Several years ago, I listened to the first three of Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation books.
I enjoyed the mixture of a modern story (Eloise Kelly is an American in England, working on research for her dissertation on spies in the Napoleonic wars. She’s hit a vein of useful papers, and met a very interesting man, who happens to be guardian of said papers. Romance and research!) with a historical romance (as we go back to the story of the spies she is researching) in this series.
At the time, the fourth book had recently been released, but it wasn’t available through Audible. I checked back over multiple months, but it still wasn’t there, and slowly I forgot about the series.
Last summer, I found book 5 in the series as port of an Audible sale. I went ahead and bought the 4th book (The Seduction of the Crimson Rose). When I went to listen to it, I couldn’t remember who the characters were or what was going on (not unusual for me!) so I loaded The Deception of the Emerald Ring (the 3rd book) onto my MP3 player.
The summary of the book:
Rebellion is brewing in Ireland, egged on by the unquenchable Black Tulip. The Pink Carnation and Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe (formerly of the League of the Purple Gentian) are on the case. But as the Irish uprising draws nearer and the Black Tulip grows bolder, Geoff finds himself struggling with a very different sort of problem. An unexpected wife.
I had an odd reaction to re-listening to it. Even though I didn’t really remember the plot. I felt annoyed because it seemed so unoriginal. I knew I’d encountered this plot before. That seems singularly unfair as a reaction to a book I’d actually read before. Now, I’m fairly sure that I have encountered all of the elements that were bothering me in other books as well, but that’s the way it goes with romance novels.
My MP3 player died while I was listening, and I started something else on my backup player. I went through several other books before returning to it, and all was well. I enjoyed the rest of the book– both the modern and historical stories. I’m not sure what was going on with my earlier reaction.
And so, I went on to the 4th book,The Seduction of the Crimson Rose.
The book summary:
Determined to secure another London season without assistance from her new brother-in-law, Mary Alsworthy accepts a secret assignment from Lord Vaughn on behalf of the Pink Carnation: to infiltrate the ranks of the dreaded French spy, the Black Tulip, before he and his master can stage their planned invasion of England. Every spy has a weakness, and for the Black Tulip that weakness is black-haired women-his “petals” of the Tulip. A natural at the art of seduction, Mary easily catches the attention of the French spy, but Lord Vaughn never anticipates that his own heart will be caught as well. Fighting their growing attraction, impediments from their past, and, of course, the French, Mary and Vaughn find themselves lost in the shadows of a treacherous garden of lies.
Although I like reading it, the current day plot is getting thinner with each book, it seems. A villain was introduced in this volume, which adds promise for the future installments.
The meat of the book is the historical story. Until now, these have featured typical regency characters– the woman with flaws that are modern day virtues, the men who are strong but ready to fall in love.
Mary Allsworthy is beautiful, and really a bit of a bitch. She knows what she wants, and figures out what she needs to do to get it. She isn’t mean-spirited, but other people aren’t really a priority with her.
This is a pleasant change from the usual perky heroine, who is too smart or to tomboyish or some other virtue perceived as a flaw by the society around her.
Lord Vaughn isn’t a particularly nice guy. In fact, those somewhat in the know are suspicious of whether he is in league with the Black Tulip, an infamous French spy.
As much as I generally prefer my protagonists to be pleasant people, I really liked the twist of these two truly deserving each other.
As you would expect, they both end up involved in the spy ring, and once you’ve been involved in a government plot together, can true love be far behind? Of course, there are complications, and of course they explain why Vaughn has become the unpleasant fellow he seems to be.
The plot takes many fun (if occasionally pushing my suspension of disbelief) turns. It’s a roller coaster with swoops and sudden changes of direction.
I like the historical notes at the end of the book. Of course, the author could be making those up as well, and I’d never know.
An entertaining adventure with a slightly unusual romance, and a modern day framing. It works for me. I’ll be getting the 5th book soon.