Writers on Rogues: Lauren Willig on the Scarlet Pimpernel

The Cover of Lauren's The Garden Intrigue is an outdoor scene, our heroine (in white) is holding a red rose and standing in a rose garden. Behind her, there is a lovely gazebo.I'm so excited for today's edition of Writers on Rogues -- my celebration of rogues in honor of the release (next Tuesday!) of A Rogue By Any Other Name -- because my friend Lauren Willig has written about a rogue I just knew she couldn't resist. As you certainly know, Lauren's Pink Carnation series is an homage to the Scarlet Pimpernel...the books (now numbering nine!) follow a collection of English Spies during the Napoleonic Wars as they trounce the French, save the day and find love in the process. The most recent in the series, The Garden Intrigue, is out this week (I've already got my copy...do you have yours?)! 

So...that said, is it any surprise that when asked to wax poetic on her favorite rogue...she chooses Sir Percy Blakeney, the Scarlet Pimpernel? 

Take it away, Lauren! 

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They seek him here, they seek him there; those Frenchies seek him everywhere….

In the library of a London mansion, a man in an elaborate waistcoat slips through the darkness. Light flickers briefly before subsiding again into darkness. Moments later, the only remnants of his presence are the charred remains of a message among the ashes of the hearth and the faint, elusive scent of a very exclusive sort of snuff. Meanwhile, in the ballroom, a dandy is seen proclaiming a bit of a doggerel verse, punctuating his rhymes with a wave of his quizzing glass.

The Scarlet Pimpernel and Margo, in Black and White, against a tree, looking scandalous.

Yes, it’s my favorite rogue: the Scarlet Pimpernel. Otherwise known as Sir Percy Blakeney. Baronet.

I had other rogues in my past. My very first rogue, when I was just a wee thing, was Robin Hood, as played by Errol Flynn. Talk about style and flair! Dumping a haunch of poached venison on the very table of Prince John, hijacking monastic conveys, pricking Friar Tuck’s pride and filching his lunch—and, of course, seducing Maid Marion in the very castle of his enemy. Swoon! Robin had all the impishness of a good rogue and the tights. We really can’t forget about the tights. From Robin Hood, I graduated to Zorro (anyone else remember that Disney theme song? “The Z that stands for Zorro!”), who also had the crucial rogue components: a puckish sense of humor, a way with a sword, a quick quip, and, behind all the insouciance, a deep and driving sense of honour.

The extra “u” is for extra derring do.

A Black and White shot of the original cinema Scarlet Pimpernel, Leslie Howard, looking every inch the dandyAnd then I found Sir Percy. Sir Percy was the rogue to end all rogues, fop by day, daring spy by night, tweaking the nose of the humorless revolutionary authorities (and, really, can there be anyone more humorless than Robespierre?). He even had the mandatory chorus of all male colleagues, for as we know, no rogue is an island. Rogues need other rogues to provide lead ins for their quips, the occasional rousing “huzzah!” and, of course, sequel fodder. A true rogue knows better than to take himself too seriously—and Sir Percy was willing to masquerade as a a buffoon, to be the butt of London’s jokes, and to hide his intelligence under and excruciatingly awful waistcoat and even worse poetry.

Augustus Whittlesby, the hero of my latest book, The Garden Intrigue, an English spy undercover as a truly awful poet, is a direct tribute to Sir Percy and his wonderful, doggerel verse.

Long may we seek him here, there, and everywhere!

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Now it's your turn, readers! Lauren talked about her earliest rogues...Sir Percy, Zorro & Errol Flynn...who was your earliest rogue? One winner (Internationally!), will receive a copy of Lauren's latest (winner to be chosen on Friday)!