Pinkly Ever After

HEAI read a book in college for my senior seminar called Flirting with Pride and Prejudice: Perspectives on the Original Chick-Lit Masterpiece. The book has an introduction by Jennifer Crusie, and I felt like Crusie really hit on the reason why Pride and Prejudice has spawned such a massive number of sequels and modernizations. We care about the characters after the book is finished. It’s not just that we want to read the book over and over – we want to visualize what happened next. Crusie says, “[W]e close the book knowing that they’re still milling about in there, Wickham putting up with Lydia as his punishment for being a rat, Jane and Bingley in clueless contentment and Elizabeth teaching Darcy how to laugh while not inviting Lady Catherine to dinner.”

The books I love best, the ones that stay with me long after I’ve closed the cover, are the ones whose characters feel like people I know. They are the books I’ve read so often that I feel like I could have imaginary conversations with the main characters, or maybe invite them over for dinner. I love to think about what happened next for these people who feel as familiar as friends, and I know I’m not alone here.

In the Readers Guide at the end of The Lure of the Moonflower, Lauren gives us a lovely sense of closure by filling us in on what some of our favorite characters get up to after the series is over.

In some of the books, like The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, Lauren actually has Eloise discover what happened to the main characters by reading an inscription below a painting or finding a reference in a document to their future years. Some characters, like Richard and Miles and Henrietta, were almost like audience-favorite guest stars on a TV series – they popped up fairly regularly in the following books. But it was wonderful to hear a bit more about Penelope and Alex, or Geoff and Letty.

I love that Alex and Penelope adopted a whole crew of children from a neighboring village in India. Can’t you just see Penelope turning into a dragon-mother when some stuffy British woman tries to comment on her choice of family? I can also perfectly visualize the look on Mary’s face when she finds out that Letty has written a book on housekeeping techniques. I also love that Agnes turns out to be a formidable feminist. Take THAT, Mr. and Mrs. Wooliston.

I know that, even with the gift of these little glimpses into the future, we still feel like we want to know more. But I think one of the best things Lauren has done for us over the course of the series is helped us get to know these characters so well that maybe we don’t need to have their whole lives spelled out for us in additional books. I’m not saying I wouldn’t snap up another Pink book in a heartbeat, but I’m not sure I need one to envision the later years for the Pink crew. I imagine that Henrietta tries to make Miles ginger biscuits herself when Cook comes down with a cold, and she smells like burnt sugar for weeks afterward. I think Turnip tries his hand at coloring his own linen, with mixed results, and Arabella winds up with pink hair for a few months in consequence. I can see Laura tearing up the first time Gabrielle calls her “Maman.” (I also see this happening when Gabrielle is in her thirties – she is hard-headed.)

What about you? What do you see in the future for your favorite Pink characters?

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Greetings from Miss Eliza

This post was (as the title suggests) written by Miss Eliza of Strange and Random Happenstance.

Greeting_1Ashley and I met because of our mutual love of Lauren Willig. Sometime last year she asked me what I thought of a yearlong Pink Carnation re-read leading up to the final book’s release. Seeing as I’ve been doing the monthly dream casting, the mugs, as well as the side banner design, I think you can guess my answer to her question. As soon as I was on board and throwing my design skills at her, she asked which book I would like to moderate. I said without hesitation, The Orchid Affair. Ashley was well pleased because that meant she got to do my other favorite book, The Mischief of the Mistletoe. The reason I chose this volume in the series is because I love how it brings Napoleon and the ramifications of the French Revolution back to the forefront. For five books the narrative hasn’t stepped on the shores of that benighted country. We have grown accustomed to flowery monikered spies in English drawing rooms. We have been removed from the reason these spies exist. This volume brings it all back, and in fact I would say more comprehensively covers what happened to France during this turbulent time period than any of the previous volumes.

Plus, there’s the whole fact that I really connect to this book on multiple levels. Let’s look to my background, I was raised in a publishing family, so there are the books, I have a BS in Art, hence loving the salons, and I have a minor in Theatre, covering the commedia dell’arte. What part of this book wasn’t written for me? Oh, and my last name, Lefebvre, French (kind of)! Plus I’m related, not in a direct line, to François Joseph Lefebvre, who happened to be the Duc de Dantzig and was one of the original eighteen Marshals of the Empire created by Napoleon and whose portrait at Versailles looks eerily like my Dad. This book touches every aspect of me, from genetics to interests to my very livelihood. Then there’s the fact that this takes the series in a new direction, it breaks the mold of what we have come to expect but still has the wit and humor that we’ve come to demand of Lauren’s books, and yes, we are a demanding fanbase.

And in a roundabout way it’s all because of Lauren that I have become a book blogger, Strange and Random Happenstance, check it out! The reason I started book blogging was quite literally to get Advance Reader Copies of books. Because, there is something so fun and more than a little bit gloat worthy of reading a book months before it’s out. Also, seriously, ARCs are pricey to buy on eBay, not that I’ve done that or anything she says with shifty eyes. But the ARCs I coveted above all else were Lauren’s. So yes, I made a blog to get ARCs from Dutton, but it has evolved and taken on a life of its own. I have been able to forge connections with some of my favorite authors, many of whom I now consider my friends, and help get the word out about their awesomeness. Because, seriously folks, it’s our jobs as readers to support our favorite authors, and that’s why Ashley and I (to bring it full circle) are more than willing to take a year out of our lives to celebrate Lauren. Everyone should know of this awesomeness and I hope to spend the next month sharing it with you.

Blood Lily and the Pink Carnation Series

This post was written by Abby.

spoiler_alert_300_w2WARNING: DO NOT READ THIS POST UNLESS YOU HAVE READ THE FIRST ELEVEN PINK CARNATION BOOKS AND WISH TO DISCUSS THE SERIES AS A WHOLE!

One of the other reasons why I chose this particular book is because I wanted to be able to have a discussion about reading Blood Lily back in 2010 and reading Blood Lily now in 2015 when we have so many other books and a much clearer sense of the overall arc of the series.

So the first question I want to start with is this one: did any of you who read this book in 2010 or 2011 realize just how many characters and narrative transitions it was introducing? I certainly had no idea! I think it wasn’t until Lauren began talking about the arc of the series around the time of the publication of The Passion of the Purple Plumeria in 2013 that I went back and reread Blood Lily and specifically paid attention to the Reid family as a whole. As I’ve said before, we have Colonel William Reid who married Maria and had the twins, Alex and Kat. After Maria’s death, he had relationships with Indian women which led to Lizzy and George and also to Jack. And with the publication of The Lure of the Moonflower coming up this summer, we now have had many opportunities to get to know the various Reids better. Do any of you have a favorite member of the Reid family? As you know, I’m partial to Alex but I also like Kat and keep hoping that Lauren will eventually have opportunity and time enough to write her book. I also liked the fact that Blood Lily makes it clear that these spy networks have global ramifications and that events halfway around the world from the English ballrooms can have enormous consequences, even when we return to home territory in books like Purple Plumeria and Midnight Manzanilla.

And, finally, what other series of books have you read as they were published? The Harry Potter series is probably the best known for being one that thousands of people around the world waited for. I began reading Winston Graham’s Poldark series in the early 1990s when I was at university in Edinburgh and was delighted when he began publishing later Poldark books which finally culminated with Bella Poldark in 2008. Does the experience of reading a series of books as they are published change the reading experience? How is waiting years between books different from being able to just go from one to the next? And, on that note, I would like to thank Ashley for having the ideas for doing this as she has successfully managed to combine both these reading experiences as we are both rereading and anticipating!

Happy Release Day, Lauren Willig!

manzanilla

Today’s book birthday is (joy of joys!) The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig. This is the eleventh book in Lauren’s Pink Carnation series, and I could not be more excited for it. Lauren is one of those authors that I trust to tell me a good story regardless of the subject, but I have to admit, I raised a skeptical eyebrow when I saw that this book would involve vampires. I am so WEARY of vampires. I am tired of the books and the tv shows, and I am still astounded that the “Teen Paranormal Romance” section in Barnes & Noble is a thing. Whether they are sparkly or covered in blood and mud, I have had my fill of vampires for the time being. So my first thought when I saw the blurb for this book was, truthfully, something along the lines of “Oh dear.”

BUT. But. As I said before, I trust Lauren. Her heroine in this book is the younger sister of one of my favorite Pink characters of all time, which guarantees a few fun cameo appearances. Miss Eliza of Strange and Random Happenstance has already read this book (the lucky dog) and promises that Lauren is still bringing her A game. According to her review, Lauren isn’t so much writing a vampire novel as she is lovingly skewering vampire fiction, its authors, and its fan base.

Here is what New American Library has to say about Pink XI:

In the latest Pink Carnation novel from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig, rumors spreading among the ton turn deadly as a young couple unites to solve a mystery….
 
In October of 1806, the Little Season is in full swing, and Sally Fitzhugh has had enough of the endless parties and balls. With a rampant vampire craze sparked by the novel The Convent of Orsino, it seems no one can speak of anything else. But when Sally hears a rumor that the reclusive Duke of Belliston is an actual vampire, she cannot resist the challenge of proving such nonsense false. At a ball in Belliston Square, she ventures across the gardens and encounters the mysterious Duke.
 
Lucien, Duke of Belliston, is well versed in the trouble gossip can bring. He’s returned home to dispel the rumors of scandal surrounding his parents’ deaths, which hint at everything from treason to dark sorcery. While he searches for the truth, he welcomes his fearsome reputation—until a woman is found dead in Richmond. Her blood drained from her throat.
 
Lucien and Sally join forces to stop the so-called vampire from killing again. Someone managed to get away with killing the last Duke of Belliston. But they won’t kill this duke—not if Sally has anything to say about it.

I know where I’m headed after work today!

Announcement: Part II

 FinalPink

I have been so excited to tell you about this that I can barely stand it. I promised you something big and something pink. Here it is!

Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series will be coming to a close when the twelfth book is published in August of 2015. The Pink books have been a great ride, and I have gobbled them up like candy every time a new one was published. The challenge for readers of a series that has climbed to twelve books? Keeping twelve books’ worth of characters and events straight in your head. Lauren is a whiz at bringing back characters we haven’t seen for a few books and giving them new jobs to do. When I read the tenth book last August, Lauren tossed in a few references that I knew I recognized, but I couldn’t remember quite why. Next year, when Pink XII is released, I want to be up to date with what’s going on. I need to go back and reread the whole series to get ready.

So guess what? I’m going to do just exactly that. Starting in September 2014, I will read one book a month until, voilà, the twelfth book is published in August 2015. That means one year of Napoleonic spies, balls, treasure hunts, sword fights, secret assignations, mistaken identities, heroines of all stripes, and plenty of other good stuff. I’m calling this Pink Extravaganza “Pink for All Seasons.”

The best part of it all? Several of my fellow Pink Enthusiasts are coming with me, and we want you to get involved too! Miss Eliza of Strange and Random Happenstance (who designed the beautiful banner and is generally amusing and awesome), Erin, and Beth have all signed on to pick their favorite Pink book and lead a month of fabulous reading. We’ll talk about read-alikes, characters, history, popular conventions, deleted scenes, casting in our “if-only” movie adaptation scenarios, and plenty more.

Did I say the best part? Perhaps I spoke to soon. If you are a regular here, or know me at all, you will know that my affection for Lauren rivals that of Leslie Knope for Ann Perkins .

 Leslie fish

Because Lauren is incredibly gracious and kind, when I approached her about hosting this year-long reread, she agreed to autograph a copy of each of her books for me to give away here on the blog.

To sum up: One year of Pink reading. One book per month. Guest bloggers to guide us through. Prizes. General frivolity. This is going to be an amazing year.

Have you read the Pink books? Do you have a favorite? If you do, and you’d like to participate in Pink for All Seasons, let me know! So far, the only books that are spoken for are these:

  • Pink I: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
  • Pink II: The Masque of the Black Tulip
  • Pink III: The Deception of the Emerald Ring
  • Pink V: The Mischief of the Mistletoe
  • Pink VIII: The Orchid Affair

That leaves seven Pink books for you to choose from, if you are so inclined! Send me an email at ashley.pinkforallseasons@gmail.com, and we can talk about how you can participate.

If you haven’t read the Pink books, this will really be the perfect time to give them a try. I mean, it’s not just me who thinks they are awesome. Lauren’s books have been Romantic Times Top Picks and RT Readers’ and Reviewers’ Choice nominees and winners. Her books have won a RITA, a Booksellers Award, a Golden Leaf Award, and regularly appear on the NYT Best Sellers lists. September is right around the corner, but you have plenty of time to get yourself a copy of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and get excited. This is going to be awesome.

Happy Release Day, Lauren Willig!

that summer

Ok y’all, get ready, because I have been looking forward to this day for months. MONTHS, I tell you. Today, June 3rd, is release day for Lauren Willig’s latest standalone novel That Summer.

For those of you who do not know, I love and adore Lauren Willig in a way that rivals Leslie Knope’s enthusiasm for Ann Perkins.

Leslie Ann

I started reading her books about four years ago, and I own every one. She writes the Pink Carnation series, which are historical fiction and mysteries set in the early 1800s. The eleventh book in that series is coming out later this year.

Lauren announced recently that her Pink series would be coming to an end with the publication of book twelve in 2015. Although I’m sure there will be plenty of weeping and existential crisis when I’ve read the last one, I’m so glad to know that Lauren won’t be done with writing when she is done with Pink. Last year, Lauren published her first standalone novel, The Ashford Affair, which wove together the stories of a modern Manhattan girl with her grandmother who lived in Edwardian England and Kenya. It was excellent, and now I cannot wait to read her latest release.

Here is what St. Martin’s Press has to say about That Summer:

A page-turning new novel from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig, about a woman who inherits a house in England… and the mysterious past that comes with it.

2009: When Julia Conley hears that she has inherited a house outside London from an unknown great-aunt, she assumes it’s a joke. She hasn’t been back to England since the car crash that killed her mother when she was six (and gave her nightmares that have lasted into adulthood). But when she arrives at Herne Hill to sort through the house—with the help of her cousin Natasha and sexy antiques dealer Nicholas—bits of memory start coming back. And then she discovers a pre-Raphaelite painting, hidden behind the false back of an old wardrobe, and a window onto the house’s shrouded history begins to open…

1849: Imogen Grantham has spent nearly a decade trapped in a loveless marriage to a much older man, Arthur. The one bright spot in her life is her step-daughter, Evie, a high-spirited sixteen year old who is the closest thing to a child Imogen hopes to have. But everything changes when three young painters come to see Arthur’s collection of medieval artifacts, including Gavin Thorne, a quiet man with the unsettling ability to read Imogen better than anyone ever has. When Arthur hires Gavin to paint her portrait, none of them can guess what the hands of fate have set in motion.

If that sounds like your cup of tea, Lauren has posted the first chapter on her website so you can take a peek at it.

While you are doing that, I’ll be at the book store.