Happy Friday! I will kick things off today by announcing the winner of the signed copy of The Garden Intrigue. Congratulations to Emma (username pittsemma)! Emma, if you will send me a message at email@example.com with your mailing address, I will get your prize on the way to you ASAP.
And now, over to Holly and Amanda, our moderators for Pink IX!
Holly and Amanda here to talk about Chapters 1-9 of The Garden Intrigue – there is a lot going on in both nineteenth century Paris and modern day England, so let’s jump right into the action!
Who you need to remember:
Eloise and Colin – our favorite modern day framing device
Jane Wooliston – aka the Pink Carnation, but let’s keep that fact from Nigel Dempster (modern day curator of the Vaughn Collection), please
Emma Morris Delagardie – our American heroine, sarcastically named “the Grand Inquisitor for Poetical Excellence, Greater Paris Branch,” by:
Augustus Whittlesby – English spy masquerading as a terrible French poet for years upon years
Kortright Livingston – Emma’s cousin, who come to Paris expecting to bring Emma home, at her mother’s bidding
Georges Marston – a returning bad dude from Pink I – and Emma’s ex-lover from shortly after she was widowed
What’s going on:
We begin a familiar location, the Hotel de Balcourt, site of many great scenes back in Pink I. Here, Augustus Whittlesby is found giving his typical bad poetry reading. He is interrupted by Madame (widowed) Emma Delagardie, who questions his artistic choices. As he’s trying to gather his composure, he’s distracted by the unexpected appearance of junior agent Horace de Lilly.
Whittlesby, ostensibly seeking consultation with the muses, arranges a quick conversation with de Lilly, where he gets word that the First Consul is readying the fleet and preparing to invade England.
In turn, Whittlesby arranges a tete-a-tete with Jane. They walk and sit in the garden, where all the world sees a lovelorn poet reciting verse to his muse. In actuality, Whittlesby tells Jane of the news from his contact, adding the further detail that his sources report that the French are working on a mysterious device, which they are planning on testing a month from now, on the grounds of Malmaison, during a party to honor the American envoy to France. Whittlesby needs to secure an invitation to the party, and Jane tells him that his best bet is the young woman who was heckling him during his reading.
Emma – the American in Paris – has American familial connections in high places, as well as strong relationships in France. She has been best friends with Hortense de Beauharnais since they were teenagers – right about the time that Hortense’s mother married an army general named Bonaparte. She’s related to the American envoy who Napoleon wants on his side. All of this means that Emma is very much involved in the upcoming party at Malmaison – so involved that she has been asked to write a performance for the evening. Jane suggests that Whittlesby offer his artistic services to Emma for this task.
It seems we have the makings for a love triangle happening: Emma pokes fun at Whittlesby as a means of harmless flirtation. She notices that Whittlesby looks so very nice in his pantaloons, and her attraction does not escape the notice of her friend, Jane Wooliston. At the same time, our Whittlesby is, in fact, a lovelorn poet, pining for Jane. Just listen to how he describes her (in prose, not in his poetic persona):
She made it seem so easy, as effortless and inevitable as the endless washing of waves against the beach. He had to remind himself, sometimes, that she was nearly a decade his junior. She had arrived in France fresh from the seclusion of the English countryside, with no training other than that which she had devised for herself. As far as Augustus could tell, she hadn’t put a foot wrong since…It wasn’t her professionalism that caught him, or her beauty. It was the humor with which she entered into his ridiculous charades, the glint in her eyes as she received his more alarming effusions. Competent, beautiful, and clever. What man wouldn’t succumb?
Whittlesby takes up Jane’s suggestion and walks over to offer his help to Emma – just as she is trapped by the overbearing Marston, who is either looking for a good time or for a foolish woman with money to spare. Poor Emma is also trying to navigate the arrival of her cousin Kortright in Paris – her cousin turned childhood crush, though it seems those feelings have passed. Emma summarily dismisses Marston, or at least tries to. Whittlesby finds himself also turned down, as Emma reports she has no intention of writing the masque for the event. Undeterred, he shows up the next day at Emma’s “morning” salon, which appears to be wrapping up around 2 p.m. – with perfect timing, because Emma spots him just as she’s stuck in an awkward conversation, learning that her family expects her to return home to America. Struck by inspiration, she announces she simply cannot leave Paris because she and Whittlesby are writing a masque for First Consul’s next party.
Once that’s been established, the writing begins, but not before Whittlesby has a brief chance to snoop through Emma’s desk. He is not sure whether she has anything to do with relaying information between the Americans and the French, but he’s not taking any chances, especially after he saw her cousin Kortright with a mysterious diagram the previous evening.
The two have their first real interaction as they begin writing, deciding on a masque in three parts, involving an American hero bringing a fleet with the bounty of the New World as a pledge to win the heroine’s hand – with the part of the heroine written for Hortense. There will also be pirates involved.
The first writing session comes to a close when Emma announces she has an appointment, grabs something off her desk, and rushes off to meet Hortense. Her best friend, trapped in a loveless marriage with a Bonaparte, announces she is pregnant, which means Jane will have to stand in as the heroine in the masque. Hortense also tells Emma and Jane: “my stepfather has an important announcement to make…Maman has a surprise for you, too, but she wants to tell you herself.”
What a whirlwind of activity and suspicion! What was the diagram that Kortright had, and what did Emma bring over to Hortense? What is the deal with poor Hortense? And, will Marston prove to be truly a villain, or is he merely an annoyance?
In modern times…
Eloise and Colin are at Colin’s home at Selwick Hall, dealing with the barbaric American film crew from DreamStone. If you recall, Colin’s jerk of a step-father/cousin, Jeremy, has allowed for the filming of a Regency dress version of Much Ado About Nothing. Jeremy is absolutely in this for the money, but making Colin angry and powerless is a nice side benefit.
Eloise receives an email from home offering a two sections and the position of head teaching fellow for Modern Europe course. “Two sections and the head TF post meant my rent would be paid.” Ignoring that for the moment, Eloise sets herself up to work in the library while Colin works on his alleged spy novel. She is irritated to find that her notes have been disturbed – the film people are not taking seriously the instructions to leave the family living space alone!
Colin and Eloise are bracing themselves for the large dinner party Jeremy has set up with the DreamStone team. Eloise makes friends with Cate, a DreamStone intern, and sees the seating chart for the big dinner, where Eloise is (inconveniently) seated far from Colin. She also finds out the historical consultant on the piece is Nigel Dempster, curator of the Vaughn Collection (and Serena’s ex-boyfriend) – cue the villain music!
What’s going on with Eloise’s notes? And, what is our heroine to do about the teaching offer? Accept and know when she has to leave England and Colin? Or try to stay on in London with financial uncertainty?