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.

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?

Pink XI and Vampire Fiction

This post was written by Dara.

As Eloise’s teaching partner points out in the prologue, Vampire fiction (intersections between fact and fiction aside) has been around long before the current fixation, or even Stoker’s Dracula, which most of us think of as the first of vampire fiction.

The vampire craze started in the 17th century with the vampire craze of the 1720s and 30s (which included the official exhumation of suspected vampires in Serbia). The first literary work on the subject is the short German poem The Vampire written in 1748, followed by several longer poems by German authors. The first vampires in English literature appeared in the later 1700s, most notably Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem Christabel, written after 1797 but not published until 1816, (I had to read this in undergrad-it is quite a read!) and Joseph Sherridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1876), which is markedly similar to Christabel.

vampire(Illustration from Carmilla by David Henry Friston)

Miss Gwen’s fictional Convent of Orsino, published in 1806, would have fit in here, beating the true first vampire novel by a good 13 years.

Most scholars attribute the real beginning of vampire novels to The Vampyre (written in 1819 by Polidori), in which Lord Byron is the model for the undead protagonist. The novel began as part of a ghost story competition designed to pass the time on a holiday at Lake Geneva with Polidori, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and Mary Shelley. (Mary Shelley’s Frankenstien came out of this competitions as well.) There were several other little know novels and poems, most of which were adaptations of previous works to follow, and many appearances of vampires in the popular “penny dreadfuls” of the time, but the next great work is Stoker’s Dracula, which is usually seen as the definitive description of the vampire in popular fiction moving forward. Stoker portrays vampirism as a contagious disease, rather than a supernatural power as in previous works, and this categorization has stayed with the genre into modern works.

In the 1900s, cinema ushered vampires into the science fiction genre in addition to the gothic horror novels and plays of the past. Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (1954) ushered in the depiction of vampires as creature of horror (rather than the gothic heroes romanticized in Dracula and the like). In 1975, Stephen King and Anne Rice bring vampires back into the literary eye with Salem’s Lot and the Vampire Chronicles, and the genre has been popular ever since.

An interesting side note to this topic is that Dark Shadows, the definitive vampire TV show of the 80s, was the impetus for Lauren deciding to end the Pink Carnation series. You can check out how the two connect in her interview on Romance University.


Abe Books (

Wired (

Pink XI Week 1 in Review

This post was written by Dara.

manz flower

Cambridge, 2004: We find Eloise back in the states babysitting undergrads and worrying about the status of her relationship with Colin. On the eve of his arrival, she discovers through a happenstance discussion with her teaching partner a possible clue to the whereabouts of the missing Pink Carnation – the vampire of Belliston Square with Mrs. Gwendolyn Reid all over it.

London, 1806: Miss Sally Fitzhugh is finding her second season a bit stifling, and truth be told lonely. In an effort relive the glory days of adventures with her friends (rather than hearing about their escapades with spies – and billiard balls, no less—second hand) she finds herself in the middle of the garden of the Duke of Belliston, rumored vampire and confirmed mysterious bachelor. While Sally finds the Duke intriguing, his relatives are clearly less than pleased at his return to England, but never the less require his presence at his sister Lady Clarissa’s ball then following night.

The gossips are in full swing at the ball, full of misinformation about Lucien, who is attempting a less than successful reconciliation with his sister and an unsettling discussion with his uncle about the murky circumstances surrounding his parents’ deaths. Sally, after a profound discussion on the merits of stoats as pets, takes it upon herself to find the Duke and provide some friendly advice on surviving the Ton.

Before she can offer said advice, however, a mysterious note arrives for the Duke and the two find an unknown woman, murdered, with a vampire bite. Rather than allow the murder to be pinned on the Duke, Sally persuades the Duke to leave, with the promise to call on her the next day, before sounding the alarm as only she can.

There is always so much that happens in each chapter, it is impossible to capture everything (and I can’t do it half as well as Lauren does anyway). What is your favorite part of our first section? What did you think of our reunion with Turnip and Arabella?

A Fine Art Cover for Pink XI

This post was written by Dara.

We have talked about covers several times before during our read along, and I am a sucker for a good book cover. I was heartbroken when the publishers switched from the fine art covers on the original books to the headless dresses, as I refer to them, that grace the covers now.  The use of fine art paintings for a cover was what drew me to pick up the original Pink in the book store because they were so completely unique from other book covers (especially other romance covers, which you can usually spot at a good 50 yards away from the heaving bosoms). So, when we came to Sally’s book, I decided I would just make my own fine art cover.

Of course, Sally has very specific requirements.  She must have blonde hair; she must have that certain je ne sais…errr…, as Turnip calls it, that sets her apart as not another simpering female of the ton. And, of course, she must have a stoat.  Once I had that sorted out, I headed to the Google machine.  (What would we do without Google?)

When you Google painting of a lady with a stoat, what comes back is Da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine. And while the stoat is there, that is clearly the wrong era for Sally.


But, apparently, they did not make many portraits of blonde young ladies during the Regency era.  And the ones that were made were decidedly not Sally.   After searching many, many pages of search results, I had a few options.

There was this one:

sally2(Penning a Letter by George Goodwin Kilburne)

Or this one:

sally3(Young Woman Drawing by Marie-Danise Villers)

Or this one of Lady Emma Hamilton, who, incidentally, appeared as Mary on the cover of Crimson Rose:

sally4(Emma Hart, later Lady Hamilton, as “Absence” by George Romney)

But none of them seemed quite right.  Finally, I stumbled across Sally by accident when I was looking for something else entirely.  But there she was, staring at me from the computer screen, my perfect Sally Fitzhugh.

sally5(La Coquette by Vittorio Reggianini . You can read more about the painting here).

With a little help from Photoshop to give Sally her stoat, we have a fine art book cover for Sally.


While I was searching for a portrait to use for Sally, I stumbled across this little gem.  For your daily giggles, I give you Sally and Turnip as little children:

sally7(Bowden Children by John Hoppner)

What do y’all think? Which covers do you like better? How does a book cover influence your feelings or decisions about a book?

I can’t wait to discuss our suspense packed first week of reading with you on Friday!  See you then.