The Mayfair Affair

Mayfair

Those of you who have been following the blog for a while know that I am fiercely devoted to a handful of authors that I found through Lauren’s website and her “If You Like” posts. One of my absolute favorites is Tracy Grant, author of a historical mystery series set in Napoleonic France featuring the husband-and-wife spy team Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch. The first book Tracy published with Kensington for this series, Vienna Waltz, is fabulous. If you haven’t tried it, add it to your reading list! I promise you won’t regret it.

Today, Tracy is a guest on Lauren’s website with an “If You Like” post of her own. We just finished talking about governess books, thanks to our re-read of The Orchid Affair. Tracy’s latest novel in her series, The Mayfair Affair, has a governess at the heart of the action – Laura Dudley, caretaker of Malcolm and Suzanne’s children, who is found standing over the body of the murdered Duke of Trenchard. In her post on Lauren’s site today, Tracy talks a bit about her newest release and then recommends a few governess books that she enjoys. Head over to Lauren’s site and take a look! And if you follow Deanna Raybourn’s blog, be on the lookout for a post from Tracy there as well. That post will be live tomorrow.

I’m also very pleased to say that Tracy will be paying another visit to the Bubble Bath Reader next week – on May 18th, she will be stopping by to answer a few questions and to give away a copy of The Mayfair Affair to a lucky reader. Make sure you check in for a chance to win!

Pink IX Week 1 in Review

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 ashley.pinkforallseasons@gmail.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!

gardenHolly 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?

Let’s talk PhDs!

This post is written by Holly, half of the sister duo posting for The Garden Intrigue this month.

PhD

As I mentioned in our first post, this Pink for All Seasons readathon has been my first read of all of the Pink books, with the exception of #1, which I had picked up years ago on my sister’s recommendation (which is where at least half of my reading list comes from). I am loving the series for many reasons: the differences between each relationship, the combination of humor and history, and the reappearance of characters we’ve met before. There’s another aspect I love just as well: Eloise, and her realistic adventures of being a graduate student.

Having done a stint as a full-time social science PhD student, I feel a bit of a connection with Eloise, and with Lauren Willig herself. After all, Lauren’s biography states: After graduating from Yale University, she embarked on a PhD in English History at Harvard before leaving academia to acquire a JD at Harvard Law while authoring her “Pink Carnation” series of Napoleonic-set novels.

In addition to the details she provides about English spies, Lauren peppers Eloise’s chapters with some of the ins-and-outs of life on the PhD track. Like these:

In October, I had been just another bedraggled American grad student in London, desperately combing the archives for the materials I needed to turn my dissertation from a vague outline into a heartbreaking work of staggering scholarship. We had been told to go forth and find a gap in historiography, and that’s just what I had done, smugly certain that I would put together pieces no one else had been able to connect, patting myself on the back for my cleverness in picking as my field of study a country in which the language was my own…

It didn’t occur to me until later that there might be a slight problem. Historians are dependent on documentary evidence for the reconstruction of the past. When the people involved routinely burn the documents in question, there isn’t a lot left to go on.

I did not study history, and I did not study at Harvard, but I did find some of the same challenges in academia. I embarked on my graduate school career, after a few years of nonprofit work, full of great memories from college courses. Grad school was going to be enlightening, and inspiring, and I would go on to be just like my undergrad professors that had challenged me to approach the world from different angles. Like Eloise, I was ready to find a dissertation topic that would thrill me down to the polish on my toenails.

On the first day of grad school, the fifteen incoming students in my program heard two things: the completion rate is 50%, and the average time to finish in the department is six to seven years. Of course, we all looked around the room, thinking ‘not me! Maybe that guy over there.” I had visions, like Eloise, of research in exotic locations, enrapt students, and bringing down that seven year average.

Eloise, too, knows the very real fear of never leaving, as she tells Colin “I probably should get back to work if I don’t want to be one of those five-thousand-year grad students.”

I really feel for Eloise here in the opening scenes of The Garden Intrigue. She is clearly passionate about her research, and she’s finding amazing stories thanks to her exclusive access to Selwick Hall. I am not sure about Lauren’s career in the Harvard English History program (someone remind me to ask for the next Ask the Author!), but Eloise is certainly more dedicated to her research than I was.

And then she gets an offer she may not be able to refuse – a teaching fellowship for the next academic year. For the most part, students in PhD programs do not pay tuition. They put together teaching or research positions, or scholarships, which cover tuition and fees and provide a living stipend. Positions are roughly based on a forty-hour work week, which means a 50% position (often three sections of teaching) requires approximately 20 hours of work a week, and should provide enough of a stipend to live on. Some schools do a better job of coordinating these options for students than others, and it can actually get harder to compile something the longer you stay in a program, as first dibs go to new students. Eloise knows that this is a pretty great gig she’s being offered, as opposed to “piecing together teaching jobs in different courses, a section here, a section there, which meant triple the effort learning the material and keeping up with the coursework.”

Until this book, I haven’t given too much thought to the future for Colin and Eloise. They were so hot and cold for the first few books that I guess I was expecting more back and forth and drama. It seems that things are getting pretty serious now though – and I’m finally starting to wonder: is Eloise going to head back to Harvard to finish her degree?

I have to say, I won’t be disappointed if she doesn’t. And, I say that as a dyed-in-the-wool feminist who works for an organization devoted to girl leadership. I just don’t think Eloise needs a PhD to be happy and successful (that’s with or without a significant other, mind you). I’m so used to her traipsing around London that I’m not sure I picture her as an academic, teaching survey courses on European history. And Lauren Willig must have decided she didn’t need a PhD to be happy and successful, so I’m wondering if she’ll help Eloise with that decision too.

As for me, I also decided after 2 years that I didn’t need a PhD to be happy and successful. My closest friend decided the same after 3, and a former roommate left after 4 when she had trouble piecing together those teaching sections. Another good friend of ours stayed in for 8 years before he quit in the home stretch. Turns out those day one facts were spot on.

So, let’s discuss. What do you think?

Pink IX Giveaway

garden

Good morning!  A new month and a new installment of the Pink series means it’s time for a giveaway.

Up for grabs today is a signed paperback copy of The Garden Intrigue.

You have until midnight EST on May 7 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 morning, I will use the Random Number Generator to pick a winner. Good luck!

Pink IX: The Garden Intrigue

garden

Good morning and Happy May Day!  I’m pleased to have the opportunity this morning to introduce you all to our moderators for May and The Garden Intrigue: Holly and Amanda.  Give them a big Pink welcome, and dust off your copy of Pink IX.  It’s going to be a fabulous month.  Over to Holly and Amanda to introduce themselves.

Welcome to May and to The Garden Intrigue! We are sisters who blog together – usually we read and review independently, but our best posts are when we work together. Through the Pink For All Seasons readalong, Amanda has been re-reading all the Pink books, but this is Holly’s first cycle through the series – including diving into The Garden Intrigue. We’ve been following along all year (and we’ve both won awesome gifts thanks to Ashley!), and we’re excited that our month is here!

Holly: Everything I know about The Garden Intrigue so far is through Lauren’s recap here, plus what we’ve seen of some of the characters so far. Here’s what I’m excited about: another book set in France, the promise of the awful Georges Marsten making an appearance, and more Jane and Miss Gwen. Here’s what I’m nervous about: one Augustus Wittlesby.

Amanda: He wasn’t so bad in the last book – The Orchid Affair.

Oh Lord.  Laura prevented herself from rolling her eyes to the ceiling.  Just what she needed.  That poet. Again…

Out of character, his movements were entirely different from those of his assumed persona– quick, direct, to the point…Whittlesby grinned at her.  It was a charmingly boyish smile, and Laura could see why the ladies of the First Consul’s court cultivated him, despite his execrable poetry.

Holly: Sigh. He’s not my favorite. And don’t you remember, he was first introduced back in the very first book. Didn’t Delaroche put Whittlesby on the list of potential Purple Gentians? I can’t remember if he was a spy back then, or just a terrible poet. You know what word he uses all.the.time? Pulchritude. What a terribly ironic word – it means beauty but it’s kind of an ugly word.

Anyway, I am completely digging myself into a hole here. Once upon a time I did not like Mary Alsworthy either, and then Lauren went and made her into something entirely different back in The Seduction of the Crimson Rose. I fully expect the same here. I’ll probably be swooning over bad poetry soon.

Amanda: Okay, I will give you Pulchritude. It is a word that hurts my ears.  And all the poetry about Jane’s toes icks me out.  On the other hand, just think how smart one has to be to pull off such a charade for that length of time.  I think you’ll be surprised at how hard you’re going to fall sister.  I read this one when it was first published and haven’t reread it.  I’m excited to get back into Eloise and Colin’s relationship – especially with the bomb his stepfather dropped at the end of the last book!

Last, what Pink fan can resist this book knowing that Miss Gwen has a Pirate Queen cameo?  Is there a better role for her?