Of Peonies, Paperbacks and Second Chances



Et voilà!


Here she is, as my editor said in her little note to me, freshly attired and coming to a bookstore (or website) near you on June 25th.  I loved my hardback cover. It was striking and fresh. But the paperback cover, by designer Olga Grlic, makes me want to use words like elegant, and sumptuous. I would love to see it peeking out of someone’s beach bag, or airplane carry-on. It says: Go on. Take me into the bathtub. 




Here’s the box full of books  I got to send out to various folks. A whole bouquet of those lovely peonies. Don’t you think the little orange and black Penguin logo looks a little like a lady bug headed for the flower?



I already had this cover image in my head when I made my visit to Brooklyn Botanical Garden last month, so I was especially thrilled to see (and smell!) dozens of extravagant, over-the-top peonies in full bloom. I even found one that looks like it could have been the model for the cover.





I know many of you have already seen the new cover, but I wanted to give it a proper spotlight over here so I could talk about some of the plans I have for welcoming the paperback into the world. Several blogs will be giving away copies–I’ll let you know over here or on Twitter and Facebook when they do–and I’ll be giving at least one book away myself on here with some additional goodies.


I’m also excited to announce that I’ll be visiting the West Coast to do some events in the first two weeks of August. So far we’ve got San Francisco, Portland and Seattle on the docket. Woo hoo! More details on all that to come.


And I will be trying to clean up the site a bit. I want to add some long overdue links on some of my empty pages, make it easier for people to find the names of the perfumes in the book (and yes, finally fill in the last ones that are missing), and organize the existing posts. Please chime in if you have any special requests. If we (finally!) get all that done, and probably even if we don’t, I have another special something I’m planning to make up a little for the sad fact that I can’t visit you all. I wish I could.


Why the big fuss?  Well, I read this very interesting article on how paperbacks can give books a second chance to make their way in the world, especially books like mine, that depend on word of mouth. It made me feel like it wasn’t too late to do some of the many things that I had originally planned, but was too overwhelmed to carry out when the book came out last summer. In fact, it made me feel like I would be letting down the readers I do have if I didn’t try.


It’s not a given these days that a book will come out in paperback. The publisher only commits to the extra expense if they feel like the book has a chance of reaching more readers. It’s only because of you and all you’ve done that this version exists at all.


Celebrating allows me to offer a heartfelt thank you and armfuls of peonies to each and every one of you who bought a book (sometimes more than one!), sent me a picture of it on a shelf somewhere, came to an event, helped me make an event happen, invited me to speak to your organization, wrote a review on Amazon or Goodreads or your blog, posted about it on Facebook and Twitter, talked about it to friends or family or a total stranger, requested it at your local bookstore, recommended it to a favorite boutique, assigned it to your bookclub,** sent me note after sweet note telling me what you thought of it, or just read it, quietly, somewhere out there.


I appreciate it more than I can possibly say.


*I am suddenly very interested in peony perfumes. Do you know any good ones? It’s an elusive note that seems to show up as an accent to rose perfumes rather than being the star of the show. The few peony soliflores I’ve smelled are very pink and sweet and don’t come anywhere near the rich, heady flowers.


**Don’t forget that I am always happy to Skype with book clubs or other groups. Just get in touch.


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  • Cinne says:

    Oooh pretty! Please post your West Coast schedule when it’s nailed down, would love to see you in Portland.

  • Alyssa says:

    Yay! I definitely will. And it will be up on the right hand margin, too. I’ll be at The Perfume House in Portland on Wednesday August 7. Not sure of the time yet. I don’t know if you know that boutique but it’s a very special place. They have shelves full of hard-to-find beauties. It’s going to be great.

  • breathesgelatin says:

    Peony in perfumery often just seems to = watery rose.

    I’ve heard some good things about, but haven’t tried, Penhaligon’s Peoneve. Mals was just plugging MDCI’s Rose de Siwa as having a good peony note. In the comments, a few people suggested some other good peony picks:


    • Alyssa says:

      Thanks for the link, S! Yes, I’ve always avoided peony perfumes because they were just the kind of pink thing that disappoints me. I’ve tried Rose de Siwa, and it is lovely, but there we go again with peony equalling rose+.

  • Barbara says:

    I liked the hardback cover, but this one is just beautiful. Makes me want to buy the book even though I already own it!

  • CarolAnne says:

    I can’t believe it has been a year since I read the hardcover, developed a new hobby and learned to “smell” again! Your paperback cover is lovely and I hope it flies off store shelves. Have never smelled a peony perfume, but am still learning to separate the notes. I do love the fresh flowers – have both white and pink in back yard – so must memorize that fragrance so I can spot it in a different setting : )

    • Alyssa says:

      If you ever find the scent of your peonies in a perfume be sure to come and tell me! I don’t think I’ve ever found it.

  • Lindaloo says:

    Just in case you don’t see my belated comment on NST, I’ll make the plea here that you try to include Vancouver in your West Coast tour (Chapters or independent bookstore reading or something in conjunction with Ayala?)

    Congrats on the paperback. That little Penguin logo always says to me, “Look, good quality writing here.”

    • Alyssa says:

      Hi! I’m glad you came by to make that request. It’s funny, I was just thinking that I should have included Vancouver since the book has actually been published in Canada and it’s only a train ride away. (Or ferry? I love ferries.) Do you think you have ten friends who might like to come? :-) Let me think about the logistics a bit, but maybe we’ll give it a shot. It’s very helpful that you’ve suggested a bookstore. Tell me, do Canadians tend to go on vacation in the last two weeks of August, like Americans do?

      • Lindaloo says:

        Starting to make a list of friends to invite — not up to 10 yet, but I’m working on it.

        And I’d certainly be willing to spread the word wherever I go.

        Canadians go on holidays throughout the summer (weather usually being best in the last 2 weeks of July). As for Vancouverites, many stay in town the last two weeks of August for the PNE (Pacific National Exhibition — our agricultural fair, but really it’s all about trying to win the show home because in Vancouver free housing is the ultimate win.).

        • Alyssa says:

          Hi, Linda. Thanks so much for answering!

          I got in touch with Ayala, but I’m not sure the timing is going to work out for us this summer. I will let you know if that changes, though. And I would love to go eventually!

  • Cynthia says:

    Congratulations, it’s a beautiful cover!
    Try Divine L’Infante. I am no expert on how peonies truly smell, as I hardly see them here in Texas. But it is a charming perfume and the note that I consider to be peony is beautiful. It is not a soliflore but on me the peony note is what dominates.

    • Alyssa says:

      Ah, thank you. I think I have a sample of that tucked away. I will dig it out and give it a go this morning and then report back. Divine is such a great line.

    • Alyssa says:

      OK, gave L’Infante a thorough test run. I smell a lot of powder, which is what I remembered, and a fair dose of lily of the valley, but you are right–just when I put it on, before the powder takes over, there is a gorgeous clear peony note. I kept mentally waving my hands in the air to try to hold off the rest of the perfume so I could keep smelling it. Dang.

      • Cynthia says:

        Oh, too bad! The peony note seems to last a long time on my skin. But I don’t have a super discerning nose so far as individual notes are concerned.

        • Alyssa says:

          Oh, it’s probably not your nose. I dislike powder, so I’m hypersensitive to it. Also, my sample is more than five years old. It’s possible that the top notes would last much longer if it were fresh.

  • Kandice says:

    What a beautiful cover – it makes me want to read it again as I’m sure I missed something the first time through. But being a huge bibliophile, I always would prefer to own a hardcover of a book. But this one is so beautiful it just might make me change my mind. Congrats!

    • Alyssa says:

      Thank you, Kandice! You know, for many years I never bought hardcovers. I didn’t see the point of them. But now that I know more writers and own their newly published books I find myself too impatient to wait for things to come out in paperback anymore.

  • Francesca Belanger says:

    I hadn’t seen the cover. It’s lovely!

    • Alyssa says:

      Thank you! And yes, I love it. It’s Olga Grlic’s design. I sent her a note of appreciation–I think she was kind of surprised. :-)

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