I’m so happy to say that I’m not going stag to today’s ball as originally planned! Instead, the fabulous Lauren Willig, author of the Pink Carnation series, has joined me for the evening. Lauren and I have been pre-partying a bit (we might have had a little wager involving champagne and this year’s RITAs)…so it might be best for all involved if we just watch the scene unfold…
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…. Ratafia returned to a more appetizing color. [casts an eye toward Tessa, across the room.]
Lady B: Yes Albert, darling, even pink lobster patties…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….[spears Sarah and Lauren with an icy, knowing glance]
Lauren: Oh, dear.
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, well, I’ve always had a fondness for kilts, myself. 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—
<squawk!> Rutabaga! <squawk!>
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 toward 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.)
Lady B, icily: Miss Willig!
Lauren straightens: Yes, Lady Beaufetheringstone?
Lady B: Why is it that your guests seem unable to keep their events straight?
Lauren: Well, since I couldn’t remember when my books were coming out this fall, it seems only reasonable that they wouldn’t…don’t you think?
Lady B: No. I do not think. Get yourself a social secretary, girl. And that gentleman…[she trails off]
Sarah: Oh my, Lauren. I think Turnip has rendered her speechless.
Lady B raises an eyebrow: I would tread very carefully if I were you, Miss MacLean.
Sarah opens her mouth to say more. Thinks better of it.
Lauren: He means well, Lady B…. Isn’t it just like Turnip to wander unwittingly into Miss Gwen’s book launch? [sotto voce] 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.
Lady B, after a long inspection of Lauren: Fair enough, Miss Willig. Do say more about this Read Pink program. You know, only Tuesday we were Kissing and Tealing…quite scandalous. But for a good cause…I do my best to be philanthropic.
Lauren: 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. Thank you so very much for agreeing to hosting a Pink Ribbon ball today—even if it did get crashed by a rather confused Turnip.
Lady B: Is he always so…bumbling? Someone falls in love with him you say?
Lauren: Believe it or not, yes. It’s a long story. There’s spies; there’s Christmas pudding; there’s Jane Austen. In other words, it’s complicated.
Lady B, lifting her lorgnettes: Hmmm. Must have nice legs.
To salvage Turnip’s wounded feelings (and Lady B’s ball), Lauren is generously giving away a copy of The Mischief of the Mistletoe to one Ballroom Blog commenter! Tell us your best…or worst!…party faux pas in comments!
And thanks to Lauren for attending today’s ball!