Ask the Author Day
February 27th, 2015

It’s The Temptation of the Night Jasmine Ask the Author Day over on the Bubblebath Reader!

Have any questions about Robert, Charlotte, that mysterious Frenchman, the Hellfire Club, or anything else?

Just post your questions in the comments section of the Ask the Author post at the Bubblebath Reader and I’ll be by later in the day to respond to all.

Happy Friday!

 

Pink Carnation Cookery: Biscoitos
February 26th, 2015

Today we have the final installment in our Pink Carnation Cookery series from the wonderful Christine!

It does seem fitting that the last of the recipes should represent the last of the Pink books. This month, Christine has whipped up Portuguese biscoitos in honor of Jack and Jane’s adventures in Portugal in The Lure of the Moonflower.

I should turn the floor over to Christine now, but, first, I wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to Christine for making time in her insanely busy schedule to think up and execute all of these amazing recipes. I’ve enjoyed them so and I know I’ll be baking many of these for years to come.

Thank you!!!!

And now, without further babbling from me, over to Christine….

Lure of the Moonflower_deeper sky2Well, after a year, we’ve finally come to the last Pink Carnation recipe. We don’t know much about The Lure of the Moonflower yet, but we do know it’s set in Portugal. When I started looking up Portuguese recipes, one treat I kept seeing over and over was Portuguese biscoitos, or biscotti. It’s also fitting that biscotti goes so well with coffee and Lauren loves her coffee! This recipe was taken from Avo’s Biscoitos at food.com, but I adapted it a bit. The original recipe yields 45-55 cookies, which was a bit much for me, so I halved (most of) the ingredients and got 2 dozen.

Ingredients:
1 stick of butter, softened
3/4 cup of sugar
2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
3 eggs
2 teaspoons of baking powder

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Cream butter and sugar together.
3. Add eggs, mixing until blended.
4. In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder.
5. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture.
6. If dough is too dry, knead a bit. If too wet, add a little more flour.
7. Break off ping pong sized balls.
8. Roll dough between your hands until you get a 5 inch rope.
9. Join the ends together, forming a circle, and fold one end over the other.
10. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown

Mine weren’t all that golden but my oven is weird and I didn’t want to burn them. They were absolutely delicious.

IMG_1129

I first started reading the Pink Carnation books a few years after The Secret History of the Pink Carnation was first released. At the time, I was working part-time for a test prep company and part of my job was proctoring practice exams. That involved me saying “begin,” “5 minutes remaining,” and “stop work,” and doing a whole lot of sitting around in between. It left a lot of time for reading. Based on past purchases, Amazon suggested The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. It sounded right up my alley and I loved it. I was hooked. A few months later, I had the pleasure of meeting Lauren at a book festival and she was just as awesome as I imagined she would be – funny, brilliant and quirky in her own special way. I think she may have accidentally spilled coffee on a fan that day.

Thanks to everyone reading this for indulging me over the past year. I’ve had a lot of fun, tried recipes I wouldn’t have normally tried, and my stand mixer got a lot of mileage.

Lauren, I thank you so much for the wonderful books and I look forward to your future books. It was easy for me to be creative when I had such great inspiration.

Thank you so much, Christine! I’m about two-thirds of the way through writing The Lure of the Moonflower and Jack and Jane are being difficult. Do you think if I bribe them with these cookies, they’ll settle down? Or maybe I should skip the middleman and just bribe me with these cookies….

In the meantime, I’m raising a cup of tea to Christine, for creating all of these wonderful recipes. I doff my baking trays to you!

You can find all of Christine’s recipes here. Which was your favorite?

Here’s the complete list:

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation: Madeleines
The Masque of the Black Tulip: Ginger Biscuits
The Deception of the Emerald Ring: Irish Lace Cookies
The Seduction of the Crimson Rose: Strawberry Cakes
The Temptation of the Night Jasmine: Holiday Cookies
The Betrayal of the Blood Lily: Nan Khatai
The Mischief of the Mistletoe: Holiday Cookies
The Orchid Affair: Peppermint Marzipan Bites
The Garden Intrigue: Chocolate Chip Cookie Bowls
The Passion of the Purple Plumeria: Molten Caramel Brownie Cakes
The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla: Vampire Cookies
The Lure of the Moonflower: Biscoitos

 

Pink Anniversary Guest Post from Jessica– and Give Away!
February 23rd, 2015

As we enter the final week of Pink Anniversary Month, we have a final guest post!

This one is from Jessica, whom I have now had the great privilege of knowing for nearly as long as there’s been a Pink series.

But I’ll leave that to Jessica to tell….

Pink 1 coverSummer, 2006…I was preparing to start a job taking students to Antibes, France, for a month and looking for reading material to take with me. I perused Borders’ “Buy 2, get the 3rd free” table and a book caught my eye…The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. I have always enjoyed historical fiction and romance but at that point in my life it was not the major part of my reading list. (I didn’t even know what “The Regency” was until I became involved with this community of Lauren’s readers!). In other words, I’m not sure what made me pick up the book…the lovely fine-art cover? The enticing title? The color pink? At any rate, I did pick it up and I turned it over. And I read the blurb…a graduate student doing research in London.

At that time I was four years into my own doctoral program, not at Harvard but at the University of Illinois; not in history, but in French and second language acquisition. While I don’t remember why I picked the book up, I remember very clearly the thought that went through my mind as I read that blurb and met Eloise Kelly for the first time: “Finally! A book about my people!” Never had I seen a novel about a graduate student. I couldn’t not buy it.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation accompanied me on that trip to France. Pre-Kindle, the few books you took abroad with you, you re-read, even if you were only gone for a few weeks (at least if you read as quickly as I do!). I remember reading it in my un-air-conditioned bedroom, on the plane, in the Paris hotel. Even now, thinking of Pink I transports me back to the little apartment I shared with another trip chaperone, in that hot, dim upstairs bedroom, exhausted after a long day of teenagers and the southern France sun.

From the first page, when Eloise fell into a fellow Tube passenger’s lap, I was hooked. Not only did the historical story fascinate me, but the author actually got the graduate school part right! Despite the vast difference between the Ivy League and the Big 10, Eloise’s experiences resounded with me because I could see many of them happening to me. Her hours in Widener Library, my hours searching the various levels of UIUC’s Graduate Library (which I firmly believe were the inspirations for Dante’s levels of Hell); her search for primary sources, my struggle for participants; the uncertainty of Life After Humanities PhD. And, of course: the glory (struggle) and joy (pain) of teaching undergraduates.

Fast forward a few months, at a public library, in the W section. Lo and behold, there was another book by the same author…similar title: The Masque of the Black Tulip…ANOTHER BOOK! It’s a series! From there, I searched the internet for information on Lauren Willig…and I found this website, this community, and Lauren herself. It’s a magical aspect of the internet to be able to interact with our favorite authors, to connect with the minds that bring us the stories that captivate us. I adore reading outtakes, participating in contests to choose flower names or design mugs and tote bags, and hearing about Lauren’s upcoming projects.

Emerald PaperbackAlthough Eloise and I have taken different paths ultimately, I continue to feel that Lauren wrote me a literary soul sister. I recognize myself in her struggles with her dissertation advisor, the ache of a long-distance relationship, and, again, Life After Humanities PhD. I recognize her anxiety and awkwardness and tendency to fall over, knock down, or bump into whatever there is around her. And we’re both redheads with curly hair. (When her blind date at the Indian restaurant questions a redhead named Kelly siding with the English over the Irish in The Deception of the Emerald Ring, I was reminded that I’m a French professor who is a dedicated reader of a series where the French are constantly insulted and thwarted).

Lauren and her books have seen me through dissertation-writing and defense, my visiting professor position, being hired on the tenure track at the same university, and through the tenure track as I await the final two votes for my promotion. Fortuitously, she always seems to have a book coming out when I need a reward to inspire me to finish a paper or project or just another semester of undergraduate teaching (The Other Daughter is coming out in June, in time for my birthday – thanks, Lauren!). In August 2008, I had just found out that a professor on my dissertation committee whom I particularly liked would have to Plumeriaparticipate remotely in my defense. I permitted myself an afternoon of total breakdown, in the form of re-reading The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, which had come out earlier that year. I read The Betrayal of the Blood Lily over ginger cats cookies and Indian food, wearing a pink scarf, in a fit of silly themed-ness during my first year on the tenure track. I’ve re-visited my favorite couples, Miles/Henrietta and Geoffrey/Letty, so many times that I fear for my copies of The Masque of the Black Tulip and The Deception of the Emerald Ring. As the tenure track dragged on, I had to abandon my habit of indulging in a full afternoon to read new books in one sitting, so The Garden Intrigue, The Passion of the Purple Plumeria, and The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla have all been read in bits before bed, which gave me a chance to truly savor them.

From finding The Secret History of the Pink Carnation all those years ago, I’ve gained an online community I enjoy; an entrée and guide into the world of romance and historical fiction, along with the intellectual tools to defend the genre; and a smattering of botanical knowledge. Not to mention, of course, the gleaming row of books on my shelf with flower titles and pretty covers. And in Lauren and her generosity in her web presence, I’ve gained a friend who understands what my life was like in graduate school and wrote about it.

In French, there is a phrase that perfectly sums up my relationship with Lauren: lectrice inconditionelle, unconditional reader. If she writes, it I will read it. All because she wrote a novel about “my people.”

First of all, can we have a big cheer for Jessica for making it through and achieving tenure? Huzzah! And if the Pink books helped you to procrastinate– I mean motivate! Yes, motivate– your way through that, then I am very proud of the small role the Pink books have played in your success. Eloise salutes you. (And Miles offers a ginger biscuit.)

It means so much to me that the grad school experience in the books rang true. As a grad student, nothing maddened me more than books in which the heroine or hero was theoretically a grad student (often a Harvard grad student, since Harvard seems to occupy a peculiar place in the national imagination) and yet did very un-grad-student-like things, like completing an entire PhD in three years, hopping fields at will (an expert on the Italian Renaissance one day and Stuart England the next), or staying at the Georges Cinq.

I wanted a book that would speak to the real grad school experience (with a bit of, “hey! there’s a whole cache of never-before-seen papers!” wish fulfillment). I was fortunate, during the writing of this book, to have a phalanx of grad student friends who would sit with me at Burdick’s or Peets’ in Harvard Square and egg me on with suggestions like, “Oooh, oooh, add something about how advisors never reply to emails!” Or “What about when you go on dates and guys make snide comments about your field?”

To my grad school friends: I have tried, diligently, to incorporate all of those suggestions. If there were gripes I left out, Eloise and I both apologize.

It was the grad student element that drew Jessica to the books. What was it that captured your imagination?

One person who comments will be chosen at random to receive a Pink Anniversary Mug.

Also… I seem to have a number of unclaimed prizes piling up here! If you’ve contacted me about a prize and not received a response, please, please let me know in the comments. (In which case, I’ll know that something is wrong with my email and can fix it.)

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up
February 20th, 2015

I’m still in Pink XII lockdown (and will be until March 15), but my wonderful college roommate dropped by with a life-saving package of books for those moments in between speed-writing and toddler-wrangling.

This week’s pick? Tanya Huff’s Summon the Keeper. Where has this book been all my life? Wonderfully quirky, with laugh-out-loud snarky narrative. Oh, yes, and a talking cat.

As I return to the Pink salt mines… what have you been reading this week?

 

Pink Carnation Comics Winner
February 18th, 2015

And the winner of that demmed elusive Pick Your Pimpernel contest is…

Denise! (Of Comment #26.)

Congrats, Denise! Email me at willig@post.harvard.edu with your info and I’ll send a set of the Pink Carnation comic prints wending their way to you.

Also, there are a couple of mugs that remain unclaimed from the last two contests (here and here), so if you’re Catie or Alex and would like your prize, let me know!

 

Pick Your Pimpernel!
February 17th, 2015

As I’ve discussed elsewhere before, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation had its immediate impetus in a post General Exams re-viewing of the Anthony Andrews version of The Scarlet Pimpernel.

I’d first read the book when I was ten. I can remember the very moment of beginning it, on the nubby carpet of a classroom floor, gulping down a chapter in those few minutes between classes. It wasn’t until three years later, in eighth grade, that the Anthony Andrews movie version burst into my life. It’s hard, now, to remember what my pre-Anthony Andrews vision of Sir Percy and Marguerite had been. After that, that was it: they were Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour forever after.

There have been many, many dramatizations of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Which is your favorite? Do you prefer:

— the classic: Merle Oberon and Leslie Howard in the 1934 Pimpernel?

— the over the top fun of Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour in the 1982 Pimpernel (with Ian McKellan as Chauvelin!)?

— the 1999 A&E miniseries with Richard Grant which I have to confess I’ve never seen?

— the Blackadder satire in Nob and Nobility? (“Yes, I shall certainly choose revolutionary France for my holiday again next year.”)

— or, of course, the musical? (Hello, dancing fops!)

Which Pimpernel would you choose? And are there others I’ve left out?

Because everything is more fun with a give away, one person will be chosen at random to receive a signed set of Pink Carnation comics. Winner to be announced on Wednesday!

 

Donkey Poll Winner
February 15th, 2015

Jane and Jack are still debating the proper naming of a donkey (i.e. Jack doesn’t understand why it needs one), but their author is very grateful for all the wonderful donkey name suggestions. When the finished book appears, you may recognize some of those names in the text….

In the meantime, the winner of the Pink Anniversary Mug, chosen by random number generator, is…

Catie! (Of Comment #34.)

Congrats, Catie! If you email me at willig@post.harvard.edu with your details, I’ll have the mug sent on its way to you.

And now back to that donkey….

Happy Valentine’s weekend, all!

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!
February 14th, 2015

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s my traditional Valentine’s Day post: a piece I wrote way back in 2009, for the (now defunct) All-A-Blog.

“You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you….”

They do say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. With that as my excuse, I plan to shamelessly imitate one of my favorite authors, Tracy Grant, who came up with the genius idea of compiling a list of her favorite fictional declarations of love in honor of Valentine’s Day.

Like Tracy, I tend to admire those hard-won resolutions where the hero and heroine have been kept apart by either internal or external impediments. Mr. Darcy (whose well-worn declaration heads this post), has to fight against his own, er, pride and prejudice before he can blurt out those famous lines to Elizabeth. In the case of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, discussed at length by Tracy, the impediment lies in Harriet’s psyche, in her fear of what dreadful changes giving in to emotion might work on them both (to be fair, she had just been accused of murdering her ex-lover, so one could appreciate why she was gun shy). It takes three books for Lord Peter to win her over, and when he does, the resolution is all the meaningful for being so hard fought.

Here are two of my other favorites. On one end, we have those sardonic heroes, in the model of Rhett Butler, who mock themselves even as they declare their affections:

“Would it take your mind off your unpleasant memories to know that I love you? That I am, as the novelists put it, ‘in love’ with you?”

The hero and heroine of Valerie Fitzgerald’s Zemindar are on the run through India in the midst of the mutiny of 1857. The hero’s estate has just been burned and looted, the heroine has come across the hideously mutilated bodies of close acquaintances, they have a dependent woman and baby on their hands, and they have no idea whether they’ll make it out alive. Even so, the hero couches his declaration in inverted commas. The fact that it took mutiny, murder and massacre to get him even to that point tells you an awful lot about what voicing those words cost him.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have the fulsome declaration—with a twist:

“Love you! Girl, you’re in the very core of my heart. I hold you there like a jewel. Didn’t I promise you I’d never tell you a lie? Love you! I love you with all there is of me to love. Heart, soul, brain. Every fibre of body and spirit thrilling to the sweetness of you. There’s nobody in the world for me but you, Valency.”

No one writes it quite like L.M. Montgomery. The heroine of The Blue Castle was the one who did the proposing, on the understanding that she only had a year to live. When she finds out that she was misdiagnosed, she runs back home, convinced Barney will hate her for trapping him. Barney comes running after her, uttering the declaration above—which Valency doesn’t believe. It takes his losing his temper to convince her, which leads to my favorite line of that scene: “You darling!” [Valency] said. “You do mean it! You do really love me! You wouldn’t be so enraged if you didn’t!” High romance gives way to practical psychology.

I’d never stopped to think about it before, but I’ve written variants on both those scenes. The hero and heroine of my fourth book, The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, belong to the Rhett Butler/Zemindar camp (Tracy discusses them in her post). My fifth book, The Temptation of the Night Jasmine, follows the Blue Castle pattern. When it comes down to it, the heroine is convinced of the sincerity of the hero’s affections not by his pretty speeches, but by the awkward honesty that comes later.

I have so many other favorite scenes—Rhett’s marriage proposal to Scarlett in Gone with the Wind, the final scene of Mary Stewart’s Nine Coaches Waiting, M.M. Kaye’s Trade Wind, Georgette Heyer’s Arabella—but this post has already reached absurd proportions.

What are your favorite literary declarations of love?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up
February 13th, 2015

I’ve been in Pink XII lockdown, so there hasn’t been much in the way of leisure reading. But I want to know what you’ve been reading!

What have you been reading this week?

p.s. Apologies for not having announced a Donkey Poll winner yet! I’ll pick– and announce– a winner on Sunday.

 

A Guest Post From Rachel
February 12th, 2015

Welcome to the first of the Pink Anniversary guest posts! Rachel was kind enough to share her memories and thoughts about the Pink series, and so, without further ado, I’m going to turn the podium over to Rachel for a trip down Pink memory lane….

I am so honored to have a guest post on Lauren’s website! This medium is perfect because readers won’t get distracted by my fangirl squeals or nervous laughter… *ha ha ha*

I first discovered The Pink Carnation series in high school, as a sophomore starting to forge my identity, and using books as my guide to self-discovery. Wandering around in my favorite independent bookstore one spring day in 2006, I was using the oft- condemned method of finding a new book: by which cover intrigued me most. My attention became riveted on a gorgeous spine with pink letters… The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig. The front cover was even more promising and as I read the blurb on the back I decided to purchase the book. But HEY! It looks like a series, I’ll buy the next one too! There was no way I could pass it up.

My mother has blessed me with many things: her height, her wit, and her love of British literature and their accompanying BBC miniseries. So when I recognized the reference to the Scarlet Pimpernel in Lauren’s book it felt like kismet.

The sun seemed to shine brighter and the air seemed to blow more sweetly as I walked down the cobblestone streets with my new treasures. The details are hazy about where I sat (or which homework I neglected) while reading these books but I know that I averaged one a day and was laughing constantly. All I could talk about during lunch with my friends was the new series I’d started.

I never read Harry Potter growing up so I missed out on the wait-all-night-for-the-book-to-come-out-and-then-call-in-sick-to-read-it-right-away craze, so pre-ordering the latest book in a series or going to the bookstore on book launch day was a new experience for me. It was as if I had joined a new group of friends: Lauren, Eloise, Amy, Henrietta, and the other heroines as time went on. (Except maybe Mary… we definitely would not see eye to eye.) The brilliant writing of the series heralded a brand-new truth for me that proved to be very formative. Smart women could write, or read, anything they wanted and still sound intelligent! Romance novels were foreign to me as a 16 year old so the Pink Carnation series was my first foray into bodice-ripping, bosom-heaving fun. But the obvious research that went into the books coupled with Lauren’s clever prose erased my preconceived notions of the Romance Novel.

For me, the series was a metaphor for being a woman: a woman who could be comprised of all sorts of things and not fit into a specific category (think Alanis Morissette’s lyrics “I’m a bitch, I’m a lover…”). It was validation that I could be whoever I wanted to be and to a teenager with lukewarm self-confidence that was exactly what I needed to hear. Um, read. So I let my freak flag fly and aced my classes while laughing obnoxiously about off color jokes. I still read Austen and Dickens but I expanded to some of the contemporary romance authors suggested on Lauren’s website. I embraced my offbeat side and learned to love the word “juxtaposition.”

When Lauren mentioned on her website that for the “Crimson Rose” book tour she would be stopping in Ann Arbor, I was elated. I live on the other side of Michigan, about a two hour drive one way, but a road trip to see a favorite author was just the thing I’d enjoy and I knew I would not be disappointed. And I wasn’t. Lauren was vivacious and kind and it was so inspiring to think how much she’d accomplished not only as an author but also as a student (hello, two Ivy Leagues!) and lawyer. Yet another example of a woman who doesn’t live in a jello mold. At her next Ann Arbor book tour Lauren remembered me- and as a bibliophile (especially one who reads a lot of posthumous works) a living author is a rockstar. And a rockstar who recognizes said bibliophile is nothing short of amazing. The Kerrytown Bookfest panel Lauren was on this past fall was comprised of similar women who write strong female protagonists. Being able to read Lauren’s books (or those from a similar authoress) is a repeated affirmation that who I am is pretty cool. For this reason I read, reread, and recommend Lauren’s books. And, of course, to laugh and swoon in equal measure at men in knee breeches.

Thank you so much for this, Rachel. It means so much to me to know what the Pink books are to you– because I’m that bibliophile, too, with my own cache of Books That Made Me Me. It’s the most amazing thing in the world to stumble upon a book or series of books that really speaks to you. And more amazing still to know that your books were those books.

Happy ten years of Pink!