Giveaways Again

Guess what I forgot to do on Friday…

What do you think it was?

I forgot to pick a winner for the Temptation of the Night Jasmine giveaway! I’m blaming Friday the 13th for my slip-up. But at any rate, we have a winner – it’s Erin. Congratulations, Erin! Email your address to and I will get your prize in the mail to you.

Since I bungled last week’s giveaway, I’m going to run another one today. Lauren is celebrating a Decade of Pink over on her website, so there has been a lot of talk about The Scarlet Pimpernel. Have you read it? If you haven’t, here is your chance!

scarlet pimpernel

I am giving away a Dover edition of the book to a commenter on today’s post. To enter yourself to win, do two things:

  1. Comment below.
  2. Tell me what your colorful flowery spy name would be if you were whisking aristocrats away from Madame Guillotine alongside Richard and Sir Percy!

I’ll pick a winner on Friday of this week – no really, I promise.

Happy Monday!


Inspiration is Contagious

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Which We Talk Inspiration

scarlet pimpernel

Last week on her website, Lauren gave us the scoop on how Colin and Eloise came to be. I thought it was so interesting that they weren’t part of her original planning, seeing as how (ten books later) I can’t imagine The Secret History of the Pink Carnation without them. But how did Lauren come up with the idea for Amy and Richard? What sparked her interest in Napoleonic spies?

The simple answer is The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emma Orczy. Orczy originally wrote her story as a play, and it was such an immediate success, both in Britain and around the world, that she quickly adapted it into a novel for publication. The story follows the exploits of one Sir Percy Blakeney, a daredevil nobleman with the sword fighting skills of a soldier and a chameleon’s aptitude for disguise, who dashes around France rescuing their aristocrats from the guillotine. To protect himself, he keeps his identity a secret and masquerades by day as a dim-witted, fashion-crazed playboy. The Scarlet Pimpernel is credited by many literary critics as being the first “hero with a secret identity” story. In a way, that makes Sir Percy Blakeney Batman’s great-granddad. Sort of cool to think about.

Since we’re talking today about “where did you get that idea?”, here is an amusing excerpt from Orczy’s autobiography, Links in the Chain of Life: “I have so often been asked the question: ‘But how did you come to think of The Scarlet Pimpernel?’ And my answer has always been, ‘It was God’s will that I should.’” No arguing with that, folks.

Back in 2010, Lauren posted “The Author Bio Unabridged” on her website, sharing with her fans the story of how she developed her interest in history, why she wanted to write, and what her major influences were. It’s definitely worth a read – full of Lauren’s trademark humor, funny asides, and humble honesty. In case you don’t have time to read the whole thing, I’ve scooped the two paragraphs where she talks specifically about how The Scarlet Pimpernel got her asking herself the questions that led to Richard, The Purple Gentian, and (of course) Miss Amy Balcourt.

“The idea for the story emerged from endless years of overexposure to the Scarlet Pimpernel and his brethren (by whom I mean any dashing rogue, usually played by Errol Flynn, who delivers a witty line, jumps off a table, brandishes a sword, and defeats the perspiring villain with one hand held languidly behind his back). One would be hard pressed to find an old-fashioned swashbuckler I hadn’t watched to distraction—Robin Hood, Zorro, Ivanhoe—but the Scarlet Pimpernel received an extra boost in the dashing hero stakes when my school had the good sense to show the Anthony Andrews version as part of the eighth grade history unit. The eighth grade—forty giggly girls in plaid kilts—were enthralled. We broke into warring camps over whether Anthony Andrews was cuter, or the guy who played Armand (for the record, my vote is still in for Anthony Andrews as the Pimpernel). No sleepover party was complete without a late night viewing, and a rapturous repetition of “We seek him here, we seek him there…. Oooh! He’s so cute! Hey, that was my pillow! Give it back!”

There was, I reflected years later, after my five millionth “Scarlet Pimpernel” and Ben & Jerry’s evening, only one slight problem. The Pimpernel had it too easy. True, he had to worry over whether Marguerite was spying for Chauvelin, but he never let that seriously impede his progress. What would a spy fear most? Not an enemy, but… an unwanted ally. A man in a black cloak, and a strong-minded heroine set on unmasking him—so she can help him. Every spy’s worst nightmare. I even had a name for my spy! Back on the Chapin Varsity Badminton team (yes, I lettered in badminton, a source of much amusement to all the males in my freshman year dorm, who refused to be convinced it was a sport), I had a friend named Jen Chen, whom my best friend Nancy affectionately nicknamed Purple Gentian, because, if one says Jen Chen very quickly, it sounds like gentian, and, as everyone knows, all the best gentians are purple. It sounded right. It sounded like a spy in cloak and knee breeches. I had my hero.”

Lauren also has several “if you like” posts on her site recommending books you can read if you enjoyed The Scarlet Pimpernel. Here are a few of her suggestions:

  • The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne
  • A Lady Never Lies by Julianna Gray
  • Scaramouche by Raphael Sabatini
  • The Accidental Duchess by Jessica Benson
  • Wings of the Falcon by Barbara Michaels

Also, there are sequels, y’all. LOTS of them. I haven’t read any of them yet, but I should probably add them to my (ever-growing) TBR list.

Does anyone have “if you like” recommendations for either The Scarlet Pimpernel or Pink I?