Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

From the Publisher:
Deciding that true romantic heroes are a thing of the past, Eloise, an intelligent American who nonetheless always manages to wear her Jimmy Choo suede boots on the day it rains, leaves Harvard's Wiedner Library bound for England to finish her dissertation on the dashing pair of spies the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian.  What she discovers is something the finest historians have missed: the secret history of the Pink Carnation--the most elusive spy of all time, who saved England itself from Napoleon's invasion.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation opens with the story of Eloise Kelly settling in to read the secret history.  But before Eloise can unmask the Pink Carnation, she uncovers a passionate romance that almost threw off the course of world events.  How did the Pink Carnation save England? What became of the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian? And will Eloise Kelly find a hero of her own?

My Thoughts:

Being a huge fan of historical fiction, and The Scarlet Pimpernel in particular, this sounded like the perfect story for me.  While it had an intriguing plot, and likeable characters, at times it was somewhat silly and often downright ridiculous.  That being said, the story did compel me to keep reading as I wanted to discover who The Pink Carnation was, and I enjoyed the budding romance between the main characters.  Although the descriptions of the female protagonist(s) were often annoying as she was frequently "breathless" blushing, or biting her lips in consternation all the while, unbeknownst to her, driving her love interest mad with desire...At times I just found it mawkish.
(There is some sexual content so be forewarned if you're not into that)

The story utilizes third person multiple vision POV and goes back and forth between the early 1800's in Paris post Revolution, and modern day London. There are three POV characters. The first is Eloise, an American Harvard Graduate student working on her dissertation, which is about the two English spies, the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. She's gone to London to find out what she can about a third spy, the Pink Carnation, the most elusive English spy in Napoleonic France.  The only person willing to assist her is an elderly aristocratic descendent of the Purple Gentian, who, of course, has a gorgeous nephew, Colin, who does not want Eloise to have access to the family archives. Nevertheless, the aunt allows Eloise full access to it all. So, while Eloise reads these family letters, diaries, etc..we are transported to the early 1800's where we encounter Amy, the second POV character, who is half French but has been raised in England after losing her French father to Madame Guillotine, and Lord Richard Selwick, the third POV character, the Purple Gentian and Colin's ancestor.
 I enjoyed the multiple POV aspect, I usually do, but I know that certain readers can find it frustrating and confusing.  In this particular novel it is very straight forward and not at all confusing.  The story is a simple one, albeit entertaining, which would make it an ideal beach read, and which is why I picked up the sequel, The Masque of the Black Tulip.  I'm quite sure that it's going to be much the same as this one, which means it will be entertaining.  And that's what I like after all---to be told a good story.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Elspeth,

    I don't mind a book that wanders back and forth, both between time zones and/or character narrative, but I like it to be a clean transition,so that the flow of the story isn't interrupted too much.

    I too like historical fiction, but if it gets too silly and deteriorates into romantic mush, then I tend to get a bit annoyed and bored.

    I would generally decide to read historic fiction, if I don't really want to think too hard about a complicated plot, or if I am planning to read the book in very short bursts that would mean me having to remember the storyline in great detail.