Capitano is an outsider, who often talks at length about made up conquests of both the militaristic and carnal nature in attempts to impress others, i.e. a blowhard and a pompous ass as well as a coward when not overcome by the fury of his passion. He is also extremely opportunistic and greedy. Handily for Jaouen, he wears glasses, although used to compensate for his poor vision, Capitano will insist that it is so the brilliant or fierce glint in his handsome eyes will not outshine the sun. Dressed in military regalia, with his sword at his side, if he were to ever work up enough nerve to draw it the comedy would ensue as it is usually too long to draw easily or too heavy or wobbly to wield properly.


Scaramouche (who Jaouen sees himself as):
Is a combination of the characteristics of Capitano and a servant. Scaramouche entertains the audience by his “grimaces and affected language”. Scaramouche can be clever or stupid, as the actor sees fit to portray him. Jaouen probably wishes to play the character just so Lauren can reference the book by Rafael Sabatini, Scaramouche, which helped to inspire The Orchid Affair and was about a young lawyer during the French Revolution who ends up in the Commedia dell’arte! A coincidence? I think not!

In which I am pondering a personal reading quirk

At what point do you give up on a book?

I struggle with this. The English teacher in me does not want to give up on a book – EVER. I want to finish it and be able to find something of value. The competitive, neurotic list-maker in me doesn’t want to give up because I don’t want to be able to say it beat me and I want to add it to my list of books I’ve read. And the lit lover in me doesn’t want to give up because, hey, it’s a book and surely every book has something in it to make it worthwhile. I have this mental picture of the Island of Misfit Toys in my head when I think of the books that I can’t love, and I’m sad that I can’t find it inside of me to appreciate a book on some level.

But that’s ridiculous, right? I’m not going to love every book I ever attempt. My TBR pile is raging out of control. In fact, it’s less like a pile and more like several stacks that are slowly but surely taking over my living room. I have so many new releases this year that I’m excited about, and I work in walking distance from an eight story library. Eight. Story. I will never live long enough to read all the books I want to read, and I want to be sure I have time to reread my favorites periodically too. So why waste time slogging through something that I’m not enjoying just so that I can say I finished?

I ask because I started a book in January and I can’t seem to motivate myself to carry on with it. It’s The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth. I specifically asked my friend to buy it for me for Christmas (if you’re reading this, Alana, I’m sorry!  I will pick better this year).  I should be loving this book. It’s about fairy tales. It’s got a beautiful cover. It’s historical fiction and romance. It’s by an author that I’ve read and liked in the past (although, in fairness, it took me quite a while to really get into Bitter Greens too). And yet…

I have completely stalled on reading this. I hit a point in the book where I can tell something is about to happen, and I am really, REALLY not happy about it. Part of me says, “Power through it, finish the stupid thing, and move on.” Another part of me says, “Just let it go already.” Which voice to listen to?

At the moment, I’ve given up on it because I have Orchid Affair, My Dear Bessie (which I am LOVING – more on that at a later date), and 2 ARCs that I am really pumped about. So I have moved on for the time being, but I’m arguing with myself about whether or not I will eventually go back to The Wild Girl and finish it up.

So here’s what I’m wondering – what would you do? Are you the type of person who opens a book, reads a chapter, and has no trouble saying, “Not my thing – moving on.” Are you the type that feels like, in order to have given this book a fighting chance, you read 150 pages or so and then think, “Well, I made it this far. Might as well finish.” Or are you somewhere in the middle?

Pink VIII Week 2 in Review

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


Chapters 8-17: “What had he expected, wrought iron?”

Paris, 2004: Perhaps walking out on Colin in a huff wasn’t the mature thing to do. Sure, her romantic weekend might be spoiled, but really she’s just tagging along on what might be a very stressful weekend for Colin and Serena. Instead of going to the Musée de la Préfecture de Police Eloise pulls out the flyer she picked up in the hotel lobby for the exhibit Artistes en 1789: Marguerite Gérard et Julie Beniet and makes a snap decision. Perhaps Eros isn’t smiling on her this weekend, but whatever god is in charge of dissertations just might be. After all, Julie Beniet was the wife of André Jaouen, the man whose house the Silver Orchid had been placed in as governess fresh out of the Selwick’s Spy School. While looking at a picture of Jaouen, Eloise perpetrates the greatest of sins to museum guards the world over, her cell phone rings. Thankfully it’s Colin, she longs to apologize but he garbles out something about being with the police and for her to stay where she is. While waiting for Colin, Eloise is imagining all the horrors as to why he was with the police, never thinking that perhaps the museum she had intended to visit was in the police station… after an inconvenient yet diverting call from her best friend Pammy about their mutual nemesis from school, Melinda, Colin arrives and explains that he might have inadvertently given the police the idea that Eloise is missing. They head back to the hotel arm in arm, safe in the knowledge that Serena won’t be sharing their room.

Before joining Serena for drinks prior to the gallery opening cum birthday celebration, Colin and Eloise walk along the Seine. After a day of misunderstandings Paris has decided to reward the couple with the type of romantic stroll usually reserved for movies starring Audrey Hepburn. At a little kiosk selling antique books the god of dissertations, whomever he might be, once again shines on Eloise. There, among the multiple volume works of Hugo and Dumas is a slim red volume that calls to her. The book is a volume of poetry, Venus’s Feast. Chiara di Veneti. Chansons d’Amor, otherwise known as the book written by the mother of the Silver Orchid. Colin gallantly negotiates the price down and then buys it for Eloise as a token of not just love, but luck in research. They finally meet up with Serena at the Café Le Victor Hugo, where Serena is looking frailer than ever with a short bobbed haircut. She has also definitely been hitting the champagne and is jumpy and anxious, despite the good news of a possible promotion at work, making Eloise worried for her and more than a little nervous about the night to come. Serena says not to worry, Eloise has nothing to offer their mother and is therefore not important in their mother’s eyes. As they finish their drinks an elegant lady exits a car in front of the gallery the event is at, followed by the slimy Jeremy… mother has arrived and it is time to face the music.
Paris 1804: Laura’s rendezvous has come. She is excited as she makes her way to yet another bookshop. Are all bookshops in Paris in a secret spy network? It’s a heady experience living this double life, and Laura has yet to adjust. Laura’s spirits are soon dampened when she spies that execrable poet, Augustus Whittlesby, holding court and complaining about the engravings on his latest ode to Jane. Forget the spy network, is Whittlesby in every bookshop? Laura is shocked to find out that Whittlesby is her contact. But in the back room of the bookshop, their voices muffled by the printing presses, she is amazed by the change that overcomes the poet. He is direct and coherent and commanding, making Laura realize what an amazing actor he is to pull off his poetic performance. Laura passes on the information regarding the interrogation at the Abbaye, while Whittlesby helps fill in the blanks. There is a Royalist plot afoot in Paris. While you would think that the organization of the Pink Carnation would regard a return to the Bourbon monarchy as welcome, the plot is so badly organized it is a risk to their cause versus a boon and must therefore be stopped. Laura is to keep her eyes and ears open, in particular for Cadoudal or Picot, two of the conspirators. If she hears anything she is to contact the Pink Carnation through the regular channels. She leaves the shop with renewed fervor and a copy of Aesop’s Fables in Latin under her arm.

Outside the shop on the Rue Saint-Honoré the Sunday afternoon has a holiday spirit. Laura is reminded of spending time as a child on this street at the Café de la Régence watching her father playing chess with the famous painter Antoine Daubier. Daubier has a new opponent these days and it’s Laura’s employer, Jaouen; and he is awaiting Daubier at the same café. Laura engages Jaouen in small talk, impressed by his governess’s dedication to his children on her half day, or so Laura has it appear. On Daubier’s arrival he is shocked not only to see Laura, but to find that her path in life has brought her so low as to suffer being a governess. But Daubier’s shock is nothing to Jaouen’s. Of course governesses must come from somewhere, but to learn that his employee’s father was the greatest sculptor of his age, Michel de Griscogne, that Laura herself was the model in Daubier’s famous painting, The Girl with the Finch, that she spent her childhood in the studio of his own wife Julie’s tutor and mentor; it is almost too much to comprehend. Their happy group is interrupted by Delaroche, Cadoudal has been found but evaded capture. While Jaouen goes off with Delaroche to deal with this newest development that is sure to makes Laura’s next report to the Pink Carnation, Daubier escorts Laura home to the Hôtel de Bac while warning her to leave Jaouen’s service and if need be to come to him. It is a sweet offer come too late and when it is no longer wanted or desired.

Cadoudal’s rooms are searched and the evidence all points to a prince of the blood having returned to Paris, but as Jaouen points out to Delaroche, the evidence left behind is too useful, suggesting that it is a plant, so that they go off chasing their tales while the real plot is left undiscovered. Leaving the boarding house and weary with a long night’s work ahead, Jaouen stops by the Hôtel de Bac to change clothes and say goodnight to his children. At least that was the plan, instead, after finding out about this whole hidden history his governess has he engages Laura in discussion and connects Laura to her mother, the scandalous, but much loved poet, Chiara di Veneti. They commiserate over what it is like to live with someone who is struck by the Muse. Laura herself was always proficient, but unable to attain greatness and this frustrated her parents, much as the infant Gabrielle insulted Jaouen’s dead wife Julie, by chewing on a paintbrush versus producing a masterpiece before she could even speak. The result of their conversation is that Jaouen invites Laura to a salon of sorts that he holds once a month at the house, inviting painters and poets, connecting the muses with the artists with their patrons in honor of Julie. He would be honored if Laura would come as his guest.

Little does Laura know that the salons are really there to keep an eye on the artistic community under the guise of Julie’s memory. Jaouen knows that his wife would be appalled that he is responsible for ferreting out unrest and monitoring those that were her friends. Yet, it is better him then Delaroche. Laura uncomfortably mingles with the guests, shocked to find that both Augustus Whittlesby and the Pink Carnation are present. Her spying superiors seem to break the rules more often then follow them, and perhaps that is the secret of their success. While going from room to endless room in the Hôtel de Bac, transformed with gauze and flowers from its usual decrepitude, in the last room Laura stumbles on Daubier and Jaouen in hushed tones. From their reaction, it appears that they didn’t want interlopers, though Delaroche’s arrival signals a far more dangerous interloper. Jaouen has been able to maintain these salons by distancing himself from his job and his coworkers, Delaroche’s appearance could destroy all that he has built. While Jaouen tries to deal with Delaroche, the Pink Carnation makes contact with Laura, subtly passing her the information whilst once again breaking protocol, that they are to meet at ten the next morning in the Jardins de Luxembourg.

But will Laura make her meeting? Delaroche destroys the evening by arresting Daubier. Was this the plan all along? Is Jaouen in league with Delaroche despite privately condemning him? Laura doesn’t know who to trust and is questioning everything. In fear for the only father figure she might still have she sneaks out the back of the Hôtel de Bac and rushes to Daubier’s studio four blocks away in the Palace Royale, only she isn’t the first one there. Jaouen’s cousin Philippe is there and she makes a dangerous and deadly connection. Philippe isn’t Jaouen’s cousin, he is the Duc de Berry, third in line for the throne and the prince of the blood everyone is looking for!

Who’s That Girl?

This post was written by Miss Eliza of Strange and Random Happenstance.
“Miss Who?”

“Grey,” said Amy, herding Henrietta into a small drawing room at the front of the house. “She was a governess. “

If you look at all the Pink Carnation books you will notice a trend. The hero or the heroine, or in some cases both, have been known to us for a while. They might be bit players that slowly started to inveigle their way into the plot, or, if they were very demanding, their own book. Culled from the ton, they were all part of the existing world Lauren had built. And then came Laura Grey. Never before or since has a book hinged on an almost unknown entity. This, more than anything, is what draws me to The Orchid Affair, this departure away from English aristocrats. While being a part of the larger whole, it is also its own little microcosm within this bigger series. If not for the Eloise and Colin chapters it’s almost a fresh start for the series, and it’s all because of Laura.

So why is it that I am so drawn to a heroine who had quite literally the least amount of time previously on the page? I think it just comes down to the fact that she’s a clean slate. With series you can get bogged down in extensive character histories. There’s a reason that series like Outlander end up having companion books or need to be continually re-read, one brain can only hold so much. Also, there’s so much time recapping and going over the same ground to catch people up to speed that as a reader you’re either bored or lost. By having Jaouen and Laura both be almost completely self-contained within this one volume it creates a more individual book. Yes, the appearances of old friends and foes in cameos are nice, but the book would still work without them.

So who is Laura? To Jaouen and me, she is a fascinating subject. Her outward appearance is nothing more than a well-constructed lie that she has been forced to live for sixteen years. Laura is the perfect governess in every way, because she’s made sure that’s how she looks. She then was approached by the Pink Carnation and enrolled in the Selwick’s Spy School where she perfunctorily played the piano at Henrietta and Miles’s ad hoc wedding. But as we and Jaouen are starting to learn she has amazing hidden depths. Raised in the salons of Paris she had a famous sculpture for a father and a famous poetess for a mother, her life was free. Her life was the exact opposite of the life she has to create for herself. Her parents died in a boating accident during a squall and I imagine that they would have gotten along quite well with Byron and Shelley as they experimented artistically and sexually. Laura is so far removed from the heroines we are used to I ask you this question, is she your type of heroine or would you prefer what we’re used to?

Pink VIII: A New Kind of Hero


My Pink VIII reading over the weekend got me thinking about the heroes we’ve seen so far in the Pink series. I think Andre Jaouen represents a new kind of hero in the series, but Lauren’s been working on breaking her hero-mold for the last three books.

If you think about it, Richard, Miles and Geoff are fairly similar hero material. They are aristocrats, born and raised in the ton, motivated by patriotism and more than a tiny bit of desire for adventure. I’m not saying they are all the same hero (I know who my favorite is of the three), but their backgrounds are fairly similar.

I would argue that Turnip Fitzhugh, while he has a category all his own in my heart, falls pretty neatly in line with Richard, Miles and Geoff.

So we had a series of four heroes, all cut from a similar cloth (though fantastic in their own ways). And then along came Robert from The Temptation of the Night Jasmine. Robert is the duke-by-accident. He’s not really at home in Girdings or in Charlotte’s familiar landscape of season entertainments and court duties. He’s accustomed to a rougher life than our previous heroes, and he has spent most of the later years of his life overseas. Quite simply, he doesn’t feel he belongs in Charlotte’s world.

In The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, Alex Reid takes a step even further afield. He frequently muses on the fact that he feels more Indian that British, and he’s certainly not a member of the aristocracy. In fact, at the beginning of their acquaintance, Penelope thinks of Alex more as a type of servant rather than an equal. I felt like their relationship was the first to really cross a social divide, which seems funny in retrospect, because Penelope has far more in common with Alex than she ever had with Freddy, her social equal.

But with The Orchid Affair, Lauren takes us into uncharted territory and gives us a hero who is from the other side. Andre is French. He was a revolutionary. He currently holds a position of power in Bonaparte’s regime. He is Laura’s assignment, as far from an ally as you could possibly get. And yet (without getting too far ahead of our reread), he and Laura turn out to be fantastically compatible.

Was this shift toward a new kind of hero something anyone else noticed? Does this seem intentional to you, or do you think it’s the happy accident of situations and times as Lauren continued her series? And who is your favorite hero so far?

Pink VIII Week 1 in Review

Happy Friday, one and all!  Before I turn this post over to Miss Eliza for our recap, let’s congratulate the winner of the signed copy of The Orchid Affair: Daniele K! Daniele, if you will send your address to, I will get your prize in the mail to you ASAP.  Now over to Miss Eliza!


Prologue and Chapters 1-7: “There was no such thing as a silver orchid”

Paris, 2004: You would think Eloise and Colin would be excited to get away to Paris for a long weekend; but sadly that long weekend is being organized by Colin’s step-father, and estranged cousin, Jeremy, as a birthday celebration for Colin’s mother. Yes, family gatherings with the Selwick family tend to run to the awkward, but as Colin says, it saves on Christmas cards when your cousin runs off with you mother on your father’s deathbed and eventually marries her. In an attempt to not let Jeremy micromanage every second they are in Paris, Colin and Eloise have cancelled their reservations at the George V, like they could afford that, and checked into the Minerve, which is certainly cute, and pink, and very very tiny.

The ostensible reason for their hotel change is that Eloise wants to get some research done on her dissertation while in Paris and the George V is too far away. What better place to research “Aristocratic Espionage during the Wars with France, 1792-1815” then the very hotbed of espionage, circa 1804? Colin wasn’t sure if this was a ruse for Jeremy’s benefit or not. But when a rather irate Eloise storms off to the Musée de la Préfecture de Police to look into their papers to corroborate information she found in Colin’s family’s archive, and in particular the spy the Silver Orchid, one of the first graduates from the Selwick Spy School, Colin isn’t left in any doubt. As to why Colin is still at the hotel and not walking arm and arm with Eloise down the Seine eating marzipan pigs? When Colin added his sister Serena to their hotel, he might have added them to their room, not to her own room.

Paris, 1804: Laura Grey has been a governess for half her life, sixteen long years. After seeing her latest charge married off she is given an interesting opportunity. She is invited to train at the Selwick’s Spy School by none other than that most famous of spies, the Pink Carnation herself! Laura has an innate ability to blend into her surroundings, coupled with the fact she was born and raised in France, she would be the perfect undercover operative. André Jaouen is the assistant to the Prefect of Police. All information about suspected spies and royalists, people the Pink Carnation hopes to save, flows through Jaouen’s papers as he works indirectly for the chief of police, Fouché, who happens to be his relative through marriage. Unfortunately Jaouen often has to work with the detestable Delaroche as well, who is none too happy with Jaouen, and in particular his connection to Fouché. With men like Delaroche circling, Jaouen knows that Paris isn’t safe with all his dreams of a republic dashed. It’s the last place that children should be, but what was Jaouen to do? His beloved father-in-law died and his children had nowhere else to go.

Seizing the opportunity of the arrival of Jaouen’s two children , Gabrielle and Pierre-André, Jane takes full advantage of this opening to place a spy in Jaouen’s house. Dubbed the Silver Orchid, this is the perfect job for Laura Grey, or Laure Griscogne as she is now known. Who better to pretend to be a governess then Laura with her sixteen years of experience? Surly she can suffer through the ignominy of being a governess one more time if it means that she never has to be a governess again; slowly hardening into the role and losing more and more of herself as each day passes. Hired after the most perfunctory of interviews, Laura leaves the crumbling Hôtel de Bac to collect her possessions while Jaouen, unaware of what he has done in hiring Laura, heads to the Abbaye Prison to draw out of an inmate a kidnapping plot against the First Consul, Napoleon, with Delaroche circling.

The next day Laura isn’t greeted by her charges with open arms. Well, Pierre-André did have open arms, but they were only open in an attempt to find candy about her person. Gabrielle, like the nursery maid Jeanette and the surly man of all work Jean, is almost openly hostile to Laura’s presence. Laura decides she must just get on with her work and to this end she takes the children out to a bookshop. To any outsider, taking her charges to a bookshop looks unsuspicious, little do they know that the bookshop is also her point of contact with the Pink Carnation. She feels invigorated that she makes first contact and gets the code word and knows to look for her message in a Latin copy of Aesop’s Fables she will receive later in the week and then everything goes pear shaped.

Laura isn’t caught, but into the bookshop walks the Pink Carnation herself with Miss Gwen and A BONAPARTE! They are loud and command attention, especially as Augustus Whittlesby, that most atrocious of poets, is there declaiming to the world about his Muse, Jane! Laura doesn’t know why they are there. Did she do something wrong? Why is Jane so friendly with a Bonaparte? But in amongst the conversation she notices there are certain words Jane is emphasizing to Laura, all without even looking at her. The Pink Carnation needs to know what Jaouen learned at the Abbaye Prison the night before as soon as possible, this message couldn’t wait to be encrypted and handed off, hence the break in protocol. More disturbing than the risk of searching Jaouen’s study is the mysterious man who solicitously offers them a ride back to the Hôtel de Bac, who turns out to be none other than Jaouen’s openly contentious co-worker Delaroche!

The night isn’t done with mysterious men though. After getting a drubbing down from Jaouen about taking the children outside the house, Laura solicitously makes a cup of coffee, sleeping draft included, for Jaouen. At this juncture a mysterious stranger arrives at the study door as Laura is attempting to leave, disgruntled by the coffee going cold and the wasted sleeping draft. It happens to be Jaouen’s handsy cousin Philippe that she was previously warned of. The two men go off into the house and Laura takes the opportunity to find out the information that Jane so desperately needed from the interrogation at the prison the night previously. Could the conspiracy against Napoleon be royalist in nature? Well Jane will never get Laura’s message if she is trapped in the house at all times, because who could rely on Jean to get a message out, though she gamely tried.

Girding her loins, Laura decides to just be the governess she is supposed to be until such a time that she sees fit to temporarily flee her prison and make contact with the Pink Carnation. In order to entertain the children she decides they should explore the massive and extremely empty house they live in. It will appeal to any child with the least bit of imagination and will hopefully win some points with Gabrielle, whose love of dreadful novels will easily find something of interest looking for hidden chambers in the monstrous mansion. What the children finally stumble on in one of the rooms is all their possessions from Nantes, still boxed up. And in one of the boxes Laura finds something from her own past, a book her mother had written back when Laura was a child and her home was made up of the fashionable salons of authors and artists. But in the margins she finds drawings that at first she finds as a desecration, but soon realizes are just another artistic expression of the longing of the poems. Laura comes to the startling realization that the children’s mother and Jaouen’s dead wife is the famous artist Julie Beniet. Artists aside, she has spycraft to worry about. Laura has a rendezvous with an agent of the Pink Carnation on Sunday! Surprisingly Jean can deliver messages, he’ll just get them to you days late and read by everyone in the household.