Thursday, February 17, 2011

Book Club: The Pretender by Celeste Bradley

By: Ronlyn Howe
(artwork courtesy of www.celestebradley.com)
The Pretender is the first book of the Liars Club series (which leads into The Royal Four series) and features Agatha Cunnington and Simon Rain. Set in 1813 England, The Pretender builds a world filled with spies and liars, sneaks and servants, intrigue and intelligence. From the moment Simon steps into Agatha’s parlor we’re trying to figure out who is telling the truth as well as what is the truth. Who is the spy master vs. who is being played? A series of assumptions (which of course are wrong) lead us down a path of hilarious twists and turns.

Agatha is on the hunt for her brother and is willing to go to any lengths, or tell any lie she needs to in order to find him. I admit that I typically believe in honesty to a fault, but Agatha is so wholly loveable while she lies through her teeth that I can’t help but adore her. Simon is also on the hunt for James Cunnington, who he is forced to believe (due to surrounding circumstances) has turned traitor against the crown. He erroneously believes that Agatha is James’s mistress and sets out to find out what he can through use of trickery and…yes, lies. Poor Simon is so bound by his service that he’s fighting his attraction and interest nearly from the moment he crashes into her while posing as a chimney sweep. Agatha hatches a plan for Simon to pose as her fictitious husband, Mortimer Applequist, in order to gain her entry into parts of society that are strictly accessible to the married or jaded. Simon agrees to go along with it since it will serve his purposes as well.

It’s no secret I love the Liars. I’ve been telling everyone about them since I stumbled onto the series several years ago. The heroines are vibrant and fun, the heroes are strong and sexy and the world of the Liars is filled with a supporting cast of characters that bring a smile to my face and make me wish I was capable of such subterfuge. Ok, maybe not that, but I’d love to match wits with any of the Liars.

I’m thrilled Celeste Bradley has agreed to join us today to talk about the Liars as well as the journey she’s been on since leaving the Liars behind.

OREO TRUFFLES

Ingredients
1 package (1 pound, 2 oz.) Oreo cookies, finely crushed
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
sprinkles or additional crushed Oreos for coating truffles

Directions
Mix cookie crumbs and cream cheese until well blended. Refrigerate Oreo mixture for at least one hour. Shape into 1-inch balls. Roll in sprinkles or crushed cookies to coat. Place on waxed paper-covered baking sheet. Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm. Store any leftover truffles in tightly covered container in refrigerator.

Ronlyn’s Notes
You can use low-fat Oreos and low-fat cream cheese. It really won't affect the flavor, but your truffles may be a little bit softer. You can also make these with mint Oreos, or for peanut butter truffles, try using crushed Nutter Butter cookies. Yummy!

89 comments:

Aly said...

I wish that I didn't have such a freaking busy day b/c I would love to be here chatting about this book all day!

Due to much pressure from Ronlyn, The Pretender took my Historical virginity! And I have to say that it was an enjoyable experience ;)

The characters of this book are what made it so great for me. Not just Agatha & Simon, although they cracked me up, but Jaime, Pearson, Jackham, etc. They were all so fabulous and made me want to turn the page to see what they would do next.

So yes, Ronlyn...you were right :)

Hope said...

Good morning ladies. I am afraid if to many people tell Ronlyn she was right, her head might swell, so I am gonna say, good choice Ronlyn and thanks for the "gentle" nudge towards this particular historical. I, like Aly, don't typically read historicals. But I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The Pretender introduced us to the Club of misfits that protect the crown at all cost, even at the cost of their own lives. I described this books a romantic suspense of the 1800's. Agatha was a complete fun to read, she has sass with smarts and wits. Simon was enough to make you swoon. Can't wait to download that next book (never thought I would say that about a historical)

oklanannie said...

Discovering Celeste Bradley's books has been such a pleasant reading experience. I loved "The Pretender" and especially Agatha and her strengths -- that girl was quick witted! Simon was her perfect match and I enjoyed the bantering between the two. Bradley's books are such fun to read. I'm not sure I could ever get away with such a performance as Agatha contrived.

I've just completed Celeste Bradley's "Heiress Brides" series and it is outstanding. It's my favorite so far.

Ronlyn said...

Good Morning Ladies!
I'm sorry Aly, I'm not sure I heard you correctly so you'll have to say that again. :-)
For me, Celeste is that author that I love, but no one has ever read. I'm dumbfounded and have decided to change that.
I LOVE the Lairs. They crack me up, make me mad, make me sad...everything they should. And the thought of this band of spies fighting against Napoleon was something I'd never considered, so made it equally enjoyable.
I gave The Pretender to a friend of mine a couple years ago and she came into my office to thank me and practically re-enacted the scene where Agatha looks Simon up and down and decides he'd clean up well enough to pose as Mortimer. We were rolling.

I'll be back in a bit. There's that cold sticky white stuff here so I need to figure out if school has a delay and all that.

Crystal said...

Hey book club peeps
I was one of those people in the category of "never heard of Celeste Bradley" Ronlyn changed that real quick! Between her and Jackie it was a read it or else type thing. Thank goodness I have a healthy fear of all the havoc they can cause. I downloaded The Pretender...devoured it, then immediately downloaded the rest. I just finished #5 yesterday!
Hope described it perfectly when she said it was a romantic suspense set in the 1800's.
I loved the sass and loyalty of Agatha. She had a one track mind and NOTHING was going to get in her way....except maybe that dirty old chimney sweep.
Poor Simon was a tortured soul there for awhile. His obsession with finding Jamie took on more than he bargained for. The bickering and the attitude they both dish out is great! This is a great series that keeps getting better and better!

Jackie P said...

What a great book. So glad Ronlyn reccommended it. It started a buying frenzy and I have read all the books in The Liars and The Royal Four. Love them. My favorites are "The Spy and The Charmer".

Celeste Bradley said...

Hi all!

I'm here at last. Sorry, Mountain time and all!

I'm so glad you guys have enjoyed Agatha and Simon. To prepare for today, I reread it this week myself. Other than the alarming state of the Borders e-book editing, I really loved going back to my "boys" once more!

Ronlyn said...

Welcome Celeste!
The Liars (and subsequently the Royal Four) were so fun, I can only imagine how difficult it was to leave them behind and move onto other things. You've since had the Heiress Bride Trilogy as well as the Runaway Bride Trilogy (for those keeping track at home. I know Anne has dived into at least the Heiress Brides). I know you've got a new book coming out, what can you tell us about that?

Kara C said...

Hey all!
Life, kids,work, and a stomach bug have prevented me from finishing The Pretender yet, but I AM working on it. Love, love, LOVE the humor. Looking forward to the rest of the series.
I'd love to know how the Liar's Club came about. Such a great idea! (I apologize if you've already answered this. I skimmed through the post for fear of spoilers.)
Hey Ronlyn, does crushing the Oreos prevent the calories from sticking to them?

Ronlyn said...

Kara, of COURSE crushing the Oreos prevents the calories from sticking to the truffle. Would I ever steer you wrong? (don't answer that.) I AM the cooker lady after all. :-)

Celeste Bradley said...

A COURTESAN'S GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR MAN is a crazy idea cooked up by my friend Susan Donovan, a hilarious contemporary romance writer.

A modern-day museum curator, the buttoned-up academic type, finds the wildly scandalous (and very detailed! Yowza!) diaries of a 19th Century courtesan. Weary of her proper existence, she begins to apply the lessons within to changing her own life!

Susan wrote the contemporary character, Piper, while I wrote the historical character, Ophelia. The story travels back and forth between now and then, following Ophelia's notorious career and then returning to Piper's tale of self-discovery.

Ronlyn said...

That sounds like GREAT fun! I can't wait to get my hands on it. :-)

And, for those lurkers, come chat! Celeste has kindly offered up autographed bookplates for the Pretender for today's participants.

Celeste Bradley said...

The Liars are actually an accident!

I was working on a story about a managing sort named Agatha who needed a husband and decided to make one of her own out of some rather smokin' raw material--a handsome chimneysweep!

One day I was telling my plot to a writer I admired and she said, "Oh, that sounds just like a book by Julia London!"

Horrified, I pulled an Agatha. "Oh, but my chimneysweep is really a SPY!"

Yadda, yadda, yadda, I wrote a book about a group of spies!

Kara C said...

Thanks, Celeste. That's a great story! LOL!
And the new one sounds terrific! (I'm a Susan Donovan fan as well.) When will it be available?

Crystal said...

Celeste so far out of all the Liars and Royal Four who has been the easiest to write and who has been the most difficult?

Celeste Bradley said...

Kara C, COURTESAN will be out on May 24th!

Crystal, I think the hardest LC character was Clara Simpson, mostly because she had the wrong name for the longest time. I kept calling her "Harriet" and she didn't like it one bit. Finally, she convinced me to call her Clara and snap! the book came together. Pretender was about to go to production and I barely had time to change her name in Book 1 as well!

Ronlyn said...

oh, I must agree. Clara was no Harriet. LOL

A couple of my favorites: Button. OF COURSE. Everyone has to love Button.
And the mental image I get of Kurt making pastries just cracks me up.

Was it difficult writing a historical that doesn't fit the "traditional" mold? Meaning, it's not full of ballrooms and the ton twittering about.

Celeste Bradley said...

The easiest character to write...well, there are three. Agatha popped into my head fully formed. It was just a matter of letting Simon get a word in edgewise. Willa, from TO WED A SCANDALOUS SPY (RF1) was pretty much the same. She was so funny that I just let her roll! The third was Ethan Damont, from THE ROGUE (LC5). Ethan was actually a character from my very first book, FALLEN, who was removed at my editor's request. I had to hold onto him for so long that he was more than ready to show up.

Hope said...

Thats a fun story about how the series was brought about. I love hearing the back story to a series.

Who are you reading right now Celeste? AND, what made you want to do historicals (being someone that doesn't normally read them, what was the draw)?

Celeste Bradley said...

Ronlyn, Button practically has his own fan club! I love that man.

Kurt--well, in my mind, although it never made it onto paper, Kurt hooked up with Sarah Cook! Cookin' in the kitchen!

I guess I CAN'T write in the typical historical fomula. I'm too easily bored. It takes months to write a book. I can't spend months drinking tea and wondering if he's going to ask her to dance! At some point I am compelled to throw in a dead body!

Ronlyn said...

I LOVE that Sarah Cook & Kurt hooked up! I can see her bossing him around the kitchen and him grumbling...love it! LOL

I really enjoyed how Agatha's entire household seemed to fit together oh so nicely with her warped brain and then right into the Liars Club.

And a woman after my own heart! That's how I got Aly, the historical virgin, to give The Pretender a try. It's not the *typical* historical! LOL

So, since I tossed down the gauntlet about dragging secrets out of you....does your hubby man still go by the name Fabio? ;-)

Celeste Bradley said...

Hope, right now I am reading the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series. My daughter is making me. It's actually a lot of fun, once you get the movie out of your head.

I didn't really set out to write historicals. I didn't really set out to write at all! I was an artist at the time. I was reading a Regency era novel when I threw it down in irritation and thought, "that's not what would happen!"

So I wrote a novel about what would happen, and it was published within a year. FALLEN was also nominated for a "Best First Book" award by the Romance Writers of America. Sadly, I didn't win, but I did get a contract for THE PRETENDER! 17 books later, I guess it was a pretty good start.

Crystal said...

I find it so fascinating how that all comes together in an authors mind. I love that you whipped the Liars out of thin air! I'm sure happy that your a quick thinker! :)

Celeste Bradley said...

Ronlyn...oh dear. Secret time.

I no longer have that particular husband. He is now the particular husband of someone else entirely.

I seriously doubt she calls him "Fabio."

Then again...

Ronlyn said...

oh dear! So sorry. *cringe* well, there I go putting my foot in my mouth again....it's something of a talent of mine....

Celeste Bradley said...

Ronlyn, I loved Agatha's staff so much that I had to bring back Pearson in THE ROGUE. Ethan can never remember his name, so he calls him "Jeeves", who was not yet a literary character in those days--but it made me laugh anyway!

Celeste Bradley said...

Ronlyn, no big. A lot can change in ten years. I emerged relatively unscathed! Unfortunately, you don't get to go back and change all your cutesy dedications! :P

Celeste Bradley said...

I just realized that dedications are more permanent than tattoos! Holy ink, Batman!

Hope said...

Do you have plans to write outside of the historical genre?

Ronlyn said...

and I thought that one was so clever. ack. Maybe I shouldn't promise to uncover secrets, huh?
THIS is why I wouldn't make it as a spy. LOL

Celeste Bradley said...

Hope, I do have plans--secret, underground plans that will make me rich, rich, RICH! Bwa-ha-ha!

Actually, I think we all have plans to write something else someday. Genre restrictions are great for kick-starting creativity but they are also, by nature, restricting. As in, I don't get to include anything paranormal. Ever.

Ronlyn said...

LOL...yes, dedications are more permanent than tattoos. More public too.
Ok, no more secret digging for me.

How did you research to create a 19th century spy ring? There were elements you talked about that I'd never thought about before, then once I read about them I would think, "well, of course!"

Ronlyn said...

Would you consider writing under a different name so you could write paranormal? (if that is in fact something you'd be interesting in writing)

Celeste Bradley said...

Spy research--well, you start by googling "spies"...

Actually, I did do an enormous amount of research. Everything I learned just led to more stories popping into my head.

There's an interesting coincidence about THE SPY (LC3) and the use of PHI. I had never heard of The DaVinci Code--in fact, I'd sold that story before DC even came out! Yet I used the same codebreaking technique in my book! I guess we did the same research.

Crystal said...

Celeste I must say that Ethan is my favorite hero so far. Something about him just grabbed me! Now for secondary characters... I LOVE Pearson! I know we are covering The Pretender, but I saw where you mentioned Ethan calling him Jeeves. The whole time I was thinking oh Ethan Pearson is hating that!

Celeste Bradley said...

Ronlyn, I think I would definitely need to use a pseudonym. Celeste Bradley is a brand-name now. I think it would upset some readers to pick up a book thinking it was a Regency comedy-intrigue and find a vampire in it!

Of course, opening a book and finding a tiny vampire squished between the pages would upset anyone...

Ronlyn said...

especially since those tiny vampires hate being squished in a book...

Crystal said...

Hey Celeste when you first started writing this series did you know right off that Lord Liverpool was going to be such a hard ass? ba

Celeste Bradley said...

Crystal, I love Pearson. Really. Love. Him. I just had to pit him against an unrepentant bad boy like Ethan!

I figured Ethan needed a father-figure anyway. He was so sweet under all that swagger.

Celeste Bradley said...

Ronlyn, would that be immortal squishing?

Crystal, Lord Liverpool was REAL. He was the Prime Minister at that time. Everything I wrote about his life was true. According to history, he was a true stickler. That made me think...how would he feel about having to monitor a bunch of rebels like the Liars?

Celeste Bradley said...

P.S. I don't really want to write vampires. I'm dead sick of them.

Ronlyn said...

Oh Lord Liverpool. Love to hate him. I did enjoy seeing him a bit more through Dalton's eyes in LC2. Things made a bit more "sense" about why he was the way he was. Not that I liked him any better after that, but I understood better.

Celeste Bradley said...

Liverpool got his share of fan mail. I've had many letters wanting me to write his romance!

Unfortunately, he was already married to--and completely devoted to!--a frail, sickly woman... I forget her name...who I believe he eventually retired to take care of.

He really was an admirably committed man.

Ronlyn said...

really?? I never would have imagined that Liverpool got fan mail.
Spin off of that: what is some of the oddest/funnest fan mail you've received?

Celeste Bradley said...

Well, there are the people who want me to write a gay love story for Button. I tell them I'm simply not qualified.

Still, I did give Button a gloriously handsome young boytoy--ahem, "assistant" named Cabot. Just for fun. ;)

I love the ones where I'm being derided for writing filth. "I read the whole book, cover to cover, THREE TIMES, and there isn't one redeeming moment!". I don't reply, but I do smile when cashing my royalty checks!

I think my favorite one was a woman who chastised me for leaving God out of the story. "The only time anyone mentions God is during the sex scenes!"

Well, duh.

Aly said...

Y'all have been busy! Geesh! It's going to take me forever to catch up and I am sure I have missed some fabulous stuff already!

With all of this talk about all the other books - which of course is tempting me to read them all! BAD BOOK WENCHES!!! - I think I am going to be in Historical land for quite some time. Never thought I would say that!

Marie Force said...

So glad you guys are having a blast today! I am tied up at a conference for work, but will be checking in later! Carry on!!!!!

Celeste Bradley said...

Hi Aly!

You have a lot of Liars ahead! I'm almost jealous.

Celeste Bradley said...

Here's a question for you guys...

Damaged hero/nurturing heroine?

Damaged heroine/nurturing hero?

Damaged heroine/damaged hero/heal each other?

discuss!

Hope said...

Damaged hero/nurturing heroine for sure....but I also like it when they heal each other. There is just something wonderful about a broken or bleeding alpha male that is put back together by the love and sass of a woman....love it!!!

Ronlyn said...

I'm rolling at the "the only time anyone mentions God is in the sex scenes." Bwa ha ha!!!

Aly said...

I am all about the damaged hero! Just something about it makes me swoon!

Ronlyn said...

Damaged hero/nurturing heroine?
If done well, I like it. But, I feel like it's been done a LOT and it gets exhausting always reading about the damaged man and perfect woman, know what I mean?

Damaged heroine/nurturing hero?
This intrigues me because it's not done as often. I think it's harder for readers to forgive women their past, which may cause them to be damaged, than it is to forgive the men. Maybe I'm wrong about that, but that's my gut feeling.

Damaged heroine/damaged hero/heal each other?
I like this one the best, simply because it strikes me as the most interesting and truthful. Aren't we all damaged in some way or another? We just need to find that perfect person to help us either get over whatever it was that damaged us or look at things a new way, or whatever. Plus I think damaged characters are the most interesting.

Celeste Bradley said...

I have to say, I love me a damaged man. Really shaken, really broken. And then I get to shoot him!

I love being a writer...

Ronlyn said...

LOL Celeste! Spinning it back around to The Pretender: how would you classify Agatha & Simon? I know what I think, but....

Celeste Bradley said...

Damaged hero/damaged heroine is why I loved writing THE PRETENDER. Agatha seems so confident and in charge, but she's really just skating on thin ice. Simon is the only one who gets why she is the way she is.

And Simon is a MESS. So much guilt!

Ronlyn said...

so true! The scene were Simon went after Repulsive Reggie...I'm pretty sure I was already in love with Simon by that point, but that would have sealed the deal for me right there. ~swoon~

I LOVED them "fighting" over that carpet. LOL. Sounds like something my hubby and I would do.

Celeste Bradley said...

You know, I had forgotten all about Repulsive Reggie in the intervening years. I really need to go back to him someday...he really needs to come to a sticky end!

Celeste Bradley said...

Re: Reggie's sticky end--I'm taking suggestions!

Ronlyn said...

oooo, possible "sticky endings" for Reggie: You could let Button get a hold of him...although seeing what happened with Dalton, maybe that wouldn't be quite enough.
Have you seen in the news, that grandma who attacked the muggers with her purse? Maybe something like that for Reggie. A housekeeper on a rampage....

Kara C said...

See what happens when you work for a while and come back to check in? The first thing you read is a comment about Reggie's sticky end. Well, ewww....

As for your question, Celeste, I'd have to definitely vote for both damaged and they heal each other.

Crystal said...

Holy cow Lord Liverpool hard ass was real! Hmm you learn something new everyday.

I agree with Hope Damaged Hero/nurturing heroine. But at the same time I love when they heal each other. Something about that one person who can make a damaged soul feel hope. I eat it up!

Crystal said...

Okay Celeste I have to ask... About Feebles. I love the little guy. How did he come about? Did he just pop up or did you already know he would be in the book before you began writing?

Ronlyn said...

another "Book Club Question"
Simon admires Agatha's fearlessness. Do you think you could be that bold in her time? Are you brave in this one?

Celeste Bradley said...

Oh dear, Kara. How unpleasant for you!

Sorry!

Ronlyn, I love it. He gets publicly humiliated AND carted off to jail!

Celeste Bradley said...

Feebles was definitely a walk-on character. He just showed up, name, description, etc. I didn't even know he was in the story until I typed it!

Ronlyn said...

oo, I remember a question I wanted to ask: The Voice of Society. Is that "person" ever unveiled?

Celeste Bradley said...

Nope. The Voice of Society is still a secret and still at work! Partly because I still need VOS in future stories and partly because I don't want to follow a certain other writer's (she-who-shall-not-be-named) gossip columnist character.

Ronlyn said...

I'm off to a meeting. you all be good while I'm gone and don't do anything I...well, never mind. :-) Back later.

Ronlyn said...

but, wait...future stories with the VOS? hmmmm.....

Celeste Bradley said...

I'll be here! I set aside the day to knit and hang out with you guys--barring cat vs. yarn disasters!

Mary G said...

o

Celeste Bradley said...

Mary G

umm...bless you?

Mary G said...

Hi Celeste
This group has gotten me to buy historicals again. I didn't get a chance to pick this one up but it sounds smartly written. I love humor in romance & funny misunderstandings would make for good reading.

On damaged/nurturing characters: I've loved every combination so I can't pick.

I'm so glad you dropped by. I love hearing about the thinking/writing process from the author.

Mary G said...

Sorry Celeste
Blogger is acting up but thanks for the blessing. I feel better already LOL.

Celeste Bradley said...

LOL Mary G!

Writing is a funny life. I tend to forget that not everyone does it. (what, you mean you get up early EVERY DAY? and put on makeup? and wear panty hose??)

I have to say, I love it. I work hard, but I have sooo much freedom. You have to be willing to live on the edge, though. The business is really capricious!

oklanannie said...

Finally -- I've had a terrible time getting on here this afternoon . . . thanks to Mary G I now know it wasn't anything personal!!

Love all scenarios because I like a variety in the books. At one time I preferred the tortured hero being mended by a good woman BUT I think there should be some balancing.

I am ever so happy to hear that VOS is remaining silent with MORE TO COME!!! That's music to the ears!

I'm getting ready to begin the Runaway Brides series as soon as I can get them all collected.

Great blog today and thanks to Celeste for sharing her books and today with us!

oklanannie said...

Oops! Didn't mean VOS remaining "silent" - meant to type SECRET!!!!

Celeste Bradley said...

oklanannie, I hope you like RB. I had such a great time writing those! Melody and Button together were such a kick!

Aly said...

Unfortunately I am off to swimming lessons & the baseball practice. I wax hoping to have much more time to play but it is just not meant to be ::sigh::

Celeste, thank you so much for joining us today! What posts I have been able to read through have been so great. It has been such fun!!

Celeste Bradley said...

Bye Aly! I'm on Facebook!

Alison said...

Hi Celeste...I haven't finished The Pretender yet...I had to stop and go to work. Boo!

It looks like I'm going to have to add the rest of the Liar books to my TBR. Good thing I bought more storage for my books!

Agatha is a riot...her lies and the names she comes up with are so outrageous! I hope to finish it tonight.

Hope everyone's had a good day!

Celeste Bradley said...

Thanks, Alison!

Ethelbert says hello! ;)

Celeste Bradley said...

It's been a blast visiting with you guys today! I have to go do dinner-ish things but I'll be sure to check back in tonight!

Take care and thanks for reading!
<3

Ronlyn said...

Thanks so much for stopping by Celeste! I'm still in my meeting...shhhh don't tell. I've gotten a couple messages from some of the girls saying they've been having trouble getting back into the blog, so definitely check back tonight, there may be more questions for you.

Jackie P said...

Celeste, are you planning on writing anymore Liars or Royal Fours? And do you still paint?

Celeste Bradley said...

Hi Jackie!

Well, it might look kind of funny to have five books in the Royal Four...:)

But the spinoff series I'm creating will bring everyone back into the game. I actually came up with it years ago, but my publisher wanted something a little more fairy tale, so I wrote the Heiress Brides instead (which I loved doing!)

Celeste Bradley said...

I do still paint, but it's become so mixed media that it might be more accurate to call it collage.

Ronlyn said...

Thank you so much for spending your day with us Celeste! I think I have the addresses for everyone that commented (if not, send it to me) so I'll forward the bookplates out soon. :-)