In each of my books, there is always one scene or passage that pops out for me, that makes me feel good about my writing and the book I’m in the process of producing. For The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, it was the mad mob scene in Richard’s Paris drawing room as his entire family unexpectedly descended on him. In The Masque of the Black Tulip… well, I had a few in The Masque of the Black Tulip, so that one is harder.

In The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, my personal favorite passage is quite definitely the one posted below. (There are some potential spoilers there, so I’ve stuck it below the fold for those who haven’t quite finished the book yet).

Which leads us to today’s question:

Which is your favorite scene or passage in The Seduction of the Crimson Rose? Why?

This is my favorite Crimson passage:
(Chapter 18, pp 237-8 paperback, pp 210-212 hardcover)

Her voice was soft, nostalgic, deliberately drawing him back to shared memories, a shared past. He could see their once upon a times reflected in the slick surface of her china blue eyes, like a rococo painter’s fantasy of man and maid.

Everything had been pastel in those halcyon days: the soft shades of her clothes, sashed at the waist and topped with the filmy fichus demanded by sentimental fashion; the long, ash blonde curls tumbling clear to the great bow at the back of her dress; the muted straw of the great, sweeping hats that crowned her curls, shading her expression and masking her eyes. There had been boat rides, with servants to do the rowing; rural picnics, properly supplied with linen and silver; and long strolls in a conservatory where constantly burning stoves and a regiment of gardeners maintained a wilderness of flowers in eternal and artificial summer.

Like all illusions, it had been a very pretty one. Until it crumbled. Afterwards… no, what followed hadn’t been pretty. Some of it, he had brought down upon himself, deliberately seeking the low, the dark, the debauched. The Hellfire Club, the stews of St. Giles, anything that would serve to obliterate the cloyingly sweet scent of false flowers from his memory. He wanted the noisome, the foul, the gritty, those seamy subterranean swamps of humanity too ripe to be anything but real.
Some of it had found him, and been almost more than he had bargained for, for all his vaunted sophistication. France. Teresa. Compared to France, the creative perversions of his friends in the Hellfire Club had been nothing but a tawdry pastime, the petty transgressions of bored boys. Sophistication, pitted against real evil, was about as much protection as a fine coating of gold leaf against a hurricane. France had toughened him, hardened him. It wasn’t even the mob, crying with mad joy as the heads of their former masters tumbled into the straw. No, that was a good little malice, comprehensible in its own way. It was the Talleyrands, the Teresas, the men who coolly presided over the demise of civilization with an eye to nothing but what they themselves could glean from it, condemning former friends and lovers with no more ear to their cries than a butcher slitting the throat of a bleating sheep. If he had had any belief left in the innate goodness of human nature, it had bled out in France, into the straw beneath the guillotine, among the linens he shared with his lover, his accomplice, his eminence grise.

“I’ve changed more than you think,” Vaughn said flatly.

Does this passage speak to you as it does to me? Or are there other moments you found more meaningful?

14 Comments

  1. Erica on January 20, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    I don’t think I can truthfully narrow it down to once scene, but I can to two. I loved the part where Vaughn first seeks Mary out at Jeff’s and attempts to get her to indulge in a little spy work. My other favorite is the second “half” of that scene when Mary goes back and barters with him.

    Those were my two favorite scenes because the interaction between Vaughn and Mary set up a character relationship that was unpredictable, witty, and mysterious. I also enjoyed it because it showed Mary’s forceful nature. If she had to be forced to make her own way, she was going to do on her terms and get something out of it. The scenes really set an unpredictable suspenseful feeling for the rest of the plot.

  2. Elissa on January 20, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Honestly, my favorite scene out of the whole book is the kiss between Colin and Eloise in the blue hallway with little lighting and radiator. With Eloise trying to stay up right and her contact getting stuck, and then them talking about beige being exciting. I mean it’s just a perfect little scene.

    Plus it reminded me of all those great first kisses where you get all those butterflies and don’t really know what you’re doing or saying. Its the kind of kiss you think about for the rest of the night. And for it to be in the most unromantic silly spot just makes it all the more realistic.

  3. Jessica on January 20, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Many times I have a favorite scene in a book I read again and again. I guess this this time it would be when Mary goes to Vaughn’s house. Dissheveled (sp?) Vaughn is devestating. But, after rereading this scene, I can see why you would like it so much. This scene really clues us in on what has shaped and changed Vaughn. You really get to see that at one time he was less cynical and that Anne’s betrayal sent him down the desolute road that led him to France and all the horrible events he witnessed. After this scene, I think of Vaughn as being more tired than anything. He needed a little lovin’ and now he’ll get it. 😉

  4. Susan on January 20, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    The Chinese Chamber scene is the one I keep going back to in this one. Even in their ongoing battle of wits, they allow themselves to be a little vulnerable. I would love to see this played out in a movie (with just the right actors, of course).

  5. Julie on January 20, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    My favorite Eloise and Colin scene is the one where they first get to the greek restaurant, that whole chapter is great. I really love the part where she accidently tells him she likd him, and then she got all red and made up the Curse of the Kellys. That was hilarious.

    My favorite Mary and Vaughn scene would have to be when Mary is trying to get Vaughn to believe that Anne is in league with the black tulip. I love the part where Mary says she hasnt compromised herself just to have him killed off, and Vaughn says that she hasnt compromised herself and that he must be losing his touch. That part just shows how much they care about each other.

  6. Ariana on January 20, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    My favorite scene in The Seduction of The Crimson Rose, is right when Mary runs away from Vaughn and Anne, storms away angry at herself and him. Then it says she could hear him calling after her, and he actually does show up and came after her. I like it cause its were Vaughn lets go of this witty persona (he is still witty, but I mean he lets go of pretensions at that moment) and it shows he really cared for her and so did she, thats the part where they can’t hide it anymore. We can see how worried he was for her and how worried she is when he got shot.

  7. Melissa on January 20, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    My favorite scene is the same as Erica’s. I loved the bantering between Vaughn and Mary when he first tried to “persuade” her to “work” for the Black Tulip. It shows that Mary is his equal because she can do Vaughn-speak just as well as him. My second favorite scene was when she confronts him about choices in the park. And when confesses that he would rather have buying bridal clothes instead of spying, I thought was so sweet and romantic.

    By the way, I saw “The Temptation of the Night Jasmine” at B&N (Seattle) and bought it, which I’m now taking a break from to eat. It’s great so far!!! I love Charlotte. She’s a character that I relate to a lot.

  8. Jessica S on January 20, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    Wow, this is a tough one…

    I like the scene where Mary is nursing Vaughn, and I like the Chinese chamber scene…I guess I like romantic scenes!

    For Eloise and Colin, definitely the stairway kiss. But then, the routing of the archives guy (what was his name?) was pretty terrific, too.

    Is Night Jasmine really out on shelves? I had big plans to go get it Thursday, b/c it’s the first chance I’ll get and I had convinced myself it wouldn’t be out beforehand…

  9. AngelB on January 20, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    Okay,I’m a huge sucker for all the Eloise/Colin scenes…especially in this book. The hallway scene and the confrontation are awesome.

    My favorite part of the Mary/Vaughn story is easy. I love the way Mary works during her first meeting with St. George. Just reminds me of many meetings of hanging out in the back and goofing off/flirting/making fun of everyone else. It’s just a natural scene no matter the century.

  10. Jess G. on January 21, 2009 at 11:13 am

    I agree with Elissa up in the second comment. I love that Eloise/Colin scene. It’s cute and it’s awkward.

    I personally love awkward.

    Because of that, pretty much any scene that places Mary and Vaughn in an awkward situation pleases me. Especially since their the types to not show that they don’t know what the heck they’re doing.

  11. Kristen on January 21, 2009 at 11:48 am

    I’m 100% with Erica and Melissa, I love the orignal bargening they go through. I enjoy when she walks in on him talking with the skull, but I really love the baiting that he provides and her being able to rise up and bait back. I know it might sound silly, but I get really excited for what’s to come everytime I read those two scenes. It sets up the rest of their relationship so well.

    Is it really out? They called my work off yesterday for 3″ of snow (you gotta love the southners) so I didn’t get to go to all the B&N and Borders around the office…hum, I think I’ll just have to take a longer lunch so I can hit all three stores if need be…you people are so bad for my work ethic. 😉

  12. Catherine on January 22, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Personally, I love the part of the book starting with Vaughn knocking back a few drinks in his study (trying to mentally work things out) and continuing with him walking into the Chinese Chamber (caught off guard when he sees Mary instead of Anne and all that follows). Just seeing him, the real him, stripped of his mask and armor, assailable and real; it’s fantasticl. That mental picture of him in that setting, without all the external trappings, not completely controlled, almost vulnerable on a small level, that heady stuff! Love, love, love it!!

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  14. Lyne on July 29, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Wow..this was by far my favorite book. I love Vaughn and I love that Mary was able to stay toe to toe with him but the ending did not work for me at all.

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