By: Lauren Willig
Publisher: Signet Select
Publication Date: October 2010
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 2010
There is no better word in the English language – let’s face it, any language – that would describe this book better than “swashbuckling.” This fantastic story offers a snapshot of history that is sexy, fun, intriguing and, more than anything, undeniably swashbuckling.
We begin with an American student from Harvard named Eloise, who is literally squashed up against a deodorant-free Frenchman riding on the Tube. Eloise raced away from Harvard and is working on her dissertation in France; she also truly believes that the only man worth having is a dead one. This includes famous characters such as the Scarlet Pimpernel; the Purple Gentian; and, the Pink Carnation. These are the men who risked their lives as spies to help their beloved homeland. Eloise has studied a great deal about two of them, but the Pink Carnation still remains a mysterious entity. Until one day…a woman named Mrs. Arabella Selwick-Alderly calls Eloise and says that she has a trunk full of letters and a diary that she believes Eloise would love to get her hands on. Rushing to the woman’s home, Eloise is amazed that this woman is allowing her to solve the mystery of the Pink Carnation – even though the woman’s brother, Colin, wants with all his heart to stop the American student from finding out his family secrets. As Eloise throws herself into the diary, a story of mammoth proportions springs forth from the old, yellowed pages.
In the year 1803, Amy Balcourt was living in rural England. She was sent there by her parents when the war was at its peak. Her poor father was hanged by Bonaparte, and her mother died of a broken heart. Amy wants nothing more than to return to France and rise up against the hideous beasts who took her family away from her. Soon, her brother sends for her so that she can help ingratiate the family into the salon of Josephine. Even though Amy’s brother seems to want to run with this horrific crowd, Amy wants nothing more than to be a spy for the League of the Purple Gentian, who she’s heard about clear across the ocean. She wants Napoleon and his people to fall so that France can once again be its own country, and exact her revenge in the process.
With her friends in tow, they board a ship bound for France and run directly into an antiquarian named Lord Richard Selwick. Although handsome, Amy immediately dislikes the man because he is a “friend” of Bonaparte’s who has gone on digs with him, and found buried treasures in the desert. What Amy doesn’t know is that Lord Selwick is actually on her side, and the romance and intrigue grows bigger and bigger as his secrets begin to unfold. Not only does Richard have to “act” like the stuffed-shirt librarian in order to keep his actual cover, but he also has to stop himself from falling in love with the feisty Ms. Balcourt, while concentrating on how to ferret out Napoleon’s plans to invade England.
This is one of those rare novels that are not simply classified as bodice-ripper romances. The author, Lauren Willig, has always been a writer who certainly produces a hot-and-heavy romance, but always from a story that brings the reader back to a time in history that was filled with intrigue. This is truly a well-written book that takes a look at some of the most famous rogues that we women in 2010 can only dream about.
Quill says: This author has a list of fantastic novels that are so well investigated and so creatively written, that the reader is immediately transported back in time. From the landscapes and locations, to the actual historical events, this is truly a page-turner for any fan of romance, spy stories, history, and anything else you can think of. Every character introduced will increase the mystery of who exactly the Pink Carnation really was, and all readers will be truly surprised once they find out the famous spy’s true identity. Enjoy!