Jilly: Birthday bon-bons

Happy Birthday to us, and cheers! to all our friends here on the blog: Eight Ladies Writing celebrated its fourth birthday yesterday, 2 September. Where did the time go?

I thought about selecting my favorite posts of the last four years, but it was just too hard to choose. If you have the time, and you are so inclined, check out our archive. We have a bank of almost 1,400 posts for you to browse and enjoy.

Instead, I decided to hold a traditional birthday celebration today, with champagne, cake, candles, ice cream, and gifts. That is, I picked my favorite fictional moments featuring each of those things 😉 .

If you’d like to join the party by suggesting other festive scenes or books, I’d love that!

Here are my choices:

Without question, my favorite champagne-related story is Lord Lovedon’s Duel, a funny, feel-good short story by Loretta Chase. The trouble starts at the heroine’s sister’s wedding, where an excess of champagne leads the eponymous hero to amuse his drunken friends by making cruel and untrue suggestions about the royal groom’s reasons for marrying a wealthy commoner. Unfortunately he is overheard by the bride and her sister, Chloe, the heroine. Chloe is incensed on her sister’s behalf. She’s also more than a little tipsy, so she confronts Lord Lovedon in front of his idiot friends, slaps his face with her glove, dashes a glass of champagne in his face, and challenges him to a duel. Lovedon’s response is as kind and funny as his original remarks were hurtful. There’s a glorious epistolary exchange, culminating in pistols at dusk in Battersea. This story is a clever, perfectly formed hit of happy. I wish I could write something half as good. I love everything about it.

There’s a spectacular cake-fest in Tessa Dare’s Say Yes To the Marquess. The heroine, Clio, has been waiting eight years for her fiancé to come home and set the date. She decides enough is enough. She inherits a castle (as you do), so she resolves to break her engagement and start a brewery instead. Rafe, the Marquess’s prize-fighter brother, sets out to change her mind by planning the wedding for her—flowers, dresses, cake and all. Guess which guy she marries? It’s a little disturbing that I think the cake extravaganza is the highlight of the book, but the descriptions made my mouth water. Do not read if you are hungry or on a diet. The whole story is a frothy, sweet meringue of delightfully enjoyable silliness.

And for more cake-related fictional goodness, there’s the Krispy Kreme doughnut wedding cake in Jenny Crusie’s Bet Me.

There’s the barest whisper of romance in Terry Pratchett’s Feet of Clay–a fantasy, comedy, murder mystery starring my favorite fictional City Guard, Commander Sam Vimes. There are sharp social observations and excellent jokes; aristocrats, artisans, dwarves, werewolves, vampires, golems, and Mr Arthur Carry, a socially ambitious candlemaker with his very own newly-designed coat of arms. If you read Pratchett, you’ll probably know the book. If you don’t, you should try him, and this book is a great place to start.

Ice Cream
We Ladies spent much of our first few months on the introductory course of the McDaniel College romance writing program arguing about Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ football romance Heaven, Texas. We picked the book apart so assiduously that I haven’t read it since, but when I thought ice cream, it was the obvious choice. One of the early turning points of the romance arc between recently retired hotshot quarterback Bobby Tom and late-blooming wallflower Gracie is an argument that becomes an ice-cream fight that turns unexpectedly sexual. Whoo!

My first choice for a great fictional gift was a no-brainer: as soon as I say Jenny Crusie, the other Ladies will know exactly what I’m talking about. In Agnes and the Hitman, Jenny’s collaboration with Bob Mayer, the hero (Shane, the hitman) buys Agnes, the heroine, an airconditioning unit. It’s not pretty or romantic, but it is exactly what she needs, and he buys and installs it with the minimum of fuss. It shows that he’s thinking of her, that he understands her, that he’s the perfect man for her. Best gift ever.

Likewise, in Loretta Chase’s The Last Hellion, the hero, Ainswood, is titled, rich, handsome, dissolute, and a whole lot smarter than he lets on. After a ferocious battle of wills he finally persuades the redoubtable Lydia Grenville, journalist, novelist, and social crusader, to marry him. Instead of jewels and dresses, he sneaks into town and buys her an armful of gifts—a portable writing desk, pens, paper, ink. Again, the hero’s choices show that he understands and admires the heroine for who she is and send a very clear signal that he does not expect her to compromise as a consequence of their marriage. I love Ainswood. I love The Last Hellion, maybe even more than Lord of Scoundrels.

Do you have any bon-bons to add to my decadent birthday selection? Maybe a great scene with a delicious box of chocolates, or balloons, or fireworks?

11 thoughts on “Jilly: Birthday bon-bons

  1. (-: Thanks for starting the celebrations, Jilly! I would like to add a little frosting to the cake. During these four years, Jeanne Estridge won the 2015 Golden Heart Award in the Paranormal Romance category. And, you, Jilly Wood, took first place in the 2017 Daphne du Maurier Award (Unpublished Division), Paranormal (Paranormal/Time Travel/Futuristic) Romantic Mystery/Suspense category!

    I’m an unabashed Bujold fan, so since the celebration is cyber, I’m going to bring a few gallons of maple mead ambrosia, made by Ma Kosti herself. As they say, the perfect food that lets you get smashed at the same time!

    And I’d have a go at Jennifer Crusie’s Krispy Kreme tower, but you beat me to it, LOL.

    (Don’t open the Eight Ladies’ Canteen fridge too quickly — someone has stuffed it with a Nanny Ogg pink wobbly dessert. I got the shock of my life when it started sliding out of the door, but I caught it before it hit the floor.)

    • Ooh, nice frosting, Michaeline, thanks! I absolutely love the idea of maple mead ambrosia. A quick search around t’internet reveals that maple mead is actually a Thing. Who knew? Mmmmm.

      Oh–and somebody had better put an ‘adults only’ sign on the fridge if there’s a Nanny Ogg pink wobbly dessert in there 😉

        • Good guess, but no, it’s Terry Pratchett. He has several books starring three witches, making hay with the archetypical crone-mother-maiden setup. Granny Weatherwax is the powerful, cranky crone. Magrat is the put-upon, over-emotional special snowflake maiden. And Nanny Ogg is the adventurous, smutty, earthy, undisputed matriarch of a large and colorful brood of Oggs. She likes a drink, and she knows all the words to the classic song “A Wizard’s Staff Has a Knob on the End.” Nanny would have one of her many hapless daughters-in-law make the pudding, but for sure it would be pink and wobbly.

          Nanny and Granny make an unstoppable combination. if you’ve never read Pratchett’s witches, you’re missing a treat. Wyrd Sisters is a great place to start, also featuring tons of spoof Shakespeare.

        • Nanny Ogg is such a lovely Wife of Bath without the apologies sort of character. IIRC, the pink wobbly dessert is modeled after the Standing Stones where people hold fertility rites each year (-:. It’s a “humourous dessert”. She’s everything Jilly says, plus, I think it’s important to know that she also knows all the words to the song, “The Hedgehog Can Never Be Buggered”.

          I’m more of a Granny Weatherwax. Well, actually, I’m more of a Magrat, the third witch in the original trio — wet, naive and full of theories. But I have a great deal of respect for Nanny Ogg.

          I second the recommendation to start with Wyrd Sisters. Pratchett is basically something you can read stand-alone. And then you can go back and read the rest (-:. There are several books in this witch category, and I think Granny Weatherwax first shows up in Equal Rites, the third in the Discworld series.

  2. I have to get going on the Terry Pratchett oeuvre. I’ve been collecting various of his books, planning to read them in order. But I need to get more organized about it. These sound fantastic. Plus, I love the pink wobbly dessert!

    • Don’t wait–dive in! The Discworld is sprawling and there are clusters of stories so reading them all in order may not be the best plan. Plus (YMMV) I think the first three (?) books were a warm-up. They’re not bad, but after that he gets a lot better. Maybe pick a grouping like the witches or the City Watch and read those in order.

      For your further edification, I found this great chart on io9:
      (and there are another 166 comments if you’re really curious!)

        • That chart is very fun for Pratchett fans, but it works. In particular it separates the Rincewind/wizard books (not my faves), the witches and the guards. So if you started with Wyrd Sisters, it would tell you that Witches Abroad is next in that little cluster of books. It helps a little to read the clusters in order, but honestly, it’s not a big deal if you hop around. The world moves on a little, but it’s not like you have to worry about spoilers or anything. And (like Heyer, which we often debate here), everyone has their own faves. Hence the 166 comments 😉 .

    • I was giggling from the first Discworld book I picked up — I remember riding the train home from Sapporo, and trying to smother my laughter so I wouldn’t bother the other passengers. I think a lot of people find the first two a little tedious. IDK. I think they are great, and then the books just get better and better and better.

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