Pink XII Week 2 in Review

This post was written by Miss Eliza.

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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!

More secrets! It’s getting mysterious up in here…

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I have another secret, but this time, I want YOU to be part of it!

As you know, we’re approaching the end of Pink for All Seasons. I was trying to decide on a spectacular send-off, and a way to celebrate Lauren for writing such awesome books. And then Miss Eliza and I hatched a plan.

We have an idea for a surprise for Lauren. I can’t post it here on the blog, because she checks in over here every so often. (Lauren, if you’re reading this, there’s nothing to see here!)

If you’d like to participate in this surprise activity, send me an email at ashley.pinkforallseasons@gmail.com by August 26th. Your part would only take about 15 minutes, and I promise it would be fun.

Miss Eliza will be back on Friday with the next Pink XII recap. Meanwhile, Lauren is celebrating Eloise and Colin’s wedding all this week on her website. She’s also running a contest, so pop over and get yourself entered for a prize.

So, I’ve been keeping secrets…

Dear Pink Enthusiasts,

I apologize for my subterfuge. I have been keeping something from you. You know how Lauren celebrated the launch of The Lure of the Moonflower with an event at Word in Brooklyn last week?

Well…

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I was there.

Don’t throw things at me! I did it for you all. (Okay, admittedly, I did it for me – but I carried you all with me in my heart!)

I did not get any pictures from the event for two reasons:

  1. The event was basically in Word’s basement, and the lighting was not great.
  2. Lauren is like a hummingbird. If you’ve ever seen her, you know what I mean. She is tiny, super energetic, and continually in motion. Trying to capture her in a still moment proved completely impossible. So rather than trying to take pictures, I put my camera away and just listened. I knew you would want a report!

There was wine. There were pastries. Beth (of Pink III fame) was with me.  Lauren wore an awesome flowery dress, and Beatriz Williams and Sarah MacLean were there to help Lauren celebrate and to facilitate discussion. I think the event was planned to last an hour, but between reader questions and author shenanigans, we were there for two hours. I’d love to share every last juicy moment with you, but you probably haven’t got all day to read this, so I’ll try to stick to the highlights.

First of all, Lauren is by no means swearing off Pink projects forever. She was asked if her characters belong to her or to her publisher, and she was emphatic that Jane and the Pink crew are hers and hers alone. In the future, if she writes another Pink story, she would give Penguin the first opportunity to publish it, but if they chose to pass, she could take her characters and her new story and go wherever she wanted. She also said that she has another idea for a Pink book that she’s interested in writing someday. Don’t start digging out your calendars to mark down pub dates – “someday” is probably several years down the road. But it’s comforting to know that we could have an opportunity to catch up with our favorite flowery spies in the future.

If you’ve already read to the end of Moonflower (no spoilers, y’all!), you know that Lauren included various goodies at the end of the book. In one section of her Q&A portion of the Readers Guide, she talks about bringing the series to a close. But she brought up a really good point at Word that I hadn’t thought about. While her historical heroines have moved from 1803 to 1807, Eloise has been living in 2005 for quite some time, and Lauren said it was becoming increasingly difficult to write her there convincingly. Just think about how much our world has changed in the last 10 years! Could you even imagine the mess that Eloise would have made of Facebook or Twitter? Nightmare scenario.

One of the other things I had never heard Lauren say before was that, after her publisher convinced her that Pink I needed a modern frame in order to get published, they were trying to sweet-talk her into getting rid of Eloise by Pink III. Evidently, chick-lit was in its heyday for Pink I but died an agonizing death by Pink III, and historical fiction was on the rise. Lauren said that several different times over the course of the series she had to fight to keep Eloise and Colin a part of the story. At this point, several people at the event chimed in about how outraged they would have been. More than one reader mentioned that, when they got new Pink books, they read all the Eloise chapters first and THEN went back and read the book cover to cover. What? Did any of you do that? I know I’ve admitted this before (and again, please don’t hurt me), but it took me several books to get invested in Eloise at all. If she and Colin had disappeared in Pink III, I would probably not have cared. Don’t get me wrong – I’m very fond of them now! But it took a while. Was that just me?

There was also the inevitable question for Lauren – WHAT’S NEXT? Well, we already know that she has two projects being published in 2016:

  1. The Forgotten Room, a collaboration with Beatriz Williams and Karen White. I didn’t know this, but evidently each of the authors was responsible for one time period in the book, and they aren’t telling anybody who wrote what! According to Beatriz, even their editors have not been able to tell their sections apart. Do you think we’ll be able to tell? The pub date is January 19.
  2. A Fall of Poppies, an anthology of World War I novellas by nine different authors, obviously including a novella from Lauren. The pub date for this one is March 1.

In addition to these two official projects, there are two other things in the works – HOORAY! First, Lauren is working on something she calls her MGFS: a Multi-Generational Family Saga. She says it will be like The Thorn Birds, only not as depressing and not set in Australia, so on second thought, nothing like The Thorn Birds. I’ve forgotten each of the time periods she mentioned, but Belle Époque Paris and World War I Paris were definitely in the mix. The other project is a second collaboration with Beatriz and Karen. Nothing is set in stone yet, but Beatriz dropped a hint that she’s recently been reading Dead Wake by Erik Larson. If you follow Lauren’s Weekly Reading Round-Up posts, you’ll remember that Lauren just finished reading this too. While there was no “Here’s our plot!” announcement, Lauren and Beatriz did hint that the next book would have something to do with the Lusitania.

One of the most fascinating parts of the event for me was listening to Lauren discuss the divide that can exist between “passion projects” (writing the book that you are on fire to write) and writing what your publisher and editor tell you there is a market for. Lauren says The Ashford Affair was a passion project, and she was just lucky that a publisher wanted to take it on. Her next idea for a passion project was a gothic novel set in the Caribbean – but she was told that gothics don’t sell, and no one wants to read about the Caribbean. Seriously? I would read anything Lauren wrote – after 15 books, I totally trust her. Wouldn’t you? Lauren says that she has been incredibly lucky to have a publisher that encourages her to try new things, and that she is looking for projects that scare her. But she also said that “try new things” seems to be limited to “new books set in England.” Why would any publisher think we wouldn’t follow Lauren to the Caribbean, to Russia, or anywhere else she wanted to take us? We are small, but we are mighty, y’all. I say next time Lauren gets an idea for a book that doesn’t get approval up front, we start a letter-writing campaign.

At the risk of continuing on for another thousand words or so, I will leave you with those impressions. But to wrap up, when I spoke with Lauren briefly after the event, she mentioned that she’s been following along with Pink for All Seasons in a behind-the-scenes way – she said she has really enjoyed having the chance to see the series through all of your eyes. So thank you for all the ways that you have participated over the last year!

Pink XII Week 1 in Review

This post was written by Miss Eliza.

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Sussex, 2005: Colin and Eloise are setting up for their wedding, which happens to be tomorrow at Selwick Hall, and nothing is where it is supposed to be. The idea to have the wedding at the house that brought them together in a roundabout manner seemed like a good idea at the time; that is till relatives started descending on them from various parts of the globe and there are no port-a-loos yet. Oh, and Eloise’s face is covered in mud. At least the mud she can lie at the feet of her friend Pammy, but should beauty treatments itch? Why didn’t they hire a wedding planner? Orchestrating the event feels more and more like herding cats just to get Eloise’s Four Weddings and a Funeral moment when she sees Colin in his morning suit. Eloise abandons the thankless task of tying bows to chairs, complete with her little sister’s mocking commentary, upon the arrival of a mysterious chest in the front hall. Its placement smack dab in the middle of the hall is an accident waiting to happen, but then again a do-it-yourself obstacle course for the wedding guests might cull the herd and Colin’s ancestor Amy Selwick would approve, she made the house into a Spy School after all. The only person she can think it could be from is Aunt Arabella, but she already gave them a rather hefty silver tea service. But Arabella knows that this chest would be treasured by Eloise because it once belonged to the Pink Carnation.

Eloise feels her blood thrumming at the idea that she is finally in possession of an item that belonged to the Pink Carnation. She might have chucked aside her career in academia for more prosaic prose, turning the exploits of Jane Wooliston into fiction, but she has never lost her interest in Jane, despite the dead end she reached in her research. This trunk might just reveal what happened to Jane after she came to Sussex in 1805 and disbanded her league. Just as Eloise is about to open the chest she gets what she thinks is a prank call from the errant best man Nick on Colin’s cell phone. It’s not a prank. Someone has kidnapped Colin’s Great-Aunt Arabella and is holding her for ransom! Rushing through the house in a frantic need to find Colin as her mud flakes everywhere Eloise eventually locates him at the abandoned tower on the hill, which is always farther away than she thinks. She rushes to tell him everything she knows, the phone call, the demand for “the box,” and the rendezvous, that night at Donwell Abbey. Eloise thinks the only logical conclusion could be that Colin’s cousin Jeremy is up to no good again, after behaving so well. But she doesn’t want to think that Arabella’s grandson would kidnap her for nefarious reasons, more for Colin’s peace of mind than her own. But Colin then drops a bomb. Eloise might have been right thinking his family never left the spy business, though she was wrong about Colin, his inability to dissemble would have killed him, but the truth is Aunt Arabella is a spy.

Or rather was a spy. At first Eloise rebels at this thought but then everything starts to click into place and she realizes that this is not only entirely plausible but the truth. Together they realize that the likely candidate for “the box” is the wedding present just delivered to them from Aunt Arabella. With their rehearsal dinner in a few short hours they rush into the house to get a better look at this chest. There is a secret catch and the trunk pops open, it was designed to be a puzzle, much like the Pink Carnation herself. Eloise wants to savor each and every letter and garment in this treasure trove but realizes that time is of the essence. At the very bottom under a hidden panel they find notebooks. Modern notebooks. In code. This must be what the mysterious voice wants in exchange for Aunt Arabella. It looks like they have a rendezvous to keep. Why did this have to happen the night before their wedding?

Lisbon, 1807: The man known as a black sheep, turncoat, renegade, and occasionally the Moonflower, Jack Reid, is blending into the crowd. Currently working for the British his contact is to approach him in Rossio Square with the ludicrous phrase: “The eagle nests only once.” The French are making a big scene of lowering the Portuguese royal standard and raising the Tricolour at the pinnacle of São Jorge Castle and the crowd is getting restless. The French claim to be liberators, but the liberated don’t seem too happy with this public exhibition of dominance after their Queen and her Regent fled to Brazil and were replaced by the Portuguese Regency Council. The crowd is angry and danger is brewing. If his contact doesn’t appear soon Jack will have to leave; the reason he’s survived this long is his instinct for self-preservation. Jacks gaze lingers on one of the courtesans with the French soldiers. There is something striking about her. She has a stillness to her. The crack of a musket goes off and Jack is about to leave when this turned-out and ruffled girl approaches him and proceeds to strike him dumb by uttering “you know that the eagle nests only once.” He can’t believe this is his contact but she’s drawing too much attention to them, they stage a scene and depart Rossio Square. As he flings her over his shoulder he realizes that she’s not as she seems, or so the gun in her stays would indicate. Her lodgings are also the opposite of what Jack imagined, spare when he expected opulence for this fair princess. Yet she is more than astute as she rattles Jack with his personal history. He attempts to analyze her in return, logic warring with incredulity as she reveals herself to be the Pink Carnation.

Jane didn’t expect to be laughed at, yet Jack is finding her revelation of her nom de guerre very amusing. But telling Jack that she is the Pink Carnation is a calculated risk. She is hoping the myth that has grown greater than her will work to her advantage with this man who has a talent for defying expectations as well as orders. For her mission she needs Jack and his local knowledge and by sharing her secret she hopes to engender his trust. She has been sent to Portugal because, despite all evidence to the contrary, the Queen did not depart for Brazil and is still in the country. If Queen Maria, in all her insanity, were to fall into French hands it would be disastrous. Napoleon has his sights on more than just Portugal, all of the Peninsula is in his sights. Jack finds Jane’s theory incredulous and tells her to go home, this isn’t the kind of work he was paid for. His orders are purely observational, not babysitting a spy who claims she’s the Pink Carnation yet doesn’t even speak Portuguese. Jane is rankled that everything appears to come down to money with Jack. He doesn’t think of the outcome of his actions, such as sending a dragon’s hoard of jewels to his sister in Bath, he just thinks of the monetary advantages. He unknowingly turned her life upside down from a continent away. She is used to obedience not riposte, and Jack changing her plans will not work. But she will begrudgingly admit he knows what he is doing so she will let him go to the bar and apply libations to the Queen’s household that was left behind instead of storming the fortress of Queluz. Who knows? It might even work.

Jack is down at a bar in the port in his well-honed performance as Alarico the town drunk; when in doubt add a little vomit to your hair for verisimilitude. People will often tell the town drunk what they wouldn’t even tell their confessor and Jack is learning some interesting things from one of the Queen’s household, the undercook Bernardo, including the odd fact that the Queen had acquired a new confessor in the weeks before the French arrived. Of course it could all be false hope found at the bottom of a bottle, but there’s something about the talk of “when the Queen comes again” that has Jack going all nostalgic. And contemplative. He realizes that what makes Jane different and far more dangerous than him is that she actually believes in what she is doing. Yet through his nostalgia his mind starts to see the ploy in which Queen Maria could have been spirited away in plain sight with the help of the Bishop of Porto. It’s deceptively simple. As his informant relocates to the floor right below the table Jack realizes it might be time to move on as the French dragoons have rowdily taken over a nearby table. He recognizes one of the French dragoons as someone whom he conned the previous week in his other disguise as Rodrigo the horse trader. Sneaking out in a faux drunken stupor to answer the call of nature a young dragoon warns him there is about to be trouble. The young dragoon is That Woman, aka the Pink Carnation.

So far in their brief acquaintance she’d managed to fool him twice. Jack didn’t like those odds. The Pink Carnation gets Jack out of this sticky situation by the expedient of attacking him before the real French dragoon or his thug can. Jack is more than a little put out by her high-handed manner and he eventually deigns to return to her rooms to discuss their next move, after all, she might actually be the bloody Pink Carnation from all that he’s seen. He lays out what he thinks happens, that the Bishop of Porto is raising a rebellion and Queen Maria was snuck out of Lisbon in a religious procession, they are so common that no one pays them the least bit of attention. From Jack’s point of view the Pink Carnation’s decision to try to follow them to Porto is foolhardy, he cannot guarantee their safety. She has no idea what the terrain is like, she is an urban creature of the drawing room, and then it dawns on him. This had been her plan all along. The scene in the bar, the dressing up as French dragoon, all of it was just to prove her bona fides. She had planned all along to infiltrate the French ranks and go by river to Porto, or wherever the Queen looked most likely to be. But she hadn’t planned on Jack. He refuses to put on a uniform that is not his because he would feel the lie. They reach a compromise. Jack will be her batman on what he views as a crazy and dangerous excursion.

Jane isn’t used to her plans going wrong, but this one went wrong almost immediately. Posing as Lieutenant Jean de Balcourt her and Jack were to get a boat and travel the two days by river to Porto and rescue Queen Maria. Instead there are no boats to be had and they fall into a depleted group of French soldiers barely equipped and heading north lead by a Captain Moreau. Jack insists that they would move faster with just the two of them over the rough terrain, but Jane points out the two of them would be easy pickings for bandits and with her enemy uniform they have a target on them. Plus she doesn’t want to leave her fate in the hands of Jack, no matter how capable those hands might actually be, which prove very capable one night in their tent as he massages her leg. She is used to being lonely and self-reliant, she is not used to having an inconvenient man in her tent. Nor is she used to hours and hours in the saddle making almost no progress. By the end of the first week she knows she made the wrong decision. But she refuses to admit defeat, despite their snail’s pace. Jack has withdrawn into himself, he is compliant and competent, but not a comrade. There is no cooperation between them. If things couldn’t be worse the unthinkable happens. The Chevalier de la Tour d’Arget, now the Comte de Brillac, appears in camp and back in Jane’s life. Nicolas had always refused to behave as an enemy ought and that makes him dangerous. He had once had the power to disarm her, to fool her into believing that there might be something more between them. Nicolas and Moreau are fast friends bonding over love lost, but has Nicolas told Moreau that he is referring to Jane? Jane doesn’t know what Nicholas is up to or if he will unmask her. She must warn Jack of Nicolas’s probable intentions. Nicolas has been so much to her in her life, friend, enemy, lover, but Jack would know him as the Gardener.

Holding Out for a Hero

This post was written by Miss Eliza.

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If you go back through old posts on Lauren’s blog or ever went to a signing event, one of the number one questions asked was “who would Jane end up with?” Lauren was always good in that she wouldn’t spoil it for those who didn’t want to know and would whisper it in the ear of the one who asked the question. Much giddy giggling usually followed from those who now knew the secret. I, who usually like spoilers, decided to wait until the time was right. After all, look how long Jane herself had waited? At different times her name has been bandied about with a certain Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe, even one Lord Sebastian Vaughn! And when The Passion of the Purple Plumeria was released Miss Gwen wasn’t the only one to fear that a Gardner might come along a pluck a carnation for himself… but finally, last summer, we knew that none of these men were the hero Jane had been holding out for. The silver knight would fall to Jack Reid.

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But despite being a fictional character, when I read the little excerpt at the back my ARC of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla last June I knew there was another fictional hero played by an iconic actor whom Jack was based on. This would of course be Harrison Ford as Han Solo. If the liberal usage of “princess” didn’t get your antennae up, let me assure you that Lauren did confirm my suspicions and her husband even had a bet with her to get the record straight on “who shot first” slipped into the pages of The Lure of the Moonflower. I also hope everyone here is in agreement that Han shot first, if not… walk away. As to why Jack Reid is based on Han Solo? Well, I have a theory there and I hope you agree. Firstly an interesting fact, Lauren is one year older than me, and yes, this is an important fact. Growing up when we did in the eighties Star Wars was the biggest thing around. Much like The Princess Bride would become a later touchstone for our generation, Star Wars was where it all began, in a galaxy far far away. But one thing girls in the know where keyed into was that Luke wasn’t the star, it was all about Han.

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Han Solo probably ranks in the top five crushes of girls growing up in the eighties. He was my first big crush after I moved off of wanting to marry Robin Hood – the fox. Yes, it was the Disney version so I literally mean a fox. I spent an entire summer doing nothing but watching my old VHS tapes of the original (and only in my mind) trilogy over and over. I usually got about two in a day. One day my best friend came over and really wanted to watch Return of the Jedi and I told her we could so long as we watched The Empire Strikes Back first. We watched The Empire Strikes Back, she went home, I kept watching, she came over the next day and I told her we were back to Star Wars, or A New Hope if that’s your naming convention. I had every scene memorized, every longing look between Han and Leia mapped out. He is the official rebel bad boy crush that everyone wants to tame. I remember I had two Han Solo action figures, one looked nothing like Harrison Ford, in fact he looked a little like Alice Cooper, but the other figure… the other figure I loved because it looked like Han. So of course my little brother threw him out a window. Years later I got him out of the gutter and he was more rugged than ever. To me Han Solo is the dream man for my and Lauren’s generation and it only makes sense that Jane ends up with the ideal man, flaws and all.

The Lure of the Moonflower

It’s the first Monday of August – y’all know what time it is!  Somehow, unbelievably, the month of Pink XII has arrived!  Miss Eliza is helping me out with this month of moderating (and by helping me out, I mean being incredibly on top of things, way ahead of me, and generally keeping my on my toes), and she’ll be in charge of posting this week.  Reading schedule for the month is below – yes, we realize the book doesn’t actually go on sale until tomorrow, but remember that the first two chapters can be found in the back of your copy of Pink XI. And once you get your hands on your copy this week, I have a feeling you’ll have no trouble at all keeping up… over to Miss Eliza.

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Hello again, c’est moi, Miss Eliza! I’m back because I couldn’t very well let Ashley do the last month of Pink for All Seasons on her own now could I? We were both lucky enough, thanks to our blogs, to have slightly earlier access to The Lure of the Moonflower so we could prepare for August. But still, without as much time as usually for prep, two is far far better than one! So let’s get down to it – you’ll all be able to rush out and get your book on Tuesday, so to tide you over, here’s the lay of the land for the month; though I have a feeling once you start the book the reading schedule will be swiftly thrown aside. But that’s just me.

Who: Jane Wooliston and Jack Reid

Where: Portugal

When: Late 1807

What: Jane Wooliston must locate the missing and mad Queen Maria of Portugal before she falls into the hands of the French. In order to get her work done Jane teams up with Jack Reid, an agent who doesn’t know that Jane is not only aware of his history and tendency to shift allegiances but might have a message from his estranged family. But will Jane and Jack’s reputations sour their opinions of each other or are they willing to realize that neither of them are what they appear?

Historical Cameos: Queen Maria I of Portugal and General Jean-Andoche Junot

Reading Schedule:
Friday, August 7th: Prologue and Chapters 1-6
Friday, August 14th: Chapters 7-13
Friday, August 21st: Chapters 14-21
Friday, August 28th: Chapters 22-28

Now let’s start reading!

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 ashley.pinkforallseasons@gmail.com, 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:

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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.

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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 http://www.janeausten.co.uk/all-hallows-eve/ and http://historicalhussies.blogspot.com/2011/10/regency-halloween.html.

Pink XI: Dream Casting

Welcome back, Miss Eliza!

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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.

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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…

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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