Pink Carnation Cookery: Holiday Cookies
December 18th, 2014

It’s Pink Carnation cookery time! In honor of the holidays and The Mischief of the Mistletoe, Christine has whipped up something rather more edible than Miss Climpson’s mince pies. (Don’t get Sally started on those.)

Instead, we’ve got… holiday cookies!

And now over to Christine for a cookie recipe to put us all in a festive mood:

Mistletoe_cvrThe Christmas holidays play a big part in both The Temptation of the Night Jasmine and The Mischief of the Mistletoe. I had every intention of making a Christmas pudding for this entry, but the recipes were… well… gross. Suet and sugar just doesn’t work for me. So I looked for inspiration elsewhere. Then it hit me while watching Holiday Baking Championship on the Food Network (is it just me or is the Food Network all competitions these days?). On the first episode, the contestants made cookies and some of them were required to make spritz cookies. All of a sudden, I HAD to have a cookie press. My best friend, being the wonderful person she is, sent me a cookie press as an early Christmas present.

The recipe I used (with one minor adjustment) is the one that came with the cookie press’s instruction booklet from Oxo.

Ingredients:
– 3 sticks of butter, room temperature
– 1 cup of sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon of salt
– 2 large eggs, room temperature
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used almond extract, and other options include lemon extract, orange zest, etc.)
– 4 cups of all purpose flour
– decorating sugar and sprinkles

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Cream together butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy.
3. Add extract and eggs, one at a time, continuously beating.
4. Gradually add flour, beating until well incorporated.
5. Using cookie press to place cookies onto ungreased cookie sheet.
6. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until cookies are golden brown around the edges. Rotate the sheet halfway through baking time.

The recipe yields about 12 dozen small cookies, and I baked for about 9 minutes. If you’ve never used a cookie press (this was my first time), keep pumping until you feel resistance for each cookie. I also used an assortment of sprinkles and sugar that I got in a mixed pack from Target. I think it’s been well documented in this year-long journey through baked goods that decorating stuff isn’t my strong suit, but the cookie press made some adorable little cookies.

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Our Pink Recipes have almost come to an end. The only one left is The Lure of the Moonflower, to come next month. I hope you’ve all enjoyed the recipes so far, and happy holidays to all!

Thank you so much, Christine! Those are so dainty and delicious-looking. I’ve enjoyed both the recipes and the commentary, and I’m so looking forward to seeing what you whip up for The Lure of the Moonflower.

Every December, my little sister and I make the gingerbread cookies off the back of the Grandma’s molasses bottle (which appears to no longer be on the back of the molasses bottle) and sugar cookies, with varying recipes, since I’m still looking for a recipe I really like. Last year, Tasha Alexander, baker extraordinaire (as well as amazing writer) shared her sugar cookie recipe with me, and this year I’ll be trying Betty’s.

Do you all have any holiday cookie favorites?

Happy holidays, all!

 

Teaser Tuesday: Those Ubiquitous Vaughns
December 16th, 2014

The Other DaughterIt has been noted that there is a Cecelia Heatherington-Vaughn in The Other Daughter. Not illogically, the question has been asked: is she one of those Vaughns?

Yes. Yes, she is.

As always, the Vaughns just won’t keep out of the way. They pop up everywhere. In my Kenya book; in my 1927 book; in your Christmas stocking. (Okay, maybe not there. Yet.)

As is usually the case with the Vaughns and their descendants, I flung a character into the mix in the 1927 book, meaning her to be a minor side character, with a cameo role for a chapter or so. Insert hollow laughter here. It wasn’t quite a Lord Vaughn level plot-hijacking (no-one hijacks a plot quite like Lord Vaughn), but my frivolous side character, Cece Heatherington-Vaughn, decided, without consulting me, that it was really only right that she play an integral role in the story, and, while she was at it, become a much more rounded character. And could I please pass that gin fizz?

Just to give you a quick idea of how Cece is related, here’s a bit of Vaughn family history….

crimson-rose-lauren-willig-paperback-cover-artMary and Vaughn’s granddaughter (born early in the reign of Queen Victoria, in 1841), the middle daughter of their son, the Victorian Lord Vaughn, marries a wealthy industrialist, Mr. Heatherington. A granddaughter of Mary couldn’t help but be (a) a bit snobby, but with (b) rather a liking for cold, hard cash, so she squares the circle by adding the Vaughn on to Heatherington, building an opulent mansion in Park Lane, and lording it over all of her acquaintances. Her son (Vaughn and Mary’s great-grandson) marries Lady Frances Standish, daughter of the Earl of Ardmore. Together, they beget Cece.

Long story short, Cece Heatherington-Vaughn is Mary and Vaughn’s great-great granddaughter, but no longer in the direct line.

Ashford PaperbackFor those of you who remember Val Vaughn, from The Ashford Affair, he’s Cece’s second cousin. (His grandfather and Cece’s grandmother are brother and sister.) Unlike Cece, Val is in the direct line, although, being a younger son, he gets all the fun and none of the responsibility, leaving him free to gad off to Kenya and fly aeroplanes.

None of this comes up in the book (for the sake of the plot, it’s Cece’s maternal connections that are more important here, not the Vaughn side), but I thought you might like to know the Vaughns are still going strong– especially since it’s The Seduction of the Crimson Rose month on The Bubblebath Reader!

 

If You Like….
December 15th, 2014

It’s been a while since we’ve had an If You Like here! But, thanks to Betty, we’ve got a holiday themed If You Like this week.

Get the gingerbread out and the cider mulling! Here’s Betty’s list of holiday reads:

Christmas Mail-Order Brides is a four author collection of women seeking homes in the American west during the 1880’s. These heartwarming stories of both men and women who take a chance on finding happiness with people they have never met are written by Susan Page Davis, Vickie McDonough, Therese Stenzel, and Carrie Turansky.

A Darcy Christmas is composed of three novellas written by Amanda Grange, Sharon Latham, and Carolyn Eberhart. Two take us to Christmases after Darcy and Elizabeth are married. The third begins with Darcy’s obsession with Lizzy and quickly carries through to their Christmas honeymoon and other Christmases during their married life, giving a glimpse into the Darcy future.

A Christmas Promise by Mary Balogh is the story of Eleanor Transome who honors her father’s dying wish that she marry Randolph Pierce, the proud Earl of Falloden, even though she dreads it will mean a lifetime without love. Other Christmas books by Balogh include Christmas Beau, A Christmas Bride, and Under The Mistletoe. Christmas Beau tells the story of Judith Easton who jilted the Marquess of Denbigh to marry another man. Now a widow after an unhappy marriage, she meets Denbigh again who is determined to seduce her and break her heart. In A Christmas Bride, two people in their thirties, one a widow with a past and the other a man determined to at last find a bride, are thrown together while spending Christmas with friends. Under The Mistletoe is an anthology of five Christmas novellas. All of Mary’s books are regency romance at its best.

A Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas brings together her four friends from the Wallflower series who are attempting to match-make during the Christmas season by bringing together an American, Rafe Bowman, and society beauty Natalie Blandford. Wherever the Wallflowers are, confusion, humor, and drama are sure to follow. Another Christmas book by Kleypas, Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor, moves into modern time in Seattle and tells the story of Mark Nolan who suddenly finds himself a father when his sister is killed in an automobile crash, leaving Mark as the guardian of her daughter Holly. The only problem is that Holly won’t talk after her mother’s death. This book was made into a 2012 Hallmark movie entitled Christmas With Holly. It is also the beginning of an intriguing series that follows the other two Nolan brothers who all come from a dysfunctional family.

Last, but not least, is another modern story, Comfort & Joy, by Kristin Hannah. It brings together Joy Candellaro, newly divorced and facing Christmas alone, and six-year-old Bobby O’Shea who is about to experience his first Christmas without his mother. Bobby’s father Daniel is trying to help his son cope, but can’t understand his sudden bonding with Joy. This is a story with a twist that will keep you guessing in a world where only the magic of Christmas can heal.

Thank you, Betty! There are so many here that I need to check out.

If you’re looking for more books, you can find some of my suggestions for holiday reading here and here.

(Do you have an If You Like with suggestions you’d like to share? Send it along to me, and I’ll post it here!)

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up
December 12th, 2014

It’s been a literary trip down memory lane for me: I’ve gone into full scale comfort read mode (I’m in the final, agonizing phases of those revisions), which means… Scottish women’s fiction. Specifically, Alexandra Raife’s Drumveyn, Belonging, and Wild Highland Home.

I adore these books. They’re all very much period pieces at this point (the period in question being the 90’s), but they’re still heart-tuggingly relevant when it comes to the central theme of people making new lives for themselves and becoming part of a community. Belonging has one of my favorite tropes, the heroine running a hotel, while Drumveyn and Wild Highland Home are also very much house books, about people digging into their home and their community and, in the process, finding themselves (with a side of Monarch of the Glen).

What have you been reading this week?

 

Teaser Tuesday: THE OTHER DAUGHTER
December 9th, 2014

I haven’t shared much about The Other Daughter with you yet, have I?

The Other DaughterI’m still deep in the middle of revisions, so the book doesn’t feel entirely like a book yet. That’s the odd thing about revisions– once the draft of the manuscript is done, voila! There’s a book. But then along come revisions, and you begin pulling it all apart, and that book that was once a book is suddenly all in flux again. Until it comes together and you can’t imagine it ever having been any other way.

But I digress.

To tide us over until I get these revisions in and my head back on my shoulders, here’s one of my favorite little snippets of dialogue from The Other Daughter.

Rachel, our heroine, is attending a lecture at the home of Lady Frances Heatherington-Vaughn, along with the elusive Simon Montfort, gossip columnist, and John Trevannion, Tory MP (who happens to be her sister’s fiance).

“Should we secure seats? I shouldn’t wish to miss the lecture.”

“Oh, yes, you would,” said Simon, without bothering to lower his voice. “It’s bound to be pure drivel. The man thinks he can cure criminal behavior by injecting pigs’ glands into the livers of potential felons.”

“You’re joking.” Looking from Simon to Mr. Trevannion, Rachel realized he wasn’t. Quickly, she said, “I hadn’t realized that pigs were such miracles of good temper.”

“Provided they have a bit of mud in which to wallow,” said Simon caustically.

There were pots and there were kettles. Rachel wasn’t letting him get away with that. “Brought to them courtesy of the gossip column of the Daily Yell?”

Simon lowered his chin in acknowledgment. “A hit, a palpable hit. The principle is largely the same.” He gestured over the parapet, towards the people milling about in the hall below. “Bread and circuses make for a happy mob. Or, in this case, slime and slander.”

“It doesn’t actually turn people to pigs,” said John patiently. Looking to Rachel, he said, “I can’t claim to understand the science of it—”

“Dr. Radlett’s theories are about as scientific as bleeding to balance the humors.” Simon struck a pose. “Does your neighbor have too much bile? Are you detecting signs of choler in your spouse? Suffer in silence no more. Pig spleen will soon set them right.”

“A vast simplification.” Mr. Trevannion spoke only to Rachel. “The tests—”

“Simples for the simple.”

Mr. Trevannion’s smile was ragged around the edges. “Even you, Montfort, must allow that the potential uses are inspiring.”

“Must I?” Simon extracted his cigarette case from his jacket pocket. “I, personally, would prefer not to be shot full of extract d’oink.”

Mr. Trevannion pointedly turned his back on Simon. He turned to Rachel, his eyes bright with enthusiasm. “For centuries, we have grappled with the baser parts of our natures.”

“Maybe you do,” murmured Simon. “I like to cosset mine and take it out for tea.”

More of The Other Daughter coming up soon!

The Other Daughter appears on shelves June 2, 2015. You can find it for pre-order on Amazon, B&N, Books-A-Million, Indiebound, Powell’s and wherever else books are sold, as well as for Nook and Kindle.

 

‘Tis the Season….
December 4th, 2014

You know that it’s almost Christmas when The Mischief of the Mistletoe starts going on sale on both sides of the Pond!

Mistletoe Paperback Mistletoe UK

Currently, Mistletoe is up for grabs for $6.00 in paperback (down from $15.00) at Amazon.com, and on sale in e-book form for just 85p from Amazon.co.uk. For my UK readers, you can also find The Mischief of the Mistletoe e-book as one of Sainsbury’s autumn picks, reduced to 99p.

Have you seen other Mistletoe sales? Let me know, and I’ll add them to the list here!

If you would like to give Mistletoe– or any of the other books– as a gift, just send me an email (willig@post.harvard.edu, since the website form seems to be acting up a bit recently) and I’ll pop a personalized bookplate in the mail to you.

Merry, merry!

 

Teaser Tuesday: the 2015 Publication Schedule
December 2nd, 2014

2015 is going to be a busy book year for me. Assuming I can get everything I need to write in on time, here’s the 2015 publication schedule:

— May 19, 2015: That Summer (paperback reprint, St. Martin’s Press).

— June 2, 2015: The Other Daughter, aka Stand Alone #3, aka the 1927 book (hardcover, St. Martin’s Press).

— August 4, 2015: The Lure of the Moonflower, aka Pink XII, aka Jane’s book (paperback, NAL).

— January 2016: The Forgotten Room, written with Beatriz Williams and Karen White (hardcover, NAL).

That Summer Paperback The Other Daughter Lure of the Moonflower_deeper sky2

To learn more about That Summer, The Other Daughter, or The Lure of the Moonflower, just check out the Books page. And I’ll have more up about The Forgotten Room soon!

 

Pink XII has a cover!
November 25th, 2014

The twelfth and final Pink Carnation novel, The Lure of the Moonflower, has a cover!

Lure of the Moonflower_deeper sky2

That fort in the background? That’s an actual fort in Portugal that plays a significant role in the book.

There’s something a little bittersweet about having the cover of the final Pink book in hand. I began writing the first Pink book way back in 2001. The extended Pink universe has been a constant in my life ever since. Somehow, seeing all twelve books neatly lined up on the Books page of my website makes the end seem very real. (Although I have yet to finish writing Pink XII, so the adventure continues…. For the moment.)

Here’s the official blurb:

In the final Pink Carnation novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla, Napoleon has occupied Lisbon, and Jane Wooliston, aka the Pink Carnation, teams up with a rogue agent to protect the escaped Queen of Portugal.

Portugal, December 1807. Jack Reid, the British agent known as the Moonflower (formerly the French agent known as the Moonflower), has been stationed in Portugal and is awaiting his new contact. He does not expect to be paired with a woman—especially not the legendary Pink Carnation.

All of Portugal believes that the royal family departed for Brazil just before the French troops marched into Lisbon. Only the English government knows that mad seventy-three-year-old Queen Maria was spirited away by a group of loyalists determined to rally a resistance. But as the French garrison scours the countryside, it’s only a matter of time before she’s found and taken.

It’s up to Jane to find her first and ensure her safety. But she has no knowledge of Portugal or the language. Though she is loath to admit it, she needs the Moonflower. Operating alone has taught her to respect her own limitations. But she knows better than to show weakness around the Moonflower—an agent with a reputation for brilliance, a tendency toward insubordination, and a history of going rogue.

I’ll have an excerpt posted here on the website soon!

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up
November 21st, 2014

This week, I’ve been trying to read through some of the book pile as I tackle my The Other Daughter revisions. I’ve been blessed with a couple of good friends who send me book care packages (hi, Vicki and Claudia!), so this week’s haul is mostly from them.

— Isabelle Holland, Counterpoint. Thanks to the care packages, I went on a huge Isabelle Holland kick two summers ago, when I was writing Purple Plumeria, but I somehow missed this one. Her books are 1970s set Gothics, a little Elsie Lee, a little Katherine Neville. This isn’t one of my favorites, but it did still provide a fascinating look back to the New York of forty years ago.

— Linda Howard, Kill and Tell. Confession: I’ve never read any Linda Howard before. This one involves a New Orleans cop and an Ohio nurse who are drawn together when her absentee father is murdered on Bourbon Street.

— Wendy Webb, The Vanishing. This is such a house book. Woman who needs to disappear finds refuge in a mansion in the wilds of Minnesota. But will the shades of the house’s past be too much for her?

What have you been reading this week?

 

Pink Carnation Cookery: Strawberry Tarts
November 20th, 2014

The Queen of Hearts she made some tarts, all on a summer’s day. The knave of hearts, he stole those tarts and took them clean away….

If ever there was a candidate for the Queen of Hearts, it’s Mary Alsworthy. And while we’re speaking of knaves…. Hello, Lord Vaughn!

So it seems particularly appropriate that the ever-resourceful and talented Christine chose strawberry tarts (okay, cakes, really– but for some reason, I keep thinking of them as tarts) for this month’s Pink Carnation cookery, in honor of Lord and Lady Vaughn.

The first three Pink Carnation books were all set during the summer. The Seduction of the Crimson Rose was my first autumn book: waning days, darkening skies, and a slightly older, more cynical hero and heroine.

So, for November, Christine brings you… Lord and Lady Vaughn’s Strawberry Tarts (or Cakes)!

And now over to Christine:

I was scouring the Internet looking for something that Lord and Lady Vaughn would approve of. I found a picture of adorable mini sponge cake towers with strawberry frosting in between the layers, adorned with a tiny strawberries on top. What’s sexier than strawberries and frosting? But, darn you, Pinterest! No links to the actual recipes! So I had to make do and try to recreate them on my own.

I started with Martha Stewart’s pound cake recipe and an AllRecipes strawberry frosting recipe, paired with a heart-shaped cookie cutter I got as a wedding favor years ago.

Pound cake:

Ingredients:
2 sticks of butter
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

Steps:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease pan.
2. Beat sugar and butter on high speed until light and fluffy.
3. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each.
4. Add vanilla and salt.
5. On low speed, gradually add flour, being careful not to overmix.
6. Martha used an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pan and baked for an hour. I used a 9 x 13 pan because I wanted a thin cake that I could use the cookie cutters on. My baking time was 30-35 minutes.
7. Cool completely then cut as desired.

Frosting:
A lot of frosting is based on personal preference – how strong you want the strawberry flavor, how thick you want the frosting to be, how much you want to layer. I personally don’t like very sweet frosting. There was an unfortunate incident in which I tried to make Elmo cookies for my son’s birthday. The entire face had to be frosted with a thick royal icing. It was so overly sweet that I couldn’t eat any, which is sad because I spent a good 3-4 hours making them.

These are the steps as listed in the recipe, but if you like a stronger flavor, add more strawberries. If you want a thicker frosting, add more sugar. The original recipe is for 18 servings. I cut the recipe in half and still had more than I needed. Husband and son were glad to have plenty of frosting to dump on their cakes for the next few days.

Ingredients:
1 cup fresh strawberries (and a few saved for decorating the cakes)
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

Steps:
1. Puree strawberries in a blender.
2. Pour puree into a pot and let boil until puree is reduced by half. This will take 15-20 minutes. Stir constantly.
3. Beat butter until light and fluffy.
4. Beat 1 cup of sugar into the butter.
5. Add vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of strawberry puree.
6. Repeat with another 1 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of puree.
7. Beat last 1/2 cup of sugar into mixture.

Putting it all together:
Layer the cakes with frosting in between, decorating the top as you want.

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I loved how the frosting came out a bit glossy. I ended up using about a full cup of strawberries, 1/2 cup butter and 1 3/4 cups of confectioners sugar.

What do you think? What would Vaughns approve?

If you need a break from the pumpkin pie next week, just give these a whirl! Thanks so much, Christine! These look scrumptious.

If the Vaughns are all about strawberries and the Fitzhughs have their thing about raspberries, which fruits or berries belong to the other Pink characters?

Miles would now like to know whether “ginger” counts as a fruit.