Archive for the ‘Crimson Rose’ Category

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


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!

Pinkorama #4: “Can the World Buy Such a Peep?”

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

For our fourth Pinkorama, Freya brings us Lord Vaughn and Miss Mary Alsworthy in “Can the World Buy Such a Peep?”, taken from Chapter Ten of The Seduction of the Crimson Rose.

(Text by Freya with occasional parenthetical interpolations by the author.)

Sebastian, Lord Vaughn appears dramatically in the Chinese chamber.

(Because, of course, Lord Vaughn does everything dramatically. He’s Lord Vaughn. Enough said.)


Miss Mary Alsworthy, nearly caught gawking at the trompe l’oeil, now gawks at the delicious Lord Vaughn lounging in the doorway in little more than his linen, a delicate vinous flush over his elegant cheekbones.

(Lord Vaughn approves of this message. He, too, finds his cheekbones very elegant. And vinous flush is much more delicate than “totally sloshed”, “foxed”, “inebriated”, or “HOW much claret was that, again?”)



Closer inspection (ahem) reveals a telltale claret stain just over the region of his heart. In a lazy punto-reverso-con-ballestra-attack-to-four, Lord Vaughn kicks shut the secret panel and advances upon Mary.


Now with free extra alternative ending! Everyone in Belliston Square is abruptly devoured by a titanic kitty-cat named Cyril Bassington Bassington! The House of Stuart remains free to wreak havoc across Europe!

(PG Wodehouse meets Pink Carnation in feline form! Where is Gussy Finknottle when you need him? Bonnie Prince Charlie avec newt?)


Thank you so much, Freya, for that beautiful staging of Vaughn’s secret chamber– and Vaughn-approved descriptions. A special shout out goes to Cyril Bassington-Bassington and his work for the Jacobite (Catobite?) cause.

For your amusement, here’s the passage from which the scene was taken:

Mary came to an abrupt halt, the sole of her boot squeaking against the polished floor. She scarcely noted the click of the door as it closed behind her. There was no Vaughn. The room was empty.

Revolving in a slow circle, Mary took in her surroundings. There was certainly no place for Vaughn to hide. The room was scarcely larger than her dressing room at her brother-in-law’s house, the walls paneled in a polished rosewood inlaid with precious porcelain plaques painted with scenes of life in the Orient. There were eight panels in all, angling inward to form an octagon. The parquet of the floor echoed the shape of the walls, sloping inward in an ever-narrowing pattern that drew the eye towards the center of the room, where a fancifully carved table held a silver salver.

Everything in the room was rich and strange, from the unexpected shelves that held vases made of jade so fine that Mary could see the light reflecting through it, to the oriental dragons who stood in pairs beside the crimson-cushioned benches that sat at the base of seven of the eight walls. The eighth wall was occupied by a mantel of rare red marble, in which a fire had been laid but not lit. Even without the fire, the room didn’t feel cold. Candles had been lit in gold filigree holders at even intervals all along the eight walls, and their light reflected warmly off the rich rosewood and the pale parquet floor, striking off the hidden gold threads in the shot-silk crimson cushions and turning the lolling tongues of the brass lions red-gold.

Standing in the center, beside the carved teak table, Mary felt as though she had been placed in a velvet-lined jewel box. There were no windows, no door, nothing but rosewood and porcelain, filigree and marble. Even the ceiling had been plastered and painted in imitation of the roof of a pagoda, tricking the eye with the illusion of successive layers of intricate architectural detail rising ever upwards.

Tipping her head back, Mary squinted at the ceiling, knowing that it had to be flat no matter how her eyes insisted otherwise.

The only warning she had was a light click, and then the door burst open, followed by a velvety voice drawling, in tones of barely veiled menace, “How very kind of you to call. It saves me all sorts of trouble.”

Mary dropped her head so quickly she nearly wrenched something in her neck. It was so like Vaughn, to catch her at a disadvantage, gawking at the ceiling like some poor provincial who had never seen trompe l’oeil before.

Drawing herself up, she slowly turned to face him with all the outraged dignity of Elizabeth I confronting a disorderly courtier. She was doing quite well at the regal outrage until Vaughn came into view. The stinging rejoinder Mary had prepared fell unuttered from her slack lips.

Vaughn lounged in an expansive pose, the billowing while folds of his shirt sleeves filling the doorway. Without waistcoat or cravat, the ties of his shirt undone, Lord Vaughn looked more like the caricaturist’s ideal of a dissolute poet than a belted earl. His shirt hung open at his neck, revealing the strong lines of his throat and a surprisingly impressive display of musculature, the smoothly honed physique of a swordsman rather than a pugilist. The shirt had been loosely tucked into his pantaloons, but seemed to have come free in the back, the shirttails hanging over the tight kerseymere of his breeches. The large diamond still winked on his finger, its richness only serving to underline his shocking dishabille.

Mary found herself incapable of doing anything but stare. It was impossible to envision Lord Vaughn without his armor of brocade and lace, but there he was, in little more than his linen, the lithe grace of his form admirably displayed by the sheer folds of fine fabric. It was… Mary blinked rapidly. It was unmistakably Lord Vaughn, but a Lord Vaughn such as she would never have imagined. And yet, it was undeniably he. Who else could be so arrogant even in dishabille?

In the meantime, Vaughn seemed to be having equal difficulties comprehending her presence. At the sight of her face, he rocked back on his heels, taking an inadvertent step back and catching at the doorframe for balance in a movement that made his sleeves flatten against the corded muscles of his arm.

Regaining his usual self-possession, he propped himself against the doorframe, folding his arms across his chest.

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

Stay tuned for Pinkorama #5, coming your way tomorrow….

Ask the Author Day!

Monday, December 29th, 2014

It’s Ask the Author Day over on the Bubblebath Reader as we wrap up our discussion of The Seduction of the Crimson Rose!

Do you have burning questions about Mary, Vaughn, and their assorted hangers-on? Just pop by the the Bubblebath Reader and post your question there.

Happy holidays, all!

Teaser Tuesday: Those Ubiquitous Vaughns

Tuesday, 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!

Pink Carnation Cookery: Strawberry Tarts

Thursday, 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:

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

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.

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.

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

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.


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.

Pink Carnation Recap: CRIMSON ROSE

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

We’re up to Pink IV, The Seduction of the Crimson Rose!

Who: Mary Alsworthy and Lord Vaughn
Where: England
When: Autumn, 1803
What: Lord Vaughn recruits socialite Mary Alsworthy for an unlikely task: infiltrating the League of the Black Tulip.
Historical Cameos: None. Lord Vaughn isn’t letting anyone steal his thunder.

Fun facts about Crimson Rose:

— This is the book that wasn’t supposed to be. Originally, Pink IV was meant to be about Charlotte Lansdowne. I was about three-quarters of the way through writing The Deception of the Emerald Ring and had already begun researching Charlotte’s book when Mary Alsworthy began clamoring for a book of her own. That seemed like a terrible idea, so I tried to ignore her. But Mary Alsworthy is not to be ignored… so I called up my editor and said, “I know this sounds crazy, but what do you think about this for the next book?”

— I hadn’t intended Lord Vaughn for Mary Alsworthy. I’d played around with– and discarded– the idea of Lord Vaughn and Charlotte (he’d eat her alive), Lord Vaughn and Penelope (she’d bore him), and even Lord Vaughn and Jane (complete mutual incomprehension) before the light bulb clicked on about Mary and Vaughn.

Crimson Rose was written while I was working full time as a litigator at a large New York law firm. I was a little low on sleep that year– but the crankiness seemed to work for Vaughn and Mary.

My favorite scene? This one is hard for me. It’s a toss up between the scene where Vaughn first approaches Mary with his strange proposition (no, not THAT kind of proposition) and, much later, Mary’s internal monologue in Vaughn’s wife’s room.

What’s your favorite scene from The Seduction of the Crimson Rose?

Crimson Rose UK & Another Interview

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

In all the Orchid Tour madness, I completely forgot about the launch of the UK edition of The Seduction of the Crimson Rose. Can’t you just hear Mary fuming? Apologies, Crimson Rose. At least you have a particularly glamorous cover.

In honor of the Crimson Rose UK launch, I answered a few questions on Valentine’s Day about crimson roses, seduction, and a variety of other topics. You can find the interview here, on the Allison & Busby site.

Three Days….

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

As we count down to January 2011, here’s a snippet from January 2008 and The Seduction of the Crimson Rose.

I had thought this one would be harder to choose. Mary and Vaughn’s courtship occurs primarily through word-play as each tries to outsmart the other, leading to many moments of barbed quippage. As I flipped through, however, it became clear that one scene was the logical choice to share in my Pink New Year’s retrospective: the one where these two prickly characters batter each other into letting down their guards.


A Cover for CRIMSON

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

To add to the growing gallery of foreign editions, The Seduction of the Crimson Rose comes out in the UK on February 7th, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Mary has a whole new look!

The “Difficult” Heroine

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Write Chic just posted an excellent article discussing the career of the anti-heroine in fiction. She uses Mary, from The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, and our very own Penelope of Blood Lily as two of her prime examples. The first ones who come to mind for me are Scarlett, from Gone With the Wind, and Amber, from Forever Amber.

Who are your favorite anti-heroines?