Lauren Willig, one of my favorite historical romance novelists has just released The Mischief of the Mistletoe, her seventh novel in The Pink Carnation series. Set in Regency-era Bath she has elevated Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh, one of her very popular comedic characters from the series, and given him his own spy adventure and a romance. One of the supporting characters is our very own Jane Austen and the storyline parallels her unfinished novel The Watsons. It is rollicking great romantic adventure and I recommend The Mischief of the Mistletoe highly.
Please join me in welcoming Lauren Willig today to chat with us about her new novel and its Jane Austen connections.
LAN: Welcome Lauren. Many of your male characters in the Pink Carnation series are iconic romantic heroes, rivaling Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy or Captain Wentworth in honor, bravery and integrity. Only one is a lovable bumbler – Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh. He is endearingly flawed, and because I dearly love to laugh, one of my favorite characters. Turnip is a very unusual name. Can you share his back-story and why you decided to spotlight this un-conventional hero in The Mischief of the Mistletoe?
LJW: I hadn’t intended to write a book about Turnip. I threw him in there purely for comic relief. Ever notice how any group of guys seems to contain the one slightly clueless friend who acts as a foil for the rest of them? (Extra points if that guy is named Bertie, Bunty or Gussy Finknottle.) Turnip was that guy. But as the series continued, emails started pouring in, asking when Turnip was going to get some lovin’. And I began to wonder if there might not be more to my lovable vegetable than I had previously imagined.
There was a school of thought that posited that Turnip was another Percy Blakeney, hiding a cunning intelligence beneath a foppish façade. I didn’t want to go that route, partly because Baroness Orczy already had, and partly because it seemed too easy. I wanted to make Turnip heroic despite his lack of endowment in the brainbox. The more I explored Turnip’s character the clearer it became that he really did have one thing going for him, hidden beneath those gaudy waistcoats: an enormous heart.
Side note: several people have asked me how Turnip came to be called Turnip. As followers of the series know, his real name is Reginald and his doting (ahem) sister calls him “Reggie”. At least, she does when she wants something from him. When I wrote the early books in the series, I was on the tail end of a massive Blackadder obsession. As anyone who has watched Blackadder knows, just as sheep are inherently amusing animals, turnips are inherently amusing vegetables. When I wanted a silly name for a character, what better than the sheep of the vegetable kingdom? Continue reading