Weekly Reading Round-Up
September 12th, 2014

I had a big treat this week: an early copy of Simone St. James’s upcoming book, The Other Side of Midnight!

In this one, a reluctant medium finds herself drawn into a former friend’s murder inquiry, pulling her back into a world that she’s been avoiding since their big falling out years before. As always, St. James’s depiction of life in the 1920s is pitch-perfect, and her heroine the sort of person you’d like to visit with over a large pot of tea.

For those An Inquiry Into Love and Death fans out there, happy news: it’s Inspector Merriken who’s on the case.

The bad news? The Other Side of Midnight isn’t out until April. But I can promise that it is worth the wait.

Other than that, it’s been Portugal, Portugal and more Portugal. And a side of Clifford, the Big Red Dog.

What have you been reading this week?


Pink I: Inspirations
September 11th, 2014

This week on the Pink Carnation Read Along, Ashley blogged about inspirations for the Pink series, specifically The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Since I’m blogging along with the Read Along, I’d considered writing about some of the antecedents of the Pimpernel. There have been plenty of people over the year who have debated just where Baroness Orczy came up with the idea for the Pimpernel. Some point to Admiral Sir Sidney Smith, who certainly had plenty of swash and buckle, and was in and out of France (including a stint incarcerated in the Temple Prison)– but who, otherwise, wasn’t a terribly laudable sort of person. If you go to the historical record, you find records of actual flower named spies, including a Le Mouron (the Pimpernel). The drawback? They were French royalists, not English aristocrats. Baroness Orczy always said that Sir Percy came to her, as was, and refused to be drawn further on the question.

You can read a much more detailed post on the subject that I wrote a few years ago over at History Hoydens.

So, instead of discussing the origins of Sir Percy, I wanted to talk about my own peculiar wrinkle on the topic: female spies.

When I sat down to write Pink Carnation, I didn’t realize that this would be a controversial choice. I had no idea that I would, a few years later, be bombarded with emails starting with “a young lady would never….”

What I did know? Was that women were and had been spies, as long as there had been anyone on whom to spy.

My dissertation, on which I was working while writing Pink I, involved royalist conspiracies during the latter half of the English Civil Wars. One of the chapters was on women and espionage. It will come as no surprise to know that women were instrumental in smuggling messages, monies, and, occasionally, members of the royal family. One of my favorite characters is Lady Anne Halkett (I will write her story one of these days), who smuggled the Duke of York out of Parliamentarian captivity dressed up in one of her gowns.

So you could say that I had female spies on the brain.

Female spies seemed particularly appropriate during the Napoleonic era, partly because Napoleon himself took such a low view of women. They had the ability to fly under the radar (to borrow a modern analogy) in the way men did not.

During my pre-Pink researches, I came upon references to female spies in operation during the Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, including one called La Prime-Rose (a pun on primrose). My favorite? The forty year old woman who went undercover on a French frigate, disguised as a cabin boy.

Put all that together… and you get the Pink Carnation and her league.


Teaser Tuesday: Interconnections
September 9th, 2014

Sometimes, the eighteenth (and early nineteenth) century can feel like a very small place.

Right now, I’m doing a crash course of research for Pink XII, aka The Lure of the Moonflower. In 1807, the Portuguese royal family flees Lisbon for their colony of Brazil, just steps ahead of General Junot’s rag-tag army, the mad queen, Maria I, shouting all the way from her carriage that they should stay and put up a fight rather than running away.

But what if… just what if… that wasn’t really Queen Maria in the carriage? What if she had been spirited away by a loyalist group? And the Pink Carnation needs to find her before the French do….

So, of course, I was researching Queen Maria and her madness, and guess what I discovered? When she went around the bend in 1792, the same doctor who treated George III, Francis Willis, was also called in to treat her.

Because sometimes the eighteenth century only has about ten people in it.

I found this particularly thrilling because, as you know, Pink V, The Temptation of the Night Jasmine, revolved around King George and his madness, so having Francis Willis pop up was like rediscovering an old acquaintance.

My other favorite research overlap? When I was researching Jane Austen and her family for The Mischief of the Mistletoe, right after writing my India book, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, I discovered that Jane’s cousin, Eliza de Feuillide, was commonly believed to be the love child of none other than Warren Hastings, the notorious Governor-General of Bengal.

Who would’ve thunk? One doesn’t generally associate Austen and Hastings. But there it was.

We’ll see what pops up next!


September 7th, 2014

It’s Kerrytown Bookfest in Ann Arbor!

You can find me signing books at the Aunt Agatha’s booth at 12:30.

At 1:15, over in the Main Tent, Tasha Alexander, Susan Elia MacNeal, Anna Lee Huber and I will be talking about the Art of Historical Romantic Suspense.

Hope to see you there!



Today’s Event– New Location!
September 6th, 2014

Last time Tasha Alexander and I toured together, there was a freak thunderstorm…. This time? Power outages.

The show is still going on– but it’s a little ways down the road. Due to outages at the main library, we’re moving five minutes away, to the Kezar Branch Library at 106 Church Street in Romeo. Come find us there!

There will be electricity. And cookies.

For more information, click here: http://romeodistrictlibrary.org/?p=3863.


Michigan– Today!
September 6th, 2014

Hello, Michiganders! You can find me, Tasha Alexander, Susan Elia MacNeal, Simone St James, and more today at the lovely Romeo District Library.

Did I mention that we’ve been promised homemade cookies?

If you can’t make it today, you can find all of us tomorrow (Sunday) at the Kerrytown Bookfest in Ann Arbor on the Art of Historical Romantic Suspense panel at 1:15.


Weekly Reading Round-Up
September 5th, 2014

I’ve been living in the 1920s for so long now, that I desperately needed to read something that wasn’t a) anywhere near the Twenties, or b) set in England. So this week’s haul was:

– Jo Goodman’s In Want of a Wife. We all have those ridiculous plot tropes we secretly love. One of mine is mail order brides. In this case, a rancher in the 1890s Wild West in want of a wife, and the poor cousin of a well to do New York family who answers his ad. Goodman always does a lovely job crafting sensible and believable characters who you’re rooting for all the way.

– Jennifer Crusie’s Agnes and the Hitman. Joyous absurdity as the wedding of the granddaughter of a mobster on a Southern plantation gets very, very complicated.

Next up? A big pile of research books about Portugal in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries!

What have you been reading this week?


Pink I: How Eloise Came To Be
September 4th, 2014

A few days ago, Ashley kicked off the Read Along with the first lines of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, in which Eloise is braving London transportation to visit one Mrs. Selwick-Alderly:

“The Tube had broken down. Again…”

I have a secret to share with you: there was no Eloise in the original draft of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.

No Eloise, no Colin, no Tube.

The first draft of the book which became The Secret History of the Pink Carnation was purely historical, and largely as you read it now (minus about fifty pages of additional sheep jokes). A friend gave the book to an agent, the agent sent the book out to a few editors, and, in a surprisingly short space of time, I got a call saying that an editor wanted the book, but she had a question for me.

That question was: “Have you ever considered a modern framing story?”

The short answer to that was no, I hadn’t.

“It doesn’t need to be much,” said my agent. “Just one chapter– like someone finding papers in the attic.”

I might have made a mmm-hmm noise. I don’t remember. What I do remember is standing there on the phone in my old studio apartment in Cambridge, struck by the image of a woman clinging to a Tube rail. She had red hair and tall boots and a skirt turned partly wrong way round and a beige sweater with a coffee splotch on it.

I knew her. I had no idea how I knew her, but I did. I knew who she was and where she was going and why she was there.

“Hello?” said my agent. “Are you still there?”

“Does it have to be only one chapter?” I asked.

I could already see what was going to happen. She was going to get off that Tube to visit an elegant elderly lady. That lady had a nephew, a nephew who didn’t want the family papers in someone else’s hands.

“I don’t think so,” said my agent.

“Good,” I said. “Because I think I want it to be a little bit more….”

And that, in a roundabout, accidental way, was how Eloise was born.

There’s a side note to this story. Several months later, I was doing some reading up on Baroness Orczy. (As the publicity for the book release got under way, people had started asking me questions about The Scarlet Pimpernel, and, like a good little grad student, I thought I had better do my research.) What I hadn’t known? Was that Baroness Orczy always claimed that she had first met Sir Percy Blakeney in the Tube. She had been standing on a Tube platform, and there he was, knee breeches, quizzing glass and all.

I wish I could say that I placed Eloise on the Tube deliberately, as a homage to Baroness Orczy. But I didn’t. Like Sir Percy on that Tube platform, she just popped up there, all by herself, with a complete history and story to her.

One might even think it was meant.


The Pink Carnation Read Along Blog Along!
September 3rd, 2014

Doesn’t that sound like a tongue twister? Here’s what it is, untwisted:

As some of you may know, Ashley is doing a year long Read Along of all the Pink books over on her blog, The Bubblebath Reader. Each month features a different Pink book (in chronological order), with essays about the books, personal memories, trivia, give aways, and all sorts of other fun stuff.

You can already find the first couple of posts about Pink I up on The Bubblebath Reader.

I should be, um, writing books and all that sort of thing, but I couldn’t resist chiming in. So each Thursday I’ll be blogging along with the Read Along here on the website, sharing some behind the scenes information or memory or what have you inspired by that week’s Read Along discussion.

My Read Along Blog Along starts tomorrow, with a post on Eloise and how she came to be.

In the meantime, head over to The Bubblebath Reader to join the discussion about The Secret History of the Pink Carnation!


For my German readers….
September 3rd, 2014

I have a little surprise I’ve been saving for my German-speaking readers! This Christmas, I have an original short story appearing in an anthology called Weihnachtsherzen.

Here’s the official blurb (in German, of course!):

U1_978-3-8052-5078-8_Andruck_V2.inddDie junge Zoe, die nach dem herzzerreißenden Ende ihrer Beziehung an die Küste von Maine flieht und von einem geheimnisvollen Fischer auf eine Insel gelockt wird; der Pariser Buchhändler Perdu, der seine große Liebe verwinden und in einem Buch weiterleben möchte; das Mädchen Jasmin, das sich nichts sehnlicher wünscht, als dass sie, ihre Eltern und ihr Bruder wieder eine richtige Familie sind; die Journalistin Katja, die ausgerechnet zu den Feiertagen auf einer Hallig von einer Flut überrascht wird; Ehefrau Anna, die, frisch verlassen, auf dem Speicher eine alte Spieluhr findet und einen Wunsch frei hat…

Ein Weihnachtsfest voller Glück, Wehmut, Hoffnung, Neugier – und vor allem immer wieder Liebe.

The anthology comes out on October 24. My story is called “The Snow Globe”, and is set in 1920s London.

The anthology includes stories by Juliet Ashton, Morgan Callan Rogers, Jane Corry, Sofie Cramer, Gabriella Engelmann, Nina George, Ciara Geraghty, Tessa Hennig, Janne Mommsen, Emma Sternberg, and me.

Now if only I could remember a little more of my “German for Reading Knowledge” class from grad school!