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Friday, May 29, 2009

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation


****½ The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig. Historical romance.








Good grief. I'm really glad I took the recommendation of whoever suggested that I'd enjoy this series instead of looking at Amazon reviews. Don't bother going there, unless you're terminally stuffy, hate even the suggestion of love and romance, and are hoping for a historical treatise on spies during the Napoleonic wars. Was it not clear that this was a historical romance? I swear, reviews like those really make me want to go review some historical nonfiction, complaining that the science fiction details were seriously lacking and that the characters lacked depth.

Don't mind me--I'm just going to stomp around angrily for a while.

Okay, I'm back.

Perhaps it was simply an error in marketing--I'm a romance reader, so I didn't expect a scholarly dissertation--maybe somebody in NAL's marketing department mistakenly promoted it as nonfiction? Regardless, I'm so very very sick of the twits who denigrate anything and everything with even a smidgen of romance in it. As if the very idea were beneath them. If I were feeling unkind.... wait a minute... I AM feeling unkind! So I'll just conjecture that they're likely lacking romance in their lives... and justly so. Hah.

I think I'm over it. Maybe. Just keep me away from Amazon reviews for a while, okay?

Anyway. The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. I loved it. Thanks ever so much to whoever recommended it to me (brain like a sieve--I apologize for not remembering who it was).

Eloise Kelly is a grad student studying English history, and is writing her dissertation on spies, starting with the Scarlet Pimpernel and his successors, the Purple Gentian and the Pink Carnation. The Purple Gentian was unmasked, but nobody's ever discovered who the Pink Carnation was. Then Eloise finds a lead in the family archives of Purple Gentian descendant Lady Selwick, but there's a fly in the ointment: Lady Selwick's nephew Colin, who's adamantly opposed to the publication of his family's history.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation goes back and forth between Eloise's search (and her growing attraction to Colin) and the story of Amy Balcourt and her adventures in trying to join the Purple Gentian's league of spies. The jumps in time are clear--present-day chapters are written in first person, and have something in the very first paragraph to clearly orient the reader in the correct time period. They're also logical, in that Eloise finds a detail or a new source, and then we read about what she's found.

Amy was definitely more idealistic than skilled, but it was such a fun story that I really didn't mind. And I liked that it was told within the framework of research. I've always loved The Scarlet Pimpernel, and this book could have been written just for me.

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Comments:
I loved this book, simply because I read it expecting a fun read with a bit of adventure, a bit of romance and a bit of humour! It very much reminded me of The Scarlet Pimpernel as well.

Some of the later books in the series don't work quite as well for me, but I did love this one.
 
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