Today I welcome my friend Cara Elliot to The Ballroom. Cara’s latest book, available now, is a terrific addition to her Lords of Midnight series. Determined to stop her wayward brother from squandering their dwindling fortune, Lady Eliza Brentford decides to follow him to his favorite den of depravity. There, among the candlelight and raucous revelry, she encounters her brother’s role model in debauchery ….
Lady B: Miss Neville! Who is the gentleman with the excellent figure and smoldering green eyes? He looks like the kind of man one of my Authoresses would create but I checked my diary and I’m not expecting anybody new until next month when Miss Ashe’s new hero -
Miranda: – and heroine -
Lady B: – and heroine (if you insist) arrive. I’d like to state for the record that all my Authoresses do not appear to have been working as hard as Miss Ashe.
<squawk> here comes the bride <squawk>
Lady B: Thank you, Albert, for reminding me. Miss Willig and Miss Noble are both about to enter the state of matrimony and therefore have little time to arrange the affairs of others. The rest of you have no excuse. Get your pens out and keep me entertained.
Miranda: Sorry, Lady B. I’ll pass the word along. But meanwhile I’d like to present a Guest Authoress, Miss Cara Elliott, whose latest book is titled Too Tempting to Resist.
Lady B: Welcome, Miss Elliott. Are you responsible for that green-eyed creature? He looks disreputable and quite possibly tempting.
Cara: Actually, I can’t claim complete credit. I found him growing wild on a Welsh moor, but he does clean up rather nicely, doesn’t he?
<squawk> He’s wearing a fig leaf <squawk>
Cara: That is an ivy leaf dangling from his watch chain, which in the secret language of flowers signifies “friendship.” For you see, over the course of writing the book, Gryff —this is, Lord Haddan—and I have become bosom bows—
<squawk> Your bosom is far too close to his muscled shoulder. <squawk>
Cara: inching back a step and slanting a look at Miranda Is the parrot always so …outspoken?
Miranda: Lady B is waiting to be introduced to our gentleman guest, Cara.
Cara: after darting a barbed scowl at Albert Yes, but of course. Lady B, allow me to present Gryffin Dwight, the Marquess of Haddan, who counts among his many extraordinary talents an expertise in landscape design. Not to mention his skills in . . . a secret language.
Lady B: He appears to be a man of gifts. The gifts of dark locks, broad shoulders, and (lowers her eyes) a good pair of legs. Have him come closer.
Miranda: Gryff is delicious but I invited him, and his creator, here for a specific reason. I hear Lord B is thinking about making some Improvements at your country place.
Lady B: I leave all that to Lord B since I’m not terribly interested in rural life. I find it dirty, odiferous, and dull. However, I would be happy to discuss anything with Lord Haddan, though on the whole I prefer to conduct my conversations in English. I leave foreign languages to Albert.
Gryff: Flowers are not odiferous and dull, Lady B, so allow me to wax poetic—
Cara: Perhaps I should first finish giving Lady B a picture of your illustrious accomplishments.
Gryff: If you insist. Though you do know I prefer to keep my passion a secret from all but my closest friends.
Cara: Gryff has a very discerning eye and sensitive soul, despite his reputation for other less cerebral activities.
Miranda: Like the use of Regency era sex toys – er – marital aids …
Cara: Not many people know that he writes very lyrical essays on landscape design.
Gryff: I am a great admirer of Lancelot Brown, who is considered England’s greatest gardener . . .
Miranda: (giving Cara a little nudge) And I am a great admirer of a certain other Englishman.
Cara: Ha! He is half Welsh. If you doubt me, you can take a look at the large dragon tattooed near his—
Lady B: Miss Neville! Miss Elliott! Manners! I am listening to Lord Haddan. We can look at his dragon later.
Gryff: Thank you, milady. As I was saying, Brown—who earned the moniker “Capability” for often telling clients that their estates had great “capability” for landscape improvement—is quite a fascinating man. He made a name for himself by breaking with tradition and creating a new “natural” approach to designing gardens and grounds, as opposed to the formal layouts of the past.
Lady B: (looking bored) You don’t say?
Gryff: Indeed, He called them “grammatical” landscapes, which should appeal to the writers here. His style is marked by long stretches of rolling grasslands, with bushes, trees and lakes, artfully placed to create visual texture and interest. Many of the most famous estates in Britain feature his garden designs, including Blenheim Palace—
<squawk> Get on with it, Green-Eyes <squawk>
Cara: Right, start talking about the secret language of flowers.
Lady B: Flowers? I adore receiving flowers.
Gryff: But of course. What lady doesn’t appreciate their seductive colors and perfumes? However, even more alluring is what each particular bloom is saying. You see, every flower has a special meaning, so a beautiful bouquet also conveys a very intimate message.
Lady B: Pray, do go on.
Gryff: You probably know that a single red rose signifies ‘true love’ but did you know that 15 red roses mean an apology, and 108 mean a proposal of marriage?
Lady B: That’s very romantic. And reassuring to know a man can count to over a hundred before one agrees to marry him.
Gryff: Pink roses mean ‘perfect happiness,’ and pale peach ones mean ‘modesty.’ In addition, there are many interesting meanings represented by other blooms. For example, red poppies symbolize ‘pleasure,’ white daisies mean ‘innocence,’ pink camellias say ‘I’m longing for you,’ and hydrangeas mean ‘thank you for understanding.’
Lady B: So, Lord Haddan, if you were to design a bouquet for me, which flowers would you include?
Gryff: (without hesitation) I would start with orange roses, which mean ‘fascination.’ Then I would add some sprigs of sage, which convey ‘esteem,’ peach blossoms, which mean ‘I am your captive.’” (Taps his chin) “And then, I might sneak in a white violet, which says ‘Let’s take a chance on happiness.’
Lady B: Naughty man. (to Miranda) You may invite him back any time. As for Miss Elliott . . .
Thank you, Cara, for joining us today and introducing us to a fascinating subject and a yummy hero – he can send me a bouquet any time. Cara has kindly offered to give a copy of Too Tempting to Resist to one commenter (US addresses only.) Since it’s May, many of us are busy in our gardens, patios, or window boxes. I’ve just planted some new Sweet Williams, phlox, and asters. What’s blooming in your garden? What are your favorite flowers? With a bit of luck, Gryff (via Cara) will tell you what they mean.