Monday, August 20, 2012

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

by Lauren Willig, 388 pages

Eloise Kelly, a modern-day grad student working on her thesis, searches for clues to the identity of her favorite early nineteenth century English spy, the Pink Carnation, as her reading of historical documents tells the tale of a young half-French, half-English woman's adventures when she runs off to France a few years after the Revolution in order to join her brother (and secretly look for her hero, the Purple Ventian, so she can join his league of spies, save England from French invasion, and restore the monarchy).  Nothing goes quite as either young woman has planned, of course, and they find they must continually adjust their opinions of the people around them as more and more of the truth is revealed.

I very much liked this semi-historical romance in the beginning, with its witty banter (always a sucker for witty banter, moi), original plotting, plucky historical heroine, and Scarlet Pimpernel references (I had a crush on that character for years and years, thanks both to Baroness Orczy and Anthony Andrews).  A little of the shiny rubbed off for me along the way, however, as boring, unlikely, and (it felt to me) out-of-character standard romance tropes and conventions began to intrude on what had been up till then a fun, engaging tale of romantic suspense.  I still enjoyed it overall, and will probably give the next few in the series a read, anyway, as this was the author's first published novel and I'd like to see if she gets better and more consistently good as she goes.  Besides, I do love me some historical espionage, derring-do, and romance all rolled together.

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