Ask the Author XII

Good morning!  It’s finally that time – time for our very last “Ask the Author” Q&A with Lauren and wrapping up our year of reading the Pink series.

What are your questions about Jane and Jack, Colin and Eloise, Aunt Arabella, or anyone else from the Pink books?  Is there something you have always wanted to know about Parsnip Fitzhugh, or are you dying to ask about the big revelation regarding Nicolas in the Reader’s Guide?

Leave your questions in the Comments section below, and Lauren will pop by throughout the day to answer them.

Once again, our benevolent Pink Fairy has agreed to gift a Pink XII mug to a lucky comment-writer today (the mug designed, as ever, by Miss Eliza – go check out Zazzle to see the full garden of mugs she created for Pink for All Seasons!).

pink xiiSo for one last time, thanks again to Lauren for agreeing to hang out with us today!  I can’t wait to hear your questions – they are probably very similar to my own.

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Pink XII Week 4 in Review

Somehow, incredibly, we have reached out last recap post for The Lure of the Moonflower.  Buckle up, y’all.  Miss Eliza has a lot of ground to cover.

Lure week 4

The Bien-Aimée, Fort of Peniche, and Berlengas São João Batista Fort, 1807: Jack arrives at the Bien-Aimée, which is a bit of a surprise. It’s appears to be a rich man’s pleasure yacht peopled by aristocratic lunatics. He has a bad feeling about this. If this is Jane’s rescue party he would have been better off storming the fortress with the damn donkey. Besides the indignant brunette and the ginger giant, he finally meets whom Jane sent him to, Lord Richard Selwick, who doesn’t seem to be in charge. The one in charge is Miss Gwen, who has so much purple on it is like being assaulted by an aubergine, and she takes control of the situation. Jack is shocked to learn that his “retrieval” was apparently part of Jane’s mission. He can mull that over later, firstly Jane is in danger from the Gardener. At least at the mention of that deadly spy he has their attention. Jane has until sundown to bring the Queen to the São João Batista Fort, but after that it’s up to them if she misses the rendezvous. But at that moment he is ambushed by kith and kin, and the way his father is looking at the lady in purple doesn’t bode well for Jack. Could that woman be his father’s new wife? But his father seems settled, happy. The restlessness is gone. When Lizzy rockets out of the hold with a crossbow Jack is convinced that this has to be some elaborate and fantastical dream, now where are the dancing aardvarks? Jane couldn’t have held this big a secret from him, could she? Luckily it turns out she was as ignorant as he of the welcoming party, at least according to his father. Jack wasn’t prepared for any of this. He starts to question everything Jane has told him. Is the Queen really at large or was that just a ruse and she was just to retrieve him like luggage? As for their part of the rescue plan, everyone seems to take it on faith that Jane will succeed and they won’t be needed. Even if she deceived Jack she’s still human and she is not invincible despite what everyone else might think. If her plan fails Jack and Lord Richard are to go in and rescue her. Miss Gwen obviously replaces Lord Richard with herself and considers it a fine plan, if they could add some repelling.

Jane has “prepared” herself for her meeting with Nicolas. She is now bathed, perfumed, and beribboned like a china doll. She tries to stay in the moment, but is fervently hoping that Jack is boarding the Bien-Aimée as she awaits Nicolas. Given Nicolas’s slow seductions, she’s calculated that she has about two hours to incapacitate Nicolas, forge the orders, and see the Queen to the boat. Nicolas is his usual charming self but she can tell that he is hurt by her recent actions. It might be easy to despise him in absentia, but it is hard, in person, not to feel a little fond of Nicolas. While she is plotting on how to get Nicolas to ingest the sleep draft she realizes that things have changed between them. It’s not that she loves Jack, it’s that Nicolas isn’t abiding by their agreement. He views Portugal no longer as neutral territory and therefore all bets are off. Yes, Jane wants the Queen. But perhaps the reason he has the Queen isn’t to help Bonaparte but to help himself. He may have gotten his title back, but what about the land, the house, the works of art? And what about Jane. He wants Jane. But she doesn’t want to be tethered, and a golden chain is still a chain. Nicolas is switching allegiances again, back to Louis XVIII. As she looks at Nicolas, Jane realizes that it’s him, not Jack, who is the real opportunist, for sale to the highest bidder. But perhaps this time it means that they have the same goal? She goes all in and tells Nicolas of her plans and the Bien-Aimée and her reinforcements on Berlengas. But Nicolas is well informed. The Bien-Aimée is Lord Richard’s ship, and she wasn’t with him at the abbey, so who was? So Mr. Samson it is. He was the spy all along. Though he is really Rene Desgoules and he isn’t Nicolas’s man. At that moment Mr. Samson appears in a miasma of rage, he is Fouché’s man and demands Jane be placed in chains, and definitely not golden ones. Desgoules threatens Jane but she quickly has Nicolas’s sword-cane at his throat. But Nicolas has a gun aimed at the pair. Who will he shoot? It would clearly define his intentions. Or at least his intentions of the moment. He pulls the trigger.

Nicolas has killed Desgoules, after all, he wasn’t his man, not that that would stop him. Jane realizes it was also a test. He hoped her to kill Desgoules as a way to finalize their courtship, making her just a little less virtuous. How had she ever fancied herself in love with him? He uses the incident to their advantage, saying that Desgoules was a spy in their midst trying to kill his fiancée, to precipitate his and Jane’s departure with the Queen to Berlengas. But are Nicolas’s motives for her or just for what he views as rightfully his? Why should she trust him? It wasn’t his heart at her feet but a murdered operative. For now that would have to do. On the island Jack and Gwen wait. They form a tentative bond over their love for Jane, Gwen has always cared for this maddeningly omniscient girl. When the boat finally arrives there is something wrong. They are unnerved, to say the least, when she arrives on the arm of the Gardener. The Jane that arrives and has changed the plans, yet again, seems more Nicolas’s creature than ever, with the French perfume wafting on the breeze. At least Jack can shake up the Gardener in return, announcing himself as the Moonflower, Nicolas’s agent who was supposed to be dead back in India, not alive and standing in front of him. But Nicolas has brought the Queen, so there has to be a trick. Reinforcements, something. Nicolas jokes that Jack could shoot him before that happens, the first idea of Nicholas’s that Jack likes, as he cocks his pistol.

And Jane won’t let him kill Nicolas, which puts out Miss Gwen most of all, it was just starting to get interesting! Jane worries that it’s not just Nicolas angering Jack but the fact that she changed the plans again; and that she looks and smells like a French brothel. At least Jack isn’t the only one whose hackles are raised by Nicolas’s arrival. In fact, the rest of the group, minus Jane, would be happy to see a bullet in him. Lizzy would opt for a crossbow bolt, but Nicolas did rather like her outré ensemble. Yet he did bring them the Queen as the first token of his good intentions; that must stand for something. Then why does Jane feel bewildered and hurt. Nicolas isn’t going to make this any easier as the situation descends into French farce. Nicolas believes that completing this quest, no matter how ignoble, is worthy of the hand of fair maiden, to seal their alliance. He makes quite a display of proposing to Jane, yet again. Did he really think that making a public spectacle would change her answer? It is still a no, not a “perhaps later.” Before she can reject him for approximately the 38th time Jack storms off. Jane finds him sulking and tries to get it through Jack’s thick skull that she does not want what Nicolas has to offer. She is not a prize to be won or a parcel to be handed back and forth, they both have pasts and Nicolas is her past, not her future, there needs to be no duel. Everything that was clear is murky. She doesn’t want a pedestal or to be an ornament. And once again, no duels! Jack isn’t being noble, he’s wrong. It’s Jane’s turn to storm off and Jack gets some advice on woman from the last place he expected, his father. Happiness isn’t a gift, it’s a task that you work on, together. Perhaps the easiest answer is to just tell Jane the truth. That he loves her. Damn, when did his father get insightful?

Jane didn’t realize how uncomfortable sitting on a cannon was. It’s even more uncomfortable contemplating her murky future. Tomorrow the sun would rise, she would return to England, and embark on a new mission. She thought she knew all there was to know about Jack before she met him, but she didn’t know anything; the kindness, the fundamental decency, everything good about him. When she was with him she didn’t feel the weight of being the Pink Carnation. But she was the Pink Carnation, she should go and make sure everything was seen too and that Henrietta hadn’t killed Nicolas. But then Jack joined her. His opening gambit made time tilt backward: “I hear that the eagle nests only once.” Jack asks Jane what her next move is, she says perhaps Russia. Jack says that sounds lonely and had she ever thought of taking a husband along? The suggestion hurts too much, if he isn’t volunteering for the position she can’t bear to hear it. But he wants to go where she is. To work together. No ornamentation, no pedestal, no lutes. He’s found his nest. The proposal has a full audience, but that seems to be the case with family. What matters is that they love each other, the messy, muddy, totality of it. The eagle had found its nest.

Constantinople, 1808: Jack and Jane are now married and they have infiltrated the Ottoman Court so that a new sultan who is not beholden to Napoleon could be crowned. Napoleon has always dreamed of an alliance with the Ottoman Empire, but the new ruler is beholden to the Pink Carnation, so that put paid to Napoleon’s ambitions. Mahmud II, the new ruler, has been secreted away by his mother, Naksidil Sultan. Jane delayed the assassins sent by Mahmud’s half-brother and predecessor Mustafa IV by throwing ashes in their face. She has been posing as a slave girl while Jack was a Janissary. That Janissary now has that slave girl thrown over his shoulder. They are finally leaving after completing a mission weeks in the making. They also herded the leader of the rebel forces, Alemdar Mustafa Pasha, who as they escape is proclaimed Mahmud II the new sultan. Mustafa IV didn’t count on Mahmud’s secret allies, who are sailing off into the sunset.

Sussex, Selwick Hall, 2005: Aunt Arabella is looking none the worse for wear after their late night escapades and waiting for her “contact” to come and deal with Nigel Dempster, while Eloise is obviously sleep deprived. Eloise is grateful to the magic of make-up, seeing as she didn’t see her bed till 4 AM. But it’s her wedding day and the sun is shining, something that isn’t to be taken for granted in England in the summer. As Aunt Arabella helps Eloise with the finishing touches of her ensemble, including a modern and not Regency inspired Vera Wang wedding gown, she fills in the details of Jane and Jake’s married life together, they were also married from Selwick Hall. They also happened to receive a very hefty tea service for their wedding, one that might have been re-gifted to Colin and Eloise. Aunt Arabella always suspected that they were involved in putting Mahmud the Second on the throne of the Ottoman Empire in 1808, but there was no way to prove it. From there they went to Russia, and that didn’t help Napoleon one little bit. They settled in Brazil, as the Portuguese owed them a debt, but it didn’t go the way the Portuguese hoped, Jack and Jane were instrumental in Brazil’s War of Independence. Jane did eventually learn Portuguese. As Eloise says, there’s a book there, Aunt Arabella counters that there is more than one. But the Pink Carnation’s love story would have to wait; it was time for Eloise to get her happily ever after. There were no doubts about Colin; he was her focus in a room full of happy and blurred faces. That is until Pammy’s phone went off. At least the call was about Eloise’s book deal, so kind of about the bride. Once they wrested that phone from Pammy it was only a matter of time till one of her backup phones went off so while the ceremony might have been a farce on the scale of The Princess Bride, the future was so bright they’d have to wear shades, the Vicar for an entirely other reason. Eloise’s life had been coffee soaked, rain-grey, and with Colin the future lay ahead, uncharted and full of possibilities. As for the book, Colin wonders if perhaps The Secret History of the Pink Carnation isn’t just the perfect title. Eloise thinks he has something there, besides her that is. They were brought together by the Pink Carnation and now telling her story is their future.

Pink XII: Dream Casting

This post was written by Miss Eliza.

Lure_Casting1

I seem to start every dream casting post with stating that whatever character I’m currently casting is the hardest. While obviously they couldn’t all be the hardest, that would be impossible, some are trickier than others. There is that rare synchronicity that makes the planets align perfectly, but the truth is each character has proved difficult in their own special way. Eloise is hard in that she is the reader’s conduit into the book. She is basically us, to some extent. But she is also very much Lauren. So my problem is who should play her if I basically see her as Lauren? Maybe we should be asking Lauren who she would choose to play her in her life story? Because that’s basically what casting Eloise is, casting the fictional Lauren. Before I started seeing Eloise so much as Lauren I was trying out any red-headed actress I could think of, even those that could convincingly be red-heads. There was Alexis Bledel (did I mention I was going through a Gilmore Girls phase when I started these books?) Then there was Laura Prepon followed by Lauren Ambrose, Amy Adams followed by Isla Fisher. The complete Titian haired line-up was presented to me and all found to be lacking. Until now! Re-reading the books I was struck by Eloise’s sense of humor and her clumsiness. Of course said clumsiness could be written off because of inappropriate footwear, but the fact still remains that she’s quite likely to fall into Colin’s arms, literally, not that that’s a bad place to be. And that’s when I thought, wait a minute, what about Ellie Kemper? Most of you probably know her from Bridesmaids, as the unhappily married mouse in the wedding party, but I know her as the unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. For some reason, she’s it. She’s Eloise. And I totally think she’s game to wear a Regency dress to a Halloween party and take on spies, modern of historical, with the best of them.

Lure_Casting2

As for her better half? They are after all soon to be man and wife! Sqwee! Well, for the longest time I had pictured Colin Selwick as Raymond Coulthard, the actor who played Frank Churchill in the Kate Beckinsale adaptation of Emma. But given the fact that he is now in his late forties I thought it might be time to recast… But more than age, because as you will see later age doesn’t always enter into it, it’s his recent roles on shows like Mr. Selfridge that made me realize he wasn’t the one. So who was THE ONE? Well, oddly enough it related to the casting of Richard Selwick. While re-reading The Secret History of the Pink Carnation I was thinking that Richard could also easily be played by that most wondrous of actors, JJ Feild, he does look so fetching in Regency garb, watch Austenland and Northanger Abbey for obvious proof. But because I had so clear a vision of his Northanger Abbey co-star Felicity Jones as Amy, well, I couldn’t quite repeat this casting and maintain my cred as a good dream casting agent now could I? So I ignored my desire to cast him as Richard and while re-reading the books for Pink for All Seasons I realized that he had become Colin. He was tromping round the Selwick Hall property with a nice green quilted jacket on and a jaunty hat; for some reason that jaunty flat cap, the kind that snaps in the front, was key to my image of JJ as Colin. The sweaters Eloise could bury her face in cloaked his body. JJ is Colin. Also, I will admit that maybe while watching Outlander and how they decided to have Tobias Menzies play both Jack and Frank Randall, that the idea to have my “Richard Casting” move to the present might have been sparked. We could also have JJ play both Selwicks… Double the JJ double the fun?

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And seeing as this is a super-sized dream casting session, let’s get to that other “historical” couple, one of whom has been waiting a damn long time to be cast, and no, I’m not talking about you Jack, sheesh. Jane Wooliston. The Pink Carnation herself! The problem with trying to cast Jane prior to reading The Lure of the Moonflower was that I had no insight into her. She, like her nom du guerre, was thwarting me as much as she was the French. I only had her appearance to go on really, which just had to be the societal standard of beauty really. Oh, and her deeds thwarting the French. As a placeholder I had the actress Paloma Baeza who was demure and beautiful in The Way We Live Now and a rebellious in the 1998 adaptation of Far from the Madding Crowd. She was generic enough that she could be Jane till I learned more about her character. Reading Jane’s story I realized the role needed to be played by an actress with depth. Someone who could be hurt but also cover up that hurt; a woman capable of great feats in the face of insurmountable odds. That is when I thought of Hayley Atwell and Agent Carter. Yes, it might seem odd to think of a more modern special agent, but look how Agent Carter and the Pink Carnation are similar! They are both women kicking ass and taking names in a male dominated field. Plus, let us not forget that Hayley Atwell did not start out as Agent Carter, oh no, she had years and years in period dramas to give her the cred I require of all my casting choices. Plus, as Mary Crawford in the 2007 adaptation of Mansfield Park, aka the only recent one I will acknowledge, she showed that she can totally pull off the look, if not the manners, of a Regency lady of fashion. I give you Hayley Atwell, the Pink Carnation

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And now for the Moonflower, see Jack, you only had to wait a paragraph! The thing with Jack is we all know he’s based on Harrison Ford. So I needed to find the British equivalent of Han Solo, and sadly the casting has yet to be completed on that young Han Solo spin-off film. Though I’m guessing even if it was I would strongly disagree. Because that, that is how I role. Plus who could actually play a young Harrison Ford convincingly? I don’t think it’s possible. Back to finding my British Han… so there’s many actors who I have come up with their equivalent across the water. Seth Green has Tom Hollander, John Cusack has Matthew Macfadyen, and to my mind, Harrison Ford has Toby Stephens. Yes, I put forth Toby Stephens as my casting for Jack Reid, mainly because he can call me “Princess” any day. Yes, I know he might be on the older side, but the fact of the matter is I’ve always viewed him as a Reid. He has the red hair, the roguish grin, how could he not be a Reid? Knowing, as I did when re-reading The Passion of the Purple Plumeria that Toby Stephens was going to be my Jack, I toyed with the idea of instead casting him as Reid the elder, aka Jack’s father William. I knew he was too old for Jack, but he’s too young for William, and I wanted to appease my audience. In the end I just accepted that perhaps I will find a time machine and thus get Toby to the correct age, but seriously, watch him in action on Black Sails and it’s THAT Toby, the Toby of now, that is Jack. So perhaps Lauren will have to write another adventure for when Jack and Jane are older for my casting to work. I’m totally ok with getting another book, aren’t you?

2005:
Eloise Kelly played by Ellie Kemper
Colin Selwick played by JJ Feild

1807:
Jane Wooliston played by Hayley Atwell
Jack Reid played by Toby Stephens

Pink XII: Location, Location, Location

We’re heading toward the end of Pink XII, and Jane and Jack are still making tracks through Portugal.  They’ve actually covered pretty significant ground since the book began – starting in Lisbon and working their way through the countryside, the Monastery of Alcobaça, Caldas da Rainha, and Peniche.  Miss Eliza actually created a Google Map with the book’s locations marked so you can see Jane and Jack’s route.

Portugal map

If you want to visit the page for the Google map, click here.  You can drag the map around, zoom in, and get Google street views of what these locations look like these days.

I think Lauren’s ability to create a setting is one of the best things about Pink XII. For most of us, historical fiction set in England hardly feels foreign anymore.  We’ve read so many books set in that world that it feels just as familiar own.  Each book in the Pink series is unique in its own way, but I think some of my favorites are the books set in other countries – particularly The Betrayal of the Blood Lily in India and this book set in Portugal.

What is it about a new and different location that gives a book extra sparkle?  I read M.M. Kaye’s The Far Pavilions and went through a two-year craze where I couldn’t get enough books about India.  I’m still not completely over it – there is something MAGIC about  India in that book.  My first experience with Tracy Grant’s writing was Vienna Waltz, which (clearly) is set in Vienna.  Tracy does an incredible job with setting in that book.  And even though it’s not really “exotic,” my favorite book for about ten years was Maeve Binchy’s Circle of Friends, set in Dublin and a fictional small Irish town called Knockglen.  Reading these books really feels like traveling.

What are your favorite books with a setting that isn’t US or GB?  What is it that you like most about these books?

Pink XII Week 3 in Review

Please allow me to apologize for the radio silence on Wednesday.  I have fractured my wrist, which makes typing very difficult, and I have not been on my game with preparing this week’s post.  But Miss Eliza has taken care of our recap for today with her usual flair and efficiency.  I would also like to point out that, if you’re wanting another outlet for all things Pink, Miss Eliza is devoting the entire month of August to The Lure of the Moonflower on her own blog, Strange and Random Happenstance.  She’s calling it “An August Adieu,” and there have been several excellent posts about the Pink series so far.  Also, Abby (of Pink VII moderation) sent me a link to this NPR article about the end of the Pink series the night before it appeared on Lauren’s website – go forth and read, if you like. 

To wrap up from me, if you are interested in participating in the final Pink for All Seasons project, email me at ashley.pinkforallseasons@gmail.com to find out how you can join in.  And now, over to Miss Eliza!

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Monastery of Alcobaça, Road to Peniche, Portuguese Countryside, Caldas da Rainha, and Peniche 1807: While Jack and Jane both feel a little absurd in their borrowed finery, bloody court clothes, Jack, even in his childish sulk, has to admit the borrowed dress does amazing things for Jane’s décolletage. Jack feels secretly smug when they learn they are not to dine with the monks in the refectory but with the monastery’s two other guests, an old roué, the Marquis de la Mare, and a belligerent glass manufacturer, Mr. Samson. Shut into this room and wearing this ridiculous getup, Jack’s chances to reconnoiter where slim. As their Christmas feast progresses, Jack begrudgingly admits that perhaps Jane’s plan has merit, even if he wasn’t consulted on it; though he will never reconcile himself to the plum velvet. Not only are they getting good information out of their fellow dinner guests about mysteriously closed sections of the abbey that contain marvelous works of art and wonder-working saints on the road to Peniche, but because of their “heretic” status they aren’t obliged to attend midnight mass; and what better time to snoop then when everyone is occupied elsewhere? While formulating their plans Jack is coming to realize not just how great an agent Jane is but also how below her he is. She might have fallen in her own eyes, but he was born low. Does one cancel out the other or are they forever on unequal footing? After the meal they sneak into the novice’s wing, which was supposedly closed due to water damage. There is no water damage, but there are signs that a large party of refined taste, just look at that bed linen, was recently in residence. But sadly they are too late and the “bird” has flown. It’s always birds. Jack is almost to the point where he can no longer deny his attraction to Jane. Illogically he almost wishes that the road to Alcobaça had been longer. But between them hangs the specter of Nicolas. Jack asks if she loved him. She responds, “How can there be love where there is no trust?” Jack wonders if this could include him and then he hears what he hoped to, that she never loved Nicholas. Then they hear what neither of them hoped to, the scrape of metal in a lock.

Jack and Jane snuff the candle and find themselves in complete darkness. Soon the Marquis de la Mare appears. Could it be he’s just looking at the artwork hidden away in the novice’s wing or is he looking for the Queen? He is actually looking for a chalice that has hidden symbols. Turns out de la Mare is more interested in the Philosopher’s Stone then the Queen of Portugal, being an alchemist himself, though he doesn’t mind sparing a minute to lend a lascivious eye to the monastery’s Titian. Speaking of sexual arousal, Jane never knew how seductive being in complete darkness with Jack could be, all sensations were intensified, even the protection he offered without thinking. Jane cannot seem to banish erotic thoughts of Jack. She never once allowed Nicolas to impede her concentration, yet here is Jack; and his finger against her lips is conjuring salacious imagery in her mind. She has been called an ice queen, incapable of true passion, whose self-containment wasn’t natural; she wasn’t feeling icy at the moment. She was painfully aware of her body. It’s been a long day and finally the Marquis goes off to bed. There might be something they’re missing, but they need sleep desperately, the same as the Marquis. But first they have a decision to make. Should they continue on their way to Porto or listen to what Mr. Samson said about the wonder-working saint on the way to Peniche? The island of Berlengas is just off the cost of Peniche and that was where Jane was to deliver the Queen. Peniche seems the safe bet, but it could also be a trap. Succumbing to their exhaustion Jane tells Jack to come to bed. Sharing a bed with their growing attraction doesn’t seem the wisest bet but Jack’s reaction to her suggestion makes Jane feel rejected; even if he does sleep beside here, protected by several layers of fabric.

Though several layers of fabric didn’t keep Jack from having a sleepless night. He prided himself on his ability to sleep anywhere. Apparently anywhere isn’t next to Jane. She has a peace in sleep he’s never seen in her before. Does she trust him? Does that mean love is possible? Love is terrifying. He saw what happened with his mother and father.  Her suicide proved to him that love wasn’t fair. Yet Jane is fundamentally fair. Perhaps he’s starting to see what love can truly be instead of what his parents had. As they set off before dawn just in case any of their dinner companions of the night before weren’t as they appeared, Jack is glad for the cold driving rain that stops his amorous and soppy thoughts about Jane and his growing feelings for her. Jane was also glad of the distraction that her blisters were giving her, until Jack came over all thoughtful again. Sitting on the donkey she has too much time to live in her head. Time to dwell on Christmas and all the Christmases past and all she has left behind. She knows that that life doesn’t exist anymore even if she had wanted it too. Everyone has moved on, scattered. Her thoughts are interrupted by a rapidly approaching horse. She tells herself that there is no reason for the Gardener to come after her, she doesn’t matter, Nicolas only wanted the Queen. Yet still they take cover in the verge.

Mr. Samson is the rider. Could his return along the round to Peniche be a coincidence or something more? Jane feels vulnerable, exposed. Jane and Jack had decided to take the main roads because they assumed there wouldn’t be many travelers on Christmas Day, but the unexpected appearance of Mr. Samson has them going once more into the rough countryside following nothing more pronounced than a goat trail. They go north, west, and south, on a non-to “brief” detour, finally coming to the town of Caldas da Rainha. Where there is a thermal hospital, or in layman’s terms, a hot spring. The Pink Carnation thinks it’s unwise to stop, but Jane really wants a hot bath, as Jack heard her gasp earlier in the day, and as he wisely points out it wouldn’t do for her to catch a chill and it’s on the way. Never had the word “hot” sounded so seductive. Jack bribes the gatekeeper for access, privacy, and a little food. The benefit of hiding out in this hospital founded by Queen Leonor is that not only did they confirm Mr. Samson’s story about the miraculous statue from the gatekeeper, but the Gardener would never think to look for them at a spa! The room looks like something out of one of Miss Gwen’s horrid novels, wreathed in mist. Oddly enough it turns out Jack has read Miss Gwen’s little roman à clef about Jane and Nicolas, not knowing that it was written by his step-mother or that it was about Jane. Jane is still hurt by the book, but it’s success is what now funds her missions. Now is not the time to think of Nicolas. The more she had known him the harder it was to convince herself that she might love him. He only loved the idea of her. Jack knew more of the real her. He had given her the present she most wanted for Christmas, a hot bath. It was her decision to share it with him. He had already seen her figuratively naked over the past few weeks and the dark created its own shield.

Jack tried not to look. But she was a goddess descending into the pool more tantalizing than any courtesan. He knew that Jane’s offer to share her bath wasn’t sexual, he now has to convince his body of this fact. It’s because of Jack that this is how she is spending Christmas, naked in water smelling of rotten eggs and not safely at home with her family. Their nakedness encourages these companions to finally reveal the secrets they have held back making them true comrades. Jane admits that the longing for people and places past hinges on the past. They don’t exist anymore. The exile’s dilemma, the home they yearn for is never the home to which they return. Miss Gwen had made a plan to bring Jane back from the dead as a long lost cousin, but Jane hates the idea as much as Jack. To live a lie forever is unacceptable. Jack tells her that he wanted to be a philosopher king, before his life went off course because of the laws in India. They just understand each other in way that is deep in their bones, they are the same, they are the dispossessed. That is when Jane reveals what she should have told Jack long ago, that she knows his family. Jack is shocked. From the story Jane spins of Miss Gwen, her chaperone, and her daughter Plumeria, and Lizzy and her conquests, and Kat and her marriage, it appears that Jane is more a member of Jack’s own family than Jack is. Jack accuses Jane of withholding this crucial piece of knowledge because she wanted the power. The Pink Carnation must always be smarter. While the Pink Carnation rejoinders he must always be more disaffected, he feels sorry for himself despite having people out there who love him and want him, unlike her. No one wants her, not even Jack. She would rather be alone than pitied. And then Jack reveals his biggest secret, which is that he is attracted to her and thinks she is wonderful in every single way. All the remaining walls between them have been torn down and they are both laid bare, in more ways than one. As she slips back into the water Jane wraps her arms around Jack’s neck.

Despite knowing it’s folly, they succumb to their growing passion for each other. To sleep would be to invite morning and this intimacy between them is too fragile and new, so they talk and bond over the long night together. They discuss weapons and missions, Jane admitting that this mission is the closest she’s come to war and was entirely unsuited for it had she been willing to admit her faults. But Jack has always been on the front line, not hiding in the shadows where decisions are made like Jane. They complement each other and their pasts make them perfect for each other. If she hadn’t taken this mission they wouldn’t be together. Jack wouldn’t like who Jane was in Paris just as she wouldn’t have liked the man Jack would have become had his life not been upended by colonial law. Their lives have made them for each other. Dawn comes too soon and they are awkward and don’t know how to tell each other that they don’t want just this one night. Jack defensively starts to put himself down because he doesn’t believe he is what Jane wants, but she doesn’t want lutes she wants a man who notices her blisters. Jane is in love with Jack and their time together is almost over and she has this nagging feeling that they have missed something. At least if something goes wrong Jack can get to the rescue boat, the Bien-Aimée, off the coast of Berlengas, helmed by Lord Richard Selwick. But why did the Queen go to Peniche and not Porto? Nicolas is sneaky and he might be infiltrating and exploiting the resistance’s own plans. What if Peniche isn’t a trap for Jack and Jane but for the Queen? Which gives Jane an idea; she can infiltrate the castle from within!

Jane is shocked by Jack’s compliance. That he completely trusts her and her plan of entering the fort alone without questioning makes her realize how much he gets her. Yes, he would like to single-handedly storm the fort, rout the entire garrison, and present the Queen on a platter to her, but he knows he doesn’t stand a chance, she does; and Jack is practical like that. The plan is to go to the French garrison in Peniche and Jane will enter pretending to be Nicolas’s mistress, the best plans after all have a kernel of truth. She will incapacitate him with an opiate in his drink, forge orders for the removal of the Queen to Berlengas, and pose as Nicolas and bring the Queen directly to Jack and her compatriots. The plan should work but that doesn’t mean Jack isn’t worried about Jane, he loves her. Damn. How did that happen? Where is the animus he first felt when they met? Where did all the time go? How is this the end of their mission? How can he help the plan? To stall for time Jack says that if there should be a child from their liaison then he will be there by her side, like his father. And when did he become his father? He shouldn’t be talking practicalities, he should be spilling his heart to Jane, but this is what comes out. Hearing the idea of a child, their child, makes Jane realize that this might be something she would want. They could conceivably have a future together but first Jane must confront her past and pull off the greatest ruse, making sure that Nicolas doesn’t realize he is no longer all to her. The kiss that seals Jack and Jane’s farewell wasn’t an admission of love, but it had certainly felt like one. Stepping up to the door of the of the fortress Jane announces to the French solider that Monsieur le Comte de Brillac’s fiancée has arrived.

Sussex, Donwell Abbey, 2005: This is really not how Colin and Eloise envisioned the night before their wedding. But at least they are together. Colin and Eloise are heading to the ruins of Donwell Abbey, though Eloise’s footwear is far more sensible this time. Their plan is to arrive there early and ambush the kidnapper, wresting Aunt Arabella from his clutches. More vague is their plan to scare him with a sheet with eyeholes and Eloise pretending to be the phantom monk of Donwell Abbey à la Casper the friendly ghost. If further proof were needed that Colin wasn’t in the secret service, this ramshackle plan completely eliminates any possibility. Unfortunately for Colin and Eloise Aunt Arabella’s kidnapper had pretty much the same plan as them, though better executed; he’s rocking quite the phantom monk ensemble, cowl and all. The gun is a little anachronistic though. It’s quite a shock when they realize that the kidnapper, the one waving the gun at them, is none other than Nigel Dempster! Serena’s ex, the curator of the Vaughn collection, and least we forget, a man totally obsessed with the Pink Carnation and dreams of book deals and BBC miniseries. But who would have thought he cared this much? It turns out it was never about the Pink Carnation! Everything he’s done was to get his hands on Aunt Arabella’s coded notebooks. Back in the seventies his father was a high ranking MP who killed himself after he was threatened with exposure because he was selling secrets to the Russians. He was exposed by none other than Aunt Arabella! Who graciously gave the elder Dempster the option of suicide over exposure. Dempster the younger wants reparations, even though Aunt Arabella was only doing her job and his father was caught red-handed. Dempster’s life was ruined and he has a fantastical plan wherein Aunt Arabella’s notebooks, artfully expurgated, will show the “truth” that his father, a man of sterling reputation, was hounded to death by an excitable woman who overstepped herself, who will be found dead. It is obvious that Dempster didn’t have any plan to return Aunt Arabella safe and sound, she was insurance to make sure he got the notebooks. When Serena stumbles onto the scene she becomes added insurance. And that’s when Eloise’s phone rings. Incongruously she gets the good news from her American agent that she has a two book contract. Her “fictional” story of the Pink Carnation is going to be published! Provided she survives the night. As she informs the motley crew of her book deal she is given a congratulatory hallo from the shadows as Aunt Arabella swiftly incapacitates Dempster, saving the day, and herself in the process! Dempster is foiled and there’s the little thing of a wedding in a few short hours!

In Which There Is a Misunderstanding

misunderstoodImage from Brainless Tales.

We’re about halfway through The Lure of the Moonflower now (or finished and rereading for the sake of discussion), and Jack and Jane are still dealing with trust issues. The biggest obstacle to their working together companionably is Jane. She just can’t let go of her preconception that Jack is a dangerous defector – a double agent unworthy of her trust.

Lauren really loves this idea of a hero and heroine who start off their relationship under the wrong impression about each other. It probably harkens back to The Scarlet Pimpernel, the inspiration for the Pink series, when Marguerite does not realize that her husband Percy is the masked crusader who is bravely rescuing aristocrats from the guillotine.

Think about it. In Pink I, Amy thinks Richard is a pathetic hanger-on in Napoleon’s court rather than the Purple Gentian, the very man she has come to Paris to find. In Pink III, Letty thinks that Geoff has taken off for Ireland to get away from her. She has no idea that he is working for the War Office. In Pink VII, Laura doesn’t realize that Andre’s work for the French Ministry of Police is just a means to protect his children and his friends. And Emma was certainly surprised to find out that Augustus is an agent in Pink X. I guess that’s one of the hallmarks of writing about spies – if everyone knew they were spies, they could hardly get any work done, could they? But it frequently creates conflict for Lauren’s heroes and heroines when a character finds he or she can explain themselves properly without revealing too much of the truth.

Inspired by Lauren’s “If You Like” lists, I went poking around the internet for lists of historical romances where misunderstanding or mistaken identity is key to the plot. Here are the most popular suggestions I found:

  1. Julia Quinn’s An Offer from a Gentleman
  2. Judith McNaught’s Until You
  3. Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ A Rose in Winter
  4. Jude Deveraux’s The Raider
  5. Lisa Kleypas’ Because You’re Mine

I haven’t read a single one of these, but I recognize all five names as authors who constantly pop up on Lauren’s If You Like lists and in comments from all of you about books you like.

So what are your favorite books about mistaken or hidden identities?

Pink XII Week 2 in Review

This post was written by Miss Eliza.

pink 12 w2

Portuguese Countryside and Monastery of Alcobaça 1807: Jack is stunned and unnerved by the appearance of the Gardener, it’s not every day the devil strolls into camp. What’s worse is that Jack betrayed him, he’s a gatherer of information, not an assassin. Luckily the Gardener always used an intermediary so they have never met face to face. But Jack does wonder if he might have walked into a trap led by the so-called Pink Carnation. The Gardener clearly recognized her despite a disguise that would fool most. How can he be sure she is as she says? And what is this “understanding” she has with this killer? But her dismay at seeing the Gardener couldn’t be feigned, could it? The two of them decide to make a strategic retreat, aka flee into the night, crawling out the back of their tent; while leaving a few stumbling blocks if the Gardener should pursue them. The most effective of which is some ipecac in the claret, though Jane’s faux billet–doux should help as well. Jack should feel smug finally getting his way and incommoding the Gardener, but he had planned to be prepared for rough country with the proper supplies for a well-provisioned trek, not a night flit. Out on their own on a path that is barely more than a goat track, Jack wants to rail against Jane for the situation they find themselves in but she’s oddly cooperative, not complaining as he expected. He is learning that with the Pink Carnation it is best not to take anything at face value. They begin to grate on each other, but perhaps it’s more Jack’s jealousy that Jane had something with “Nicolas” who is a cold blooded killer yet she is unwilling to trust him.

Ironically Jane is also worried that by going off with Jack into the wilderness she is walking into a trap. But it would be folly to remain behind, Nicolas is obviously looking for Queen Maria and it would be foolish to stay. Jane is holding in so much loss, and it all dates to that day Nicolas walked into her life. But she can’t begrudge Miss Gwen her happiness, though she sometimes wonders what if things had been different. Breaking away from their fellow travelers gives Jack and Jane time to understand each other better as they warm their chilled bones around the camp fire. Jack feels that the constant accusations of being a turncoat need to be justified and he tells Jane the circumstances of his employment and subsequent defection from the Gardener’s employ. He had found a father figure in General Pierre Perron, who brought Jack to the French and then the French wanted Jack to kill him when Perron became a liability. To save Perron, Jack gave the British information, and a new alliance was struck. More than that he talks about what it was like growing up half-caste and how he was always less than, hindered by his birth. Jane counters that it’s no worse than being born a woman. Her ire is also raised, his reputation and attitude have put them in needless danger because he has made a career out of being provoking. If he had told her all this to start with she would have trusted him and his plans! Jack’s response is to stalk off into the wilderness. He spends the remainder of the night covering their tracks and musing on the fact that there are people in the world more hard done by than him, which is a new thought. He also muses on his temper, which makes him think of his mother. Near dawn he heads back to their camp with a stubborn donkey that reminds him more than a little bit of the Pink Carnation. But the camp is deserted. He curses his stupidity only to find that Jane hasn’t fled but hid up a tree for safety. She comes down and after Jack’s confession of the night before tells Jack about Venice and how she doesn’t trust Nicolas, she and Jack don’t have Nicholas’s stomach for assassination. She asks it they can start again, which is harder than she thought it would be. She’s unused to apologizing. The olive branch she offers Jack is her name, plain and simple: Jane.

Travelling through the Portuguese countryside Jane is quickly realizing how sheltered she has been. They are walking, endlessly walking. And she has a very painful blister. Talking nonsense is one way Jane is coping and the poor donkey is the recipient of this dubious honor. It is humbling to have to ask for help and more so having to ride astride a donkey. She had misjudged Jack and she didn’t know how to make amends. She’s somehow always in the wrong with him. But after a few home truths; trust is being built and Jack and her are rubbing along nicely enough as they travel through the cold hardscrabble mountains. They are exiles united. There’s a word in Portuguese, saudade, it means something like nostalgia, and they both suffer from it. And speaking of Portugal, isn’t it supposed to be warm? Apparently that’s southern Portugal. In the summer. Their first full night on the road they are lucky enough to have a roof over their heads provided by some of Rodrigo’s “friends.” What is better is news of a palanquin with a holy relic that passed through a week since on the way to the Monastery at Alcobaça. A talking holy relic!

The comfort of warm food, a stool and a hard floor will never again be taken for granted after a day on a donkey. While Jack and Jane curl up for bed they whisper to each other about how what they do changes them. Jane seems untouchable, but there’s a moment, a moment when Jane is flesh and blood and there night’s repose might have become a tumble in the hay. Literally. If not for the donkey acting as duenna. In the morning Jack pays for their lodgings, Jane thinks it’s a little generous, but she doesn’t know that the lady of the house is also his informant. They stumble out into the gray dawn with a new destination in mind, Alcobaça. It’s not far out of the way of Porto, and if Queen Maria is there it will save them a wasted journey to Porto. In the gray dawn Jane looks so fragile that Jack wants to protect her and bare his soul. But he should know her by now, she will soldier on. Life would be easier if she would live down to his preconceptions of her. He is confiding in her more and more. She finally hears about why he stole the jewels of Berar. They were to be his sister Lizzy’s dowry. She is a half-caste like himself and this wealth is her protection. Let her marry whom she wants, or stay single, it was all so Lizzy could be an independent woman as well as guaranteeing her safety. Jack says that Jane, of anyone, should relate to this desire. That is when Jane cuts him to the quick and reveals her secret, that it is because of Jack and his jewels that she lost everything. Thanks to Jack Reid Jane’s family declared her dead.

Jane unburdens herself to Jack, albeit in a redacted form. She’s always prided herself on keeping her own counsel and here she is telling Jake almost everything, because for once it’s nice to speak to someone frankly without reserve. Fate works in mysterious ways, as Lizzy rose in the world the wheel of fate dealt Jane a blow. She had prejudged Jack because he has inadvertently unmasked her to the Gardener and made unable for her to return to Paris and the organization she had established. Though Nicolas said she could return to Paris at his side, she’d just have to disown her principles and her country. She lost her standing and became what Jack sees now. Her family couldn’t accept her gallivanting around Europe unchaperoned, albeit in disguise. They thought that it was improper and she had lost her virtue, ironically it was the other way around. She didn’t lose her virtue until they cut all ties. What hurt most was her parents declaring her dead. Jack is shocked by this. No matter how much of an outcast he actually is or just felt himself to be he knew he could show up at any of his sibling’s homes and be welcomed. Here he had thought himself an exile when Jane is more of an outcast than he will ever be. This unburdening of pain leads to a release of the sexual tension that has been mounting between them and they share an amorous embrace. The bells of Alcobaça call a sudden halt to their canoodling. Jack is on his feet thinking that the bells must be an alarm and they are too late. Jane on the other hand hears them for what they are, a celebration. It is Christmas Eve!

Jane points out that they are oddly suited for Christmas, they are without shelter and even have a donkey. On the final push to the monastery Jane dwells on the fact that things are getting complicated with Jack. She had NOT meant that kiss to happen. This isn’t how things where with Nicolas. It was all thrust and parry and wits clashing but never any truth to what they said. She even planned her own seduction in Venice as if it where one of her missions! Her decision to succumb to his advances was a calculated measure. She no longer cared for Nicolas, so she lied with her body to keep up the pretense. They weren’t star-crossed, they were ill suited. But still, there was nothing unexpected. At all. She never acted on impulse, and that kiss was pure impulse. She is at sea with Jack, he confounds her expectations constantly. When they arrive at the monastery Jack is spinning a tale to the Abbot that is sure to get them food, but only in the kitchen, and if they are lucky an actual stable. So Jane decides it’s time to take back control, of the situation if not of her emotions. She spins a lavish fairy tale about an elopement and an enraged father and in the end, she gets her and Jack through the front door. Though Jack isn’t well pleased by this unexpected and undiscussed change in plans. They are given a lavish room with some very interesting outmoded court clothes of the color Jack’s stepmother would approve of, though he thinks he looks like a giant aubergine. If Jack would stop being so churlish Jane might just have to admit to herself that he cuts quite a dash in the ridiculous getup. As for his stepmother… how could she ever unravel for Jack all the tangled ties that bound her to his family?

Sussex, The Heavy Hart, 2005: With Aunt Arabella being kidnapped the rehearsal diner seen from Eloise’s point of view is more one of an Agatha Christie novel, wherein she is eying up the suspects, then a casual get-together. Jeremy is being a little too cozy with her grandmother as they bond over their distaste of the local pub as an “appropriate” place for a rehearsal dinner. But would Jeremy really endanger his own grandmother? Other than channeling Miss Marple it’s much what you’d expect of a rehearsal, people were being awkward, old family grievances were being aired, and the single members of the bridal party were getting drunk. Eloise’s parents are worried about her drastic change in her life goals. They don’t really approve of Colin; seeing him as the derailer of their daughter’s career, not the saver of her sanity and true love. She hadn’t really admitted it, even to herself, but her desire to have the wedding in England was to show her family how happy she was with her new life. Even if it did come with in-laws worthy of Peyton Place. Eloise is surprised by her mother-in-law to be as she gives them a fantastic painting of Selwick Hall, with all those Eloise loves captured in the finest detail on the canvas. But looking closer she sees Aunt Arabella almost ghostly in an upper window and wonders if this is an ill omen or even a threat! After all the toasts and speeches Eloise and Colin get everyone bundled off into their cars and prepare for their rendezvous. If they can make it through the next twenty-four hours the rest of their lives will be easy sailing. While everyone is snug in their beds they plan to beard this kidnapper in his den at Donwell Abbey! At least they have each other. And soon that will be forever and always!