Spoiler-friendly "In for a Penny" discussion post

new In for a Penny coverHi everyone! This is a spoiler-friendly discussion and questions post for In for a Penny. I’d love to hear anything you have to say about the book! And if there’s anything you want to ask me (about the book, about writing the book, about characters in the book, about what happens next, anything really), go for it.

Thank you all for giving what I do meaning—a book isn’t REALLY finished until someone reads it.

“Does she care for olives?”

When I turned in the manuscript of A Lily Among Thorns, my editor at the time (the fabulous Leah Hultenschmidt) commented on a particular scene, “Your men are so good about bringing women exactly what they want to eat in the ballroom.”

“Huh,” I thought, “I guess there are scenes in both my books of the heroes bringing the heroines just what they want to eat at a party.” In In for a Penny, Nev remembers that Penelope hates being messy when she eats (the young ladies at school made fun of her for her low-class table manners), so he cuts up all the food from the buffet into bite-sized pieces for her before giving her the plate.

(This turned out to be a favorite moment for readers, actually—I’ve had people mention it to me more often than probably every other scene combined.)

And in A Lily Among Thorns, Solomon and Serena gate-crash a society party (for Important Intrigue Reasons). Serena has a very scandalous past, and Solomon’s grandfather was an earl but his mother ran off with a poor curate whose brother is actually a tradesman (gasp!), so their arrival doesn’t exactly go unnoticed:

Serena hastily turned her attention to the ballroom. Everyone in the room was watching them. The low murmur of conversation rose to an excited hum. At least Mrs. Elbourn looked pleasantly scandalized instead of horrified. This would make her party the talk of London. Perhaps that would be enough to keep them from being tossed out on their ears.

Solomon’s shoulders slumped. “Shall we try the buffet table? Maybe there are lobster patties.”

Serena felt warm. Was it because of all the eyes on her, or because Solomon had noticed she loved lobster patties when Antoine [the chef at her hotel] made them last week for supper?

“Whatever,” I said to myself. “It’s probably just a coincidence.”

Only now I’m working on my next book (not sold yet so I have no details, sorry!). [ETA: This book was eventually published as Sweet Disorder.] The heroine (a middle-class widow who does her own grocery shopping, so a gift of food makes sense) doesn’t like sweets and no one can seem to remember that! And in the scene I just wrote, after their first (awesome) kiss, the hero really feels he should apologize for taking such shocking liberties, so he brings her a whole ham.

She hasn’t been able to afford a whole ham since last Christmas! (It’s just such a cute image to me, this guy ducking his head apologetically and holding out…a ham wrapped in paper.)

Okay, so maybe it’s not a coincidence. Maybe it’s a thing.

I guess, to me, coming from a Jewish/Polish family, food is more than just food? Food and cooking are family, and love, and friendship. My biggest fear when I have people over is that I won’t have enough or the right kind of food for them and they’ll be hungry. HUNGRY, AT MY HOUSE! THAT WOULD BE TERRIBLE.

Plus…isn’t it nice to have someone pay attention to you? To be so interested in you that they actually remember small details like what you like to eat, or to want to please you so much that they make the effort to find out?

There’s a point in Sense and Sensibility after Willoughby has dumped Marianne when Mrs. Jennings is trying to cheer her up:

Had not Elinor, in the sad countenance of her sister, seen a check to all mirth, she could have been entertained by Mrs. Jennings’s endeavors to cure a disappointment in love, by a variety of sweetmeats and olives, and a good fire.

When I’m heartbroken, that’s exactly what I want!

What little things mean love, to you?

New short story!

An exclusive short story set in the In for a Penny world has just been posted to my website! I may have stupidly put a mild spoiler for the book in the title, so I’m not going to tell you what it is (look, I know I could have changed it, but I like it), but I will tell you that it’s about Percy and Louisa, because Jenni Simmons wanted to see more of them and that’s the idea that clicked with me.

Thanks so much to everyone who entered the contest! You all had awesome ideas and if I had infinite free time I’d write them all. I’ll be doing something similar with A Lily Among Thorns eventually, so you’ll have another chance!

Unlike some other Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent

Eek!  This is my first ever blog post with WordPress.  I’m a little intimidated by all the options, to be honest.  But I love having the blog right on my site, and I LOVE threaded commenting.    Oh threaded commenting how I missed you!  Can someone with more WP experience than me tell me if it e-mails people when someone replies directly to their comment, the way livejournal does?

Those of you who’ve read In for a Penny may remember the Ambreys’ fondness for “The Ballad of Captain Kidd.”  Alert reader Barb (I read the complete works of Dave Barry at a formative age, I am giving in to the instinct to say “alert reader” right now) sent me this awesome video of “Great Big Sea” performing the song:

Isn’t the singer cute?  He kind of reminds me of Christian Kane.  Barb informs me he is going to play Alan-a-Dale in some new version of Robin Hood.  There can never be enough versions of Robin Hood, I believe this in my soul.  Especially if you cast Russell Crowe as Robin Hood.  There had better be tights, is all I’m saying.  And they’re giving Eleanor of Aquitaine a part!  One of my top issues with the Errol Flynn version (I have a number of issues with that movie even though I adore it) is this “Longchamps is regent” stuff.  No!  Richard and John’s MOTHER was regent when Richard was gone, and she was awesome.

I am saddened by the lack of Guy of Guisborne, but no one could ever measure up to Basil Rathbone’s performance anyway.  (I’m kidding…maybe?  Not sure.  I have liked other Sir Guys, but Basil Rathbone was one of my very first celebrity crushes, when I was in middle school.  I still love him.  Did you know Daphne du Maurier had a crush on him when he worked in her father’s theater troupe as a young man?  I wonder how she felt about his periwig in the movie of Frenchman’s Creek.  I felt pretty awful about it.)

And this may actually be my favorite part: Mathew Macfadyen is going to be the Sheriff of Nottingham. I hope they keep to the traditional bumbling characterization, because if they do that will be adorable.

Let’s talk Robin Hood!  Which is your favorite Robin Hood retelling (book or movie)?  Who’s your favorite character?  Do you like tights?  Why the heck does Peter Pan have the exact same outfit in the Disney movie, no, seriously, why?  What do you think of that whole “robbing from the rich and giving to the poor” thing, anyway?

I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful Canadian wilderness at Pemberley.

1. A number of people have been asking me about e-books for In for a Penny. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to figure this one out; the deal is that Dorchester’s e-book program is still a little new and the releases aren’t quite simultaneous yet. But the e-book version is being uploaded to our distributor this week! After that it is up to the individual websites when it’s available for purchase. Some sites are slower than others, but it should be available most places (All Romance, Books on Board, B&N, Sony, Amazon, etc.) at least by the end of the month. Thanks for your patience!

2. I may have mentioned this once or twice, but I’m a huge Kate Beaton fangirl. She was at the Emerald City ComiCon this weekend so I headed over to meet her! There was a pretty long line at her table, which made me both sad (I had to wait in it) and happy (Kate Beaton is successful!). She did a little drawing for everyone, which was incredibly generous of her, and mine is fabulous! I know she likes both Paul Gross and Jane Austen, so I asked for something about Paul Gross making a Jane Austen adaptation.

He’s also one of those artists who likes to write, produce, direct, compose the soundtrack, and star in his own movies, and…sometimes the results are not as great as the stuff where he just acts. (For example, in his curling movie Men With Brooms, the end credits roll over an original song called “Kiss You Till You Weep.” Who thinks that’s romantic? Show of hands?) So the idea of him, say, remaking Pride and Prejudice is hilarious to me. Anyway, here’s what she drew:

A Mountie bowing to a Regency lady.

The scan isn’t great (sorry!), but he’s saying “Excuse me, ma’am, I heard you were looking for a husband. Allow me to assist.” And underneath she wrote “Best movie of all time?” Answer: YES.

3. For Wodehouse fans: What if Bertie Wooster were secretly Batman?

4. I’ve been having great luck with romances recently. I just read Bound by Your Touch, Proof by Seduction, and Something About You, and loved them all. Which is actually partially a lead-in to me reminding you that if you want book recommendations from me, you can follow my reviews at Goodreads! (I say “book recommendations” because that’s what I’m using it for–I have no problem with readers openly critiquing or even mocking books they don’t enjoy, so long as they avoid ad hominem attacks on the author, but as a writer I think it would be kind of unprofessional of me to do it myself. If I don’t like something, I just won’t review it.) I won’t be talking about what I’m reading much on the blog, but I love talking about books, so feel free to friend me and I’ll friend you back!

The Severed Hand of Franklin

1. I’m guest-blogging over at The Season today! I talk about costume drama monster movies I’d like to see (like vampire Crusaders or Lieutenant Hornblower and the Kraken). The person to suggest my favorite costume drama monster movie concept in the comments gets a signed book!

2. I wrote a feature for the Dorchester website. My heroine Penelope from In for a Penny has a habit of making lists (um, you can probably tell from this post that I based that on myself), and three of her lists are up here: one from when she was eleven, entitled “Reasons Why Lucy Hopper is the worst girl in the world,” one set after the end of the book called “Possible Christmas gifts for Nev,” and a list of baby names with annotations from Nev!

I had a lot of fun making them–the font for Penelope is designed to look like Jane Austen’s handwriting, it’s really cool and you can get it here, and the font for Nev is supposed to look like Byron’s handwriting and you can get it here. I sort of love that, because man would Jane Austen and Byron have a TERRIBLE marriage.

3. Yesterday was my official release date! Yay! BUT I have yet to see the books on shelves anywhere. I’ve been checking the B&N websites “find in stores” feature obsessively and it isn’t in stock anywhere yet! I’m assuming this is why it’s listed as a March release, but I want to see my book on the shelf! If anyone sees it, let me know okay? And if you send me a picture, I’ll send you a signed book! (Open to first three people only. I mean not that I expect more than that but you know, it’s important to set boundaries.)

Breaking news!

I know two posts in one day is a bit much (my eventual goal is one a week) but something important has happened! My wonderful editor Leah Hultenschmidt sent me a copy of my book so I could see it while waiting for my author copies!!!!!

Yes, I really did have to use that many exclamation points. And now, pictures! In my excitement I am vaguely reminiscent of a lemur, but hey, I like lemurs.

Book! (Note my awesome lobster sheets.)

The copyright page!

About the Author! That’s me!

Life is good.


In for a Penny is listed on Amazon!!!! I had been checking it obsessively for a while to no avail and had finally given up, figuring it wouldn’t be up until a couple of months before publication. Then last week my friend Paul Pollack (who, by the way, just published a lovely number theory textbook, “Not Always Buried Deep“) IMed to say “Hey, your book’s on Amazon!” There may have been chair-dancing.

Look! It’s my book! Available for pre-order!

I have arrived.


Very exciting news! My editor e-mailed me my cover yesterday!! Look:

Also note the incredibly flattering cover quote by Lauren Willig. I am the luckiest girl in the world.

I am so, so happy with this cover. I have heard a lot of horror stories about covers so I was a bit nervous about what mine would look like, but clearly the Dorchester art department is ACE. While in one small respect the cover doesn’t fit the book (the book takes place in the middle of summer), I think it captures the mood of the book perfectly. I LOVE the way the warm sunset colors contrast with the snow. Plus red and gold has been my favorite color combination since I was about ten years old.

The cover also fits the book in another way that I think must be a coincidence (although I don’t know for certain) but that means a lot to me personally. There’s a scene early in the book where my impoverished hero is having dinner with Penelope and her nouveau riche parents, trying to win them over so they’ll give their consent to the marriage.

It was as though he had the Midas touch. He went straight to her mother’s wall of sentimental engravings and old book illustrations in gilt frames, and pointed to a garishly-colored old engraving of Venice that her mother loved. “It’s the Bridge of Sighs! Have you been to Venice, Miss Brown?”

“No,” Penelope said. “I have never been out of England.”

Mrs. Brown smiled. “Oh, those old pictures are all mine. Penny is much too elegant for such trifles! I hope very much to go to Venice with Mr. Brown someday.”

Penelope, poor girl, is very concerned with appearing to have “elegant taste” at all times, since her parents sent her to boarding school with a lot of gently-bred girls and they all made fun of her for being a vulgar parvenue. I’m not entirely sure what type of wall-hangings she would prefer, but I’m guessing distantly-spaced original works in sober colors and plain frames, maybe contemporary landscapes or portraits. Gilt would NOT be involved. (Don’t worry, she mostly gets over herself by the end of the book!)

I, on the other hand, think Mrs. Brown’s wall sounds pretty, and it’s an exaggerated version of something from my own life. On the wall by my parents’ bed, there was a few feet between the window and the dresser where my mom had hung six or seven small romantic prints–a Hudson River School painting of the Amazon, a Bouguereau mother and child she got as a gift when I was born, a commemorative print my grandmother bought at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, a sheet music cover my father bought her as a gift, and so on.

My mom died a few months after I wrote that scene (and long before I finished the book), but she was the audience I imagined while I was writing anyway. She read Pride and Prejudice aloud to me when I was nine, introduced me to Regency romances when I was twelve, and read my first manuscript when I was seventeen and told me it was good (in retrospect, it might have been more accurate to say it had potential).

The framed picture on the cover of In for a Penny would have fit right in on her wall, and that makes me very happy.