Monday, May 16, 2011

Review: The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig

Life has slowed down significantly, at least after work hours, and I have been trying to work through as many books on my TBR pile as possible.  Having said that though, I couldn't resist reading Lauren Willig's newest that came out in January, The Orchid Affair.  I missed the Christmas story that was released, so I'll hold off and get that one later in the year, but I had to pick this up to find out what's up with Colin and Eloise, our modern couple, and whoever popped up as her newest female spy!

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "Laura Grey, a veteran governess, joins the Selwick Spy School expecting to find elaborate disguises and thrilling exploits in service to the spy known as the Pink Carnation. She hardly expects her first assignment to be serving as governess for the children of Andre Jaouen, right-hand man to Bonaparte's minister of police. Jaouen and his arch rival, Gaston Delaroche, are investigating a suspected Royalist plot to unseat Bonaparte, and Laura's mission is to report any suspicious findings.

At first the job is as lively as Latin textbooks and knitting, but Laura begins to notice strange behavior from Jaouen-secret meetings and odd comings and goings. As Laura edges herself closer to her employer, she makes a shocking discovery and is surprised to learn that she has far more in common with Jaouen than she originally thought...

As their plots begin to unravel, Laura and Jaouen are forced on the run with the children, and with the help of the Pink Carnation they escape to the countryside, traveling as husband and wife. But Delaroche will stop at nothing to take down his nemesis. With his men hot on their trail, can Laura and Jaouen seal the fate of Europe before it's too late?"

Review:  All of Willig's female spies have a strength about them that is fun to read.  We expect spies to be gutsy and brave, and these characters definitely have a variety of skills and strengths that allow them to spy for the British against the French.  Interestingly, Laura is the first character that felt the most cunning.  Throughout this installment, we find that Laura can blend into her life as a governess with ease, and can stoically put her own interests aside in this role.  As readers it almost feels like we know nothing about how Laura really feels.

There is a lot of great action in The Orchid Affair, with lots of different action sequences.  In one scene, Laura plays a seductress to literally save her boss, Jaouen's life.  In that moment, he not only recognizes that she might not just be his mousy governess, but that she is a capable actress and possible spy (not to mention a complete babe).  The action in this novel is exciting and had me flipping pages.  Because Laura is such a strong, stoic character, you constantly feel like you want her to just reveal more about what she's thinking and feeling!  That stoicism leads to some pretty intense chemistry between Laura and her boss, all couched in unsaid thoughts and repressed emotions. 

This installment was tense, exciting, and downright delicious.  The modern day story that is woven in with Eloise, the scholar who is unearthing these female spies for her dissertation, and her new boyfriend Colin, the modern relation to one of these spies, is a true back story in this novel.  I've enjoyed their story a lot in past installments, but thought that their role in this one was not as fluid or even necessary.  For once, I didn't want them to interrupt what was going on with Laura! 

Although you probably could read this as a stand alone, I wouldn't recommend it.  There is enough back story about other spies, reappearance of past characters, and the modern day twist that is still going on, that it might be best to start from the beginning.  This is a great series of books, however, and ones that I'm always excited to dive into!  For me, The Orchid Affair didn't disappoint!

*FTC Disclosure:  Review was based on a library copy of the book.


  1. I really need to start this series. I haven't heard a bad thing about it and I even have the first few on my eReader. Too many books and not enough time. lol.

  2. Some day I'm going to get around to reading these books. I hope.

    Have you read any of Joanna Bourne's books? She also writes about female spies and her books are pretty good!

  3. Darlene--I really love this series. It has this nice mix of modern, historical, mystery, and romance. I'd love to see what you think!

    Heidenkind--You would have so much to say. :) I really have enjoyed this series, and they don't necessarily connect other than that modern storyline. No, haven't read Bourne but will go look her up!

    Meg--Yay! They are so good. There are some ups and downs through the series, but it is pretty good overall.

  4. I just read this one too! Love, love, love (almost all) these books. I've been iffy about some of the past few books in the series, but I thought her Christmas Mistletoe story and The Orchid Affair were great.

    I wish there were more Lauren Willigs out there writing! ;)