Weekly Reading Round-Up
April 18th, 2014

This week, I’ve been reading books that aren’t out yet. (Which is definitely one of the perks of being an author!) And, yes, you will be seeing at least one of these on Monday Give Away sometime soon….

– Susan Elia MacNeal, The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent.

The fourth book in the Maggie Hope series, about an American in the UK during World War II, comes out on July 1. After being Mr. Churchill’s secretary, training as a secret agent, and going undercover in Nazi Germany, Maggie is in Scotland, training new recruits, when she is once again swept up in larger events. If you haven’t read these books yet, they’re a little bit Jacqueline Winspear, a little bit Ken Follett, and a big refresher on World War II history, from the big picture affairs of nations stuff down to the ladies’ hats. The first book in the series is Mr. Churchill’s Secretary.

– Chrysler Szarlan, The Hawley Book of the Dead.

This debut novel has been compared to A Discovery of Witches, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, and The Night Circus. I can see all of that, but it also has an element that is catnip to me: a heroine who returns to a mysterious and abandoned family home. Can we say “house book”? I’m only about halfway through, but absolutely riveted so far. (Since I haven’t done a very good job of describing it, you can find the official blurb here.) The Hawley Book of the Dead comes out on September 23.

What have you been reading this week?

 

BLOOD LILY Winner
April 18th, 2014

The winner of the signed copy of The Betrayal of the Blood Lily is…

Anna! (Of Comment #36.)

Congrats, Anna! If you email me with your info, I’ll pop your book in the mail to you.

Coming up this Monday… an ARC of That Summer!

 

Happiness for THAT SUMMER
April 17th, 2014

This is always a nerve-wracking time of year for me, when the first reviews of my upcoming book start coming in.

I’m sighing a deep breath of relief right now, because…

That Summer just got a Perfect Ten on Romance Reviews Today!

That Summer (3)

Jani Brooks of RRT writes: “Once started, THAT SUMMER will not allow readers to put it down. I promise you. It’s A Perfect 10 from page one to the poignant, heartwarming endings of both stories. Humor, history, a wee bit of mystery, and brilliant characters in both centuries will guarantee a fun and satisfying read.”

My other favorite line from the review? “I should know better than to start one of Lauren Willig’s books on a Sunday morning. THAT SUMMER is riveting, and I read almost straight through to one o’clock Monday morning!”

I do love keeping people up past their bedtimes.

Thank you so much, Jani!

The first of the Amazon Vine reviews (Amazonians?) also gave That Summer two thumbs up, opining, “Humor, romance, a good brush with creepy characters and situations now and again, secret hiding places, art treasures, and an old house with a story to tell…. If you’re in the mood, then I know the book to recommend: Lauren Willig’s That Summer.”

Yay!!

(Author side note: I am intrigued that both reviews mention humor right off that bat like that. When I was writing That Summer, I didn’t think of it as a particularly funny book. In fact, I was worried that it was a bit dark. But I guess, when it comes down to it, humor is just so much a part of the way that I see the world that it’s impossible to keep out.)

You can read an excerpt of That Summer here.

That Summer is available for preorder from Amazon, B&N, Books A Million, Indiebound, Powell’s, and wherever else books are sold.

 

Pink Carnation Cookery: Molten Caramel Brownie Cakes
April 17th, 2014

For this month’s adventure in Pink Carnation cookery, Christine brings us… Molten Caramel Brownie Cakes in honor of The Passion of the Purple Plumeria!

passionI cannot tell you how excited I am about these. Caramel and chocolate are among my favorite combos (chocolate and peanut butter are also up there, but work less well in latte form). Grande caramel mochas have fueled me through the writing of at least one of my books.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Miss Gwen needed a little chocolate/caramel snack to help her along at points during the writing of her 1806 blockbuster hit, The Convent of Orsino….

Without further ado, Christine’s molten caramel brownie cakes!

Without giving away too much, we all learned in The Passion of the Purple Plumeria that Miss Gwen is full of secrets. Like Miss Gwen, these brownies have a secret too, but this secret is caramel.

This recipe for Molten Caramel Brownie Cakes was taken from Christina Marsigliese’s blog. The original recipe called for peanut butter as well as caramel. I skipped the peanut butter. The blog also contains a link to a caramel recipe, but I used one I’ve used in the past, from the New York Times. The video is really helpful but doesn’t tell you how long it’ll take. It took me about 15-20 minutes this time, but the first time I tried it, it was more like 30 minutes.

Brownie ingredients:

3 oz baking chocolate (I used semisweet)
6 tbsp butter (it’ll melt faster if they’re cut up into 1 tbsp pieces)
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
(the original recipe also includes 1/4 tsp salt, but she didn’t actually incorporate that anywhere in the recipe, so I’m leaving it out)

Caramel sauce ingredients:

1/3 cup granulated sugar
another 1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Brownie directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease a standard 12-cup muffin pan.
2. Set up a double boiler with a heatproof bowl and a pot with 1/2 inch simmering water.
3. Stir together the butter, chocolate and cocoa powder in the double boiler until melted and smooth.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs enough to break and blend the yolks.
5. Add the sugars to the eggs and whisk vigorously until the mixture becomes smooth and thickened.
6. Whisk vanilla extract and chocolate mixture into egg mixture until smooth.
7. Whisk flour into mixture, just long enough for everything to become well blended.
8. Set aside mixture while you make the caramel sauce.

Caramel sauce directions:

1. Heat a pan until it is very hot.
2. On low heat, sprinkle 1/3 cup sugar all around the pan and shake the pan so sugar is evenly distributed. Sugar will quickly start to melt.
3. Add the second 1/3 cup of sugar.
4. Swirl the pan every so often to make sure the sugar cooks evenly.
5. When the sugar is dark brown, it’s ready (the video says until it’s the color of an Irish setter, but I’m not a dog person so I have no idea what that color is).
6. Turn off the heat and add the heavy cream. Turn the heat back on.
7. The caramel may try to ball up, but keep stirring it around in the cream. Once the caramel is dissolved and smooth, add the vanilla extract and salt.
8. Once the caramel is syrupy and thick, but a little thinner than you would want it, remove from heat and pour into heatproof container.

This is a slow process and requires you to keep a close eye on the pan so make sure the sugar doesn’t burn. Not particularly difficult, just requires some caution. This recipe makes about 3/4 cup of caramel sauce, which is far more than you need for the brownies, but plenty of other uses for delicious caramel sauce!

Combining the parts:

1. Fill each cup of the muffin pan about halfway with the brownie mixture.
2. Add about a teaspoon of the caramel sauce to the center of each cup.
3. Using a spoon, cover up the caramel with the brownie mixture as best you can. Or if you’re not going for the molten effect, use a toothpick to swirl the caramel into the brownie.
4. Put in the oven at 325 degrees until slightly puffed. Original recipe says about 13 minutes. Mine took more like 25-30 minutes, but that may be because I was using a silicone pan.
5. Cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

For some reason, I could only make 9 cakes out of this recipe, even with the cups filled halfway. The molten effect will only happen when they’re fresh out of the oven. Afterwards, it will be more fudge-y. The brownies in general were pretty fudge-y.

The brownie batter had thickened up a bit while I was making the caramel sauce, so I would recommend creating a well in the individual cups before pouring in the caramel sauce. My sauce ran all over and it made it harder to try to cover up the sauce. Mine definitely came out more marbled than molten, but they seemed to be a success – I came home from work the next day and my husband had eaten all of them.

Interested in more molten lava cakes? Buzzfeed has this fantastic list!

Thank you so much, Christine! I meant to make these this weekend, but circumstances (and a small person) intervened. But, at some point soon, they will be mine! And when I make them, I’ll post the pictures here and on Facebook….

(Miss Gwen not included.)

 

Talking BLOOD LILY with Rose Lerner– and Give Away!
April 16th, 2014

sweet disorderThe lovely Rose Lerner has a Regency romance out, Sweet Disorder, featuring a widowed heroine. In honor of its release, she interviewed a bunch of us who also have what she calls “Dead First Husband” books.

Rose distilled the essence of those interviews into a post about the dead first husband trope on Heroes and Heartbreakers, but, since the interview questions and answers were all such fun, she’s also posting each of the interviews in its entirety on her blog.

You can find my interview, which is a lot about The Betrayal of the Blood Lily and a little bit about The Garden Intrigue, up on Rose’s blog right now.

Blood Lily PaperbackOther authors interviewed include Jeannie Lin, Tessa Dare, and Courtney Milan. If you’re curious about the way writers’ minds work when we’re shaping our stories, definitely stop by Rose’s blog and take a peek at these!

And because everything is more fun with a give away– and we missed our regularly scheduled give away this Monday– here’s your question for a signed copy of The Betrayal of the Blood Lily:

What’s your favorite Dead First Husband book?

(You can find my favorite mentioned in the interview.)

Winner to be announced on Friday!

 

Teaser Tuesday: Jane’s book has a title!
April 15th, 2014

Okay, I know it’s Tuesday and we’re right in the midst of the That Summer in Pictures series and I promised you pretty pictures of Preraphaelite paintings for today. But… I just couldn’t resist sharing this late-breaking news.

Pink XII, aka Jane’s book, has a title!

Pink XII is now officially…

The Lure of the Moonflower.

And if you think that means what you think that means, then you’re absolutely right.

You can find the complete, unabridged text of Chapter One of The Lure of the Moonflower at the back of Pink XI, The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla, which comes out this August. (Available for pre-order now!)

The Lure of the Moonflower, the twelfth book in the Pink series– and the very last of the Pink books– is scheduled to appear at a bookstore near you in August of 2015.

Stay tuned for more about The Lure of the Moonflower!

 

A Slight Delay….
April 14th, 2014

Gremlins appear to have attacked my website. All posts more recent than last Tuesday’s have disappeared into the electronic ether.

My valiant webmistress is looking into the gremlin attack– shoring up defenses and all that sort of thing– but until we have the problem worked out, I don’t want to risk posting the next Monday Give Away. Wouldn’t it be annoying to post a contest, only to discover that both the post and all of your entries have disappeared?

To make up for it, next Monday we’ll have something I’ve been saving… an ARC of That Summer!

And Teaser Tuesday will, hopefully (cross fingers!), appear here on the site as usual tomorrow.

 

Teaser Tuesday: THAT SUMMER in Pictures, Part II
April 8th, 2014

It’s Part II of That Summer in Pictures: the Mariana in the Moated Grange edition.

Not to give too much away, one of the pictures that plays a large role in That Summer is Mariana in the Moated Grange by Gavin Thorne, my imaginary Preraphaelite painter. In the book, it’s displayed at the Royal Academy show in 1849.

There wasn’t really a Mariana shown in the RA exhibition of 1849 (I’ll be sharing some of the art that was, plus an original program from the show, next week), but it was a popular subject for the Preraphs and their imitators.

The painting takes its subject matter from Tennyson’s poem Mariana – which, in turn, takes its subject matter from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure: the abandoned Mariana, deserted by her betrothed Angelo, waiting for him hour after lonely hour.

Here’s a piece of Tennyson’s poem:

Unlifted was the clinking latch;
Weeded and worn the ancient thatch
Upon the lonely moated grange.
She only said, “My life is dreary,
He cometh not,” she said;
She said, “I am aweary, aweary;
I would that I were dead!”

The lonely and neglected women of Tennyson’s poems were catnip to the Preraphaelites. For example….

William Waterhouse’s 1888 Lady of Shalott:

Lady of Shalott

But the painting I really had in mind while crafting my– I mean, Gavin Thorne’s– Mariana was John Everett Millais’s Mariana:

Mariana

Millais’s Mariana was displayed in the Royal Academy show of 1851– so I hope he won’t mind my borrowing it and using it some two years earlier. (Not to mention attributing it to another painter.) The combination of restlessness and desolation in the figure by the window conveyed exactly what I needed.

Although there were some changes made to my version for the sake of the plot….

More Preraphaelites coming up next Tuesday!

 

Monday Give Away: THE TIME BETWEEN
April 7th, 2014

For today’s Monday give away, we have… a paperback copy of Karen White’s bestselling The Time Between.

Here’s the official blurb:

time betweenNew York Times bestselling author Karen White delivers a novel of two generations of sisters and secrets set in the stunning South Carolina Lowcountry.

Eleanor Murray will always remember her childhood on Edisto Island, where her late father, a local shrimper, shared her passion for music. Now her memories of him are all that tempers the guilt she feels over the accident that put her sister in a wheelchair—and the feelings she harbors for her sister’s husband.

To help support her sister, Eleanor works at a Charleston investment firm during the day, but she escapes into her music, playing piano at a neighborhood bar. Until the night her enigmatic boss walks in and offers her a part-time job caring for his elderly aunt, Helena, back on Edisto. For Eleanor, it’s a chance to revisit the place where she was her happiest—and to share her love of music with grieving Helena, whose sister recently died under mysterious circumstances.

An island lush with sweetgrass and salt marshes, Edisto has been a peaceful refuge for Helena, who escaped with her sister from war-torn Hungary in 1944. The sisters were well-known on the island, where they volunteered in their church and community. But now Eleanor will finally learn the truth about their past: secrets that will help heal her relationship with her own sister—and set Eleanor free….

Many of you may know Karen for her beloved Tradd Street series (possibly soon to be a television series!), but her stand alone novels are not to be missed. I do love novels where secrets from the past help to resolve a quandary in the present. Not to mention that after a lot of time spent reading and writing about England, it’s nice to take a virtual vacation on Edisto Island.

For an early copy of the paperback of Karen White’s The Time Between, here’s your question:

– What’s your favorite book set in the American South?

The winner will be announced on Wednesday. The Time Between appears in stores in paperback next month, on May 6.

 

New City, NY on Wednesday!
April 6th, 2014

This Wednesday, I’ll be heading out to New City (New York) to the New City Public Library to speak about writing historical fiction– and whatever else you’d like me to speak about.

Here are the details:

What: Talk and Signing
Where: New City Public Library, 220 N Main Street, New City, NY
When: Wednesday, April 9, 7:00

If you’re in the area, please do stop on by! As always, I’m happy to sign as many books as you put in front of me.