Saturday, December 24th, 2016
On the Twelfth Day of Turnip, Candace and Cassandra present… “Peepmas at Girdings”.
I love that this combines both The Temptation of the Night Jasmine and The Mischief of the Mistletoe.
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!
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.
— 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?
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?
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….
Monday, December 19th, 2016
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.
– 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
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.
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!
Sunday, December 18th, 2016
On the sixth day of Turnip, we have… another Mistletoe Pinkorama!
In this rendition, by Sarah, Turnip looks on through the window as an agitated Miss Climpson informs Lizzy that, “We do not sit on people!”
Sally appears to have fallen over the chair again.
Next to the pageant, this is one of my favorite Mistletoe scenes. So, just for fun, here’s the scene itself:
Saturday, December 17th, 2016
On the fifth day of Turnip, my author gave to me… the day Turnip crashed the Ballroom Blog.
Does anyone remember the Ballroom Blog? It was a short-lived collaboration between Sarah MacLean, Tessa Dare, Miranda Neville, Katherine Ashe, and me, in which a weekly Regency Ball was held under the auspices of the formidable Lady Beaufeatherstone. Authors and characters tended to wander in and out of the ball, sometimes with hilarious results.
Sadly, the archives have been lost. But I did manage to retrieve, from my own files, Turnip Fitzhugh’s star turn at the ball, on the occasion of the 2011 relaunch of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.
Without further ado– Turnip.
Ballroom Blog, September 2011 (aka Sometime in the Early 19th Century)
In the ballroom, our esteemed hostess, Lady Beaufetheringstone, is putting the final touches on the decorations for the evening’s event, when a rather large, blond man in a gaudy waistcoat blunders into the ballroom.
Lady B: Carnations…. Pink ribbons…. Pink biscuits…. Pink punch…. Ooph!
Mr. Turnip Fitzhugh, as he hauls Lady B up and enthusiastically brushes crushed biscuits and flower petals off her dress: Terribly sorry, didn’t mean to knock you over and all that! I say, are you Lady B? Just the person I was looking to meet!
Lady B, frostily: May I be of assistance, sir?
Turnip: Frightfully excited to meet you and all that. I’m Fitzugh? Turnip Fitzhugh? M’real name’s Reginald, but everyone calls me Turnip. [Taps the side of his nose.] M’author tells me that turnips are inherently amusing vegetables. Not quite sure what she means by that, but it sounds like a deuced good thing, don’t it?
Lady B: I’m sorry, Mr., er, Parsnip. I don’t believe we were expecting you….
Turnip, eagerly: I’m here for the book toss thingamagummy.
Lady B, frostily: My dear sir, if you were looking for a caber toss, you’ll find that about four hundred miles to the north. Books are for reading, not for flinging. [She thinks about it for a moment. Her lip curls.] With a few notable exceptions.
Turnip: I say, it’s not all the way in Scotland, is it? Shouldn’t like to go there. Vicious creatures, haggis. Not to mention that those kilts are deuced drafty.
Lady B [trying to shuffle him out]: Yes, lovely, thank you for sharing that. Now, if you don’t mind trotting along, we do have a book launch we’re trying to prepare for here in the Ballroom….
Turnip: Book launch! That’s what I meant. Can’t think where I got this idea about tossing, but, then, haven’t been to one of these before. Not that I haven’t been in books—been in quite a few, actually—but this is the first time I have a book of my own.
Lady B: If you mean the book launch, yes, we do have one of those here this evening, but it certainly has nothing to do with—
Turnip, waxing lyrical: It’s all Arabella, you know. Miss Arabella Dempsey. Without her, I’d still be a comic side character, there to fall out windows and natter on at inconvenient moments. Not that it isn’t a valuable job and all that, but I was getting a little tired of being stalked by misguided French spies and poked by the Dowager Duchess of Dovedale. That cane of hers is deuced pointy.
Lady B: Mr. Parsnip—
Turnip: Haven’t seen Arabella about, have you? Blonde woman, about this high, well-furnished in the brainbox? She’s the plum in my pudding, the holly on my ivy, the ringer on my bell….
Lady B: Mr. Parsnip! This is all very touching, but I’m afraid you have been misinformed. We aren’t expecting any Arabellas this evening, and certainly nothing resembling a root vegetable.
Turnip: But… but… it’s my book, don’t you know. The Malefactor of the…. No, wait. The Murder of the…. No, not that either. Well, something to do with Mistletoe, in any event. You know the sort of thing, daring escapades, amusing larks, touching love scenes, and all the pudding you can eat!
Lady B: It sounds… special.
Miss Gwendolyn Meadows, stalking into the room (and modeling some truly alarming purple headgear): I’ll show you special! [Pokes at Turnip with parasol.] What’s this cretin doing at MY book launch? He doesn’t even appear in the first Pink Carnation book! He first shows up in Book Two. [Sniffs] Not that anyone would bother with Book Two. I hardly appear at all. It was a lamentable oversight on the part of the author.
Lady B, edging away from Miss Gwen’s parasol: I can assure you, I have nothing to do with—
Turnip, cheerfully: Hullo, here for my party?
Miss Gwen, stalking towards Turnip: We are here promoting breast cancer research. What do you think you’re doing?
Turnip, quickly: Er, nothing to do with breasts! I mean, that is, unless they were Arabella’s breasts. Don’t think it would be the done thing to do to have anything to do with anybody else’s. Not that I’m sure yours aren’t terribly, er—ouch! I say, that wasn’t terribly sporting of you.
Miss Gwen: This is MY party and I’ll poke you with my parasol if I wish to do so.
Turnip [scratching head]: Your party?
Miss Gwen: This is the book launch for the special Read Pink reissue of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation—[prods him with parasol]—not the All Too Obvious Tale of the Man With the Gaudy Waistcoat.
Turnip [looking down]: Don’t you like it? Thought it was deuced fetching, if do say so m’self. Wait? The Pink Carnation? It’s not the party for the Mischievous Mistletoe?
Miss Gwen: You, sirrah, must wait until 1 November for your happily ever after. [Looks Turnip up and down.] If I were you, I would use that time to find some new garments.
Turnip: Er, is that a spy over there? (Flees as Miss Gwen is looking the other way.)
Author’s Note: Since I couldn’t remember when any of my books were coming out this fall, I figured there was no reason my characters would. And wouldn’t it be just like Turnip to wander right into Miss Gwen’s book launch? (Miss Gwen seems to labor under the delusion that Pink I is all about her, and not, well, the Pink Carnation. I prefer not disabuse her. Like the Dowager Duchess of Dovedale’s cane, Miss Gwen’s parasol is, indeed, deuced pointy.)
Miss Gwen does have the right of it about one thing: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation has just been reissued this week in a special Read Pink edition as part of Penguin’s program to support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Huge thanks to Lady B and all the Ballroom Bloggers for hosting a Pink Ribbon ball today—even if it did get crashed by a rather confused Turnip.
What’s your best—or worst—party faux pas?
And now back to December 2016!
As you can tell, that’s all from a long time ago, but I’m still curious. What IS your best party faux pas story?
Friday, December 16th, 2016
On the fourth day of Turnip, as is traditional at this time of year, I bring you… the Lost Introduction to The Mischief of the Mistletoe.
Why “lost”, you say?
I’d like to claim that Turnip misplaced it somewhere between his carnation-embroidered handkerchiefs and his private stash of Christmas puddings. But that would be unfair to Turnip (and Arabella complained). So here’s the real story.
As you know, Jane Austen appears in Mistletoe as a side character. This terrified me. Sure, I’d dragged Napoleon through the mud, written about the madness of King George, taken the name of various other historical characters in vain, but Austen? No. I lived in fear of angry Austen-ites coming after me with stakes fashioned from annotated copies of Austen’s Complete Works.
So I decided to include a little “scholarly” introduction to the novel, just to let everyone know that everything was all in good fun. The problem? My publisher was afraid that people would think it was a real scholarly introduction.
Out it went– but here it is, back for your amusement:
From the Introduction to the Oxford Addendum to the Cambridge Companion of the Collected Letters of Jane Austen:
“… the Dempsey Collection, as it is called, was for some time denied a place in the Austenian epistolary canon. Due to the destruction of the bulk of Austen’s correspondence after her death, for some time there were believed to be only one hundred and sixty letters extent. The discovery of a cache of correspondence, preserved in an old trunk in an attic in Norfolk, underneath a series of shockingly gaudy waistcoats embroidered in a carnation print, tucked inside an early nineteenth century recipe book concerned entirely with Christmas puddings, was thought for some time by the Fellows of the Royal College of Austen Studies to be nothing more than a malicious act of sabotage on the part of unscrupulous members of the rival Dickens Society, who had turned to thuggery as the inevitable result of immoderate consumption of late Victorian serial fiction. Although the Dickens Society denied the charge, relations between the two groups remained frosty, culminating in the great Tea Incident of 1983, which scandalized Oxbridge and caused a rift of which the reverberations are felt to this day. As footnote clashed against footnote, and members of warring factions refused to pass the port at High Table, the Dempsey Collection was relegated for some time to the academic abyss, discarded as nothing more than Austenian apocrypha.
“After two decades of painstaking scrutiny, including chemical testing, textual analysis, and the consultation of several Magic 8 balls, the scholarly community has tentatively accepted the Dempsey collection as genuine, with some significant reservations. Although the dates of the letters and the identity of the author have, indeed, been authenticated, there are serious doubts as to the veracity of the contents. While Jane Austen writes in her own name, addressing the letters to a supposedly “real” young lady of her acquaintance, the events narrated within them are of such a sensational and fantastical nature as to defy all belief.
“The more serious members of the academic establishment adhere to the theory that Austen was, in fact, engaged in an epistolary novel, a style she employed for both the unfinished Lady Susan and the original draft of Elinor and Marianne, the novel that was to become Sense and Sensibility. There is some argument that the letters comprise a failed early draft of her incomplete novel, The Watsons. As in that work, the Dempsey collection features a heroine returned to the unaffectionate bosom of her family after being disappointed in her hopes of an inheritance from a wealthy aunt, who casts her from the household upon the elderly aunt’s imprudent second marriage to a handsome young captain in the army. Many of the names Austen uses in the Watsons appear in the Dempsey collection, although somewhat altered.
“There, however, all resemblance ends….
“That the letters and their contents were, in fact, the product of a contemporary correspondence conducted with an actual acquaintance in reaction to authentic events is a possibility entertained only by the most radical fringe of Austen scholars. This view is generally discredited…
“What Englishman, one may ask, would answer to the name of Turnip?”
Excerpt reproduced courtesy of the author, Perpetua Fotherington-Smythe, M. Phil., D. Phil, R. Phil, F.R.C.A.S.*, S.o.S.A.S.S.I..**, GAE (MEOAE).***
* Fellow of the Royal College of Austen Studies
** Symposium of the Society of Austen and Similarly Superior Interlocutors
*** Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the Austenian Epistle
Thursday, December 15th, 2016
I tend not to base my characters off actors. They pop to life in my head just as they are. Every now and again, I’m lucky enough to stumble across someone on the big or little screen who looks just as I imagined one of my characters– but it doesn’t happen with everyone.
Case in point: Turnip.
I have to confess, all these years later, I still haven’t found the perfect Turnip.
Who do you think should play Turnip in a hypothetical Mistletoe mini-series? (Can’t you just see it? “Mistletoe: the Hallmark Channel/BBC collaboration”.) Is there any actor who strikes you as having that essential Turnip-ness?
To help you out, here’s the first appearance of Turnip on the scene in The Masque of the Black Tulip, Turnip’s very first Pink Carnation appearance.
“Oh, look!” Henrietta leaned confidentially towards him, the embroidered hem of her dress lapping at the toes of his boots, “I do believe you’ve been saved. Mrs. Ponsonby has latched onto Reggie Fitzhugh.”
Miles followed the path of Henrietta’s fan and noted with some relief that the crazy woman had indeed honed in on Turnip Fitzhugh. Turnip wasn’t in the direct line for a title, but his uncle was an earl, and he did have an income of ten thousand pounds a year, enough to make Turnip a very attractive marital prospect for anyone who didn’t mind a complete absence of mental capacity. That, from what Miles had viewed of this year’s crop of debutantes, didn’t look to be a problem. Besides, Turnip was a good chap. Not the sort of man Miles would want to see marrying his sister (there was little danger of that, as Miles’ three half-sisters were all considerably older, and long since leg-shackled), but he had a good hand with his horses, a generous way with his port, and a winning habit of actually paying his gambling debts.
He also had a positive talent for sartorial disaster. He was, Miles noted with mingled amusement and disbelief, dressed entirely a la Carnation, with a huge pink flower in his buttonhole, wreaths of carnations embroidered on his silk stockings, and even—Miles winced—dozens of little carnations twining on vines along the sides of his knee breeches.
Miles groaned. “Someone needs to kidnap his tailor.”
Moving along to Mistletoe, I give you the scene where our heroine, Arabella, first meets Turnip– in all his Turnip-y glory.
It was highly unlikely that any gentlemen of large fortune and undiscriminating taste would rush forward to bowl her over.
And that was when a large form careened into her, sending her stumbling into the doorframe, while something small, round, and compact managed to land heavily on her left foot before rolling along its way.
“Oooof!” Arabella said cleverly, flailing her arms for balance.
This was not an auspicious beginning to her career as a dignified instructress of young ladies.
A pair of sturdy hands caught her by the shoulders before she could go over, hauling her back up to her feet. He overshot by a bit. Arabella found herself dangling in mid-air for a moment before her feet landed once again on the wooden floor.
“I say, frightfully sorry!” her unseen assailant and rescuer was babbling. “Deuced ungentlemanly of me—ought to have been watching where I was going.”
Arabella’s bonnet had been knocked askew in the fracas. She was above the average height, but this man was even taller. With her bonnet brim in the way, all she could see was a stretch of brightly patterned waistcoat, a masterpiece of fine fabric and poor taste.
Arabella didn’t know whether to laugh or bang her head against the elaborate carnations on her assailant’s waistcoat. Everyone knew about Turnip Fitzhugh’s waistcoats.
And to think, only a moment ago, she had complaining about not being bowled over by men of large fortune and undiscriminating taste.
She had just never meant it quite that literally.
And that’s our Turnip.
Name your top Turnip picks– and I’ll pick one person who comments to receive a copy of the UK edition of The Mischief of the Mistletoe.