by Lauren Willig
The fifth book in the Pink Carnation series
After many years abroad in India, the Duke of Dovedale returns to England to avenge the death of a friend. Robert has barely set foot on his estate when he encounters his distant cousin Charlotte and rekindles their childhood friendship. Charlotte, a daydreamer who loves books and fairy tales, is instantly smitten and quickly convinces herself that Robert is a hero straight out of one of her stories. When his plot for revenge forces Robert to befriend the members of the notorious Hellfire Club so that he can infiltrate their organization, he breaks off his budding relationship with Charlotte in order to protect her. Devastated, Charlotte is soon distracted when she stumbles across a plot against the king and realizes that she may be the only person who can protect him.
I have to get a few disappointing things off my chest: there's no Pink Carnation in this book. In fact, very few characters from the previous novels in the series make an appearance. No Black Tulip. No Lord Vaughn or Mary Alsworthy, no Amy and Richard Selwick. While Charlotte is a sweet girl with a surprising spine of steel, she was never quite as interesting as some of Willig's other heroines. She spent too much mooning and moping over Robert, especially in the first half of the book, which was quite sluggish at times as a result.
Robert never quite matched the charm of his preceding leading men, either. He was constantly rehashing the old “I'm no good for this pure girl so I must leave her...but I love her so much that I can't stay away!” argument and it was tiresome. There was friction between him and his Dovedale relations because he wasn't raised as a member of the aristocracy, so there's so much that he doesn't know about the workings of court life. I wish we had seen more of that in the book and less of his inner waffling.
Charlotte was a side character in The Masque of the Black Tulip, one of Henrietta's closest friends, and she's appeared occasionally in other the books. She isn't quite interesting enough to hold her own, now when there are so many other interesting personalities in Willig's world.
In the present, Eloise and Colin have settled into a relationship. Their scenes are an amusing break from the melodrama of Charlotte's life. In this sitcom-like episode, Eloise realizes that she has no idea what Colin does for a living, and in imitation of her research she tries to uncover the answer by sneaking into his study at night and going through his bookshelves instead of simply asking him directly. The silliness of her situation was a welcome relief.
2.5 out of 5 stars
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2015: New Releases: March 3rd, 2015
2014: Review: Who Owns America's Past? by Robert C. Post
2013: Lady at the O.K. Corral by Ann Kirschner
2012: Vacation: Weddingpalooza
2011: The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer by Lucy Weston
2010: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith
2009: The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran