I know, can you believe it? TWO POSTS in ONE DAY! But, I thought it would be fun to post a book review every day from Christmas to Epiphany on January 6th. Thus, The 12 Books of Christmas was born. I’ve been saving up book reviews for this very purpose. Since I’ve been reading mostly series recently, that’s what I’ll be reviewing the most but I’ll also throw in a stand-alone or too just to keep things interesting.
On the first day of Bookmas I read:
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
Secret History is book one of twelve in the Pink Carnation series. The series takes place in various places in England, Scotland, Wales and France. Secret History introduces the reader to Eloise, a fifth year history graduate student from Yale in London doing research for her dissertation. Focusing on spies during the Napoleonic wars, Eloise is trying to unmask the elusive Pink Carnation. No one has ever discovered the true identity of the Pink Carnation and Eloise feels quite certain that if she can, her academic life, and maybe even her love life, will improve dramatically. So to London she goes in hopes of finding the Pink Carnation. Before her arrival, Eloise had contacted a few prominent families who had had Napoleonic spies in their family history. Only Mrs. Selwick-Alderly, descended from the Purple Gentian Richard Selwick, agrees to let Eloise into her family’s archives. Eloise is ecstatic, hoping that by tracing the Purple Gentian’s career, she can discover the identity of his predecessor. Thus, the book then breaks into two stories within one binding. We are introduced and follow the story of Richard, Lord Selwick and Purple Gentian and Lady Amy Balcourt but also, periodically, Eloise.
Richard is by day Lord Selwick and by night the Purple Gentian, predecessor of the Scarlet Pimpernel and official spy of Britain’s Home Office during the Napoleonic wars. While traveling to France on official Home Office business, he meets Lady Amy Balcourt, a woman of French descent who was raised in Britain during the Revolution. Sparks immediately fly between the two but Richard is determined to keep his distance. This proves a useless task as he and Amy find themselves continuously thrown together and after Richard is kidnapped by the French, Amy risks herself to find and rescue him. Is Amy the Pink Carnation?
Interspersed among Richard and Amy’s story is Eloise’s. While reading the Selwick papers, she is verbally accosted by Mrs. Selwick-Alderly’s handsome but infuriating nephew Colin. Colin, it seems, will go to great lengths to protect his family’s history from prying eyes. Secret History contains the entire story of Richard and Amy but only the beginning fragments of Eloise and Colin’s.
I adore this book series. I started it on the recommendation of a good friend of mine and have read the first five and am making my way through the sixth. Secret History came into my life at about the same time Sherlock did, which only increased my Anglophilia. I immediately felt like Eloise was an old friend and I was catching up on her life after some time apart. I feel for her, and I see a lot of myself in her. If she was a real person, I KNOW we would be the best of friends. Colin, on the other hand, is a jerk. In this book. But there’s a hint of something more behind his eyes and his smirk and his attitude. I think he can’t help but be taken in by Eloise and her innocence and her scholarly pursuit of his ancestors.
I really enjoyed and appreciate the way the book jumps from history to present day and back again. It keeps you on your toes and keeps you reading! Just when things are getting *really* good, the book will jump to the other storyline. It can be a bit jarring, this jump, especially because there is no indication from the chapter page that the story is changing, but damn if it’s not an effective way to keep me pushing through the book until the end. I must know what happens. I MUST.
If you want a quick read that’s light and funny but with a little bit of steam, definitely go for Secret History of the Pink Carnation. And I dare you to stop with just this one 🙂