by Lauren Willig
Book Two in the Pink Carnation series
Graduate student Eloise Kelly’s research takes an unexpected turn as a new archive of family papers reveal an amazing story from the past. When a courier for England’s War Office is murdered, Miles Dorrington is ordered to uncover the identity of the killer, a French spy known only as the Black Tulip. Racing him to solve the mystery is Henrietta Uppington, associate of the Pink Carnation and sister of Miles’ best friend, the retired spy once known as the Purple Gentian. As childhood friends, Miles and Henrietta are as close as can be, but when a rival for Miles’ attention appears Henrietta realizes she wants more than just friendship. Flirtation and romantic misunderstandings mingle with adventure and spycraft in Regency England as twenty-first century girl Eloise struggles through her own romantic misadventures.
If ever a book series could be labeled a guilty pleasure, it’s the adventures of the Pink Carnation and her friends. Actually, the Pink Carnation barely appears in the story, and that’s a shame, because she is the character about whom I am most curious. What is she doing in France and in Ireland? How is she managing her massive spy operation? Sadly, we only get glimpses through her correspondence with Henrietta and a few brief chapters where she pops up.
Instead the book focuses on the romance between Miles and Henrietta, two very modern characters types thrust against a 19th century backdrop. Henrietta is a spirited and clever young lady but, not unlike her predecessor Amy in the previous book, comes across as quite dense at times. She misses obvious clues about the identity of the Black Tulip (a mystery solved by readers within the first third of the book but missed by the characters until the closing chapters) and suffers an endless stream of miscommunications and romantic mishaps. It just gets silly and somewhat repetitive.
Meanwhile Eloise’s modern day dilemmas pop up at the most inopportune moments. She’s rather grown on me compared to when I first read the book back in 2007, but her story is still far less compelling than the historical sections of the book, and I just want to rush through her romancing of the owner of Selwick Hall so we can get back to the action and the spy stuff.
I’m looking forward to the next volume, which hints at major activities for the Pink Carnation that I hope will mean more page time for her. There’s also the promise of more appearances by “Turnip” Fitzhugh, a highly entertaining idiot who is either a brilliant actor-spy a la the Scarlet Pimpernel or a delightfully oblivious fashion-obsessed weirdo whose presence is so refreshing when surrounded by super-serious espionage and supersized romances.
3 out of 5 stars
To read more about The Masque of the Black Tulip, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.
Peeking into the archives...today in:
2014: The Day of Revolution Vol. 2 by Mikiyo Tsuda
2013: Queen Jezebel (Catherine De' Medici Trilogy #3) by Jean Plaidy
2012: Genkaku Picasso Vol. 1 by Usamaru Furuya
2011: Fashionista Piranha will be on hiatus for a while…
2010: Discussion Question: Do you have to like the characters?
2009: Murder of a Medici Princess by Caroline Murphy