Archive for April, 2018

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, April 27th, 2018

I’ve been chasing down details for the Barbados Book this week, so there hasn’t been time for much leisure reading, alas. But I did make it to Jamie Brenner’s reading for her latest, The Husband Hour, and have been reading it in snippets when I can. It’s women’s fiction set in a beachtown on the Jersey Shore as a war widow deals with the legacy of her husband’s death and the family secrets that begin to emerge.

What have you been reading this week?



THE GLASS OCEAN Cover Re-Reveal!

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

So remember that cover we revealed for The Glass Ocean? That goes into the folder of forgotten covers. We now have a new, even snazzier cover to share with you!

Voila!

Glass_Ocean Cover Final

Team W is ridiculously in love with this cover and we hope you will be, too.

The Glass Ocean will be sailing your way September 4th, 2018.

Here’s the official blurb:

From the New York Times bestselling authors of The Forgotten Room comes a captivating historical mystery, infused with romance, that links the lives of three women across a century—two deep in the past, one in the present—to the doomed passenger liner, RMS Lusitania.

May 2013
Her finances are in dire straits and bestselling author Sarah Blake is struggling to find a big idea for her next book. Desperate, she breaks the one promise she made to her Alzheimer’s-stricken mother and opens an old chest that belonged to her great-grandfather, who died when the RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German U-Boat in 1915. What she discovers there could change history. Sarah embarks on an ambitious journey to England to enlist the help of John Langford, a recently disgraced Member of Parliament whose family archives might contain the only key to the long-ago catastrophe. . . .

April 1915
Southern belle Caroline Telfair Hochstetter’s marriage is in crisis. Her formerly attentive industrialist husband, Gilbert, has become remote, pre-occupied with business . . . and something else that she can’t quite put a finger on. She’s hoping a trip to London in Lusitania’s lavish first-class accommodations will help them reconnect—but she can’t ignore the spark she feels for her old friend, Robert Langford, who turns out to be on the same voyage. Feeling restless and longing for a different existence, Caroline is determined to stop being a bystander, and take charge of her own life. . . .

Tessa Fairweather is traveling second-class on the Lusitania, returning home to Devon. Or at least, that’s her story. Tessa has never left the United States and her English accent is a hasty fake. She’s really Tennessee Schaff, the daughter of a roving con man, and she can steal and forge just about anything. But she’s had enough. Her partner has promised that if they can pull off this one last heist aboard the Lusitania, they’ll finally leave the game behind. Tess desperately wants to believe that, but Tess has the uneasy feeling there’s something about this job that isn’t as it seems. . . .

As the Lusitania steams toward its fate, three women work against time to unravel a plot that will change the course of their own lives . . . and history itself.

If you’re attending Book Expo America, you can find me and Beatriz Williams there on May 30th, signing ARCs of The Glass Ocean.

The Glass Ocean is available for pre-order from Amazon, B&N, Books-A-Million, Indiebound, Powells, and your favorite local bookseller; and in e-form on Kindle, Nook, and wherever else e-books are sold.



The 2018 Pinkorama Winner is….

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

Well, really, I think we’re all winners of the Pinkorama, for getting to enjoy such clever and well-crafted scenes! This has been a banner year for the Pinkorama and I’m so grateful to all the entrants for bringing theses scenes so brilliantly to peep.

By popular vote, the winner of the 2018 Pinkorama is…

The Peep of Belliston Hall by Carrie and Laura!

Carrie midnight on the balcony
Congrats, ladies! I’ll put your ARC of The Glass Ocean in the mail to you as soon as I have it.

In second place we have An American Peep Takes on the World News by Colleen and Pam:

Colleen 4

Third place, just one vote behind, goes to The English Peep by Kayse:

Kayse The English Peep 2

Exceedingly honorable honorable mentions go to:

Can the World Buy Such a Peep?, by Freya;

FreyaPeeps4

The Peepinese Chamber by Candace and Cassandra;

Candace Left Walls 2

The Secret History of the Peep Carnation by Carla and Rowan;

Maria Miss Gwen in the Secret History of the Peep Carnation

and The Deception of the Emerald Peep by Rachel (that video!!)

Rachel 2 and add video

Take a bow, all! These were spectacular (peeptacular?) one and all– and I have a signed hardcover of The English Wife for each of you! (Or each team in the case of collaboration.) So let me know where to send them and I’ll pop your books in the mail to you!

The winning judge is… Jenna Eldredge! Congrats, Jenna! Let me know where to send it, and I’ll have The Other Daughter on its way to you.

Congrats, everyone, and thank you so much for a wonderful Pinkorama!



Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, April 20th, 2018

Get grounded at DFW for fourteen hours due to tornadoes? More time for books! This week, I read my through a bunch of books I’ve been meaning to read for ages, including:

— J. Courtney Sullivan’s Saints for All Occasions, a look at an Irish family in Boston over the course of two generations, and what one secret can do to a family;

— Christine Mangan’s Tangerine, a twisty novel of psychological suspense unpicking the relationship between two former Bennington roommates, one a married woman in Tangier, the other a working woman who suddenly shows up on the doorstep for a visit, going forth between the past and the present as the truth becomes more and more sinister;

— Susan Wiggs’s Family Tree, about a cooking show producer who finds herself back in her Vermont home town after an accident lands her in a coma for a year, reconnecting with her family’s maple sugar business and the man she once loved and lost (the wholesome sweetness and happily ever after was a perfect antidote to Tangerine);

— Piper Weiss’s You All Grow Up and Leave Me: A Memoir of Teenage Obsession, part memoir, part true crime, about a tennis coach who preyed on his students in New York in the early 90s. Piper and I were classmates at the same tiny all girls’ school, so, I’ll confess, it was fascinating to me to see my own world through someone else’s eyes (including a deeply awful Drama Club production about women writers, which has remained a running joke between me and my best friend to this day), and to realize what different experiences can be had under the same roof;

— Elsie Lee’s Season of Evil, classic 1970s romantic suspense. I came home from my trip to two sick kids and promptly caught the bug– which meant comfort reads. Nothing says comfort read to me like Elsie Lee. Snarky first person heroines who always have a PhD or a business degree and are simultaneously either deeply ditzy in a clever way or super-efficient organizers who cut a wide swathe through everyone in their paths;

— and, since this bug is really a nasty one, Elsie Lee’s Sinister Abbey (really, can you beat that as a title?), about a fabric designer who stumbles into international espionage, as one does.

I have a pile of new books to read, but while I’m still blazing through NyQuil and tissues, I’m thinking this may be a Georgette Heyer and Jennifer Crusie week for me.

What are you reading this week?

Oh, also, just a quick reminder: it’s your last chance to cast your vote for the winner of the 2018 Pinkorama!



The 2018 Pinkorama Round-Up

Monday, April 16th, 2018

So many thanks to all of this year’s Pinkorama participants!

Last year’s Pinkoramae set a high bar, but these have exceeded all expectations. We have Gilded Age peeps and Regency peeps and peep videos and a killer Jacobite cat. Who could ask for anything more?

It’s impossible to choose just one favorite out of so much gorgeousness. But that’s your job! Pick your favorite Pinkorama from the round-up below and post it in the Comments– and I’ll choose one judge at random to receive a signed, hardcover copy of The Other Daughter!

Voting closes next Saturday (4/21). Winners will be announced on Sunday.

In the order in which I received them, I give you… the 2018 Pinkoramae!

1) “The Peep of Belliston Hall” or “Those Aren’t Daisies”, by Carrie and Laura (from The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla).

In the middle of a ball in Richmond, a woman is found murdered with fang marks on her neck. Is the reclusive Peep of Belliston Hall truly a vampire? Sally Fitzhugh thinks not….

Carrie midnight on the balcony

Click here for a full description and more pictures of the scene.

2) “The Secret History of the Peep Carnation”, by Carla and Rowan (from The Secret History of the Pink Carnation).

It’s 1803 and Miss Gwendolyn Meadows seizes the chance to pack her bags for Paris as chaperone for Miss Jane Wooliston and Miss Amy Balcourt. Napoleon will never know what hit him….

Maria Miss Gwen in the Secret History of the Peep Carnation

Click here for a full description.

3) “The English Peep”, by Kayse (from The English Wife).

In the wintery gardens of Illyria, during the Van Duyvils’ Twelfth Night masquerade ball, Bayard Van Duyvil is found murdered, his English wife missing. Who dunnit?

Kayse The English Peep 2

Click here for a full description and more pictures of the scene.

4) “Can the World Buy Such a Peep?”, by Freya (from The Seduction of the Crimson Rose).

When Miss Mary Alsworthy calls upon Lord Vaughn, her host brings her to his windowless Chinese chamber. Is that flush on his cheeks claret, or us he just happy to see her?

FreyaPeeps1

Click here for a full description and more pictures of the scene.

5) “An American Peep Takes on the World News”, by Colleen and Pam (from The English Wife).

Janie Van Duyvil defies propriety to seek out a reporter from the notorious World News in the hopes of tracking down the truth about her brother’s murder. But can she really trust reporter James Burke? Or does he have an agenda of his own?

Colleen 4

Click here for a full description and more pictures of the scene.

6) “The Deception of the Emerald Peep”, by Rachel (from The Deception of the Emerald Ring).

Hijinks and hilarity ensue when Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe’s unwanted wife stumbles unwittingly into a mission of the League of the Pink Carnation in Dublin in 1803. False identities pile upon false identities while Miss Gwen collects excellent material for her novel-in-progress.

Rachel 1

Click here for a full description and video.

7) “The Peepinese Chamber”, by Candace and Cassandra (from The Seduction of the Crimson Rose).

In Lord Vaughn’s Chinese chamber, Lord Vaughn and Miss Mary Alsworthy exchange triple entendres, Shakespeare quotes, and just possibly a clandestine kiss. (When Lord Vaughn quoted Milton’s Comus— “What hath night to do with sleep/Night hath better sweets to prove”– he had no idea just how sweet!)

Candace Left Walls 2

Click here for a full description and more pictures of the scene.

And that concludes our tour de 2018 Pinkorama, in which each and every one is a tour de peep! May I have a huge round of applause for all the artistes? Take a bow, pat yourself on the back, and relax with a peep while we all admire your work.



Pinkorama #7: “The Peepinese Chamber”

Sunday, April 15th, 2018

For our seventh and final 2018 Pinkorama, Candace and Cassandra bring us… “The Peepinese Chamber”, from The Seduction of the Crimson Peep.

Candace and Cassandra write: In The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, Miss Mary Alsworthy, an incomparable beauty but unlikely heroine, experiences Lord Vaughn’s Chinese Chamber. This room of iniquity, first introduced in The Masque of the Black Tulip, is not quite what it appears and ensnares the attention of its occupants, much like the Stretching Portrait Room of Disney’s Haunted Mansion which also has no windows or doors. Mary meets with a drunk and bit slovenly Sebastian to discuss an assassination with the Black Tulip and ends up diverted into trading Shakespeare and a kiss.

Join me once again in Lord Vaughn’s Chinese Chamber….

Candace Front View 3

Mary refuses to be intimidated by Vaughn’s triple entendres and his extremely toothsome decor.

Candace Mary-Sebastian 2

Can Mary Alsworthy resist Lord Vaughn’s, ahem, refreshments?

Candace Teak Table 2

The fire may be out, but the room still feels rather warm.

Candace Mantle 2

Shakespeare…

Candace Left Walls 2

… and a kiss.

Candace Right Walls 2

Note the hypnotic effect of the floor….

Candace Over View 2

And an extra bonus outtake! Dr. Ian Malcolm (of Jurassic Park) auditioning for Lord Vaughn. What do you think? Should he get the part?

Dr Malcolm Audition

Thank you so much, Candace and Cassandra, for this extremely tasty rendition of Vaughn’s secret chamber! (I really, really want to eat that floor.)

For your amusement, here’s the scene starting from where we left off in “Can the World Buy Such a Peep?”

“Well, well,” said Vaughn mockingly. “What have we here?”

“I believe the usual greeting is good evening,” returned Mary, as Vaughn wavered in the doorway.

“My most abject apologies,” drawled Vaughn, sauntering into the room and kicking the panel shut behind him. “I had expected someone else.”

Mary stood primly beside the marble mantel, her hands clasped at her waist. “I’m sorry to disappoint you.”

Vaughn’s eyes conducted a leisurely inspection of Mary’s person, from the scuffed toes of last season’s kid half boots straight up to the folds of the hood draped around her face.

He lifted one eyebrow in a lazy tribute. “Did I say I was disappointed? On the contrary. I am merely rendered dumb by the unexpected apparition of such loveliness in my humble bachelor abode.”

Easing back her hood, Mary wrinkled her nose at the inlaid porcelain plaques, straight from the orient, the gilded dragons, the precious rosewood carelessly used to line the walls. “You have a curious notion of humility, my lord.”

“And what of bachelordom?” Vaughn propped himself against one of the priceless porcelain plaques as carelessly as if it were common plaster. “Now, there’s a curious thing, bachelordom.”

He was properly a widower, not a bachelor. Not that it made any difference. Either way, he could marry if he chose. He simply chose not to.

Mary permitted herself a sour smile. “I wouldn’t know. My only experience is of spinsterhood.”

“You sell yourself short, my dear.” With no regard for the antiquity of the materials behind him, Vaughn pushed away from the wall.

The movement overset his balance, and he stumbled a bit, putting out a hand against the wall to catch himself. Mary revised her earlier opinion of his dishabille. Not mere insolence, then, but—could the unflappable Lord Vaughn possibly be in his cups?

It was a practically unimaginable notion, but there was no denying the uncharacteristic flush lighting his cheekbones and a slight unsteadiness, almost but not entirely masked by the studied deliberation of his movements. But even that deliberation was just the tiniest bit miscalculated, like a drawing with the proportions off by the fraction of a hair. And what she had assumed was a shadow, in fact, upon closer viewing, looked suspiciously like spilled wine, a dark blot against Vaughn’s otherwise immaculate linen, in the general region of his heart.

The white linen of his sleeve billowed dramatically about his arm as he gestured grandly at Mary. “What mere mortal could aspire to such loveliness?”

“Anyone with ten thousand pounds a year,” said Mary caustically.

Vaughn clucked disapprovingly. “Can the world buy such a jewel?”

“And a case to put it into.” Mary matched his quote and topped it. Every now and again, Shakespeare actually said something sensible; Mary had always taken that particular line as her personal motto. “No one has offered me a suitable case yet.”

May I have a big round of applause for all seven 2018 Pinkoramae? Head back here tomorrow as the voting begins!



Albuquerque: Today!

Saturday, April 14th, 2018

Looking for something to do this afternoon? Come join me at Page One Bookstore! I’ll be speaking and signing at 4:00 today.

Hope to see you there!

What: Albuquerque Talk & Signing
When: April 14, 4:00
Where: Page 1 Books, 5850 Eubank Suite B-41



Pinkorama #6: “The American peep takes on ‘The World’ news”

Saturday, April 14th, 2018

For our sixth day of Pinkorama, Colleen and Pam bring us “The American peep takes on ‘The World’ news”, taken from The English Wife.

In the bitter cold winter of 1899, well-bred spinster Janie Van Duyvil takes the unthinkable step of seeking out a reporter at the World building on Park Row, determined to discover what really happened to her brother and his wife. Her brother, Bay, was found stabbed at his own Twelfth Night ball at his Hudson Valley estate, his wife missing, possibly drowned. The papers– including The World— are screaming MURDER SUICIDE!

But Janie is convinced they’re wrong. And she’s determined to get to the truth. Even if it means risking her reputation by teaming up with World reporter James Burke….

Colleen 1

Janie is, of course, in mourning for her brother, Bay. She’s also discreetly veiled– because no one expects a gently bred Knickerbocker to be calling on a journalist in Park Row.

Colleen 2

They come to an agreement beneath the statue of Nathan Hale (Nathan Peep?) in City Hall Park.

Colleen 3

Will Janie and Burke be able to work together to unravel the dark truth? Stay tuned….

Colleen 4

Thank you, Colleen and Pam for bringing Janie and Burke so vividly to life! (To Peep?) I can just picture all the newspaper peeps slaving away at the presses and the little news peeps hawking papers….

For your amusement, here’s a snippet from the scene in question:

Above her, Nathan Hale gazed off into the clouds, scorning her weakness. Here was a man who hadn’t folded in the face of danger. He had been executed here, on this spot, just a little more than a century before, giving his life so that a principle might stand.

Janie twisted her gloved hands together, wishing she had brought her muff. “Does this mean that you’re accepting my proposition, Mr. Burke?”

“On a condition.” The corner of that flexible mouth twisted. “Haven’t you been told that when one makes deals with the devil, Miss Van Duyvil, there are always conditions?”

That was a bit much, even under the circumstances. “Wouldn’t Mr. Pulitzer be Mephistopheles? He is the man in charge.”

“Making me nothing more than a lowly demon at the Prince of Darkness’s call? You put me in my place, Miss Van Duyvil.”

“I doubt that,” said Janie regretfully. “What do you require of me?”

“Honesty,” he said bluntly, taking her by surprise. “And I’ll give the same to you.”

Honesty. It was little enough in theory. But with the golden dome of the World looming behind them, it felt like a great deal indeed, knowing that any careless word might be printed tens of thousands times over, projected to everyone with the three cents to buy the evening edition.

The wind had risen, shaking the bare branches above their heads, making Janie’s veil flutter wildly. The wind made Mr. Burke’s coat flap around his legs, but he stood solid all the same, providing a wind-block of sorts.

Janie made up her mind. “I will deal fairly with you, if you deal fairly with me.”

Mr. Burke held out a gloved hand. “My word on it.”

Stay tuned for the seventh and last 2018 Pinkorama, appearing here tomorrow!



New Mexico: Tomorrow!

Friday, April 13th, 2018

I’m so excited to be visiting New Mexico for the very first time! Come join me at Page One Bookstore in Albuquerque for a talk and signing tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon at 4:00.

Hope to see you there!

What: Albuquerque Talk & Signing
When: April 14, 4:00
Where: Page 1 Books, 5850 Eubank Suite B-41



Pinkorama #5: “The Deception of the Emerald Peep”

Friday, April 13th, 2018

For our fifth Pinkorama, Rachel brings us “The Deception of the Emerald Peep”, from Chapter Thirteen of Pink III, The Deception of the Emerald Ring.

Rachel writes, “Jane has invited Letty to her house in order to reveal the true nature of her– and Miss Gwen’s– relationship with Geoff. Dual identities and mistaken impressions are just some of the reasons why this scene is a favorite… and the dialogue is as witty as ever! Miss Gwen has the manuscript for her “scandalous novel” in hand and Jane is ready to literally let her hair down and tell the truth to poor, confused Letty. And Geoff… is Being A Guy. For more of the scene come to life, watch the video!””

Rachel 1

But, seriously, watch the video. Just make sure your office door is shut and you haven’t taken a large gulp of coffee– because it will wind up up your nose. You’ve never experienced Emerald Ring until you’ve seen it performed by Peeps.

Thank you, Rachel, for making my week with that video! (Still cleaning up that coffee spill…. But, oh boy, it was worth it.)

For your amusement, here’s the entirety of the scene– but it’s much more fun with Peeps.

“Ah, Mrs. Alsdale!” Miss Fairley broke off, and half-rose from her place at the table to beckon Letty in, ribbons and curls bobbing. “You are wonderfully prompt. Do come in.”

The brisk words were entirely at odds with the gushing Miss Fairley of the night before, but Letty only barely noticed. All her attention was fixed upon the mysterious third party, whose cup rattled on its saucer as he pushed his chair abruptly back from the table.

“Lord Pinchingdale?” stammered Letty.

Her husband appeared incapable of speech.

Not so Miss Fairley. “I believe you are already acquainted,” said Miss Fairley pleasantly, looking calmly from one to the other.

Lord Pinchingdale’s gaze narrowed on Miss Fairley.

“I did not agree to this,” he said levelly.

“No,” Miss Fairley acknowledged, in a voice that wasn’t like Miss Fairley’s at all. “But if you weren’t going to be reasonable, you had to be made to be reasonable. Hence this afternoon’s arrangement.”

“Perhaps I should go,” suggested Letty, inching her way backwards. She stumbled as her heel came into painful contact with the lintel of the door, catching at the doorframe for balance. “I wasn’t aware you had other guests…. Some other time, perhaps….”

“Not at all.” Miss Fairley’s voice was still pleasant, but there was a note of command in it that arrested Letty mid-flight. “Do sit down, Mrs. Alsdale.”

Letty moved away from the door, but refused to take the chair her hostess indicated. She felt safer standing. There were strange currents making themselves felt across the table; Mrs. Grimstone was looking superior, Miss Fairley determined, and Lord Pinchingdale displeased. And all of them knew something Letty didn’t.

That alone was enough to make Letty refuse the chair.

“I am quite comfortable as I am,” Letty declared, ruining the effect by shifting her weight off her throbbing heel.

“As you will,” Miss Fairley said equably, pausing to take a sip from her almost-full cup. “I suppose you won’t take any coffee either?”

Letty shook her head in negation, anxious to hasten the strange interview to its close. The whole scene made her oddly uneasy. Miss Fairley’s sudden, unexpected poise. The malicious gleam in Mrs. Grimstone’s black eyes. Lord Pinchingdale’s air of watchful expectation, as he leaned back in his chair, lips pressed tightly together, and arms folded across his chest. He looked as though he were waiting for something… they were all waiting for something. But for what?

Half a dozen scenarios straight out of the annals of sensational fiction presented themselves to Letty’s rapidly whirring mind, as she stood impaled in the center of the circle of eyes, like a hart in a medieval tapestry. There were ways of getting rid of an unwanted wife, weren’t there? A drug in the coffee, a quick trip to a mental asylum to have her declared incompetent. Just before she left London, Charlotte Lansdowne had pressed one of Richardson’s novels on her, where a virtuous young lady was tricked into residence in a brothel under false pretenses, driven to degradation and eventually death by the vindictive madame. Mrs. Grimstone, with her cold eyes and grasping hands would make an excellent bawd.

But such things didn’t happen outside of fiction; it was too strange, too sensational—wasn’t it?

Despite the sun slanting through the long windows, Letty shivered. She knew no one in Dublin, no one except Emily Gilchrist and Mrs. Lanergan, and they didn’t even know her under her proper name. As far as her family was concerned, she was on an extended honeymoon trip. What better time for Lord Pinchingdale to divest himself of an inconvenience? He could return home, the grieving widower, and pick up just where he had left off, philandering his way through London’s ballrooms. And no one would ever suspect….

Letty’s hand’s closed around the curved wooden chair back. “Why did you ask me here? Not for coffee, I take it.”

“No,” agreed Miss Fairley, “not for coffee. For this.”

With one graceful movement, she reached up and swept the entire mass of silver-blonde curls off her head.

Letty didn’t know what she had been expecting, but it wasn’t that. Where Miss Gilly Fairley’s foaming locks had been a moment before, shining pale brown hair had been coiled into a graceful knot that accentuated the classical planes of the woman’s face. Without the elfin curls and gaily colored ribbons, her entire appearance was transformed. Instead of a flighty wood nymph, she reminded Letty of a marble statue of Minerva, intelligent and slightly alien.

“It does feel good to get that off,” murmured Miss Fairley, dropping the wig with obvious distaste on the table next to the coffee pot. “The ringlets itch terribly.”

The transformation made Letty’s disguise seem decidedly amateur.

There were altogether too many people in disguise. Her own had been donned out of desperation, on a moment’s impulse, but what about Miss Fairley? What excuse could she have? Suspicion trickled through Letty, as unpleasant as cold coffee, as she looked at Miss Fairley’s serene countenance, all the more beautiful for being unadorned. She didn’t look much like Mary—her hair was fair where Mary’s was dark, her eyes almond shaped where Mary’s were round, her lips thinner and the bridge of her nose narrower—but there was a similarity that transcended the differences in coloring, a certain inherent stateliness and an underlying beauty of bone structure.

Letty rounded on her husband, who was watching Miss Fairley with an expression that she could only term grim resignation. Grim resignation, but not the slightest drop of surprise. If Lord Pinchingdale could come to Dublin and pay court to a young lady without revealing his prior marriage in London, couldn’t it also work the other way around?

“Is there something I ought to know?” Letty asked sharply.

“The less you know,” said Lord Pinchingdale, and although the words were ostensibly addressed to her, Letty knew they were really intended as a warning for the alien beauty sitting at the head of the table, incongruously attired in Gilly Fairley’s frills and flounces, “the better.”

“The better for whom?” demanded Letty. “For you?”

Lord Pinchingdale’s lazy posture didn’t change, but something in his face hardened. “Of course. Whom else?”
With the unforgiving light from the windows picking out the rich brocade of his waistcoat, glinting off the sapphire in his cravat, she saw him for what he really was, a pampered aristocrat who thought nothing of running amuck through the lives of others in the pursuit of his own pleasure.

Loathing, pure and painful, rose through Letty like lava, bubbling up through the back of her throat, nearly choking her.

“You might try thinking of someone other than yourself for a change. Just for variety.”

Lord Pinchingdale raised an indolent eyebrow. “As you do? I’m sure your appearance here last night was arranged entirely for my convenience.”

“Why should I think of your convenience when you are so adept at doing so for yourself? How many other women do you have tucked away in far-flung bits of the world? One in Scotland, perhaps, to go with the grouse shooting? A harem in Paris?”

Lord Pinchingdale’s lips twisted with amusement at a joke that eluded Letty. “Not of the sort you’re imagining.”

“I have no interest in hearing the sordid details.”

“I do,” interrupted Mrs. Grimstone, who had been listening avidly. “A harem would be just the thing.”

“Mrs. Grimstone is engaged in writing a sensational novel,” explained Lord Pinchingdale in a tone drier than the kindling in the hearth. Turning to Mrs. Grimstone, he added, “Do make sure to change the names. My reputation appears to be black enough already.”

“Certainly I shall,” sniffed Mrs. Grimstone. “Pinchingdale is an absurd name for a hero.”

“I’m sure Mrs. Alsdale will vouch that it works excellently well for a villain.”

“You do yourself too much honor,” said Letty scathingly. “Villains, at least, have a certain grandeur to them. Reprobates have nothing to recommend them.”

“How quickly the pot turns on the kettle.”

“If you weren’t so entirely debased yourself, you wouldn’t be so quick to judge others by your own standards!”

“If you find yourself running short of terms of abuse, I suggest ‘degenerate cad’ for your next go. Or you can just slap me and get it over with.”

“Only if I had a gauntlet to do it with!”

“Are you challenging me to a duel? I’m afraid that’s not done, my dear.”

“I forgot.” Letty drew herself up to her full five feet, enjoying the sensation of being able to look down on Lord Pinchingdale. “You have no honor to defend.”

“Well delivered!” exclaimed Mrs. Grimstone. “I couldn’t have done it better myself.”

“Before we descend any further into absurdity,” Miss Fairley broke in calmly, sounding as unruffled as though she were supervising a philosophical discussion at the Bluestocking Society, “someone really ought to provide an explanation to our guest.”

“What sort of explanation did you have in mind?” enquired Lord Pinchingdale. His voice was perfectly calm, but there was a bite to it that suggested he wasn’t quite so blasé about slights to his honor as he might pretend.

“The truth.”

“Fiction is so much more entertaining,” mused Mrs. Grimstone. “Especially my fiction.”

“But not necessarily conducive to domestic peace,” countered Miss Fairley.

Lord Pinchingdale looked rather tight about the lips, in a way that suggested that he found the possibility of domestic peace just as unlikely a goal as Letty did. Not, thought Letty mutinously, that he had any right to look grim. After all, he was the one keeping a harem.

He folded his arms across his chest, and nodded towards Miss Fairley. “Since this was your idea, Jane, why don’t you do the honors?”

“Who,” demanded Letty, rather shrilly, “is Jane?”

Miss Fairley flicked the wig fastidiously aside, and looked Letty straight in the eye. “My name is Jane.”

“Not Gilly?” Letty knew there were other things she probably ought to be asking, but that was the first that rose to her lips.

Miss Fairley—Jane—smiled at her kindly. Too kindly. Letty hadn’t seen an expression like that since the time the cook had been delegated to tell her that her favorite dog had died. “No, not Gilly.”

“And you may address me as Miss Gwen,” announced Mrs. Grimstone, whose Christian name was supposed to be Ernestine, which, as far as Letty could tell, bore no discernable relation to Gwen, by any stretch of linguistic acrobatics. “However, you may do so only in private, when there is no danger of anyone overhearing, or you will jeopardize the entire mission. Do you understand?”

“Mission?”

“We are all,” Jane said gently, “agents of the Pink Carnation.”

Stay tuned for Pinkorama #6, coming your way tomorrow….