Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Review: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

Welcome to what already feels like a glorious midweek! The sun has started to shine here, so much so, that I'm being hopeful that spring is around the corner, and that the trees and flowers will start to blossom. I think it's all rather deceptive, and I've never known it here to really stick to its current pattern; therefore, we'll get snow soon, right? Honestly, I can hardly wait for spring. If I convince myself enough, I think I can feel it in my bones.

Okay, enough of the irony here that I'm dying inside for spring breezes and flowers, and the book I recently finished listening to on audio book was The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig! I had actually seen books by Lauren Willig pop up in reviews all over the blogosphere, and they had pretty good reviews. Thank you again to so many other bloggers for pointing out yet another author to me.

Synopsis: Written as a narrative within a narrative, we have our modern protagonist Eloise Kelly working on a dissertation about the famous spy, the Pink Carnation. In an effort to uncover the true identity of this lesser known spy for England during roughly the same era as the Scarlet Pimpernel, Eloise travels and lives in London, looking for documents that might reveal the secrets she seeks. In the process, she is offered a peek into a diary of a Miss Amy Balcourt, a young woman of French descent, living in England, but with a burning desire to be the next great spy for the British.

As secondary readers of the diary, we get sucked into Amy's world, where she meets Richard Selwick (who is also the spy called The Purple Gentian) on a visit to her brother's home in France. Amy is quickly smitten with The Purple Gentian, yet not so much with Richard. Okay, so she might be just a little intrigued by Richard, not realizing he is one in the same as her masked spy and hero. Through a series of adventures, both come in contact through their endeavors to spy for England and must try to keep their identities, and budding romance, hidden from all.

Review: As mentioned earlier, I listened to this as I drove to and from work. While this book has received mix reviews, I thought it was a pretty interesting story. Although it is far from a true history of the era or culture, and read a bit more like a historical romance, I enjoyed the escape factor. Since I tend to be an easily distracted reader and listener, the two stories (past and future) were fine for me. In fact, I appreciated being jerked back into the present from time to time, to be reminded that this is a diary we're being privileged to look into, and not a history book! Some of the encounters between Amy and Richard/The Purple Gentian were a bit far-fetched, and steamy at times, which wouldn't be exactly accurate. However, in keeping with the idea that this is a diary, and about a supposed female SPY, I figured it was meant to delve into the non-standard for the time. Spies don't necessarily live by every strict code of the culture they live in, right?

While the book had me confused in a few places, and not following the how, where, and why of the espionage, I still was entertained and enjoyed the story. The book does contain two pretty surprising sex scenes that honestly had me reaching for the volume on my radio to turn it down for fear someone would hear! I know. I sound silly, but they took me a bit by surprise. On the whole, I would say that the novel was a fun romp through history, but in a very fictitious way. I enjoyed the story, but wouldn't turn to it for any sense of true history or the culture of that time period. For more information, see: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.

This book counts as my second in the Audiobook Challenge. I'll also be linking up with Cym Lowell's weekly Book Review Party. Stop by his site to visit other bloggers who have reviewed a book this week!

*This review is based from a library copy of the audio book.


  1. Steamy sex scenes and a take-off of The Scarlet Pimpernell? Oooh la la! ;)

  2. I actually read this book recently, but I am stillcontemplating how to write a review of it. I loved it, but was also a bit surprised by the sex scenes. I would've turned my volume down for sure if I was listening to the book! So, I guess you wrote my review for me.

  3. I love this series, it's a great mix of historical romance with mystery and a little extra. I remember being surprised that it had so much romance in it, and the other ones don't really have less, but it's quite a fun series nonetheless.

  4. This sounds like fun. I got this book on a sale at the bookstore and haven't read it yet. Are you planning on reading-listening to the next books in the series?

  5. I loved your review! This sounds like something I would love. I'm off to add it to my list of books I want to read!

  6. I've been curious about this series-I can't decide if I'd like it or not! I did enjoy Scarlet Pimpernel, but I'm not usually a fan of anachronistic-sounding historical fiction by modern authors. lol I should just stop angsting and read the first one to see and decide for myself!

  7. I really enjoyed this book and glad you did too!

  8. Heidenkind--LOL. They are pretty steamy!

    Candletea--Your review turned out great! :)

    Meghan and Stephanie--I might have heard about these books from you guys. I know I've heard from a lot of people that they enjoyed these. I think for escape purposes, it's a great read!

    Kay--I actually just started listening to the second book yesterday! :) I hope you enjoy it!

    A Buckeye Girl--I think you'd enjoy this one. It doesn't look like a romance, but it took that turn, which was interesting!

    Eva--I don't know if you'd like these. If you like the authenticity of the time, then this would not be the read! For pure escape, I thought it was pretty good.

  9. It sounds like a good escape book. I have it on my shelf to read this year. And don't you live in Hawaii? What are you talking about snow?