More Happiness for THAT SUMMER!
April 24th, 2014

When a new book is poised to come out, I always hold my breath until the four big trade journals weigh in: Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Publisher’s Weekly, and RT Book Reviews.

The first of the lot just came in this week– and it couldn’t be more positive.

According to RT Book Reviews, That Summer “is a story that will linger in your mind”.

Here’s the full paragraph:

That Summer (3)“Willig stretches her writer’s wings as she crafts a double love story stretching from Victorian England to the present day. With its alternating viewpoints, this is more than a love story or a mystery; it’s a tale exploring the lives of two women and how secrets create and destroy relationships. Willig cleverly leads readers into two mysteries, answering some questions, but leaving others untouched. Willig brilliantly demonstrates how the truth can bring freedom and understanding. This is a story that will linger in your mind.”

(And, yes, I may have re-read this a time or two today as I was trying to gear myself up to work on the next book.)

Thank you, RT!!

 

MIDNIGHT MANZANILLA Give Away!
April 23rd, 2014

ARCs of Pink XI, aka The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla, are almost here!

manzanilla

Between now and May 21, my publisher is giving away fifteen copies of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla on Goodreads. To enter, just go to the contest site, here.

Sally and her pet stoat both wish you the best of luck.

The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla appears in stores on August 5th. To read an excerpt, just click here.

 

THAT SUMMER Winner!
April 23rd, 2014

And the winner of the advance copy of That Summer is…

Gayle! (Of Comment #28.)

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

Thanks so much to everyone for their wonderful book suggestions. This was an If You Like on a grand scale!

More on That Summer coming up soon…. Only six weeks until it arrives in stores!

 

Teaser Tuesday: the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1849
April 22nd, 2014

It’s Tuesday and we have… more pretty pictures for you!

A major scene in That Summer is set at the prestigious Private View at the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1849, where my historical hero, Gavin Thorne, is showing his painting, Mariana in the Moated Grange.

Private View Royal Academy

(The picture above is of the Private View of 1881, but it gives you an idea of what Private View day would have looked like. Just picture much fuller skirts on the ladies….)

Mr. Thorne and his Mariana are my own inventions– but the rest of the Exhibition was lifted right from the historical record. Want to see some of what my heroine would have seen?

While I was researching That Summer, I hit a stroke of amazing luck. I was able to acquire one of the original programs from the show, the very program that my heroine would have held:

photo (8)

Shall we open it up and take a look?

The fledgling Preraphaelites were well-represented in the Exhibition of 1849. John Everett Millais made a stir with his Lorenzo and Isabella:

lorenzo

In the meantime, William Holman Hunt exhibited Rienzi, or, more volubly, Rienzi vowing to obtain justice for the death of his young brother, slain in a skirmish between the Colonna and the Orsini factions, a history painting about the fourteenth century Roman folk hero, Cola di Rienzo.

Rienzi_vowing_to_obtain_justice

But where, you may ask, was that most iconic of them all, Dante Gabriel Rossetti? Much to the annoyance of his friends, he had taken himself and his Girlhood of Mary Virgin off to the Free Exhibition at Hyde Park Corner rather than waiting for the RA show in May– possibly because he was afraid that he wouldn’t get a good placement in the RA show.

girlhood of mary virgin

Because Rossetti jumped the gun, and exhibited before the others, his is the first of the Pre-Raph paintings on which the initials PRB (Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood) can be found. (Hunt and Millais were not amused.)

You can play a fun game of “spot the PRB” in each of these paintings. For example, it’s hidden on the bench on which Lorenzo and Isabella are sitting in Millais’s painting.

You can also play “spot the painter”, since, to save the cost of models, the artists all sat for each other. And, for my fellow Goblin Market fans, that’s Christina Rossetti as the title role in Rossetti’s painting of The Girlhood of Mary Virgin.

The Royal Academy Exhibition was the big debut of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood– so I couldn’t resist having my imaginary Pre-Raphaelite, Gavin Thorne, be a part of it.

 

Monday Give Away: THAT SUMMER!
April 21st, 2014

This Monday, I have for you… an advance copy of That Summer!

Here’s the official blurb:

That Summer (3)2009: When Julia Conley hears that she has inherited a house outside London from an unknown great-aunt, she assumes it’s a joke. She hasn’t been back to England since the car crash that killed her mother when she was six, an event she remembers only in her nightmares. But when she arrives at Herne Hill to sort through the house—with the help of her cousin Natasha and sexy antiques dealer Nicholas—bits of memory start coming back. And then she discovers a pre-Raphaelite painting, hidden behind the false back of an old wardrobe, and a window onto the house’s shrouded history begins to open…

1849: Imogen Grantham has spent nearly a decade trapped in a loveless marriage to a much older man, Arthur. The one bright spot in her life is her step-daughter, Evie, a high-spirited sixteen year old who is the closest thing to a child Imogen hopes to have. But everything changes when three young painters come to see Arthur’s collection of medieval artifacts, including Gavin Thorne, a quiet man with the unsettling ability to read Imogen better than anyone ever has. When Arthur hires Gavin to paint her portrait, none of them can guess what the hands of fate have set in motion.

From modern-day England to the early days of the Preraphaelite movement, Lauren Willig’s That Summer takes readers on an un-put-downable journey through a mysterious old house, a hidden love affair, and one woman’s search for the truth about her past—and herself.

For an advance copy of That Summer, here’s your question:

What are your favorite novels about art or painting?

(With thanks to Pam and Alexandra for the contest idea!)

The winner will be announced on Wednesday.

That Summer comes out on June 3 (which is coming up surprisingly soon!). I’ll be doing a bit of touring for That Summer, so keep an eye on the sidebar for new author appearances.

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.

More pretty Pre-Raphaelite pictures coming up on Teaser Tuesday tomorrow!

 

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!