Teaser Tuesday: Garden Intrigues

There’s a reason Pink IX wound up with the moniker The Garden Intrigue. A large part of the book is set in Josephine Bonaparte’s famous garden at Malmaison. Since the plot was so dependent on the location, I knew I had to go check it out. (Although I was pretty sure I wouldn’t run across anything like this.)

Malmaison is a bit of a strange beast– er, house, and never more so than in the summer of 1804, when Garden Intrigue takes place. As you can see from the facade below, it started out as a simple gentleman’s house, not what anyone would call humble, but certainly not a palace. It served as an informal weekend place for the Bonapartes and their friends, a place where Josephine’s teenage children and Bonaparte’s younger aides would play games of Prisoner’s Base in the back yard and the entire family would engage in amateur theatricals.

The problem? In 1804, Napoleon had himself voted Emperor. Malmaison scarcely had room for the imperial family, much less their retinue. What it did have, though, was land. Lots of land. Josephine Bonaparte had the grounds at Malmaison designed and redesigned, constantly adding to her garden.

The back of the house boasted a wilderness garden, complete with artificial stream and artfully artless follies. Here’s one of my rather lopsided photos of the back of the house:

Here’s what it would have looked like when Emma (heroine of Pink IX) was partying there:

And here I am, checking it out. (Confession: I’d broken the heel off a shoe tromping around Paris, so I was forced to roll up the hems of my jeans and resort to flats.)

I’m standing right near the spot where Napoleon’s private theatre once stood. Unfortunately, it was torn down long, long ago– but it was there in 1804, home to the Bonaparte family’s amateur theatricals. (And, of course, to a masque by one Mr. Augustus Whittlesby!)

Sadly, not much of Josephine’s famous rose garden remains. I visited in October– and the book is set in summer– so you have to imagine all of this blooming wildly. You can also read all about in the Jardin de la Malmaison.

On the other hand, Napoleon’s summer house did survive. The Emperor liked to work out here in hot weather, a detail than proved very useful for the purposes of my plot.

If you haven’t seen it already, you can read a bit of the first chapter of The Garden Intrigue here. More coming up soon!


  1. Sharin on May 17, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Oh, the life of a historical fiction writer. A quick trip to France to flesh out locations and details for her latest book. I think you’re right, set your next one somewhere exotic. Somewhere you can write on a beach with some spicy sea breezes and a snazzy drink…in October. 😉

  2. Denise on May 17, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Great entry!

    Also how did you get a copy of Jardin de La Malmaison: Empress Josephine’s Garden? The price will make my husband scream, do you know of any online or e-book versions?

    I’m very excited for this next book! I love all of the books<3

  3. Tipsy Reader on May 17, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    Squee! Isn’t Paris AMAZING?!?! I wish I’d gotten more time there. The pictures look divine!

  4. Pam on May 17, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Fascinating! One does wonder, looking at these, how much the architect/Bonapartes were trying to evoke or revise the gardens at Versailles?

    I’m impressed that you managed to walk all around Paris in heels, I can’t do that without turning myself into a moleskin collage. Just flats in Italy for me! And copious pant-hem rolling.

  5. Ginger on May 18, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Denise – take it from a librarian – if you can’t buy the book – your library, OR inter-library loan service (which any branch can do) is a wonderful thing!
    Thank you Lauren for giving us a personal tour of your next setting!

  6. Céline on May 25, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    The photos and infos are just great! I love history and having pictures of what the places in my favourite books looked like at the time of the book is so interesting! Thanks a lot for this piece of info!

    Did you travel to Ireland for The Emerald Ring?

  7. Lauren on May 26, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Hi, Celine! I didn’t do a specific research trip to Dublin for “Emerald Ring”, but I’d been over there enough in the past that it was pretty clear in my head.

  8. Laura M on May 27, 2011 at 1:39 pm


  9. […] can find a full compendium of Garden Intrigue extras– pictures of Malmaison, fun facts, descriptions of the real historical characters, images of clothing and jewelry, and […]

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