by Lauren Willig
The third book in the Pink Carnation series
Eloise has had her way with the Selwick archive, but that doesn’t mean her research is over. Searching for evidence to support her thesis on the Pink Carnation’s identity, she manages to find the papers of a contemporary and friend of the famous spy: Letty Alsworthy, who finds herself in a compromising situation with her sister’s suitor Lord Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe after attempting to foil an elopement. Geoffrey obligingly marries Letty, but before the wedding feast is over he’s hightailed off to Ireland without so much as informing his new wife. Letty, desperate to explain that she never intended to trick Geoffrey into marriage, follows after him, and quickly becomes swept up in the Pink Carnation’s espionage ring. Meanwhile, back in the present Eloise has her own relationship troubles to sort as a date with another American (set up by her grandmother back home) gives Colin the wrong idea and dashes her hopes of attracting the current Lord Selwick.
This entry in the series was a flipping point for me: before, I wasn’t much interested in Eloise’s romantic life, but I found it increasingly attractive throughout the course of this book. She and Colin obviously get on very well, and they probably would have hooked up by now had multiple family emergencies and comic misunderstandings not distracted them. But the slow progression of their relationship feels very real and natural, in stark contrast to the over-the-top highs and lows of the Alsworthy-Pinchingdale-Snipe alliance. Geoffrey is initially attracted to his wife when he believes her to be her sister, than repulsed by her deception. He loathes her for trapping him in a marriage, but gets over it rather quickly, all things considered. Despite singing the praises of her sister for years he hastily succumbs to the quirks and charms of Letty’s personality so that blissful married life can begin. Letty, meanwhile, realizes she’s loved Geoffrey from afar for a long, long time and was jealous of her sister’s place in his heart. All is well, all is forgiven and mended by the end of the book.
I was a little disappointed by how neatly it all tied up. Given that the early 18th century wasn’t known for love matches, I was rather looking forward to a partnership that was perhaps a bit more realistic to the times. It’s a romance series, though, so of course everyone has to fall in love in the end.
This book once again brings the focus back in on the Pink Carnation as she works to prevent a rebellion in Ireland, and it’s fantastic to see Jane return. The story also sees the return of the enigmatic Lord Vaughn, a man known for his cutting remarks and flamboyant clothes. Whether he’s an ally of the Pink Carnation or a double agent is never clear, but whenever he enters a scene you know it’s going to be a fun time, for his every utterance seems to have two or three meanings.
When I first read this series back in 2007, this book was as far as I got. I don’t remember if it was the last book available at the time, or if I had tired of the series. It was probably the former. While I didn’t find The Deception of the Emerald Ring to be as strong as its predecessors, it’s still an entertaining story. I just can’t resist stories of these women and their adventures! It’s definitely a guilty pleasure, a not-so-secret one that I enjoy.
2.5 out of 5 stars
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2014: The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford
2013: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown
2012: The Queen’s Vow by C. W. Gortner
2011: Fashionista Piranha will be on hiatus for a while…
2010: The Queen’s Lover by Vanora Bennett
2009: Contest #8: Diggin’ Up Reading
2008: New Moon (Twilight #2) by Stephenie Meyer