Archive for the ‘Pink I’ Category

Anniversary Mug Winner

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Thank you so much for sharing your stories and memories with me! As I work on the final book in the Pink Carnation series, it means so much to me that you’ve been with me on this unexpected– and sometimes rather twisty– journey.

And now, getting back to business, the winner of the Pink Carnation anniversary mug is…

Alex! (Of Comment #27.)

Congrats, Alex! If you email me at with your details, I’ll send that mug your way.

More give aways, guest posts, and other fun stuff coming up soon!

Pink Pre-History

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

Once a book is out in the world, it’s hard to remember that it wasn’t always exactly as it was. But every book changes over time, and The Secret History of the Pink Carnation was no exception.

Here are some fun facts about the pre-history of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation:

— Pink wasn’t originally called Pink. My working title was A Rogue of One’s Qwn, since, as we know, all Regency romance novels must have either rake or rogue in the title– and I didn’t want to deal with questions about garden implements. The “of one’s own” was a nod to a private joke with my best friend about Virginia Woolf and a truly awful play about women writers in which we both took part in tenth grade. Since that was rather a mouthful, when talking about the book with my grad school friends (and, later, my editor), I referred to it as “Purple”, after the hero, the Purple Gentian.

— Pink almost bogged down around Chapter Four. Back in 2001, when I began writing it, I just couldn’t get Miss Gwen, Jane, and Amy to Dover. Things kept happening. And they kept talking. (My characters tend to do that.) Fifty pages later, we were still on the road to Dover, and it was beginning to turn into Canterbury Tales: the Napoleonic Edition. I scrapped the entire travelogue, Amy finally met Richard, and the book at last began moving forward– at least, until the 2001-2002 term began and I had to start grading undergrad Western Civ papers.

— Geoff wasn’t Geoff. I stumbled across a pile of old notes a few years ago and was shocked to discover that back in 2001, Geoffrey was Sebastian. And he wasn’t Richard’s best friend (well, second best friend), he was his valet. By the time I picked the manuscript back up, in the summer of 2002, after turning in a large sheaf of undergrad grades, Geoff had somehow become Geoff and a viscount. And that was the way he stayed.

— The book was never meant to be part of a series. I wrote Pink Carnation as a one-off, just for fun. But when my new editor asked me if I’d consider writing another…. Well, it’s like that Ghostbusters line. If someone asks you if you want to write a sequel, you say yes. (Even if you’re a 1L in law school and have no idea how this is going to get done.)

— The cover wasn’t the cover. Back when Pink Carnation was first acquired by Penguin, in the fall of 2003, chick lit was THE dominant genre. So the original plans for the launch of Pink all emphasized Eloise. By the time advance copies– with a chick lit cover– had been sent out to reviewers, chick lit had uttered a gurgling noise, clutched its throat, and died (so to speak). The art department scurried back to the drawing board and came up with the iconic historical Pink Carnation cover.

Pink I ARC Pink 1 cover

Is there anything else you’d like to know about the pre-publication days of Pink?

Happy Pink Anniversary!

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

The very first of the Pink Carnation books, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, arrived on shelves in February of 2005– which makes this the tenth anniversary of the Pink series!

Pink Anniversary 4
I can’t remember the exact date of that first book release (it’s all rather a pink blur), so I am officially declaring the whole month Pink Anniversary. We’ll have guest posts, give aways, If You Likes, recipes (did anyone say ginger biscuits?), reminiscences, and behind the scenes whatnot.

If you’d like to contribute a guest post or have ideas as to what you’d like to see here, just let me know!

In the meantime, we’ll be kicking off the Pink Anniversary month with a give away. Here’s your question:

— How did you first discover the Pink series? Did you start with the first book, or one of the others?

One person will be chosen at random to receive a Pink Carnation Anniversary mug. The winner will be announced on Wednesday. (And I’m also doing a give away on my Facebook author page, so you have a second chance to win there.)

Happy Pink month!

A Decade of Pink!

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

This February marks ten years since the first Pink Carnation book, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, came into the world.

Pink 1 cover Pink I ARC Pink I Mass Market

How did that happen?!?!

That seems to call for some sort of celebration, doesn’t it? I hearby officially declare February Pink anniversary month here on the website. I’ll have some of the Pink Carnation comics that Joanne Renaud drew for the fifth anniversary of Pink up for grabs, and, of course, books, books, books. There are a shocking number of Pink books in my closet, in any number of editions and languages, and it only seems right that some of them find a way from my closet to yours.

What else would you like to see here on the site for Pink Carnation Anniversary Month?

Also, if anyone feels like contributing a guest post, just let me know!

Pink I: What’s In A Genre?

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

I’ve always been fascinated by the question of genre. How do we define genres? How– and why– do they change over time? What are the inditia that signal to us that a book is meant to be one genre or another? Why does it matter? Does it matter?

This week, Ashley posted on the Pink Carnation Read Along about genre and The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.

The Pink series is generally described as cross-genre, meaning that it can’t quite be fit easily into one category. Over the years, it’s been labeled successively as one genre and then another. (And often multiple genres at the same time.)

Here’s a post I wrote for the website Smart Bitches Trashy Books a few years back, describing the strange path of Pink I. (You can find the original post here.)

When I wrote my first (publishable) book, the book that became The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, I was pretty sure that I was writing a romance novel.

The working title was A Rogue of One’s Own, because everyone knows that every good Regency romance needs either a rake or a rogue. I went with the latter because I really didn’t want to spend years fielding inquiries about garden implements.

On my first phone call with my brand new agent, I burbled about the book being in the tradition of Julia Quinn and Amanda Quick, and could we please, pretty please, shop the manuscript to Avon? Visions of mass market paperbacks danced in my head.

“I’m not entirely sure you’ve written what you’ve think you’ve written,” came the voice of my new agent across the line. “Let me try something else first. . . ”

“Sure! Absolutely!” I said.

As a first time author, these were the words I used most frequently. Also, I had coffee dripping off the end of my nose, which tends to be a bit distracting.

(To explain: at the time of this phone call, I had just returned to Cambridge, the U.S. one, after a year abroad in England, and was engaged in trying to figure out the workings of the coffee maker that had been bequeathed to me by my German subletter. Since technology and I don’t get along, this had resulted in a rather dramatic caffeine explosion, just as the phone rang. I conducted my first conversation with my new agent with coffee matted in my hair, dripping down my arm, and liberally bespeckling the phone. Note to self: coffee should not be taken topically.)

In any event, one month later my agent called me back to tell me that a prestigious hardcover house was making an offer—but not as a romance. “You’ve invented a new genre!” he said. “Historical chick lit!”

To which I replied, “Huh?”

Once I’d adjusted my jaw, I took the sage advice of Ghostbusters: when a publishing house tells you you’ve invented a genre, you say yes. Even if you have no idea what they’re talking about.

Pink I ARCThis was, after all, 2003, when chick lit reigned and new subgenres of chick lit were being discovered on a more or less daily basis: lad lit, mommy lit, second cousin once removed lit. Just add “lit” and stir.

Plans proceeded apace for the publication of the book, now re-named The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, because A Rogue of One’s Own was too romance-y. (There was a brief, awful phase where it was almost named Eloise Kelly and the Secret History of the Pink Carnation, but, fortunately, that didn’t fit on the cover, so it got nixed.) It was going to be published in hardcover, as Fiction & Literature, with a chick lit cover featuring a modern woman in a Burberry jacket with a very cute bag. I had nightmares about readers opening it, finding themselves in the Regency, and demanding their money back.

“Whatever you do, don’t call it romance!” I was told. “It’s historical chick lit.”

Pink 1 coverThen, overnight, chick lit died. RIP. Within two days, my publisher had come up with a new, historical cover (and I breathed a very deep sigh of relief). Just about to go on my first ever book publicity junket, I was warned, “Whatever you do, don’t call it chick lit! It’s historical fiction. Got that? Historical fiction.”

I’d gone through three different genres without re-writing a word.

Meanwhile, the book hit the shelves, followed by sequels, and the genre confusion continued. I was adopted by the mystery community, who informed me that what I was really writing were historical mysteries, and why wasn’t I being shelved in mystery, where I belonged? Friendly Borders reps told me that my covers were all wrong and I needed something that correctly represented the spirit of the books. What would that be? I asked. They didn’t know either. In the absence of consensus, the books went into that great catch-all category on the shelves: Fiction & Literature.

I just went on playing genre stew, writing what I was writing, going to everyone’s conferences, and hoping that someone would eventually figure out where on earth to shelve me.

Pink I Mass MarketThis went on until 2009, when the market tanked, e-books took off, and suddenly romance was outselling other genres. After years of being told, “Stop calling your books romance!”, the world had come full circle. I got another one of those phone calls: the first Pink book was going to be reprinted in mass market—huzzah!—with a romance cover. And, by the way, did I realize I’d been writing romance?

There was just one slight hitch. None of the major retailers would shelve it in the romance section.

Ironic, isn’t it? Apparently, once a book has been shelved in a certain section, it’s against store policy to move it to another. Ditto any books in the same series. The book that I had initially written as a romance was finally being printed as a romance—but it couldn’t go in the romance section. The mass market copy found itself incongruously wedged on the Fiction & Literature shelf next to its hardcover and trade paperback siblings.

That’s publishing for you.

As to what my books really are. . . I have no idea. I’ll leave it to you to decide. (Although I’m fairly certain that they’re not Sci Fi. At least, not yet.)

I keep telling myself that one of these days I’m going to write a book that’s incontrovertibly in one genre or another: a contemporary romance or a whodunit. One of these days.

I have many theories about genre and genre boundaries and the way genres and sub-genres interact with each other– all of them highly subjective and anecdotal.

When I was young, books came in two forms: mass market or hardcover. Many of the books that we would now classify as “historical fiction” were marketed and sold as “historical romance”. Look at the classic cover of Gone With the Wind. It positively screams romance, as did the covers of my M.M. Kaye and Victoria Holt novels.

One of my many theories is that the advent of trade paperback led to a stronger divide between historical romance and historical fiction. Suddenly, we had historical fiction in trade paper and historical romance in mass market, which meant that romance became romancier and historical fiction took itself more seriously. The covers diverged. My M.M. Kayes and Jean Plaidys had new, more dignified covers, marking them as Not Romance. The trade paperbacks cost more, adding an interesting value element to the divergence between historical romance and historical fiction.

daughter of the gameThe border lines are murky in other genres as well. Think of mystery. What makes a book a historical mystery versus a historical novel with mystery elements? secrets of a lady. Tracy Grant’s Charles and Melanie series is a great example of that dilemma. The books were originally marketed, in mass market, as mysteries, under the title Daughter of the Game before being repackaged as historical fiction under the title Secrets of a Lady.

(Which do you think suits her books better? And which would jump out at you more in a bookstore?)

Often, genre classification is dictated by which part of the market is currently deemed in the ascendant. If historical fiction is outselling mystery, then there’s an incentive to package a book as historical fiction, even if it has a strong mystery element. Conversely, if historical fiction is dead (it dies every decade or so, and then bounces back), then there’s a push to highlight the mystery aspect.

Some books are written directly to their respective markets. Some mysteries and just mysteries, some romances are just romances, and some historical fiction is just historical fiction. But for those books on the margins, the boundaries become very permeable.

Does genre matter to you? Are there elements that mark a book to you as belonging to one genre or another?

Pink I: Inspirations

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

This week on the Pink Carnation Read Along, Ashley blogged about inspirations for the Pink series, specifically The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Since I’m blogging along with the Read Along, I’d considered writing about some of the antecedents of the Pimpernel. There have been plenty of people over the year who have debated just where Baroness Orczy came up with the idea for the Pimpernel. Some point to Admiral Sir Sidney Smith, who certainly had plenty of swash and buckle, and was in and out of France (including a stint incarcerated in the Temple Prison)– but who, otherwise, wasn’t a terribly laudable sort of person. If you go to the historical record, you find records of actual flower named spies, including a Le Mouron (the Pimpernel). The drawback? They were French royalists, not English aristocrats. Baroness Orczy always said that Sir Percy came to her, as was, and refused to be drawn further on the question.

You can read a much more detailed post on the subject that I wrote a few years ago over at History Hoydens.

So, instead of discussing the origins of Sir Percy, I wanted to talk about my own peculiar wrinkle on the topic: female spies.

When I sat down to write Pink Carnation, I didn’t realize that this would be a controversial choice. I had no idea that I would, a few years later, be bombarded with emails starting with “a young lady would never….”

What I did know? Was that women were and had been spies, as long as there had been anyone on whom to spy.

My dissertation, on which I was working while writing Pink I, involved royalist conspiracies during the latter half of the English Civil Wars. One of the chapters was on women and espionage. It will come as no surprise to know that women were instrumental in smuggling messages, monies, and, occasionally, members of the royal family. One of my favorite characters is Lady Anne Halkett (I will write her story one of these days), who smuggled the Duke of York out of Parliamentarian captivity dressed up in one of her gowns.

So you could say that I had female spies on the brain.

Female spies seemed particularly appropriate during the Napoleonic era, partly because Napoleon himself took such a low view of women. They had the ability to fly under the radar (to borrow a modern analogy) in the way men did not.

During my pre-Pink researches, I came upon references to female spies in operation during the Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, including one called La Prime-Rose (a pun on primrose). My favorite? The forty year old woman who went undercover on a French frigate, disguised as a cabin boy.

Put all that together… and you get the Pink Carnation and her league.

Pink I: How Eloise Came To Be

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

A few days ago, Ashley kicked off the Read Along with the first lines of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, in which Eloise is braving London transportation to visit one Mrs. Selwick-Alderly:

“The Tube had broken down. Again…”

I have a secret to share with you: there was no Eloise in the original draft of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.

No Eloise, no Colin, no Tube.

The first draft of the book which became The Secret History of the Pink Carnation was purely historical, and largely as you read it now (minus about fifty pages of additional sheep jokes). A friend gave the book to an agent, the agent sent the book out to a few editors, and, in a surprisingly short space of time, I got a call saying that an editor wanted the book, but she had a question for me.

That question was: “Have you ever considered a modern framing story?”

The short answer to that was no, I hadn’t.

“It doesn’t need to be much,” said my agent. “Just one chapter– like someone finding papers in the attic.”

I might have made a mmm-hmm noise. I don’t remember. What I do remember is standing there on the phone in my old studio apartment in Cambridge, struck by the image of a woman clinging to a Tube rail. She had red hair and tall boots and a skirt turned partly wrong way round and a beige sweater with a coffee splotch on it.

I knew her. I had no idea how I knew her, but I did. I knew who she was and where she was going and why she was there.

“Hello?” said my agent. “Are you still there?”

“Does it have to be only one chapter?” I asked.

I could already see what was going to happen. She was going to get off that Tube to visit an elegant elderly lady. That lady had a nephew, a nephew who didn’t want the family papers in someone else’s hands.

“I don’t think so,” said my agent.

“Good,” I said. “Because I think I want it to be a little bit more….”

And that, in a roundabout, accidental way, was how Eloise was born.

There’s a side note to this story. Several months later, I was doing some reading up on Baroness Orczy. (As the publicity for the book release got under way, people had started asking me questions about The Scarlet Pimpernel, and, like a good little grad student, I thought I had better do my research.) What I hadn’t known? Was that Baroness Orczy always claimed that she had first met Sir Percy Blakeney in the Tube. She had been standing on a Tube platform, and there he was, knee breeches, quizzing glass and all.

I wish I could say that I placed Eloise on the Tube deliberately, as a homage to Baroness Orczy. But I didn’t. Like Sir Percy on that Tube platform, she just popped up there, all by herself, with a complete history and story to her.

One might even think it was meant.

Pink Carnation Cookery: May Madeleines!

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

In honor of the merry, merry month of May, Christine brings us… Madeleines!

With this cookie, we go back to the very beginning of the series, to The Secret History of the Pink Carnation….

And now over to Christine!

Pink 1 coverIn the Spring of 1803, Amy Balcourt, along with her cousin Jane Wooliston, and chaperone, Gwen Meadows, set sail for France, which would lead to the birth of the Pink Carnation. It’s been a long, cold winter, but spring has finally definitely arrived (or at least, at the time of this writing, I hope it has!), so we celebrate Miss Amy, the Purple Gentian, the Pink Carnation, and France with Madeleines.

The only previous experience I’ve had with Madeleines are a desperation hunger grab during a trip to Starbucks and that episode of “Friends” when Ross described Freddie Prinze Jr.’s Madeleines as “lighter than air.”

There are about a million Madeleine recipes online but I opted for one that looked simple enough, for the novice baker, and had a ton of great reviews (the only negative review said that Madeleines should not be light and airy, but rather should be dense and buttery, like the ones at Starbucks. I decided to stick with the opinions of the 100 other people who said it was a good recipe).

The recipe below is taken from

2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon lemon zest (I substituted orange)
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup powdered sugar for decoration (the recipe says granulated sugar but I assume that’s a mistake based on every picture of Madeleines I’ve ever seen)

1. Preheat oven to 375 and grease 12-Madeleine pan.
2. Melt butter and let cool to room temperature.
3. Beat eggs, vanilla and salt together at a high speed until airy (this only took about a minute).
4. While continuing to beat, add the granulated sugar. Continuing beating until the mixture is thick and forms ribbons when the beaters are lifted. This will take about 5-10 minutes (mine looked somewhere between thin frosting and thick pancake batter).
5. Sift flour into egg mixture, 1/3 at a time, gently folding.
6. Add lemon (or orange) zest, then pour butter around the edge of the mixture. Quickly but gently, fold it in.
7. Spoon batter into the pan. The batter will mound over the tops.
8. Bake 14-17 minutes. Cakes should spring back when you gently press a finger into them.
9. Loosen the Madeleines with the tip of a knife and invert onto a wire rack to cool, with the shell-side facing up (I had greased a non-stick pan and they slid out without any effort).
10. Quickly dust the hot Madeleines with powdered sugar (I used far less than the 1/3 cup stated in the recipe).

This was actually much easier than I thought it would be, and they came out looking good. Well, the dusting could’ve been neater, but the cakes were pretty. I baked them for 15 minutes and I think they were a tad over-baked. A little too dense and crunchy along the edges (though I LOVE crunchy cookies). And absolutely delicious.

photo (35)

I consider my first foray into Madeleines close to a success, and I’m looking forward to trying some of the ones on this impressive list from Huffington Post.


Don’t those look amazing? I am thrilled to hear that these were easier than they look, because they are very popular chez moi– and those little boxes of them from the supermarket don’t tend to last long. (My spouse swears it’s the fault of Francophile gnomes.)

Thank you so much, Christine! I will definitely be trying this recipe.

Here’s the big question: lemon zest, orange zest, or plain?

Pink Carnation en Francais!

Friday, May 9th, 2014

I have very happy news! The first three books in the Pink Carnation series– The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, The Masque of the Black Tulip, and The Deception of the Emerald Ring— are being published in French in Canada!

The publisher is Ada of Quebec. As soon as I have release dates, and covers, and all that sort of thing, I’ll be sure to share here!

And on Nook….

Monday, July 29th, 2013

For those of you who are Nook readers, it’s just come to my attention that Pink I, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, is also on sale for $2.99 on Nook right now!

Here’s the sale round-up:

Pink I: currently $2.99 on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo.

The Orchid Affair: $2.99 today only on Kindle as the Amazon Daily Deal; $2.99 in hardcover at Barnes & Noble.

Happy reading!