Pink I: Ask the Author

first ed

Good morning! Today is the last day of September, so it is our final day talking about Pink I. Lauren has graciously agreed to answer our burning questions about The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. If there is something you’ve always wanted to know about this book, leave your question in the comments section below. Lauren will stop by periodically today to answer. If we play nicely, Lauren may be willing to come back and do this for each of the Pink books! Try to keep your questions specific to Pink I or the series in general – we don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t read all the books yet.

I will start us off with a question of my own. Lauren, how did you decide that Egyptology would be Richard’s “in” with Napoleon? Does it have anything to do with your love for the Amelia Peabody mysteries?

As a final bonus, there is an epilogue to Pink I that was cut from the manuscript before publication. Lauren has it posted on her website – I think it wraps up our first month of Pink for All Seasons rather nicely.

Pink 1 Week 4 in Review

Pink Card 1C

Happy Friday, everyone! We can start off today with the last of the beautiful Pink I cards that Sharlene created.  Also, congratulations to Paige, who is the winner of signed copy of Vienna Waltz by Tracy Grant. Paige, if you will email me your address at ashley.pinkforallseasons@gmail.com, we will get your prize in the mail. Thanks again to Tracy for stopping by to chat with us and to all of you who entered. If you didn’t win, never fear – there are more giveaways in our future!

I finished reading The Secret History of the Pink Carnation earlier this week. The funny thing is, I planned to pace myself for a month of reading each book in order to really take my time, read slowly, and make sure I gave myself a chance to appreciate all the detail and humor Lauren includes in her writing. Guess what? I read the last quarter of this book in one sitting. So much for pacing myself! But I think I enjoyed it just as much as I would have if I had made myself stretch it out.

Poor Amy. She was so indignant about Richard not trusting her with his secret identity and so furious that he would compare her with Deirdre, and then she cost him his spying career. She spends several miserable hours berating herself for being worse than Deirdre, because at least Deirdre was innocent of intentionally sabotaging anyone. She just said a few careless words to her maid, who happened to be a French agent. But I think that, in Richard’s mind, Amy’s actions can’t compare with Deirdre’s because Deirdre’s conversation with her maid cost Tony his life. Whatever disappointment Richard feels about having to retire as the Purple Gentian because of Amy, it can’t compare to how wretchedly responsible he feels for what happened to Tony.

More things I had forgotten until this reread:

  • Richard and Amy are able to escape from France because Marston “allows” them to use his boat.
  • Stiles turns in an excellent performance as the ship’s captain.
  • Henrietta has to stay behind while her mother and Amy rescue Richard and while her father, Miles, Geoff, Jane and Gwen intercept the Swiss gold. What a disappointment for her!

I’m curious about those of you who came to Pink by starting with a later book in the series. Going back and reading about the creation of the Pink Carnation’s league, was it what you expected?  If this was your first time around, did you suspect that it would be Jane, not Amy, who would be the Pink Carnation?

The exciting news for next week is that Lauren has volunteered to do an “Ask the Author” Q&A for each of the Pink books as we read along. Since we’re starting Pink II next Wednesday, make sure you check back early next week to find out the details of where and when you can find Lauren to ask her your burning questions about Pink I!

Have a great weekend.

Falling in Love with Historical Fiction

We’ve talked a bit about genre and the Pink books in the past two weeks. One of the reasons I appreciate genre categories is because once you’ve found a book you love, knowing what genre it is can help you find hundreds of other similar books to try. Today, we have a guest post from Chanpreet, who will explain how reading The Secret History of the Pink Carnation helped her to rediscover her love for the historical fiction genre.

I’ve always loved reading. My memories don’t go back to when I was three years old, the age my mother tells me I first learned how to read, but as long as I can remember I’ve been reading and loving it. The book that started my love for all things historical and romance was a novel titled The Love Stone by Deana James. I read it when I was in the 5th or 6th grade and carried it around with me everywhere. After that, I started actively looking for books like The Love Stone, and I started reading Jude Deveraux, Judith McNaught, and Karen Robards. I read historical romances exclusively until I stumbled upon contemporary romance authors like Rachel Gibson, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Sandra Brown, and then that was all I read.

In 2004, there was an excerpt of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation that I read somewhere. It was a scene with Amy and Richard and featured them in the gondola and I remember thinking, “That’s hot! I want to read more!” I immediately looked up the publishing date and any information I could find on Lauren, which wasn’t much at the time. I started to look for more information about the book. When the book first came out, I was unable to afford buying the book in hardback but was ecstatic when my local library accepted my suggestion that they add the book to their lending selection. I remember checking it out and being so excited! I started reading it the moment I got home and finished it the same day, staying up late at night to finish it. I fell in love with the book. It was everything I’d hoped it would be and so much more. The book was funny, sweet, hot, and so very entertaining! I was so sad when it was over, because I wanted more. I was also pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the action and mystery angle. I wanted more Amy and Richard, Collin and Eloise, to find out how Miss Gwen and Jane were going to stop Napoleon, more intrigue, more drama, more of everything.

All of a sudden, I couldn’t get enough of historical novels again. My passion came back, but differently. I was still enchanted with bygone eras, but I was old enough to realize that what I had read as a teenager wasn’t always an accurate portrayal of the times. I also learned I wanted more to my stories than just romance.  I realized reading a book that was just as much a romance as it was a historical novel or an action/suspense novel was exhilarating and so much more fulfilling.  Since then, I’ve read countless historical novels.  I actively began to look for them when I would have passed over them before.   I own all of Lauren’s books in paperback and always look forward to reading her new books and re-reading and visiting with some of my favorite characters.  I look forward to news about her upcoming books, what she’s reading, and especially what she’s researching.  I’ve been introduced to many new authors and books through my daily stalkings of her website.  So much so, when I met her a few years ago at a singing she recognized my name and this year as well when I got to meet her for 15 minutes at RT.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation was a game changer for me and I think for many others as well.  I noticed that her fans grew with each book. I always get that happy feeling knowing I was one of the lucky ones who found her at the beginning and thinking how lucky the new readers are to have an extensive back list waiting for them.  I’m always very excited to see her books on the shelves and on the table with other best sellers.  It takes someone extra special to be a writer, and I’m hoping Lauren will continue to bring me and other readers joy.

Thanks for sharing with us today, Chanpreet! I’ve found several great recommendations on Lauren’s website for historical fiction as well. Off the top of my head, I know I’ve read Forever Amber, The Far Pavilions, and Shadow of the Moon on Lauren’s recommendation. If you’d like to see a list of some of Lauren’s favorite books by category, she has one posted on her website. Tracy Grant’s novels are on Lauren’s list as favorite historical mysteries! If you’d like to give one a try, make sure to enter the giveaway for a signed copy of Vienna Waltz!

What are some of your favorite historical fiction novels?

Dream Casting: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

I don’t know about you, but one of the things I always think when I finish a great book is, “That should be a movie!” I know sometimes movie adaptations don’t live up to what’s in my imagination, but it’s fun to think about which actors would play the characters in your favorite books if you had the chance to cast them! On that note, today we have a guest post from Miss Eliza of Strange and Random Happenstance, who is here to tell us about her ideal casting picks for a movie version of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.

Eliza1
This might shock some of you who know me from my book blog and being one of the moderators for the “That Summer Read Along” but I wasn’t always a book person. Shocking, I know. In fact I kind of came to reading via a back door. I was a movie addict when younger, I still appreciate movies but books have filled what time I had for movies.  I bridged this gap in my adolescence with novelizations of movies, the Willow novelization being my favorite. Mmm, Val Kilmer. I then expanded to Timothy Zhan’s Star Wars books which were continuations of the original trilogy, in particular Heir to the Empire, and well, the rest is history. But that part of me that loved films is still there and because of this I can’t help but cast books as I read them.

Eliza2
If you participated in the “That Summer Read Along” you know I can’t keep these casting suggestions to myself, and I love to discuss them, so as part of Ashley’s year-long Pink Read Along I’ll be popping in once a month to discuss who I think would be perfect for the leads of that month’s book. This being the premiere month with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation I say we jump right in. The year was 2007, and that March I had just watched and fell in love with the newest adaptation of Northanger Abbey starring Felicity Jones and J.J. Feild. Shortly thereafter I picked up The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and I instantly saw Amy Balcourt being played by Felicity Jones. The bubbly personality, the short stature with the enthusiasm to hunt down those laundry lists, or French spies made her a perfect choice.

Eliza3

My main problem was in casting Richard Selwick. Amy came so easy, and so did Richard, to an extent… because, let’s face it, Richard is Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride. Only, well, Cary wouldn’t work, age and food have seen to that, and I try to be realistic in my casting, so I thought of a perfect alternative, his name is Bradley James. Most people will know Bradley from his stint as Arthur on Merlin, but the reason why I chose him is that throughout Merlin he showed he has the same acting chops and comedic timing as a young Carey Elwes, so he makes a perfect substitute.  You can read the full profiles for Amy and Richard over on my website, but I’d like to discuss who your Amy and Richard would be!

So what do you think of Miss Eliza’s choices?  What actors would you like to see take on characters in Pink I?  We’d love to hear your suggestions for Amy and Richard, or anyone else from the book.  I know someone has a good idea for who should play Edouard or Delaroche…

Pink I Week 3 in Review

Pink Comic

The winner of the set of Pink comics is Jennifer, whose favorite scene is Amy and Richard’s ride on the river boat, and whose iPad chose an inconvenient moment to die on her. Congratulations, Jennifer! If you will email me your mailing address at ashley.pinkforallseasons@gmail.com, I will see that your prize is on its way to you ASAP. I’m sorry I can’t give a prize to everyone, but another giveaway is coming on Monday, and I’m very excited about it!

Favorite moment from this week’s section of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation? The Uppington invasion of the Hotel de Balcourt. I had completely forgotten that Richard’s entire family (plus Miles) descends on him unannounced – somehow I only remembered the Marchioness and Henrietta. Watching Miles and Henrietta tease each other was fun, and you can’t help but feel Richard’s exasperation at the way his mother is trying to manage everything for him. You know what I found interesting about this scene? Somehow, it’s possible to forget Geoff is there. He never says a word! Other characters talk about him or to him, but he never speaks – he blends completely into the background. Now that I think about it, Geoff never made it onto Delaroche’s list of possible suspects for the Purple Gentian. He suspects Marston, Edouard, Augustus, Richard, but never Geoff. Geoff is a British aristocrat who spends a good deal of time traveling back and forth between England and France. You’d think he would be worthy of just as much of Delaroche’s attention as Richard is currently enjoying. Geoff has an uncanny ability to make himself unremarkable. He’s a lot like Jane that way.

Another great moment from this section is the first time we see Jane’s spirit – the fiercely protective and (dare we say it?) dangerous side that she keeps hidden just below the surface of her usual cool grace. We see a glimpse here of the Jane that is to come. When Marston attacks Amy earlier in the Luxembourg Gardens, she’s shocked that he would do such a thing. She’s “gently bred,” and no one has ever laid a hand on her (or probably even spoken to her) in violence. But Jane never makes the mistake of underestimating what Marston’s capable of, and she shows no fear. She knows exactly how to make sure that Marston never causes a problem for Amy again, and she lays down the law with authority. This is making me anxious for Pink XII. I can’t wait to read a story that’s entirely about Jane.

Does it stretch believability at all that someone who is as successful a spy as the Purple Gentian could be oblivious to the fact that he’s being tailed? Delaroche has been getting reports on Richard’s every move for at least three days in a row. Is Richard getting overconfident? Is he distracted by Amy? Or is this just a new level of unexpected and intense scrutiny that Delaroche is subjecting him to?

In the modern chapters, I enjoyed watching Eloise’s animosity towards Serena melt away in the face of Serena’s sickness. It’s hard to hate a girl for being too perfect to be real when you’ve just had to hold her hair back while she’s sick. Also, it’s been a while sense we’ve heard anyone call Eloise “Ellie.” I thought that was cute.

What jumped out at you from this section of Pink I?

Happy Friday, and have a wonderful weekend.

Genre Continued

Today on her website, Lauren is talking about her Pink series and genre.  It’s entertaining to see that, in its lifetime, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation has come full circle.  When she first gave it to her agent, Lauren thought she had written a romance novel.  Her publisher told her she had “invented historical chick lit,” then she was published and promoted in that nebulous world of “Fiction/Literature.”  Years later, Lauren has people asking her if she knows her books are romance novels.  I’m telling you, we just LOVE to label things.

The problem with calling Lauren’s books romance novels seems to stem from the fact that “Romance” as a genre is a really divisive topic.  People tend to fall firmly into the “love it” or “hate it” camps and then stick their fingers in their ears in hum when someone from the opposing camp tries to talk to them.  People can be so aggressive about judging books, and I know I’ve found myself feeling defensive when people who know I was an English teacher ask me what books I read for pleasure.  How many of us have had that experience where we’re lost in a good book, minding our own business, and someone snaps us out of our reverie with an exclamation of “I can’t believe YOU are reading THAT.”  Good grief.  Lauren has had that experience herself as both an author and a reader.  I am a firm believer that no one should be ashamed to read what they love.  Call the Pinks whatever you want.  I’ll just call them great books and say I’m really glad I found them (thanks again, Beth!).

If you’re interested, there is also an interview with Lauren from earlier this week available at Timeless Quills Historical Romance blog (which I’ve just realized I need to follow ASAP).  In this interview, Lauren talks a bit about her two latest releases, her process, and some of her favorite things.

If you’d like to enter the giveaway for the Pink comics, just comment on that post before midnight EST tonight!  I’ll announce the winner tomorrow.  Come back tomorrow and talk to me about The Secret History of the Pink Carnation – if you are keeping pace with me, I’ll be finished with chapter 31 by then.  See you then!

A Carnation by Any Other Name

What’s an author to do when her book stubbornly refuses to fit easily into one genre? I think it’s safe to say that this is definitely the case for The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. Lauren posted on her website a few years ago about the marketing changes that Pink I went through before it hit the shelves for the first time. Originally, NAL wanted to market the book as chick lit, but they made a last-minute decision to drop that angle and concentrate more on the historical fiction aspect.

Off the top of my head, I would have called Pink I “historical fiction.” The other genres that seem to pop up most frequently are romance, suspense, mystery, and chick lit (or “women’s fiction” depending on your philosophical bent). Some people might say, “What does it matter? It’s just a good book!” But we just love to LABEL things, don’t we? If you are like me, it probably makes your little heart flutter to be able to put something in its appropriate box – to know where it belongs. I know I’m not alone here. If you take a look at Pink I on GoodReads, you’ll find a list that is 26 pages in length (not kidding – check it out) that shows how other readers have categorized it. You get everything from “dual-story” and “cultural>France” to “books going to college with me” and “holy historical fiction batman.” Readers love to categorize their books, even if those categories don’t make sense to anyone else.

With so many different genre angles to choose from, I can only imagine the struggle that the art department experienced trying to create a cover for Pink I. On that note, I’ve put together a little gallery of the different covers that have been considered or used for publication, both here in the US and abroad:

Pink Chick Lit first ed  mass market
 Original “chick lit” cover  US first edition  US mass market paperback
 large print  original uk  British pb
 US large print edition  Original UK cover  UK paperback cover
 german  turkish  japan
 German cover  Turkish cover  Japanese cover

 

Which cover is your favorite? And, if you were describing Pink I to a potential reader, how would you label it?

Pink Comics Giveaway and Other Pink Trivia

Good morning, and happy Monday! I hope you had a wonderful weekend.

Back in 2010, Lauren commissioned the artist Joanne Renaud to create a set of comics depicting 8 scenes from The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. Have you seen them? They are posted here on Lauren’s website. A panel of one of these comics was actually used as the cover for the “Ivy and Intrigue: A Very Selwick Christmas” novella. If you go to Joanne’s site, you can take a look at her work. She’s done some illustrations for Sarah MacLean as well, for her novel Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, and I had a great time looking through her portfolio.

Getting back to the Pink comics, would you like to win a set of your own? Lauren has offered to give one away to a Pink for All Seasons participant! To enter, comment below and share your favorite moment so far from Pink I. You can enter until Thursday at midnight EST. I’ll announce the winner on Friday.

Also, on the topic of all things Pink related, did you know that Lord Richard Selwick is mentioned in Mary Blayney’s novel Traitor’s Kiss? This book is the first in Mary’s “Pennistan” series, and her hero is rescued from a French prison by an English noblewoman in 1813. Evidently, Lauren and Mary had a chat about writing post-revolution France and decided it would be fun if their worlds overlapped a bit. As soon as I found out about this, I rushed off to grab a copy of Traitor’s Kiss, anxious to see what kind of cameo appearance Richard would have. I wound up being slightly disappointed, because I thought I’d get to see Richard in action. Instead, his name is mentioned in a conversation where Mary’s hero is defending the scholarly interest that took him to France. But even though we don’t get to see Richard effecting any daring rescue attempts, it’s still a fun reference and makes you feel a little smug about knowing exactly who Mary is talking about. If you like books about this time period, and you appreciate books that fall more rigidly into the romance category than Lauren’s, Traitor’s Kiss could be a good read for you.

Pink I Week 2 in Review, and a Winner

Pink Card 1B

First off, congratulations to the winner of our first giveaway: Amanda! Amanda, if you will email me at ashley.pinkforallseasons@gmail.com with your address, I will get your signed copy of Pink I in the mail to you ASAP. Thanks to all those of you who entered and shared the contest. Make sure you keep checking back with the blog, because more giveaways are on the horizon.

Thanks again to Sharlene for providing the excellent card for today’s post. I love this moment in the book for two reasons. First, I really enjoy Lauren’s depiction of Napoleon. From the way his shouting precedes him into the Tuilleries to the way he seems to have a significant case of Attention Deficit Disorder, he was not at all what I expected. Also, this was our first opportunity to see that Miss Gwen’s dragon persona isn’t just an act. She doesn’t just push around the people who seem like easy targets – she smacks Napoleon’s wrist with her reticule, just like she would do Amy if Amy slouched in her chair, and backs him into a corner demanding an apology for his treatment of the Italians and the Dutch. Miss Gwen establishes herself early on as a force to be reckoned with.

I don’t know about you all, but what struck me most about this section of the book when I was reading it was Amy’s blind determination to believe that Georges Marston is the Purple Gentian and that her brother is in his league. I felt almost sorry for her, watching her convince herself that Edouard’s horrific personality was all an ingenious cover for his work in the Gentian’s league. Granted, she does see Marston wearing a black cloak just moments after the Purple Gentian disappears, and there is that implicating fact of the injured footman in the Balcourt ballroom. All in all, it seems like Amy is making the classic mistake of trying to force the pieces of a puzzle into a shape she has predetermined rather than the shape they actually make. And if Richard’s eyes are really such a startling green, then why does she have trouble recognizing them, even though he is masked during their midnight encounter in Edouard’s study?

And then I realized I should probably cut Amy some slack. We only know that Marston can’t possibly be the Purple Gentian because we have the advantage of knowing at the outset that it’s Richard. Delaroche suspected Marston, and even Richard thinks that Marston might be up to something thanks to his suspicious behavior. So it’s not really such an unusual conclusion for Amy to draw – the problem is that, in classic Amy fashion, she decided to chase her impulse at full throttle rather than taking the time to confirm her hunch.

Back in the modern world, we get our first glimpse of Eloise and Colin unsupervised. Eloise’s conviction that she will find the man responsible for the Pink Carnation’s league is reminiscent of Amy’s belief that Marston is her Purple Gentian. One of the things I’ve grown to love about Eloise is just how imperfect and human she is. She is forever getting lost, misjudging distances, and ramming into things. She gets so carried away discussing Napoleonic spies that she spills hot chocolate everywhere. And she just can’t catch a break! She has come so close to discovering the identity of the Pink Carnation only to be told that, when she finds it, she won’t be able to share it.

What are your thoughts on the first half of Pink I?

Happy Friday, everyone.

Inspiration is Contagious

Today on her website, Lauren is talking about how she developed her idea for a spy network run by a woman. I’m no history expert, so it was a surprise for me to read that there really were flower-named spies in the Napoleonic era.

I couldn’t help but laugh when I read Lauren’s comment that, after Pink I was published, she received lots of emails about Amy and Jane that started with “a young lady would never…” A few years ago, I saw Lauren and Deanna Raybourn at a historical fiction panel at the Virginia Festival of the Book. Deanna made a comment on this topic that I thought was absolutely perfect. She said that she gets emails and letters all the time from historical sticklers saying things like, “A woman in Victorian England would not have…” Deanna’s response was that it’s impossible to know how every single woman in any culture behaved at any given moment. She had a great analogy for why this way of thinking can’t possibly work. Imagine it’s 300 years from now, and historians are trying to decide what women were like in the early 2000’s. If all they had to go on was a Martha Stewart Living magazine, would they be able to make the sweeping generalization that ALL women in 2014 would:

  1. Brainstorm lists of 23 fun things to do with mason jars
  2. Buy only color-coordinated dog toys
  3. Spend a significant amount of time “upcycling” their last-season clothing into charming handbags

Nope. So anyone who starts out a criticism of historical fiction by saying “Women of that time period would never…” is already on shaky ground.

But getting back to Pink I, my goal is to be finished with chapter twenty tomorrow – that’s approximately the halfway point. I know several of you have already finished, and that is great! I’m trying to pace myself throughout the month, but everyone is free to read at their own speed. Drop by tomorrow and chat about the first half of the book with me. I saw a comment somewhere that referred to Pink for All Seasons as the “Pink book club.” I love that! It does feel that way, too. It’s much more fun to read through a book you enjoy when you can share it with others.

Also, if you haven’t done so already, make sure you enter the giveaway for the signed copy of Pink I! I’ll announce the winner here tomorrow.