Pink X Week 2 in Review

Good morning, and happy Friday!  Before we get down to business, we have a winner for the signed copy of Pink X: Debra Callaway.  Debra, if you will email your address to ashley.pinkforallseasons@gmail.com, I will get your prize in the mail to you.  Thanks to all of you for sharing your favorite Miss Gwen moments!  And speaking of our heroine, I will let Paige take over from here with her Pink recap.

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Hello again, everyone! I suspect you might have found this week’s reading as captivating as I did. There was so much that happened in chapters 6-12! I found myself doing most of my reading for this section on my Kindle, and I found myself doing a lot of highlighting.

I have always enjoyed the modern Colin and Eloise story. I particularly like how the Colin and Eloise storyline continues throughout the series and also how it frames the historical storylines. I am quite attached to them and feel a vested interest in their relationship. Eloise has just had the unpleasant realization that Colin may have some neuroses, and she may be helping to reinforce them. Eloise and Colin spend a lot of time and attention on Colin’s family history. Now that Colin’s Aunt, Mrs. Selwick-Alderly, has pointed out that Colin can’t make Selwick Hall a tribute to his father, Eloise considers what her inadvertent role might have been in keeping Colin tied to Selwick Hall.  Furthermore, Colin and Eloise have still not meaningfully discussed what will happen with their relationship once Eloise leaves England to go back to America in two months. Mrs. Selwick-Alderly has now manipulated the situation so that Jeremy will not only be driving Colin and Eloise back to Selwick Hall, but he will be staying there with them while they join forces and cooperate on finding the legendary lost jewels of Berar. With Jeremy around, who knows when they will ever get a chance to have a meaningful discussion?

Speaking of Mrs. Selwick-Alderly, I continue to find her fascinating. Eloise refers to her as a fairy godmother Obviously, she was instrumental in not only giving Eloise access to the family archives so that she could continue her Pink Carnation research, but also in doing some matchmaking for Colin and Eloise. Additionally, she always seems to know more than she reveals. I think of her as being like the sassy Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella fairy godmother. Sometimes, I think she is a bit like Miss Gwen. She has something in her voice that quells even Jeremy, and she says things majestically, similar to Miss Gwen. Then again, Eloise observes that she is “always at her most dangerous when she was at her most serene,” which reminds me of Jane.  Whatever the case may be, she is clearly a kind, shrewd, and strong woman. I was secretly hoping that she was going to be the leader of some modern day espionage ring.  Similar to Eloise, I now see a spy in every Selwick!

Mrs. Selwick-Alderly revealed that Colonel Reid’s youngest daughter married Richard’s son! Can you even begin to imagine that wedding and reception? Or the family events and occasions throughout the years? Another piece of key information she imparted was that the clue to the missing jewels was in Miss Gwen’s book, The Convent of Orsino, which had originally been titled The Perils of Plumeria. Finally, Eloise knows who Plumeria was! We left off with Colin and Jamie, I mean Jeremy, beginning to at least speak with each other. I really want Coln and Eloise to talk and get things all out in the open, how about you?

Back in 1805, things have gotten intense with Miss Gwen and Colonel Reid. During the five days that Miss Gwen spends tending Colonel Reid’s wound and nursing him back to health, they become William and Gwen to each other. William is delirious with fever and in his hallucinations he thinks Gwen is Lakshmi, the goddess of beauty and good fortune. I thought that the dream sections were a clever way to both show some of their deeper character attributes as well as some more of their backstories. I also thought it was a feasible way for them to end up cuddling on the same bed one night. Did this work well as a story element for you? What about the next morning, when Miss Gwen is horrified to wake up next to a “naked” man with his arm around her and tries to reconcile that action with her image of herself? They go back to being The Colonel .and Miss Gwen to each other, which I found heartbreaking, although understandable considering the information that we now know about Gwen’s past and her emotional defense mechanisms. She believes that the only thing constant about the male sex is their inconstancy. When in doubt, she resorts to sarcasm, and right now Miss Gwen is starting to have many doubts about who she is, I think. The girl she thought was long gone, the girl she tells herself is long gone, is starting to show herself. Miss Gwen wants to comfort Colonel Reid, but she stifles the urge and convinces herself that she cannot afford to be incautious. We know better, don’t we?

The Chevalier de la Tour d’Argent is causing some confusion for Miss Gwen as well as for me. What is going on with Jane and The Chevalier? He is flirting with her, and she appears to be flirting back. Miss Gwen is convinced that this flirting is beyond what Jane has typically done in the past as part of the Pink Carnation duties. Jane only admits to wanting to keep her enemy close. At this point in the story, I am not feeling confident of that. Miss Gwen has worked with Jane closely for the previous two years and has known her for most of her life; the two of them have a special bond. Wouldn’t Miss Gwen know if something was unusual about Jane’s actions? Why does she have a “slight sense of impending doom?” I know that I don’t like or trust the Chevalier. I am glad that Jane is suggesting that they invite Colonel Reid to also accompany them to the opera. Let’s let Miss Gwen pretend that the only reason she wants him to be invited is so he can keep an eye on Jane while Miss Gwen checks Fiorila’s dressing room.

My favorite quote during this section was Jane telling Miss Gwen, “You yourself once told me to keep one’s enemies close enough to poke with a parasol.” I like that. Did any quotes stick out to you this week? What about the chapters would you like to discuss?

Have a wonderful Friday and a fabulous weekend!

Swashbuckling Heroines

This post was written by Paige.

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Happy Wednesday, everyone! Are you ready to get your Swash and Buckle on? I hope so! I have been thinking about what it is about Miss Gwendolyn Meadows that I love so much. She is complex and we will surely be talking about all of her layers throughout the month. Today, though, I want to talk about one of my favorite things, which is swashbucklers. Does anyone else just like the word “swashbuckle”? It conjures up adventure and dashing historical rogues with hearts of gold. I think of pirate ships and musketeers and the Scarlet Pimpernel. Thanks to the Pink series, I also think of a certain group of Napoleonic era spies, inspired by The Purple Gentian and led by The Pink Carnation. Is anyone else with me?

One of the things that I think has captured our hearts about this series is that the girls get to dash into adventure too. Strike that. We don’t need the “get to.” The females have their share of intrigue and adventure, sometimes despite the best efforts of the gentlemen to keep them safely tucked away. Some of our heroines so far have been more outwardly adventurous than others, but I would say they have all had a bit of “swash” in their core. Leading the pack with sheer outrageous antics, we have the incomparable Miss Gwen.

What separates Miss Gwen from the rest is how she relishes participating in the actual fighting. She does more than pass along messages or dress up in disguises in order to take part in espionage. Miss Gwen carries a weapon with her at all times, her trusty sword parasol. In Plumeria, she fights side by side with Colonel Reid. She refuses to escape when they are ambushed by ruffians because she doesn’t want him to “have all the fun.” We have had scenes where she is frustrated with Jane’s lack of action. In her view, the whole Pink Carnation network is a result of her daring and Jane’s cunning.  Throughout this entire book so far we have had references to how much Miss Gwen thrives on danger and adventure.  Make no mistake, though: Miss Gwen knows exactly what she is doing. She does not rush willy-nilly into dangerous situations. She is no rash young Miss who finds herself in need of rescue because she has been impulsive. She sees and hears many things in her persona of fierce old maid chaperone and uses them to her advantage.

Even better than a solo swashbuckler is a swashbuckling duo. In steps Colonel Reid. We’ve talked previously about how perfectly compatible Miss Gwen and Colonel Reid are and how witty their banter is. It should be no surprise that they are just as well-matched when fighting off assailants. Indeed, Miss Gwen suggests to Colonel Reid that his brawn and her sword would be the best way to handle their attackers. This scene has one of my favorite Pink quotes, “As one, they whirled to face their assailants.” I can’t tell you how glorious that makes me feel and how much I want to raise my fist and shout, “Huzzah!” When I think it can’t possibly get better, Miss Gwen lunges forward and cries, “To me!” Slay me. I am curious to know how everyone else felt while reading this part of the book. Did you find yourself as jubilant as I did?

All of this has me thinking about what other books feature dashing swashbuckling females. One of my favorite features of Lauren’s website is her “If You Like” posts. I have found some of my favorite books and authors there. I have also found that readers who enjoy the Pink books tend to have great suggestions and are well-read. Do you have any books that you can suggest? I have a short list of some that I have read recently that I enjoyed and come readily to mind.

The Rebel Pirate by Donna Thorland was my introduction to the Renegades of the American Revolution series. I adored this book and it definitely features a swashy female! In fact, the whole series has been fantastic. Not all of the heroines are technically swashbucklers, but they are all fabulous. A bonus for me is that they take place during the historical period of the American Revolution, which is an era I find fascinating.

In Bed With a Spy by Alyssa Alexander has a couple that fight together á la Miss Gwen and Colonel Reid. The hero of the book is a spy and he first sees the heroine when she is charging into battle after having taken up her slain husband’s place. This one has lots of intrigue and there is no way that the heroine is ever going to sit by and let the men have all the “fun.”

My Lady Pirate by Danelle Harmon is about a “girl” who is the captain of her own pirate ship with an all-female crew. She is Maeve Merrick, the notorious Pirate Queen of the Caribbean. Woe be to the hero, a British Naval officer, who becomes her captive. Until they become a swashbuckling duo! That naval officer has some pirate tendencies of his own…

Have you read anything lately that features either a swashbuckling female or a swashbuckling couple? I would love some more suggestions.

Have a fabulous day! On Friday we will have a recap of chapters 6-12. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your week!

Pink X Giveaway

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Good morning, Pink friends!  It’s time to give away a signed copy of The Passion of the Purple Plumeria.  I’m switching things up a bit today – normal giveaway rules are out the window!  If you’d like to enter yourself in this giveaway, comment below with your favorite Miss Gwen moment from BEFORE Pink X.  Make sure you choose wisely.  You know Miss Gwen would have some well-chosen words (or a jab with her parasol) about a half-hearted effort.

The giveaway will be open until midnight on Thursday, June 11.  Good luck!

And speaking of giveaways, Lauren has an ARC of The Lure of the Moonflower up for grabs on her site today!  The contest is only open until Wednesday, so skedaddle on over there and enter!  And if you win, when you’re finished reading, will you loan me your copy?

Pink X Week 1 in Review

This post was written by Paige.

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Hello, Everyone! Did you enjoy the first few chapters of Pink X as much as I did? So much happened! This was not my first reread of this book, and I still found myself engrossed and discovering new things this time. I will keep myself focused on a couple of main things that I particularly love about this book.

The number one thing that captured my attention in this section was Miss Gwen. Specifically, the opening line of chapter one: “The spy wore purple.” That whole paragraph scooped me up and gripped me. “Only amateurs wore black. Miss Gwendolyn Meadows knew that the Paris night wasn’t a flat black, but a deep purple, comprised of a hundred shades of shadow.” I could read that a bazillion times. That was a perfect summary of my Miss Gwen and one of my favorite lines ever written. I am not the type to memorize passages from books, but that line is one that I will always remember. The first time I read this opening scene was likely when I knew Miss Gwen was my hero. She was Danger Girl, that Purple Parasol-Wielding Dragon. I loved her.

Then, when she returns triumphantly after evading pursuers by running through alleys, leaping off a balcony, and using her “cane” as a weapon, comes the hint that things may not be all well between Miss Gwen and her charge, Miss Jane Wooliston (known to a select few as The Pink Carnation). And we are given the glimpses of the practically unthinkable – that Miss Gwen was once not Miss Gwen, but a young attractive woman. Something happened that left her dependent upon her family. There is more to this adventurer Miss Gwendolyn Meadows than we know, and that is what we can bet on at this point.

The moment that Colonel Reid first meets Miss Gwen is one that I particularly enjoyed. Can’t you just picture her striding forward like an Amazonian queen, her voice ringing imperiously through the hall? There is no cute-meet for Miss Gwen and Colonel Reid. I have a feeling after getting to know him in these first few chapters that he wouldn’t have had it any other way. She is impressive, yet he is not overcome. He matches her wit for wit. Don’t you love the humorous banter? Who else would dare to wink at Miss Gwen? Who else would want to? Who else would scoff at her being old? Who else would see beyond her carefully cultivated persona? Oh, watch out for your heart, Gwendolyn Meadows. We are all cheering for this shrewd rogue!

Does it get any better than the hero flinging himself in the way of a carriage hurtling towards the heroine, throwing her out of the way of danger, and protecting her by using his own body as a shield? Heavens, no! And that is exactly what Colonel Reid does for Miss Gwen. Hooray, hooray, hooray! How could we do anything but love him? Gwen is already fighting her attraction, but it is inevitable. Yet, there is some backstory I want to find out about on his side, as well. Why does he feel so much as if he has made a bed that he must lie in? Why does he have such an assortment of children, with some being illegitimate?

Not to be outdone, in the modern storyline, Colin and Eloise are starting their search for the lost jewels of Berar, which legend says are hidden at Selwick Hall. What?! And they have to cooperate with the horrible and despicable Jeremy, who is both Colin’s cousin and step-father? Can there really be a Moon of Berar? Something bad has got to be slated to happen down the line. Jeremy is too awful for anything other than that to happen, right?

One of my favorite things about this book is the way that before each chapter there is a related excerpt from The Convent of Orsino, by A Lady. They are brilliant. Does anyone else want to read The Convent of Orsino? What a book. The chaperone is the real heroine of the piece. Sound like anyone we know? Maybe someone with a purple parasol?

What were some of your thoughts as you read this week? Happy Friday and have a great weekend!

Welcome Paige, Our Pink X Moderator!

This post was written by Paige, our moderator for the month of June.  Make her welcome, y’all.

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Hello, fellow Pink fans! My name is Paige. It is my pleasure to be able to be involved with the read along this month. The Passion of the Purple Plumeria has a special place in my heart because it is the story of Miss Gwen, who is one of my all-time favorite characters.

One of my favorite things about this read along has been getting to meet other readers who love Lauren’s books, and the Pink Carnation series in particular. My story is a bit different than some of the moderators in that I am not a professor of any sort, nor do I have a history or a law degree. I should probably whisper this bit, but I have never attended a book club in real life, and I have never wanted to. While I love to read, I feel awkward discussing books. I get a bit tongue-tied and insecure. It all starts to feel as if I am taking an oral exam; I don’t have that sort of recall or constitution. Yet, when Ashley asked if anyone wanted to participate in this particular “book club,” I could not get to my computer to reply quick enough. There is something about this series that calls even me to action.

I don’t mean to disparage myself, don’t misunderstand. My real point is that there may be others like me that read this. Sometimes I feel the tiny little bittest (I made that “bittest” up) as if I may not be quite smart enough to be part of all of this. I haven’t even been to England, for heaven’s sake. And then I laugh in my obnoxious cackling way, remind myself that it is fiction, poke myself with the figurative purple parasol, and get over it.

I first came across the series by serendipity sometime while walking out of a chain bookstore with my family. It was roughly a decade ago. I was on my way out the door when the cover of a copy of The Mischief of the Mistletoe caught my eye. I returned for it the next day, and upon realizing it was part of a series, also purchased The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.

I could make a joke about “The Series That Was Written Just For Me.” I know that so many others feel the same. It is more than a joke. This series was written just for us. Perhaps Lauren didn’t know that she was sitting down to write things that would make specifically me cry and cheer and become a Pink Fanatic. Yet, she could hardly have written a more personal series had she done just that. I am sure there must be a great quote out there about the personal’s relationship to the universal, because we all feel it about this series. That is what we all feel about great works of art. Yes, I just called this series a great work of art. It is to me.

One thing that I will share because it may be something that helps explain why I love this series, because it may be the only time that I am able to express it to Lauren in a public sort of way, and because someone who needs to read it may read it. About a decade ago, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I discovered these books during my recovery. There was a time when I was not sure how much of my sight I would recover or how much I would recover at all. I cannot, and so I will not, attempt to express how much these books have meant to me in this post. There will more time for that over the next few weeks.

I am looking so forward to rereading this gem of a book with you. Beyond anything, I want to thank Ashley for this fabulous project. I want to thank her for her generosity in opening it up to strangers. And I want to thank her for reminding me that the purpose is to keep this fun!

The reading planned reading schedule for this month is:

Week 1: Prologue – Ch. 5

Week 2: Ch. 6 – Ch. 12

Week 3: Ch. 13 – Ch. 19

Week 4: Ch. 20 –Ch. 26

Yes, my favorite color is purple! Happy reading everyone!

The Passion of the Purple Plumeria

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Welcome to June, and welcome to our month of reading The Passion of the Purple Plumeria (AKA Pink X).

Those of you who have been following Lauren and the Pink series for a few years may remember that Pink X was originally going to be about Kat Reid and Tommy Fluellen.  And then, in September 2011, Lauren made two major announcements:

  1. After Pink X, there would be two Pink books left in the series.
  2. Miss Gwen had barged into Pink X and demanded that Lauren tell her story.

I have to admit, I experienced momentary panic on both accounts.

Only two more Pink books?  But… but why?  Couldn’t Pink go on forever?  I really did want that Kat and Tommy book, and there were other characters that Lauren had SURELY written into previous books intending to make them heroines later, and how were Colin and Eloise going to find a lost Indian treasure and get married and live happily ever in only three (including Pink X) more books?

And instead of Kat and Tommy, Pink X was going to be about Miss Gwen?  Miss Gwen who was ancient?  Miss Gwen who was prickly and and rude and fun for comic relief but terrifying to imagine as a heroine?

Breathe, Ashley – just breathe.  After several cups of tea and opportunities to mull these things over, I felt calmer.  Surely the fact that Lauren was publishing other, non-Pink books was a good sign.  Wouldn’t I enjoy watching Lauren explore another time and place?  I didn’t want her to feel stuck in Napoleonic France forever.  Miss Gwen as a heroine was still a hard sell for me, but I decided to trust that Lauren would tell me a good story.  And when Pink X was released, Lauren proved that my trust in her was not misplaced.  She proved it again with The Ashford Affair and That Summer.  Basically, watching Lauren branch out, both by taking her series in a direction I wasn’t expecting and by exploring new stories outside the Pink universe, showed me that great things happen when I let go of my expectations and just plan to enjoy the ride.

So now, we dive in to Pink X together.  On Wednesday, I will introduce your moderator for the month, and she will share the reading schedule for June.  For now, let’s begin with Lauren’s Pink X recap:

Who: Miss Gwendolyn Meadows and Colonel William Reid
Where: Bath
When: Spring, 1805
What: Take two missing girls, one parasol-wielding spinster turned spy, one retired colonel, add a dash of adventure and stir. When Lizzy Reid and Agnes Wooliston disappear from their Bath boarding school, Miss Gwendolyn Meadows is on the case– but is she prepared to collaborate with the irritatingly charming Colonel William Reid?
Historical Cameos: Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord (aka Talleyrand), Napoleon’s foreign minister.

And we begin back at Selwick Hall with Colin and Eloise.

“I seriously doubt the lost jewels of Berar are under your bath mat.”

Happy reading!