Weekly Reading Round-Up
Happy January, all! To kick off the New Year, I’ve been reading:
— Snowdrift and Other Stories, a Georgette Heyer short story collection, featuring three rediscovered stories. (For those of you who have read Pistols for Two, it’s Pistols for Two plus three.) Of course, I loved them. You can’t beat Georgette Heyer for historical hilarity. But I did find they were best taken with breaks in between, lest you forget just which Regency miss was eloping (or not eloping) with whom.
— High Rising, Angela Thirkell’s first novel, set partly over the Christmas holidays and New Year, which may be what made me think of it. A novelist juggling a child, manuscripts, and various obligations over the holidays? Hmmm…. Mostly, I love Thirkell’s breezy writing style and light-hearted social satire.
— Summer Half, also Thirkell. A much later Thirkell, but still filled with her signature mismatches that come undone and matches that come right. Or something like that. This one is set at a public school and features masters entangled with the headmaster’s vain daughter and Tony Morland, the annoying small boy in High Rising, as a worldly wise sixth former.
There’s a character reading law in Summer Half, which, naturally, made me think of Kate Ross’s third Julian Kestrel mystery, Whom the Gods Love, set partly around the Inns of Court (albeit a good hundred years earlier than Summer Half). But that’s how free association works, so that’s what I’ll be reading next.
What have you been reading as 2017 unfolds?
I’m going to be off-line for the week, so just popping in to wish everyone a very happy holiday and joyous 2017!
I’ll see you in the new year– with lots of news about new books!
Happy, happy, all!
“Peepmas at Girdings”: a MISTLETOE Pinkorama
On the Twelfth Day of Turnip, Candace and Cassandra present… “Peepmas at Girdings”.
As the house party at Girdings goes out into the woods to collect the Yuletide greenery on Christmas Eve, we can find Charlotte, in her red cloak, and Penelope, with her red hair uncovered (so Pen!)…
… while Arabella stands alone in her plain brown cloak, the hood pulled up over her blonde hair.
The servants have prepared a sumptuous repast…
… and some of the gentlemen are certainly enjoying themselves. (Check out the dogs yipping at their heels!)
But other events are afoot. As Robert and Tommy make their plans, Freddy parties, and Sir Francis Medmenham exudes sinister…
… We find the root vegetable we’ve been waiting for! Turnip is busy trying to cut down a tree with the wrong side of his axe, until Geoff intervenes.
Pretty amazing, no? Candace & Cassandra, I doff my (tiny Peep) hat to you!
As we leave Turnip and Arabella to their festivities once more, thank you so much to everyone for coming along with me and Turnip on this holiday adventure! May all your holidays be merry and bright– and your puddings unencumbered by secret messages or freakishly small spies.
Merry, merry, all!
Weekly Reading Round-Up
Happy Friday, all!
This week, I read:
— Trisha Ashley’s Twelve Days of Christmas, which has become something of a holiday go-to read for me, in part for all the descriptions of holiday cooking. Mmm, mince pies. You can’t go wrong with a stately manor, a brooding owner, dotty side characters, and fictional meals cooked by someone else.
— W.R. Gingell’s Masque, which was part of a care package sent by the best of all possible college roommates. A fantasy novel/mystery set in a vaguely historical kingdom (Regency-ish?), told in first person by a heroine who reminded me greatly of Sally Fitzhugh, with, perhaps, a dash of Amelia Peabody.
— Lisa Shearin’s The Grendel Affair (see care package, above), an urban fantasy novel in which the descendant of the eponymous mythological beast stalks New York City on New Year’s Eve and must be thwarted by a team of crack paranormal agents.
— the copyedited manuscript of The English Wife, which will be coming your way in January 2018!
What have you been reading this week?
MISTLETOE Outtakes, aka The Drafts of MISTLETOE Past
A Pink book wouldn’t be a Pink book without outtakes!
I tend to be something of a trial and error writer (er, okay, entirely a trial and error writer), so there are always scenes that wind up on the cutting room floor, some because they just aren’t very good and others because the book is getting too long or the plot has changed on me– or about fifty other reasons.
Here are my two favorite outtakes from The Mischief of the Mistletoe, plus a third outtake that I’ve never before shared (largely because I just rediscovered it):
MISTLETOE Fun Facts
Every book has its own behind the scenes quirks and oddities. Admittedly, Turnip is a quirk all by himself, but here are a few other Mistletoe oddities, aka fun facts.
— Like The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, this was an accidental book. In the spring of 2009, I’d started writing The Orchid Affair— but I was feeling emotionally burned out after Blood Lily, which had been much darker than the earlier books. Orchid Affair was also shaping up to be a darker book. I needed something light and fun as a sort of sorbet between the two more intense installments. It was while I was giving a talk to a writers’ group in New York, talking about crafting a series arc, that it hit me: I needed to write Turnip’s book before I could move on to Orchid Affair.
— Turnip’s book was always going to be set in Bath, but when I first stumbled home from that writers’ group and started scribbling plot ideas, the original plan was to set it in June, around a smuggling ring based out of a tailor shop. But there was just something about Turnip and Christmas that went together like holly and ivy….
— The ending of The Mischief of the Mistletoe and the beginning of The Temptation of the Night Jasmine overlap. It’s the same house party seen from different viewpoints. So, if you read Night Jasmine and were wondering why Turnip was trying to chop down a tree with the wrong side of an ax… now you know.
— There are no love scenes in Mistletoe (making it acceptably PG for those who don’t approve of that sort of thing), but there’s an extra bonus add on chapter, Away in a Manger: A Very Turnip Wedding Night. For this, you have to thank Sarah of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. At RWA’s annual conference, when Mischief of the Mistletoe won the RITA for Best Regency, she made a bet with me: if her readers could come up with a suitable illustration, I had to write Turnip’s wedding night. You can find the result of both over on the Diversions page…. So many thanks to Joyce for the winning cover!
— My favorite scene? The failed Christmas pageant at Miss Climpson’s Select Seminary. I had far too much fun writing that scene.
What’s your favorite scene from The Mischief of the Mistletoe?
A Very Mistletoe Q&A
On the ninth day of Turnip, we have… some Mistletoe miscellany.
While I was scrolling through my files, looking for Mistletoe trivia to share, I stumbled across this Q&A I scribbled up back in 2011 for the UK launch of The Mischief of the Mistletoe.
You can find the full interview below, along with an extra that had to be cut for length reasons– but as Queen of my Website, I get to be as long-winded as I like over here. (Cue seasonally inappropriate evil laughter.)
Q. What are your favourite Christmas reads?
A. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Little Women! In addition to Little Women, I like to revisit Liz Young’s Fair Game, which I associate with the Christmas I lived in London; Jo Beverly’s Regency-set story, The Christmas Angel; and Elsie Lee’s Silence is Golden (your classic Victorian heroine-meets-brooding-hero-with-insane-appendage story—don’t ask how it made it onto my Christmas list!).
For me, Christmas is also all about experimenting with new books. I spent most Christmas afternoons munching lopsided gingerbread people and reading through whatever books had shown up in my stocking. Santa had a taste for historical biographies and bodice-rippers, so it could be anything from Antonia Frasier to Johanna Lindsey, depending on whatever the last minute shopping (er, I mean sleigh-packing) had yielded.
Q. What made you decide to write a Christmas book?
A. There’s a magic about Christmas. It’s a time when anything can happen: reindeer fly; obese men squeeze through chimneys; there’s chocolate for breakfast and movies in the middle of the day. In short, the ordinary rules are suspended. I had a rather unusual hero for whom I wanted to write a story, a blundering, warm-hearted soul known to his friends as “Turnip” for his lack of whatchamacallit in the brainbox. Basically, he’s Bertie Wooster in knee breeches—or, as Jane Austen puts it, during a cameo appearance, “quite definitely a Bingley”. What better time than Christmas for someone to see underneath that bumbling exterior to his heart of gold?
Q. Your book is set in 1803 and features Jane Austen as a side character. What would Austen’s Christmas have been like?
A. Not as we imagine it! So much of what we associate with a traditional Christmas came along later. Christmas trees only became popular during the reign of Victoria and many of our favorite carols, including “Silent Night”, didn’t exist yet. There were, however, all sorts of fun and interesting traditions, including the bringing in of the Yule log on Christmas eve, decking the halls with boughs of holly, and big Twelfth Night celebrations, complete with Lord of Misrule. And, naturally, plum pudding!
Q. Is it true that the hero of The Mischief of the Mistletoe takes out the villain with a Christmas pudding?
A. Do you really think I’m giving that kind of information away? Let’s just say that, as the hero observes, Christmas puddings make deuced good projectiles.
You could say that Christmas puddings form a sort of leitmotif throughout The Mischief of the Mistletoe. The action kicks off when the hero and heroine find a mysterious message—in French!—hidden in a Christmas pudding, which sets them on the train of espionage, intrigue, an incredibly awful Christmas pageant (haven’t we all suffered through those?) and, yes, more pudding.
Basically, I was trying to think up lots of ways to use Christmas pudding that didn’t involve actually eating it!
Q. What’s your favourite Christmas carol?
A. We Three Kings of Orient Are. Hands down. There’s something so mystical and haunting about it—you can just see those ornately garbed kings on their camels laboring through the desert in search of that little manger in Bethlehem. That’s quite a trek without GPS. (Can’t you just hear the quarrels? “I told you we should have turned right at that last oasis!”)
I have other reasons for remembering the song affectionately. One of the traditions at my tiny all girls’ school was to make all the fathers, brothers, uncles, and any other unwary males unfortunate enough to be there get up on stage and sing “We Three Kings” at the annual holiday concert. The looks of trepidation on their faces as they sheepishly and reluctantly climbed up onto the risers always sent the whole school off into giggles. There was a reason my brother refused to attend….
What’s your favorite carol?
Cast That Turnip: Part II
So many thanks to everyone who contributed to the effort to Cast That Turnip! Thanks to you, we have an embarrassment of Turnips. (Which, I believe, is the correct term for a group of Turnip Fitzhughs.)
The winner of the Cast That Turnip contest, chosen at random, is… Lauren H! (Of Comment 19.2)
Congrats, Lauren! If you let me know where to send it, I’ll put your Mistletoe in the mail to you.
In the meantime, the Turnip casting fun continues. Since some of these actors’ names were new to me, I started looking them up. And once I was looking them up, it was a short step from that to compiling a gallery of Turnips….
Mistletoe Cookery: Christmas Cookies
On the seventh day of Turnip, we have… cookies from Christine!
In honor of the launch of The Lure of the Moonflower back in 2015, Christine concocted a full year of Pink Carnation baked goods, one recipe per book. The recipe below was Christine’s culinary homage to The Mischief of the Mistletoe. (Thanks, Christine!)
And now over to Christine for a cookie recipe to put us all in a festive mood:
The 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.
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.
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.
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 the one from the back of the Sur la Table cookie cutters.
Do you all have any favorite holiday cookie recipes? (Please share!)
More recipes coming up soon as Twelve Days of Turnip continues!