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The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

July 1, 2008

The Secret History of the Pink CarnationEloise Kelly, an American working on her dissertation in London, has hit one dead end after another in her research of secret agents during the French Revolution. There is plenty of information about the Scarlett Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian, two English spies who thwarted the French and saved many a man from Madame Guillotine. The identities of the two famous Englishmen were eventually found out, but Eloise is most interested in The Pink Carnation, who has remained anonymous.

Eloise eventually gets a lucky break when she meets Mrs. Selwick-Alderly, a decedent of Lord Richard Selwick of The Purple Gentian fame. She is given the chance to read through letters from the year 1803 from Selwick-Alderly’s archives, but Colin Selwick, Mrs. Selwick-Alderly’s nephew, is less than thrilled with this American scholar snooping through the families private papers.    

The letters tell the tale of Amy, a young half-English half-French women who’s father, a French aristocrat, is murdered during the war. Amy has been safely staying with family in England since she was five and has grand illusions (along with her young cousin Jane) of joining the famous spy league to help overthrow Napoleon and reinstate French aristocrats to power. After her brother sends word for her to join him in France when the war is over, Amy is anxious to go. With her cousin Jane and Miss Gwen, an unmarried friend of the family as their escort, they hop on a boat to cross the Channel.

Unknown to Amy and Jane, their shipmate is none other than Lord Richard Selwick, aka The Purple Gentian. After a mutual attraction, Richard tells Amy of his work with Napoleon Bonaparte  (which is all just a ruse for his spying activities) but Amy interprets his involvement with Napolean as being a traitor. And so the love slash hate relationship begins.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig is a clever novel written with humour and wit. Shifting back and forth between present day Eloise, who is trying to figure out the true identiy of The Pink Carnation and 1803, with Amy and Richard playing a cat and mouse game.

I especially enjoyed the banter between Amy and Richard. The sexual tension between these two characters was smokin’ hot, with one of the scenes towards the end of the book borderline Harloquen romance (you know, the kind of book your Mom would read, then hide in a box down in the basement). It may bring a blush to even the most hardened romance readers.

The Masque of the Black TulipMeg Cabot, author of the Princess Diaries, describes The Secret History of the Pink Carnation as a “genre-bending read – a dash of chick lit with a historical twist.” While I agree with that statement, I would have to say that the book was way more chick lit than I expected, with the characters in the 1800’s who spoke more or less the same as present day. This didn’t deter from my overall enjoyment of the book, but if you expect them to speak like the characters from Pride and Prejudice, then you’ll be sorely disappointed.

For another view, check out this review posted a few years back from Bookfool – jeez, how long has she been blogging?  Also, Katherine reviewed it recently on her blog. Or, if you’ve already read the book and didn’t like it half as much as I did, you may want to read this funny post titled The Purple Gentian Sucks. In the meantime, I am anxious to pick up the next in the series, The Masque of the Black Tulip.

By the way, I’ll be heading down to Washington DC this holiday weekend, not only to visit family but also to celebrate my ten year wedding anniversary. See you guys back in blogland next week!

17 Comments leave one →
  1. July 2, 2008 3:46 am

    Maybe I need to give this one another chance. It was a book I had to read a few years ago when I was a member of a book club and I had to stop reading. Maybe I’ll put it back on my TBR shelf.

    Happy Anniversary!! I hope you have a lovely time in D.C. this weekend! I may have asked you this on one of your previous trips, but please blow the city a kiss for me! Also, if you pass by the Calverton exit on 95 do the same there. My folks live a few miles from that exit and that’s where I grew up.
    Thank You Stephanie!!

  2. July 2, 2008 7:12 am

    I forgot about this one. I liked it, but more for the entertainment than the “great literture.” I’ll have to check out that the next book.

    Have fun this weekend!

  3. July 2, 2008 9:52 am

    Hmmm–I’m a big fan of historical fiction, but I don’t know about the romance parts! I would be one of the ones blushing for sure! 🙂

    Happy Anniversary! I hope you enjoy your DC weekend!

  4. Cat permalink
    July 2, 2008 12:00 pm

    I have really liked this entire series, though I wasn’t as much of a fan of the Crimson Rose (the last one). I am constantly entertained by Eloise’s relationship and therefore must read all the books to follow the story! I actually seem to like the present parts more than the past parts – depending on which character is more the focus in the story.

    It’s my 3rd wedding anniversary today. 🙂 Not quite 10, but I’m getting there (ha) Happy anniversary and have a great trip!

  5. July 2, 2008 5:45 pm

    This is one of those books that’s been on my TBR list for a long time. I just know I’d enjoy it.
    Wishing you a great trip and happy anniversary!

  6. July 2, 2008 8:04 pm

    Happy Anniversary!! We’re going to celebrate our 20th in November! Hope you have a lovely trip.

  7. July 3, 2008 3:15 am

    I have all of the books in this series on my tbr pile thanks to Barnes and Noble clearance section. I may move them to the bottom of the pile now! Happy Anniversary! I hope you have a great time in DC.

  8. July 3, 2008 9:01 am

    I never heard of these books – will give them a try! Like I really really really need to add more books to my TBR list! 🙂

    Happy Anniversary! In a few months I’ll be celebrating 21 years of marriage to my hubby. Woah. 🙂

  9. July 3, 2008 3:57 pm

    I’m really getting into the historial fiction books lately. Thanks for the good reccommendations! And Happy Anniversary.

  10. July 3, 2008 11:33 pm

    Happy Anniversary! Hope you have a great time.

    BTW, I’ve been blogging just over 2 years. I totally missed my own bloggiversary on June 6. Oooops. 🙂

  11. July 4, 2008 9:56 am

    Happy Anniversary! I hope you have a lovely weekend. We’re celebrating our 8th on Monday. 🙂

  12. July 4, 2008 5:49 pm

    Happy Anniversary!

    I have seen both of these books before and wondered about them, I think Carnation sounds like great escapist-style historical fiction.

    Enjoy your trip!

  13. Ariel permalink
    July 4, 2008 7:24 pm

    Happy belated birthday and happy anniversary!

  14. July 5, 2008 10:46 pm

    I really enjoyed the books in this series! I love the fact that it is a homage to the spy type stories like The Scarlet Pimpernel, and the mix of both contemporary and historical stories. I too always look forward to reading the next book!

    My review of this book is here:

    Also Happy Anniversary!

  15. July 7, 2008 11:04 am

    Happy Anniversary—the tenth is a great one!


  1. The award goes to… « Stephanie’s Written Word
  2. The Masque of the Black Tulip « Stephanie’s Written Word

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