The "In for a Penny" cast do memes

I’ve never done anything like character profiles or interviews before—it’s not really part of my writing process—so I was a bit stuck on what to do. Then a friend of mine sent me one of those “get to know you” e-mails with the 100 questions you are supposed to fill out and send back and I thought, Aha! So I have given each character a portion of the questions, modified to make sense for the historical period (no, Nev has not gotten any text messages or watched any TV recently).

The questions were posed to them a few weeks before the opening of the book, so Nev and Penelope haven’t met yet and there are only very minor plot spoilers, all having to do with characters’ backstory. I apologize if any of the descriptions contradict anything in the book; I am not always the best at remembering what color eyes I gave everyone and so on.


NEV, our Hero
PERCY, his best friend
THIRKELL, his other best friend
AMY, his mistress
LOUISA, his sister
LADY BEDLOW, his mother
SIR JASPER, his next-door neighbor

PENELOPE, our Heroine
MR. AND MRS. BROWN, her parents
EDWARD, her best friend and unofficial fiancé


(Nathaniel Arthur Delaval Ambrey, Viscount Nevinstoke, son and heir to the Earl of Bedlow)

Nev is the hero of In for a Penny. He’s a ne’er-do-well crossed with a geek (because I love geeks). He loves going to the theater and the opera along with drinking and playing pranks, and he actually studied Latin at Cambridge in between wenching and gambling and all that. When his father dies, he finds the sudden responsibility for his family and estate a little overwhelming, but he wants very badly to live up to it.

Your age: 23 years old.
Your height: Six feet. No, sorry, that was a lie. More like five feet ten inches.
The color of your eyes: Blue.
The color of your hair: Brown. My sister has the same color hair and she calls it “chestnut,” but I’d feel an ass saying that.

Do you remember your first love? I was eight, and she was Louisa’s nursemaid. It was the summer before I went to school, and Percy and I were both mad for her. She had black, black hair and taught us the “Ballad of Captain Kidd.”
Still love her? Good God, no, I haven’t thought about her in years. Which is just as well, because looking back I think she might have been my father’s mistress. At least, he spent four whole months in the country with us, and then Louisa mysteriously had a new nursemaid. Or maybe my mother turned her off when she found out where we learned the words to “Captain Kidd,” they’re a bit bloodthirsty. Oh Lord, I’ll have to track the poor woman down and make sure she’s all right.
What do you find romantic? Poetry. Music, especially opera. Singing duets with a girl. Venice. Frankly, I avoid romance as a rule. I’m not in the market for a wife.
Turn-ons: Flashy jewelry. Red satin. A good singing voice. Watching Amy act. Freckles. Small breasts with freckles on them.
Turn-offs: I don’t like high-strung women. My friend Thirkell always ends up with these Italian women who smash the brandy glasses when they’re angry. I like a girl who’s comfortable to be around. Amy’s just about perfect—she’s never jealous and she has the patience of a saint.
Do you think girls find you attractive? I’ve been told I have a certain charm. I don’t think it’s my dashing good looks, though—I’m nothing out of the common way. I’m just easygoing, and I like to talk to people. And I’ve perfected the art of the suggestive grin.
Are you in love right now? No. I’m quite fond of Amy, but that’s as far as it goes.

Percy Garrett

Percy is Nev’s best friend, and the son of his father’s steward. I thought of him while reading Pride and Prejudice. I was fascinated by the idea of Wickham and Mr. Darcy growing up together, and wondered how it would have turned out if they’d actually liked each other. It’s a bit hard for Percy to move in the same social circles as Nev because his income is so much smaller, but he makes up the difference by playing cards for money. He’s a geek too underneath it all (and not very far underneath).

Your age: 23
Your height: 6’1″
The color of your eyes: Dark brown.
The color of your hair: Dark brown.

Who was the last person…?
…That you laughed at? Thirkell. Or no, a moment ago we all laughed at that woman selling the improving moral pamphlet with the extremely suggestive title. No, wait, it was Thirkell after all, because then he said the woman had a nice smile, nevertheless, and if she asked him to, he’d—well, I shouldn’t repeat his remark in mixed company, but Nev and I were in stitches.
To disappoint you? Dick Pelham, last night. I was certain I could win forty pounds off him at piquet, but he became insensible from drink after only twelve guineas.
To proposition you? A whore outside Covent Garden. But I couldn’t afford to spend money on female companionship even if I weren’t hopelessly petit bourgeois about the whole thing (my father would turn over in his grave if I slaked my lusts on some poor girl in that way, as he would put it. And I can’t help minding, though I move in more broad-minded circles these days and certainly don’t judge Nev or Thirkell for feeling differently).
To make you cry? I went to a school production of Antigone last week. It was put on in a drafty old hall, and most of the company physically pained me with their pronunciation of the Greek, but the boy who played Creon would have drawn tears from a diamond. It was a good thing Nev and Thirkell refused to accompany me (the Philistines), because I bawled like an infant.
…To write you a letter? My mother.
…That you wrote a letter to? Also my mother.

Lord Thirkell

Thirkell is the third member of Nev and Percy’s group, and I honestly don’t know his first name or family name. At first glance he seems like the boring member of the trio, the one you’re not quite sure what the other ones have in common with him, but he’s actually quite sharp. He just has a certain puppyish quality that leads people to underestimate him. There’s no one more dependable in a tight spot, either. And I hope any of that comes through in the book, because I love him even though he gets very little screentime.

Your age: 24
Your height:
The color of your eyes:
The color of your hair:
Light brown.

Who was the last person…?
…That turned you on? Don’t tell Nev, d’you hear? But holy hell, last night we were all three sheets to the wind, and Amy tipped back the last shot of brandy in the bottle and swallowed, and her throat and breasts were lit by the candles—well, a fellow can’t help looking, can he?
To brighten up your day? Last week I was feeling a bit blue-devilled after Francesca threw a vase at my head and told me never to come back, so Nev and Percy took me for ices at Gunter’s and then out to our favorite coffee house for dinner, and then we gatecrashed Almack’s after the doors were closed. Nev picked the locks on one of the French doors. We even spiked the tea before getting thrown out. Cheered me right up.
That you thought about? Well, I was just thinking about Mr. Coleridge and Mr. Wordsworth, and whether it’s better, as a poet, to lend an everyday feeling to phantasies, or to give a fresh magic to the everyday. Don’t give me that look! The moment before I was imagining tumbling the shopgirl in the bakery on the corner, if you like that answer better. She has breasts like sweet rolls and she always smiles when she gives me my change.
You went to the theater with? Nev and Percy, of course.
…You saw? My valet, bringing me the mail.

Amy Wray

Amy is a talented actress as well as Nev’s mistress. She grew up very poor—her mother and Penelope’s mother were friends as children. Amy has a strong work ethic, and puts thought and effort both into her acting and into being a charming companion and sex partner for Nev. She’s small and slender and has a tendency to freckle, like Penelope—Nev has a type.

When was the last time you…?
Smiled? I don’t know. I’m afraid I smile a good deal.
Laughed? At breakfast this morning Nev tried to juggle the rolls and dropped them all under the table, and then moped because he’d wanted a roll most particularly!
Cried? Oh, who knows? Sometimes I’m a dreadful watering pot, and it’s stupid of me. Let’s not talk about it.
Danced? Oh, goodness, it must have been last month at the party after the opening of Twelfth Night. I was tempted to go straight home and sleep, but the opening of a play always puts Nev in a lively mood, and I do love dancing with him.
Were sarcastic? I try to save my sarcasm for dinner with my friends, or for the company at the theater. Nev and his friends find a sly remark now and then charming, but I wouldn’t want them to start thinking I’m one of those awful women who can never be happy or gracious about anything.
Kissed someone? Nev kissed me good-bye on the front steps this morning for several minutes. We scandalized the street sweeper, but I think that’s half the fun for Nev and he really is a splendid kisser.

Louisa Ambrey

Louisa is Nev’s little sister. She can be a brat, but I like her a lot. She enjoys pirates, adventure stories, radical politics, and ridiculously extravagant bonnets.

Your age: 17
Your height: 5’6″
The color of your eyes: Blue.
The color of your hair: Chestnut.

Do you…?
…Take snuff? No. Ugh. You realize I’m a young lady, don’t you?
Smoke? Once Nev let me smoke one of his cheroots. I wanted to be daring and sophisticated and enjoy it, but instead I coughed so much Nev took it away again. I didn’t blame him; if our mother had come in she would certainly have blamed the whole thing on Percy, just because his family isn’t rich. She is so unfair.
Drink? Not in quantity. Mama would have a fit if I were to be publicly inebriated, even though it’s frequently tempting to drown my sorrows when she is nagging at me about how to be proper and ladylike and attract a gentleman. Since I don’t actually have any difficulty attracting gentlemen (the size of my bosom doesn’t hurt), I don’t know why she won’t leave me the hell—that is, why she won’t leave me alone.
Read the newspaper? Of course. The country is in a shocking state, and I can’t abide people who cocoon themselves in ignorance and hope the trouble will simply go away on its own like a case of the sniffles. I read the Times, of course, because it’s Mama’s paper, but I’ve also managed to get one of the footmen to sell me his copy of Mr. Cobbett’s Political Register when he’s finished reading it. In one way or another I get my hands on several of the radical newspapers.
Talk to strangers? If only. Sometimes Mama is little better than a gaoler, I vow. Luckily I already know a great number of people whom I like talking to.
Take walks in the rain? Only if it’s very warm out. That doesn’t happen much in England. But I remember when I was very young, Papa sometimes took me for walks in the rain. He would put me on his shoulders and set the umbrella so it curved over my head and shoulders like wings. I loved it above all things.
Drive? Have you met my mother? She thinks it’s scandalous for a young lady to drive.
Like to drive fast? I like it when other people drive fast while I am in the carriage, does that count?

Lady Bedlow

Nev’s mother. She loves her children very much but she can be kind of clueless and self-involved, and also a bit of a snob. Her own experience with a spendthrift husband has left her determined to marry Louisa off to a steady gentleman with a large income.

Your age: A lady never tells.
Your height: 5’2″
The color of your eyes:
The color of your hair:

When was the last time you…?
…Talked to an enemy? An enemy? I hope I have none of those. I did speak with Bedlow’s brother-in-law Hareton a few days ago, and he had the gall to ask if I’d dyed my hair. He’s jealous, poor soul; his own has gone quite gray.
…Helped someone? I gave my maid three old gowns yesterday. I suppose I should have had them made over as Bedlow has begun to nag about bills, but someone would certainly have remarked upon it—Lady Hareton, no doubt—and I couldn’t bear the humiliation.
…Sang? Last Sunday, in church. Louisa tried to get me to join in her and Nev’s pirate ballads when he came for dinner on Tuesday, but really, I’m a grown woman and, I should like to think, possessed of some small measure of dignity.

Sir Jasper Montagu

Nev’s next-door neighbor in the country. He does most of the work of running the district, since Nev’s father wasn’t much for administration. He spends a lot of effort trying to maintain the social order and squelch potential uprisings among the laborers—he fears a revolution like the one in France. A decisive, efficient man with a lot of strong opinions. He does not like parvenus.

Your age: 38.
Your height: 5’11”
The color of your eyes:
The color of your hair:
Dark brown.

When was the last time you…?
…Went to a concert? I went to Sheridan’s Duenna last night. The music was charming but the play was stupid. I didn’t pay much attention to either, however, as my object in going was to talk to Lord Delmsley about how best to put down the radical demonstrations in the north.
…Said “I love you”? When my wife was alive, probably. That sort of thing keeps women happy. And when I finally say it to Lady Louisa Ambrey, it will have the added virtue of being true. The end of her first season seems an appropriate time to ask Bedlow for permission to pay my addresses, doesn’t it?
…Bought something? I sent word to my head gamekeeper to purchase a few new man-traps for my woods this morning.

Penelope Brown

Our heroine. Her parents were poor people who worked their way up to owning their own brewery and are now extremely rich—rich enough to send their daughter to a fancy finishing school where she didn’t fit in at all. Penelope’s spent a lot of her life trying desperately not to be vulgar. Ladylike and sensible at all times, that’s her motto. And she’s a bit sick of it even though she’d never admit it in a million years.

Your age: 19
Your height: 5’4″
The color of your eyes: Brown.
The color of your hair: Dark brown.

Have you ever…?
Been out of the country? No.
Been in love? I’m not sure I believe there’s any such thing. It mostly seems an excuse for people to make fools of themselves and then demand sympathy for it.
Been drunk? Certainly not.
Ran away from home? No. I tried to run away from school once. Thankfully I failed. It was a stupid thing to do.
Been bullied? I suppose you could call it that, but I think it would overstate the case. A lot of the girls at school didn’t like me, that’s all.
Stayed up all night? Not purposely. I suppose there have been nights when I was too anxious to sleep; I could be a morbidly sensitive child. I’m grateful to have outgrown all that.
Slept all day? No. What a waste of time that would be!
Met a famous person? One of my school friends offered to introduce me to Lord Wellington once at a ball, but I’d have had nothing to say to him that he hasn’t heard a thousand times all over England, so I declined.
Fainted? No. Ugh, these questions are making me look awfully dull and pitiful. Is that by design? Or were you hoping I would reveal myself to lead a double life? That the third week of every month I ran off to Vienna, drank myself into a stupor, danced the night away with poets and royalty, and swooned with great regularity? If that’s the case, I’m sorry to disappoint.

…Piece of jewelry? I don’t wear much jewelry. Mama gave me a great bracelet of cabochon sapphires for my birthday last year. The stones were like serene pools of blue light; I hadn’t the heart to take it back to the jeweler’s. I asked her to keep it and let me pick out something else for myself. My new gift is a gold locket with a black pearl set into it, expensive enough to satisfy Mama but small and tasteful enough that I can wear it without worrying what people will say. I’m very fond of it, and it goes with almost any dress.
…Article of clothing? I have a new and shameful infatuation with an orange silk evening gown. The color is brighter than I’m used to, but I plan to wear it to Lady Ambersleigh’s ball next week.
…Place to shop? I suppose you mean, “shop for clothes,” but my favorite place to shop is really the sheet music shop on Cork Street. All the latest compositions from the Continent, and a huge crate of old broadsides for a penny each.

Mr. and Mrs. Brown

Penelope’s parents. Mr. Brown is a Nonconformist (meaning he’s a Protestant who’s not a member of the Church of England—it often connotes being a bit more religious than average since Anglican is the default and a lot of the popular small denominations at this time were stricter), loves running his business, and has a fondness for puns. Mrs. Brown loves poetry and art and dreams of traveling the world. They’re both comfy, nice people and have a strong marriage. Penelope is close to them even though she sometimes finds them horribly embarrassing. I gave the questions to Mrs. Brown.

When was the last time you…?
…Read your favorite book? It’s tricky to choose just one, isn’t it? I wept over Clarissa just yesterday, and Penny laughed at my excess of sensibility and gave me her handkerchief.
…Wrote a letter? Lord, I hardly ever write letters now. Most of my friends are in town, and I see them so often that the most I need send is a note asking someone to tea. I used to write to Penny at school several times a week, but now that she’s home—oh, wait, I do know. I wrote a letter to my brother a few months ago. He’s a sailor and never learned to read, but his wife’s cousin can, so I send them money and he pays the cousin to write me every so often. We’ve never been all that close; he went to sea before Mum had me. But still, he’s family, and he always remembers Penny’s birthday.
…Were drunk? Oh, not for ages. Mr. Brown hates drunkenness, though he wasn’t so stuffy when we was younger. He bought the brewery, after all. I used to work for him, you know, when it was just the two kettles and two tanks, and sometimes we’d get tipsy sampling the beer before they put it in kegs. The first time he kissed me, he tasted like Plain Brown Bitter.

Edward Macaulay

Penelope is informally engaged to her best friend, Edward Macaulay. Their shared interests include but are not limited to: 1) accounting (they are bookkeeping geeks together, basically) and 2) speaking seriously on serious subjects. Mr. and Mrs. Brown don’t approve of the match for various reasons, including but not limited to: 1) Edward used to work at Brown Jug Breweries, but he left to work for a northern industrialist, which is much lower status than brewing, 2) he once got drunk and embarrassed himself at a Brown Jug Christmas party, 3) he’s Catholic, and 4) they think that Penelope is not really in love with him.

Your age: 24
Your height: Six feet.
The color of your eyes: Hazel.
The color of your hair: Dark blond.

Do you believe in…?
Miracles? I’m a good Catholic. I believe in the Lord’s ability to perform miracles. I do not believe in dei ex machinis.
Magic? No.
Ghosts? I suppose it’s possible that the soul could linger after death, but every account of a haunting that I’ve read sounded as if the witness were utterly devoid of both understanding and sense.
Luck? God helps those who help themselves.
Love at first sight? Well—perhaps. It is true that when I met Penelope I was won over very quickly. But then, Penelope is the most endearing, clever, good-hearted, serious-minded, sensible girl I’ve ever known, so there was nothing wonderful in it.
Witches? Certainly not.
Happy endings? I believe that with hard work and perseverance, any person of good sense ought to be able to find a measure of contentment and even happiness.

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4 thoughts on “The "In for a Penny" cast do memes”

  1. I loved finding out about the characters…. This was funny and informative. Please do it again for some of your other books…

    1. Aw, thanks!! I feel like these email chains aren’t really a thing anymore, I don’t know what the current equivalent would be….those “1 Like=1 Favorite Movie” memes on twitter?

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