Today, I am so excited to welcome Lauren Willig to In the Hammock for a guest post about her newest book, "The Garden Intrigue."
You will also find my review of this great new historical, as well as a giveaway for a brand new copy of the book!
Now, here's Lauren!
Sometimes, it seems like there are almost as many virgin widows running around Regency Romance Land as there are dukes—and there are an awful lot of dukes out there. Disguised as gardeners, going undercover as spies, taking to the high seas as pirates….
But I digress. Leaving the dukes aside for the moment, when I sat down to write my latest book, The Garden Intrigue, I decided to do something a little different. I wanted to write about a woman who had been around the block a bit, and I wanted to do it without making her a courtesan or a mistress or any of those other fun plot tropes. (Although, come to think of it, there are nearly as many virgin courtesans running around out there as there are virgin widows. Not to mention my absolute favorite, the virgin harem girl. Seriously.)
I wanted to write about someone who has been forced to learn and grow through successive wrong relationships, not someone who stumbles on Prince Charming at the age of eighteen during her first evening at Almack’s. Because, let’s be honest, which of us hasn’t had romantic missteps? The trick is learning from those early errors, being able to apply those lessons to create a truer and more mature relationship down the road.
My heroine, Emma, isn’t a vamp or a tramp or a member of the demimonde; she’s just someone who made some poor relationship decisions in the past—and which of us hasn’t? As a teenager, she eloped from Paris boarding school with a handsome Frenchman twice her age. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but marriage turned out to be more than poetry and moonlight. It was hard work, something Emma at fifteen hadn’t bargained for.
When we meet Emma, it’s been ten years since her impulsive elopement, four years since her husband died of a fever. As Murphy’s Law would have it, he died just as they were starting to really figure each other out. Since then, Emma has become a fixture on the Paris social scene. Her friends have urged her to erase the bitterness left by her husband’s death by taking a lover. She tried it—but, once again, picked the wrong guy. Anyone who has ever had to deal with seeing a regrettable hook-up months later in a college dining hall will know exactly how Emma feels about running into her former indiscretions on the Paris party circuit.
It helped that my book is set in Paris in 1804, where mores were different from those in England. Although Napoleon turns into Mr. Morality (sorry, I mean His Excellency, the Emperor of Morality) once he crowns himself Emperor, during the period in which Garden Intrigue is set some of the harum scarum hedonism of the Directory and Consulate still lingers. Parisians then, as now, were much more open about their affairs and much more forgiving. No one is going to shun Emma for having sown her wild oats a bit—in fact, they would think her rather odd if she hadn’t.
One of the things I loved about writing Emma’s story was getting to tackle the topic of second chances. Emma is someone who’s seen her happily ever after go sour on her—but she’s still willing to take a chance and put herself out there again, learning the difference between first love and real love.
So that’s my non-virgin widow. (I promise, no dukes were wounded in the writing of this novel!) Are there any romance novel tropes you’d like to see turned on their heads?
Thanks so much for stopping by, Lauren! Emma and Augustus both are definitely not your typical romance lead characters! They are more like those really interesting secondary characters that I always want to know more about. Thanks for giving these flawed, and unique characters their own story.
Now onto my review:
"The Garden Intrigue"
by Lauren Willig
Release Date: Feb 16, 2012
Source: sent by publisher and TLC Book Tours
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Summary from goodreads.com:
In the ninth installment of Lauren Willig's bestselling Pink Carnation series, an atrocious poet teams up with an American widow to prevent Napoleon's invasion of England.
Secret agent Augustus Whittlesby has spent a decade undercover in France, posing as an insufferably bad poet. The French surveillance officers can't bear to read his work closely enough to recognize the information drowned in a sea of verbiage.
New York-born Emma Morris Delagardie is a thorn in Augustus's side. An old school friend of Napoleon's stepdaughter, she came to France with her uncle, the American envoy; eloped with a Frenchman; and has been rattling around the salons of Paris ever since. Widowed for four years, she entertains herself by drinking too much champagne, holding a weekly salon, and loudly critiquing Augustus's poetry.
As Napoleon pursues his plans for the invasion of England, Whittlesby hears of a top-secret device to be demonstrated at a house party at Malmaison. The catch? The only way in is with Emma, who has been asked to write a masque for the weekend's entertainment.
Emma is at a crossroads: Should she return to the States or remain in France? She'll do anything to postpone the decision-even if it means teaming up with that silly poet Whittlesby to write a masque for Bonaparte's house party. But each soon learns that surface appearances are misleading. In this complicated masque within a masque, nothing goes quite as scripted- especially Augustus's feelings for Emma.
As soon as I saw that this book had a poet as the lead male character, I knew I had to read it. And Augustus Whittlesby doesn't disappoint. I love that he battles with his 'real' self and his invented persona of poet. It's even more interesting that the two have actually become one more than he even wants to admit.
Emma also battles with an invented persona of her own. She wears a mask in public of glittering jewels and socially acceptable flirting, when really she isn't that social butterfly at all. It's lovely to see both characters being able to show each other their true selves.
Emma and Augustus' romance may have gotten off to a slow start, but once it starts cooking, it's so very romantic. He is a poet, after all. It's also very interesting and quite realistic that both characters have been in love before. We see Emma struggle with memories of her husband, and we see first hand Augustus' unrequited romance with the Pink Carnation herself, Jane. These past romances don't dilute the love between Emma and Augustus, instead I think their romance becomes more real for it.
The parts of this book that deal with the present day aren't really my cup of tea. This format rarely ever works for me, so it's not just this series. I feel like it takes me out of the story when I want to completely escape into the past. I would read a cliffhanger ending to a chapter, only to turn the page and be stuck in 2004 again. I know the present day characters are a lot of readers favorite part of the series, though.
Main Characters: 5/5
Supporting Characters: 4/5
Cover: 5/5 (I feel sad that this cover is bashed so much, it's beautiful)
Bottom Line: A lovely new addition to this series, with memorable and very unique lead characters.
Dutton books and TLC Tours have generously provided a brand new copy of "The Garden Intrigue" for readers of my blog!
Please answer Lauren's question above to enter!
All you have to do is follow my blog publicly and answer Lauren's question along with your email address in a comment on this post! Please follow publicly or I can't tell that you are following :) Also, if you aren't comfortable leaving your email here, go ahead and leave a comment and then send me an email with your email addyExtra Entries:
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- US and Canada only
- Must be a follower to enter
- Extra entries are optional and can all be left in the same comment
- Please answer Lauren's question and leave your email address in a comment
- Books will be mailed out by the publisher, it is the publisher's responsibility to mail out the prizes. In the Hammock is not responsible for lost of missing book. Please allow up to 8 weeks for delivery.
- Must be 18 or over
Thanks to everyone for entering! Good luck!
- Ends Mon March 5
If you think this book sounds good, here is a review of another book that I've read by this author: