Archive for the ‘Diversions’ Category

Ready… Set… Peep!

Thursday, March 1st, 2018

It’s March today, which means… it’s Pinkorama time!

Yes, that’s right: it’s the 8th Annual Pinkorama (aka Pink Carnation Peep Diorama) Contest.

Rossio Square 2 General Junot and floozies Kayse 2

The rules are simple: using those sugary, marshmallowy goodies (Peeps), recreate your favorite scene from any one of my books, novellas, or short stories. There are the Pink books, for Napoleonic Peeps; The English Wife, for Gilded Age Peep (so much gold sugar!); The Ashford Affair, just in case you feel like going Edwardian Peep, 1920s Peep, or Kenya Peep; That Summer, for Victorian Peep and Pre-Raphaelite Peep (or Dorrington Descendant Peep); The Other Daughter, for Bright Young Peeps; or The Forgotten Room, for New York Peeps throughout the ages.

Two L (disillusioned law student Peep), “A Night at Northanger” (ghost hunter Peep), and “The Record Set Right” (World War I or modern Peep) are also fair game.

Okay, so the title is a little misleading. I guess it’s really more appropriately a Willigorama at this point? But that doesn’t sound nearly so catchy as Pinkorama, so Pinkorama it remains.

Once your Peep creation is complete, take a picture (or pictures) of your Pinkorama and email them to me at with “Pinkorama” in the subject line.

The deadline for the Pinkorama is Thursday, April 5th. I’ll post all the Pinkoramas here on the website and open it up to general voting.

As for the prize….

The runners up will receive signed hardcover copies of The English Wife.

The winner will receive an ARC of the next Three Ws novel, aka The Lusitania Book, aka Title Reveal Coming Soon. (To be mailed as soon as those ARCs arrive.)

If you’re seeking Peep inspiration, check out 2017’s and 2016’s peeptastic entries or the Pinkorama Gallery!

Let the sugary fun begin!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s my traditional Valentine’s Day post: a piece I wrote way back in 2009, for the (now defunct) All-A-Blog.

“You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you….”

They do say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. With that as my excuse, I plan to shamelessly imitate one of my favorite authors, Tracy Grant, who came up with the genius idea of compiling a list of her favorite fictional declarations of love in honor of Valentine’s Day.

Like Tracy, I tend to admire those hard-won resolutions where the hero and heroine have been kept apart by either internal or external impediments. Mr. Darcy (whose well-worn declaration heads this post), has to fight against his own, er, pride and prejudice before he can blurt out those famous lines to Elizabeth. In the case of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, discussed at length by Tracy, the impediment lies in Harriet’s psyche, in her fear of what dreadful changes giving in to emotion might work on them both (to be fair, she had just been accused of murdering her ex-lover, so one could appreciate why she was gun shy). It takes three books for Lord Peter to win her over, and when he does, the resolution is all the meaningful for being so hard fought.

Here are two of my other favorites. On one end, we have those sardonic heroes, in the model of Rhett Butler, who mock themselves even as they declare their affections:

“Would it take your mind off your unpleasant memories to know that I love you? That I am, as the novelists put it, ‘in love’ with you?”

The hero and heroine of Valerie Fitzgerald’s Zemindar are on the run through India in the midst of the mutiny of 1857. The hero’s estate has just been burned and looted, the heroine has come across the hideously mutilated bodies of close acquaintances, they have a dependent woman and baby on their hands, and they have no idea whether they’ll make it out alive. Even so, the hero couches his declaration in inverted commas. The fact that it took mutiny, murder and massacre to get him even to that point tells you an awful lot about what voicing those words cost him.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have the fulsome declaration—with a twist:

“Love you! Girl, you’re in the very core of my heart. I hold you there like a jewel. Didn’t I promise you I’d never tell you a lie? Love you! I love you with all there is of me to love. Heart, soul, brain. Every fibre of body and spirit thrilling to the sweetness of you. There’s nobody in the world for me but you, Valency.”

No one writes it quite like L.M. Montgomery. The heroine of The Blue Castle was the one who did the proposing, on the understanding that she only had a year to live. When she finds out that she was misdiagnosed, she runs back home, convinced Barney will hate her for trapping him. Barney comes running after her, uttering the declaration above—which Valency doesn’t believe. It takes his losing his temper to convince her, which leads to my favorite line of that scene: “You darling!” [Valency] said. “You do mean it! You do really love me! You wouldn’t be so enraged if you didn’t!” High romance gives way to practical psychology.

I’d never stopped to think about it before, but I’ve written variants on both those scenes. The hero and heroine of my fourth book, The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, belong to the Rhett Butler/Zemindar camp (Tracy discusses them in her post). My fifth book, The Temptation of the Night Jasmine, follows the Blue Castle pattern. When it comes down to it, the heroine is convinced of the sincerity of the hero’s affections not by his pretty speeches, but by the awkward honesty that comes later.

I have so many other favorite scenes—Rhett’s marriage proposal to Scarlett in Gone with the Wind, the final scene of Mary Stewart’s Nine Coaches Waiting, M.M. Kaye’s Trade Wind, Georgette Heyer’s Arabella—but this post has already reached absurd proportions.

What are your favorite literary declarations of love?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

p.s. in other news, now, in 2018, I’m having a Valentine’s Day give away over on my Facebook author page! Just head over there to check it out….

p.p.s. speaking of my Facebook author page, I’ll be holding an English Wife Book Club over there tomorrow from 12:30-1:30. Feel free to stop by at any time and chime in, even if it’s after the book club time. (I’ll keep checking back in.) And if there are any non-Facebook folks who would like to have another book club meeting here on the website, just let me know!

Website Reboot

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

That time has come again: the time for a rethink of the website.

I’m going to be overhauling the whole site this spring– which is where you come in!

What do you love about the website? What do you hate about it? Is there anything it’s missing? If there’s anything you think I should have– or should absolutely not have– in the new website, let me know!

This site is for you, so I want to make sure it’s just right. All ideas and opinions appreciated!

If you like Downton Abbey….

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

It’s that time of year again. The time of year when one starts to yearn for crumpets and tea, acerbic comments from a Dowager Countess, and the antics of the Crawley family.

Bookbub has a list of thirteen new books to alleviate those Downton blues (including The English Wife!).

Adding some older books to the list, I would say, if you like Downton Abbey, you’ll probably like…

— anything by Nancy Mitford, but particularly The Pursuit of Love & Love in a Cold Climate;

— Barbara Taylor Bradford’s A Woman of Substance;

— Kate Morton’s The House at Riverton;

— Daisy Goodwin’s The American Heiress.

Which books would you recommend for the Downton fan in your life?

New On the Website: Lost Chapters

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

Now up on in a permanent place on the Diversions Page, from now unto the next time my website crashes, you can find two chapters that were excised by my editor: the “lost” Chapter 29 of The Ashford Affair, in which All Was Explained, and the discarded Epilogue of That Summer (in which some things were explained, but not all).

Ashford Paperback That Summer discount edition

Warning! Both of these extras contain major spoilers, so don’t click unless you’ve already read the books. Or are one of those people who likes reading books backwards.

Happy reading!

Is there anything else I should be adding to the website? Let me know….

Top Five Heyers

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

The other day, when I posted about my recent Heyer-a-thon, a funny thing happened in the Comments section: an impromptu discussion of Top Five Heyer novels.

Not four shall you count, not six, but five. (Sorry, Monty Python.) Why five? Perhaps because it’s so impossible to pick just one Heyer. Or, for that matter, three or four. Even picking five is tough– but upping it to ten feels like cheating.

So I thought I’d give it a go. Here, in no particular order, are my top five Heyers:

Devil’s Cub. Georgian, rather than Regency, this book captures the elegance and danger of an era when rakes wore ruffles and thought nothing of running a man through in the road. Vidal, the devil’s cub of the title, is a real rake, not a cutesy imitation one: mad, bad, and genuinely dangerous to know. Fortunately, the heroine, Mary Challoner, a woman of spirit and principle, is more than a match for him and refuses to give him any quarter– until he deserves it. (Side note: this book was the direct inspiration for the third in my Pink Carnation series, The Deception of the Emerald Ring, with its elopement gone wrong.)

The Nonesuch. This book is the archetypal Regency romance, with its country community that can’t help but make you think of the world of Pride and Prejudice, a gentlewoman turned governess for heroine, and a top of the trees (but not toplofty) hero who turns the community upside down by dint of his appearance. (There’s even a secondary romance a la Bingley and Jane.)

A Civil Contract. This one, while also a Regency, is a little different from the usual madcap romp. It’s more sober than Heyer’s other Regencies. The heroine is a “cit”, a rich merchant’s daughter, with none of the graces of the usual Heyer heroine. She’s a short, stout, housewifely soul. The hero, on the other hand, is a romantic, forced to sever his connection with the woman he always believed he would marry. But he discovers, over a year of marriage, that perhaps he’s not such a romantic as he thought, and that his practical Jenny may suit him better than flighty Julia. People seem to either love or hate A Civil Contract. I fall into the “love” category. (You can read my thoughts on it by scrolling down here until you get to the essay titled A Not So Fine Romance, from way back in September 2008.) In the end, is it a love match? That’s up for debate. I think it is– but you can see for yourself.

Arabella. Back to the madcap, Arabella is one of the brilliantly funny Heyers, in which a parson’s daughter come-to-town decides, in a moment of pique, to pretend to be an heiress– but never imagines just how much she’ll be caught up in her own deception. The hero knows almost from the outset, but plays along, first out of annoyance, and later because he’s come to care for her too much to figure out how to tell her he knows the truth. This also falls into the “proud and wealthy hero knocked down from his pedestal and made human” category.

Sylvester. Speaking of proud and lofty heroes…. It takes a novelist (also a twittery sister-in-law, a fop to end all fops, and a determined small child) to crack the ducal reserve of the eponymous Sylvester, with lots of hijinks and some of my very favorite comic scenes along the way.

Honorable mentions: The Talisman Ring, The Quiet Gentleman, and Sprig Muslin.

What are your top five Heyers?

MISTLETOE Outtakes, aka The Drafts of MISTLETOE Past

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

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):



Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

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.

Orchid- Actual Cover— 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….

Pink V Cover— 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.

mom_pudding_draft_02_copy_300— 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

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

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

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

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….