Pink XI: Ask the Author

Good morning, and happy Friday!

First things first: Congratulations to Beth F., the winner of a signed copy of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla! Beth, if you will email me at, I will get your prize in the mail to you ASAP.

And now it is time for our penultimate Ask the Author day. Lauren will drop by throughout the afternoon to answer your questions about Sally, Lucien, assorted Fitzhughs, and Pink XI. As always, a Pink mug will be given to one lucky commenter on today’s post. Here is the design for this month, created by the fabulous Miss Eliza:

pink xi

Remember, the Pink for All Seasons mugs are all available for purchase on Zazzle.

So “Sally” forth and ask your questions! (See what I did there?) Lauren, thanks again for spending time with us today.

Pink XI Week 4 in Review

How is it possible that it’s time for our last Pink XI recap?  Please join me in saying big bouquets of thanks to Dara for leading us through this last reread in preparation for Pink XII!  She has done an awesome job.  Also, thank you Dara for my new title (you will see below).  I plan to wear it proudly like a hat.

Pink XI*Graphic by Sharlene

I can’t believe we are at the last re-cap! I want to thank all of you for hanging out with me this month’s we did this last re-read before the end. And thank you so much, Ashely, for setting all of this up and letting us hijack your blog for the past 11 months. You have been such an awesome hostess, Oh Captain of the Pink fanatics!

Now, on to the last recap! We left Sally and Lucien on the eve of their betrothal ball, which was to be their un-betrothal ball after their fight, and Eloise and Colin on the eve of their own All Hallows’ Eve ball.

Cambridge, 2004: Colin and Eloise attend the undergrad Halloween party, which isn’t quite the party to end all parties that Eloise remembers. Colin is acting strange, even for him, leaving the party to make mysterious phone calls in the foyer. After giving up on the party the two head back to Eloise’s cramped flat, where Colin announces that he is leaving Selwick Hall.

Hullingden, 1806: Sally finds herself at her betrothal ball where nothing is going the way it should at one’s very own fake betrothal ball. Then, wonder of wonders, Lucien apologizes and utters those three magic words (“you were right”) and all is well with the world. But before they can get on with the kissing part of making up, Sherry, Lucien’s old tutor, shows up with evidence that someone lured Fanny to the ball the night she was murdered, and a footman brings Lucien a note drawing him to the Folly, where Sally is supposed to be waiting for him.

Meanwhile, Sir Matthew insists on a private chat with Sally before she returns to the ballroom, in which it is uncovered (aside from the fact that the man clearly has an unhealthy fixation on Lucien’s guilt) that Lord Henry has been stirring the rumor mill where Lucien is concerned. Sally rushes off to protect Lucien from the killer, leaving our beloved Turnip to muster the forces and bring in the cavalry.

Lucien arrives at the Folly to find not Sally, but his Uncle, waiting for him. As Uncle Henry hands Lucien the poisoned drink Sally and Lady Florence arrive armed with little more than sheer nerve. Following the typical villain’s confession and a stirring display of intended sacrifice, Lady Florence saves the day by disarming Lord Henry and the cavalry arrives slightly late, but no less enthusiastic. Sally and Lucien confess their love for each other, and their un-betrothal ball becomes a betrothal ball once again.

Cambridge, 2004: Following Colin’s bomb, and subsequent explanation, Eloise confesses that her meeting with her dissertation advisor was less than encouraging and she isn’t even sure she wants to teach anymore. In the midst of discussion Colin suggests that she return to Selwick Hall and write her dissertation as fiction rather than academic writing. With that, Colin presents Eloise with her birthday present, a cupcake that seems to have something ring-like and shiny on top. Is it what we think it is? We’ll have to wait until next month to find out!

Pink XI: Lauren’s Halloween Book

This post was written by Dara.

pink halloween

While I was archive diving on Lauren’s site, I ran across the blog post where she mentions that even though she calls this her “Halloween” book, they didn’t really celebrate Halloween in Regency era in any way the resembles our celebrations today.  It made me curious about what the celebration of Hallows Eve (from where we get the word Halloween) would have looked like.

The night of October 31st as one filled with ghoolies and ghosts and things that go bump in the night goes well back in England’s history; most say it has roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced Sow-en) –  the bonfire festival of summer’s end at which the veil between the seen and unseen worlds was at its thinnest and the past and present merged.  It was commonly believed that on this night the dead could walk the world of the living and many went so far as to leave doors and windows open and food out for the dead to enjoy the festival as well.  The poor would often walk the streets chanting a song and many would give them special loaves of flat bread called Dirge Cakes.  Those who did not hand out loaves might find themselves the recipient of a prank or vandalism then next morning.   And of course, since you didn’t know what might come through the veil to your house, many people disguised themselves to trick an malevolent creatures wandering the night.

When the Romans conquered Britain and drove the Celts to Scotland and Ireland, many of these traditions went with them, and in England the Romans co-opted the celebration, adding to it the celebration of Pomona, their goddess of fruit trees.  When Christianity came to England, the religious attempted to replace the Samhain celebration with an all night vigil called Hallomas leading to the the celebration of All Soul’s Day, a time to remember those who had passed on to heaven, on November 1.  As a result of this, by the time we reach Rengency era, most of the traditional activities associated with Samhain were only practiced by the lower classes in rural areas (though the going house to house for cakes was retained, as people would go door to door asking for soul cakes to pray for those in Purgatory).

Activities that country folk might have used in their celebrations include bobbing for apples, bonfires (either to guide good souls to heaven or to scare them away from the living), asking for soul cakes, and carving turnip lanterns (pumpkins don’t grown in England).  I don’t know about you, but I get a really hysterical mental image of the locals chasing Turnip around trying to catch him and carve him!

For more information about the complex evolution of Halloween in the British Isles, check out and

Pink XI: Dream Casting

Welcome back, Miss Eliza!


I will state this once and once only. I didn’t dream cast Eleanor Tomlinson as Sally Fitzhugh because of Poldark thus making this post hip and au courant. Seriously, it is the most bizarre of coincidences that her rise to fame coincides with my writing of this post; because, for me, Eleanor has been Sally since December of 2013. Let’s look back to that cold December. I had gotten horribly sick over Thanksgiving weekend, it could be because I stood in a snow drift in tennis shoes, but what can I say, things happen, especially when you are trying to entertain small children during a freak November snowstorm. Being laid up, I obviously started to devour books. I read fifteen books in four short weeks, many of them Christmas themed to try to buoy my spirits. There’s one book that does this more than any other during the holidays, and that is The Mischief of the Mistletoe. While re-reading this book for the umpteenth time I was thinking of Sally a lot, most likely because I knew her own book, The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla, was coming out the following summer. Simultaneously, the much waited for adaptation of Death Comes to Pemberley was airing on consecutive nights on the BBC and became the highlight of my family’s day. I had great hopes for this adaptation, having a strong dislike of the book but a love of the cast. But little did I expect that Sally was going to make an appearance. There was Sally, going by the name Georgiana Darcy for some reason… well, whomever she was pretending to be, I knew it was Sally. There was never any doubt in my mind that it was she. Beautiful, funny, a “gilded beanpole” with a fierce will of steel that can easily wield a stoat; Sally was cast.


If there’s one show that I think everyone should be watching right now its Penny Dreadful. Yes, I know Poldark is awesome, but it’s Penny Dreadful that has my dark heart. Combining a plethora of literary characters in the dark Victorian demimonde of London I just can’t get enough of the show. In fact my previously mentioned Tom Mison loving friend Marie is one of my recent converts. Why am I bringing this up? Because it’s in the world of Penny Dreadful that I found Lucien, the Duke of Belliston, and Marie agrees. The actor Reeve Carney plays Dorian Gray, that sexy immoral immortal. His beauty, his enigmatic air, he is Lucien! But more than that, he has this look in his eyes, this quirk at the corner of his mouth that indicates a constant amusement with the world around him. I think that this is exactly the side of Lucien that Sally brings out and that Reeve can play. They have a playful relationship, despite the hardship of murders, and both actors need to understand this humor. I also think it’s funny that the “casting” of Lucien was so easily decided when Marie brought it up to me. She asked who I saw, I said Reeve Carney, she agreed. Now if only making this miniseries a reality and getting all my dream actors together was that easy…


But, I must tell you the whole truth here. I must be completely honest. Though Reeve Carney was instantly and irrevocably Lucien, part of me didn’t want him to be. There’s a part of me that has been longing for so long for a role worthy in Lauren Willig’s oeuvre of one of my favorite actors, Blake Ritson, that I hoped he could be Lucien. He is just amazing in everything, with that voice that you would die to have wake you every morning. His amusing turn as Mr. Elton followed by his layered portrayal of the Duke of Kent on the new Upstairs, Downstairs, made him a permanent resident in my heart. And if you haven’t seen him as Riario on Da Vinci’s Demons, go do that right now, after you finish Penny Dreadful. At the same time as I was first reading The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla I was reading Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Series, where the seductive villain could only be brought to life by Blake. So Blake was on my mind. A lot. And I kept thinking, damn, he could ALMOST be Lucien. Almost. And I’d try him out here and there and yes, he could work, but he wasn’t Reeve. So I ask you this; who is your Lucien?

Eleanor Tomlinson as Sally

Reeve Carney as Lucien

Pink XI Giveaway


Good morning, and happy Monday! As promised, I have a signed copy of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla to give away today.

You have until midnight EST on July 30 to enter the giveaway, 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.

I will announce the winner on Friday, the same day that Lauren will be returning for Ask the Author XI.

I can’t believe this is the next-to-last month. Where has the time gone?

Pink XI Week 3 in Review

This post was written by Dara.

manzanilla flower3

Hullingden, 1806: Sally arrives, amidst much gossip from the ton, at Lucien’s ancestral seat with Lady Florence Oblong, Mrs. Gwen and a trunk of billiard balls (well, as well as one can expect Mrs. Gwen and her billiard balls to be in tow) and is met by Lucien and his less than welcoming aunt.  After a tour of the grounds (in which we learn more about Lucien’s past) and dinner with his relatives (at which Mrs. Gwen decamps to her room for writing and Sally engages in a sporting round of Irritate Aunt Winfred), Sally convinces Lucien he really must make things right with his sister now that he is back in England to stay.   It does not go well.

While getting ready for bed in her Haunted Chamber (what castle is complete without one?), Sally hears footsteps in the wall.  Since ghosts do not have boots with which to stomp, nor do they tend to call her name, she heads off down the secret passageway (again, what self-respecting castle would be without?) to investigate  and finds herself in the middle of none other than Lucien’s bedchambers.

After a rather too long to be proper tête-à-tête, the two resume the search together and find a drunken Cousin Hal, who puts two and two together and comes to the conclusion of five, confesses that he was Fanny the actress’s protector and promptly passes out.

The two manage to haul Cousin Hal to Lucien’s room, share a steamy goodnight kiss, after which each assumes the other must be only playing their act of betrothal, Lucien escorts Sally to bed, hands her a pistol and returns to his room, leaving Sally to a bleak and sleepless night.

After a fruitless interview with Mrs. Gwen and an unsuccessful attempt to convince Lucien to contact the authorities about Hal the next morning, things do not appear rosier.  Each hurting and spoiling for a fight, the two have it out over the breakfast table and agree to announce their refusal to wed each other at the betrothal ball the next night.  Afterward, Lucien shares Hal’s confessions with his Uncle, who offers to smooth things over with Sir Matthew (who is intent of pinning the blame on Lucien) and tells Lucien to concentrate on his pretty fiancé.

These chapters are full of action, lovely witty dialogue and juicy bits.  What have you noticed in this reread that you didn’t notice before?  What is your favorite bit from this week’s reading?   I think mine is Sally torturing Aunt Winifred at dinner.

And the Winner Is…


The winner of the signed ARC of The Lure of the Moonflower is Irene! Congratulations, Irene. If you will email me your address at, I will get your prize in the mail to you ASAP.

I really wish I had a copy to give you all. I also really wish I could get a copy of all the Pink spin-offs you guys came up with! There were some excellent ideas for new locations and new mysteries. I particularly liked the idea of another Christmas story. I was also intrigued by the idea of a story from Serena’s perspective – that had never occurred to me!

Dara will be back tomorrow with the next Pink XI recap. I can’t believe this month is winding down. Thanks so much for reading along with us. Only two weeks until Pink XII!

Happy Release Day, Lauren!

It’s book launch day for Lauren Willig and The Other Daughter!

Other Daughter

Huge thanks to St. Martin’s Press and to NetGalley for letting me get my hands on an early copy.  If you’re picking up your copy today, you are in for such a treat!  I’m going to include my review below – I am *almost* positive that there’s nothing in it you may consider a spoiler, but if you like to dive into a book knowing only what you’ve read on the jacket, maybe give the rest of this post a miss until you’ve finished the book. Happy reading to one and all!

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When I received an email from NetGalley letting me know that an ARC of Lauren Willig’s The Other Daughter was available for me to download, I did a serious happy dance. But I made myself wait a few weeks to begin it. A new book from Lauren is a thing to be savored, and I knew that when I started it, it would be over all too quickly. True to form, once I did sit down with my Nook, I gulped this book down in two sittings. Once again, and as always, Lauren has delivered an excellent story.

When Rachel Woodley receives a telegram in Normandy informing her that her mother is sick with influenza, she immediately packs her bags for her home in Netherwell, England. But by the time Rachel sets foot on home soil, her mother is already gone. Rachel can’t imagine that her grief could be any worse, but then she finds a newspaper clipping among her mother’s bedclothes. In that clipping is a picture of Rachel’s father – her father who died when she was only four – escorting his daughter, Lady Olivia Standish, to a society function. Suddenly, Rachel’s past is a lie. She isn’t the daughter of a respectable, hard-working widow. She is the other daughter – the illegitimate daughter – of an earl. With no idea how to move forward and no clue how to fill in the gaps in her history, Rachel joins forces with Simon Montfort, a gossip columnist with a past as murky as her own, to find a way to insinuate herself into her father’s set. She makes a daring entrance into London society, masquerading as Vera Merton, and quickly becomes the toast of the Bright Young Things. Her goal: get herself invited to her half-brother’s twenty-first birthday at the family seat and seize the opportunity to confront her father. But as Rachel pushes deeper into Lady Olivia’s social circle, she realizes that she is woefully ignorant of the shared history in this set. And although Simon Montfort has promised to help her, Rachel begins to suspect that his reasons for interfering in her family affairs may not be as straightforward as she thought.

The idea at the heart of this story is a familiar one – what would you do if you found out that your past was not what you’d always thought? But even though this premise is one I’ve read before, Lauren’s variation on the theme is fresh. Rachel is an excellent narrator. I was indignant and angry right along with her when she learned that her father had abandoned her. I celebrated with her when she launched herself into London society without a single person questioning her backstory. I turned up my nose with her at the empty lives of the Bright Young Things with their “too, too sick-making” rounds of parties and entertainments. But then, when Rachel starts losing herself in the façade of Vera Merton, I worried for her. Is she becoming so single-minded that she is willing to hurt the people who are, even though they don’t know it, her family? And if she does manage to get close enough to her father to force a confrontation, what will she do if his reaction isn’t what she’s been hoping for? I started to feel less “in Rachel’s corner” and more disappointed in the person she was becoming, and I was holding my breath to see if Lauren would redeem her in the end.

I loved the relationship between Simon and Rachel. They fling Much Ado about Nothing quotes at each other fast enough to make your head swim. They bicker, but they find genuine comfort in each other’s company. And at heart, they are very similar – two people who are unsure where they belong but brave enough to make a fresh start somewhere new. Watching Lauren peel back the layers to show Rachel the real Simon was like watching a picture resolve into focus. You think you see him clearly, but shift a few things around and see how he’s brought into sharper relief. The revelations are not always good ones, but Simon is a better, more interesting character in the end for the twists that Lauren puts him through.

On a more technical note, this is the first of Lauren’s stand-alone books that does not shift perspective between a modern and historical storyline. I didn’t even realize until halfway through the book that she had made this departure from form, but it didn’t bother me a bit. I loved all the setting detail that she included – the brief glimpse of Rachel’s life as a governess in France, the fancy-dress parties and beautiful flat in London, and the imposing estate at Carrisford Court. The supporting cast she created for Rachel’s story is incredible.

To sum up, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Thanks to Downton Abbey, I shouldn’t be surprised at the lengths that the British aristocracy would go to in order to keep a title and an estate intact, but Lauren kept me on my toes. I can’t wait to see what she’s planning for her next book.

Giveaway Surprise!


Oh my friends, do I have a treat for you today.

You have perhaps been wondering if I had a blonde moment and completely forgot to do a giveaway for a signed copy of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla. I didn’t forget. Promise. I will be running that giveaway next Monday, and I have something WONDERFUL to offer up today.

Lauren has donated a signed ARC of The Lure of the Moonflower for a giveaway.

I’ll just let you process that for a second.

Yes, you read correctly. Not only does Lauren’s The Other Daughter release tomorrow (get excited, BTW – it’s amazing), but you have a chance today to get your hands on a copy of Pink XII, signed by Lauren, before it hits the shelves in two weeks.

To enter the giveaway, comment below and answer me this: What’s your favorite idea for a Pink spin-off? Is it a series about the children of the Pink cast solving mysteries in the 1830s and 40s? Is it Colin and Eloise traveling to research Colin’s spy novels and stumbling upon modern mysteries of their own? Is it a multi-generational saga about the Reids? Maybe it’s something completely different. Whatever it is, I want to know! If you’d like to be entered twice for the giveaway, share this post on Facebook, Twitter, your own blog, or whatever other platform you choose, and just let me know in your comment.

The giveaway starts right this minute, and it will be open until midnight EST on Wednesday. I will announce the lucky winner on Thursday. Good luck!

Pink XI Week 2 in Review

This post was written by Dara.

Manzanilla flower

Cambridge, 2004: Things are not going quite as Eloise had hoped. The reunion with Colin is awkward, her dissertation meeting ends with the direction to rewrite, Colin is acting strange (even for him) and the much anticipated Halloween party ends with those dreaded four words, “We need to talk.”

London, 1806: Lucien arrives at the Fitzhugh mansion to find Sally leading the investigator on a merry romp in her statement regarding the previous night’s murder. The investigator, one Sir Matthew, was the investigator on Lucien’s parents’ murder and holds quite a prejudice against Lucien. Sally accompanies (which really means pushes, prods and drags) Lucien to the theater to see if the murdered woman is an actress whose murder was set to frame Lucien. At the theater, they discover none other than Lucien’s former tutor and friend, Sherry, is the proprietor. After a tense interview, Sherry leaves Sally and Lucien to search the actress’s dressing room, where they find some very steamy love letters from Miss Logan’s protector hidden in her jewel box. When they return to their carriage, they find the seat strewn with manzanilla leaves and threats.

So despite all the exciting developments in these chapters, my absolute, hands-down favorite part is Parsnip covered in jam. Lauren is brilliant, I tell you! What is your favorite part? What do you think about how things are shaping up in our mystery?