Ask the Author XII

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

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

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

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

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

Pink I: Ask the Author

first ed

Good morning! Today is the last day of September, so it is our final day talking about Pink I. Lauren has graciously agreed to answer our burning questions about The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. If there is something you’ve always wanted to know about this book, leave your question in the comments section below. Lauren will stop by periodically today to answer. If we play nicely, Lauren may be willing to come back and do this for each of the Pink books! Try to keep your questions specific to Pink I or the series in general – we don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t read all the books yet.

I will start us off with a question of my own. Lauren, how did you decide that Egyptology would be Richard’s “in” with Napoleon? Does it have anything to do with your love for the Amelia Peabody mysteries?

As a final bonus, there is an epilogue to Pink I that was cut from the manuscript before publication. Lauren has it posted on her website – I think it wraps up our first month of Pink for All Seasons rather nicely.

Pink 1 Week 4 in Review

Pink Card 1C

Happy Friday, everyone! We can start off today with the last of the beautiful Pink I cards that Sharlene created.  Also, congratulations to Paige, who is the winner of signed copy of Vienna Waltz by Tracy Grant. Paige, if you will email me your address at, we will get your prize in the mail. Thanks again to Tracy for stopping by to chat with us and to all of you who entered. If you didn’t win, never fear – there are more giveaways in our future!

I finished reading The Secret History of the Pink Carnation earlier this week. The funny thing is, I planned to pace myself for a month of reading each book in order to really take my time, read slowly, and make sure I gave myself a chance to appreciate all the detail and humor Lauren includes in her writing. Guess what? I read the last quarter of this book in one sitting. So much for pacing myself! But I think I enjoyed it just as much as I would have if I had made myself stretch it out.

Poor Amy. She was so indignant about Richard not trusting her with his secret identity and so furious that he would compare her with Deirdre, and then she cost him his spying career. She spends several miserable hours berating herself for being worse than Deirdre, because at least Deirdre was innocent of intentionally sabotaging anyone. She just said a few careless words to her maid, who happened to be a French agent. But I think that, in Richard’s mind, Amy’s actions can’t compare with Deirdre’s because Deirdre’s conversation with her maid cost Tony his life. Whatever disappointment Richard feels about having to retire as the Purple Gentian because of Amy, it can’t compare to how wretchedly responsible he feels for what happened to Tony.

More things I had forgotten until this reread:

  • Richard and Amy are able to escape from France because Marston “allows” them to use his boat.
  • Stiles turns in an excellent performance as the ship’s captain.
  • Henrietta has to stay behind while her mother and Amy rescue Richard and while her father, Miles, Geoff, Jane and Gwen intercept the Swiss gold. What a disappointment for her!

I’m curious about those of you who came to Pink by starting with a later book in the series. Going back and reading about the creation of the Pink Carnation’s league, was it what you expected?  If this was your first time around, did you suspect that it would be Jane, not Amy, who would be the Pink Carnation?

The exciting news for next week is that Lauren has volunteered to do an “Ask the Author” Q&A for each of the Pink books as we read along. Since we’re starting Pink II next Wednesday, make sure you check back early next week to find out the details of where and when you can find Lauren to ask her your burning questions about Pink I!

Have a great weekend.

Falling in Love with Historical Fiction

We’ve talked a bit about genre and the Pink books in the past two weeks. One of the reasons I appreciate genre categories is because once you’ve found a book you love, knowing what genre it is can help you find hundreds of other similar books to try. Today, we have a guest post from Chanpreet, who will explain how reading The Secret History of the Pink Carnation helped her to rediscover her love for the historical fiction genre.

I’ve always loved reading. My memories don’t go back to when I was three years old, the age my mother tells me I first learned how to read, but as long as I can remember I’ve been reading and loving it. The book that started my love for all things historical and romance was a novel titled The Love Stone by Deana James. I read it when I was in the 5th or 6th grade and carried it around with me everywhere. After that, I started actively looking for books like The Love Stone, and I started reading Jude Deveraux, Judith McNaught, and Karen Robards. I read historical romances exclusively until I stumbled upon contemporary romance authors like Rachel Gibson, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Sandra Brown, and then that was all I read.

In 2004, there was an excerpt of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation that I read somewhere. It was a scene with Amy and Richard and featured them in the gondola and I remember thinking, “That’s hot! I want to read more!” I immediately looked up the publishing date and any information I could find on Lauren, which wasn’t much at the time. I started to look for more information about the book. When the book first came out, I was unable to afford buying the book in hardback but was ecstatic when my local library accepted my suggestion that they add the book to their lending selection. I remember checking it out and being so excited! I started reading it the moment I got home and finished it the same day, staying up late at night to finish it. I fell in love with the book. It was everything I’d hoped it would be and so much more. The book was funny, sweet, hot, and so very entertaining! I was so sad when it was over, because I wanted more. I was also pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the action and mystery angle. I wanted more Amy and Richard, Collin and Eloise, to find out how Miss Gwen and Jane were going to stop Napoleon, more intrigue, more drama, more of everything.

All of a sudden, I couldn’t get enough of historical novels again. My passion came back, but differently. I was still enchanted with bygone eras, but I was old enough to realize that what I had read as a teenager wasn’t always an accurate portrayal of the times. I also learned I wanted more to my stories than just romance.  I realized reading a book that was just as much a romance as it was a historical novel or an action/suspense novel was exhilarating and so much more fulfilling.  Since then, I’ve read countless historical novels.  I actively began to look for them when I would have passed over them before.   I own all of Lauren’s books in paperback and always look forward to reading her new books and re-reading and visiting with some of my favorite characters.  I look forward to news about her upcoming books, what she’s reading, and especially what she’s researching.  I’ve been introduced to many new authors and books through my daily stalkings of her website.  So much so, when I met her a few years ago at a singing she recognized my name and this year as well when I got to meet her for 15 minutes at RT.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation was a game changer for me and I think for many others as well.  I noticed that her fans grew with each book. I always get that happy feeling knowing I was one of the lucky ones who found her at the beginning and thinking how lucky the new readers are to have an extensive back list waiting for them.  I’m always very excited to see her books on the shelves and on the table with other best sellers.  It takes someone extra special to be a writer, and I’m hoping Lauren will continue to bring me and other readers joy.

Thanks for sharing with us today, Chanpreet! I’ve found several great recommendations on Lauren’s website for historical fiction as well. Off the top of my head, I know I’ve read Forever Amber, The Far Pavilions, and Shadow of the Moon on Lauren’s recommendation. If you’d like to see a list of some of Lauren’s favorite books by category, she has one posted on her website. Tracy Grant’s novels are on Lauren’s list as favorite historical mysteries! If you’d like to give one a try, make sure to enter the giveaway for a signed copy of Vienna Waltz!

What are some of your favorite historical fiction novels?

Dream Casting: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

I don’t know about you, but one of the things I always think when I finish a great book is, “That should be a movie!” I know sometimes movie adaptations don’t live up to what’s in my imagination, but it’s fun to think about which actors would play the characters in your favorite books if you had the chance to cast them! On that note, today we have a guest post from Miss Eliza of Strange and Random Happenstance, who is here to tell us about her ideal casting picks for a movie version of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.

This might shock some of you who know me from my book blog and being one of the moderators for the “That Summer Read Along” but I wasn’t always a book person. Shocking, I know. In fact I kind of came to reading via a back door. I was a movie addict when younger, I still appreciate movies but books have filled what time I had for movies.  I bridged this gap in my adolescence with novelizations of movies, the Willow novelization being my favorite. Mmm, Val Kilmer. I then expanded to Timothy Zhan’s Star Wars books which were continuations of the original trilogy, in particular Heir to the Empire, and well, the rest is history. But that part of me that loved films is still there and because of this I can’t help but cast books as I read them.

If you participated in the “That Summer Read Along” you know I can’t keep these casting suggestions to myself, and I love to discuss them, so as part of Ashley’s year-long Pink Read Along I’ll be popping in once a month to discuss who I think would be perfect for the leads of that month’s book. This being the premiere month with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation I say we jump right in. The year was 2007, and that March I had just watched and fell in love with the newest adaptation of Northanger Abbey starring Felicity Jones and J.J. Feild. Shortly thereafter I picked up The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and I instantly saw Amy Balcourt being played by Felicity Jones. The bubbly personality, the short stature with the enthusiasm to hunt down those laundry lists, or French spies made her a perfect choice.


My main problem was in casting Richard Selwick. Amy came so easy, and so did Richard, to an extent… because, let’s face it, Richard is Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride. Only, well, Cary wouldn’t work, age and food have seen to that, and I try to be realistic in my casting, so I thought of a perfect alternative, his name is Bradley James. Most people will know Bradley from his stint as Arthur on Merlin, but the reason why I chose him is that throughout Merlin he showed he has the same acting chops and comedic timing as a young Carey Elwes, so he makes a perfect substitute.  You can read the full profiles for Amy and Richard over on my website, but I’d like to discuss who your Amy and Richard would be!

So what do you think of Miss Eliza’s choices?  What actors would you like to see take on characters in Pink I?  We’d love to hear your suggestions for Amy and Richard, or anyone else from the book.  I know someone has a good idea for who should play Edouard or Delaroche…

A Carnation by Any Other Name

What’s an author to do when her book stubbornly refuses to fit easily into one genre? I think it’s safe to say that this is definitely the case for The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. Lauren posted on her website a few years ago about the marketing changes that Pink I went through before it hit the shelves for the first time. Originally, NAL wanted to market the book as chick lit, but they made a last-minute decision to drop that angle and concentrate more on the historical fiction aspect.

Off the top of my head, I would have called Pink I “historical fiction.” The other genres that seem to pop up most frequently are romance, suspense, mystery, and chick lit (or “women’s fiction” depending on your philosophical bent). Some people might say, “What does it matter? It’s just a good book!” But we just love to LABEL things, don’t we? If you are like me, it probably makes your little heart flutter to be able to put something in its appropriate box – to know where it belongs. I know I’m not alone here. If you take a look at Pink I on GoodReads, you’ll find a list that is 26 pages in length (not kidding – check it out) that shows how other readers have categorized it. You get everything from “dual-story” and “cultural>France” to “books going to college with me” and “holy historical fiction batman.” Readers love to categorize their books, even if those categories don’t make sense to anyone else.

With so many different genre angles to choose from, I can only imagine the struggle that the art department experienced trying to create a cover for Pink I. On that note, I’ve put together a little gallery of the different covers that have been considered or used for publication, both here in the US and abroad:

Pink Chick Lit first ed  mass market
 Original “chick lit” cover  US first edition  US mass market paperback
 large print  original uk  British pb
 US large print edition  Original UK cover  UK paperback cover
 german  turkish  japan
 German cover  Turkish cover  Japanese cover


Which cover is your favorite? And, if you were describing Pink I to a potential reader, how would you label it?

Pink I Week 2 in Review, and a Winner

Pink Card 1B

First off, congratulations to the winner of our first giveaway: Amanda! Amanda, if you will email me at with your address, I will get your signed copy of Pink I in the mail to you ASAP. Thanks to all those of you who entered and shared the contest. Make sure you keep checking back with the blog, because more giveaways are on the horizon.

Thanks again to Sharlene for providing the excellent card for today’s post. I love this moment in the book for two reasons. First, I really enjoy Lauren’s depiction of Napoleon. From the way his shouting precedes him into the Tuilleries to the way he seems to have a significant case of Attention Deficit Disorder, he was not at all what I expected. Also, this was our first opportunity to see that Miss Gwen’s dragon persona isn’t just an act. She doesn’t just push around the people who seem like easy targets – she smacks Napoleon’s wrist with her reticule, just like she would do Amy if Amy slouched in her chair, and backs him into a corner demanding an apology for his treatment of the Italians and the Dutch. Miss Gwen establishes herself early on as a force to be reckoned with.

I don’t know about you all, but what struck me most about this section of the book when I was reading it was Amy’s blind determination to believe that Georges Marston is the Purple Gentian and that her brother is in his league. I felt almost sorry for her, watching her convince herself that Edouard’s horrific personality was all an ingenious cover for his work in the Gentian’s league. Granted, she does see Marston wearing a black cloak just moments after the Purple Gentian disappears, and there is that implicating fact of the injured footman in the Balcourt ballroom. All in all, it seems like Amy is making the classic mistake of trying to force the pieces of a puzzle into a shape she has predetermined rather than the shape they actually make. And if Richard’s eyes are really such a startling green, then why does she have trouble recognizing them, even though he is masked during their midnight encounter in Edouard’s study?

And then I realized I should probably cut Amy some slack. We only know that Marston can’t possibly be the Purple Gentian because we have the advantage of knowing at the outset that it’s Richard. Delaroche suspected Marston, and even Richard thinks that Marston might be up to something thanks to his suspicious behavior. So it’s not really such an unusual conclusion for Amy to draw – the problem is that, in classic Amy fashion, she decided to chase her impulse at full throttle rather than taking the time to confirm her hunch.

Back in the modern world, we get our first glimpse of Eloise and Colin unsupervised. Eloise’s conviction that she will find the man responsible for the Pink Carnation’s league is reminiscent of Amy’s belief that Marston is her Purple Gentian. One of the things I’ve grown to love about Eloise is just how imperfect and human she is. She is forever getting lost, misjudging distances, and ramming into things. She gets so carried away discussing Napoleonic spies that she spills hot chocolate everywhere. And she just can’t catch a break! She has come so close to discovering the identity of the Pink Carnation only to be told that, when she finds it, she won’t be able to share it.

What are your thoughts on the first half of Pink I?

Happy Friday, everyone.

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?

Pink Giveaway

pink carnation

Happy Monday, everyone!

To start the week off right, I’m posting the first of the Pink for All Seasons giveaways. The prize? A signed paperback copy of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.

Perhaps you are thinking, “Doesn’t this crazy lady realize we all have a copy of this book already?”  I know the majority of you probably own Pink I, but this is your chance to have a copy signed by Lauren!

If your copy is already signed by Lauren (lucky you!), wouldn’t this make a great gift? A signed copy of the first book would be a great way to bring new Pink readers into the fold.

To enter yourself for this giveaway, just leave a comment below. Don’t post your contact information! If you’re the winner, you can email me your mailing address. I will announce the winner on Friday, September 12.

Want to earn extra entries for this giveaway? 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 or to the Pink for All Seasons Announcement on Facebook or Twitter. Again, you can just let me know in your comment that you’ve done this. I trust you.

On Friday, I will use the Random Number Generator to pick a winner. Good luck! And be on the lookout for other giveaways coming soon.