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The secret history of the pink carnation is a wonderful romp of a romance I was initially draw to the book by reading another novel in the series but because I did quite understand some of the plot lines as it was the fourth book I decided to go back and read them in order.
About the author
Lauren Willig has been writing romances for several years an American who initially studied history then Law she gave this up to focus solely on writing she primarily write the Pink Carnation series of which there are 10 books, but has written to date two other books.
About the book
This is the first book in the Pink carnation series what differences from most period romance books is that this book is a mix of two time periods with the whole novel flitting between two. The first period is modern day when we meet our heroine Eloise who is in London writing a dissertation on spies of the Napoleonic era including, the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. But what she focusing on more is trying to discover is something historians have missed: the secret history and identity of the Pink Carnation the most elusive spy of all time. Eloise is given access to the Selwick papers which are a collection of letters describing a love affair between the Purple Gentian, another famous spy, and Amy Balcourt, who may be the Pink Carnation. The other era and the main focus of the book is on the love story between Amy and Richard Selwick aka the Purple Gentian.
The first thing I would say is if you are expecting historical detail and accuracy then you are going to be disappointed as there just isn't the depth here for that. But what it is a very good example of is a light hearted fun chick lit novel set against a historical back drop. The writing style is full of wonderful ironic silly observations that we all make and it is these that make some of the funny comic observations that made me chuckle aloud whilst reading the book. The writing style isn't Austen but it is light and frothy and romantic and full of witty dialog. The plot is insanely contrived at times like a lot of this genre but these contrived escapades are fully packed with hilarity and romance so I personally just went with it and enjoyed the book.
The modern characters of Eloise and Colin are sympathetic and realistically written despite being full of ludicrous situations worthy of a stage farce. The chemistry of their love/hate relationship is delightful with plenty of misunderstandings that though at times can seem contrived are never the less fun to read.
In the Napoleonic era the lead characters of Amy and Richard are just wonderfully farcical and full of gusto and eccentric mannerisms. I immediately loved them and cared about what would happen to them. The supporting characters are also very memorable due to how outrageous they are. These include Miss Gwen, the prim, straight-laced chaperone with a penchant for prodding people with her parasol who in some ways reminds me of the Amelia Peabody character and series. There is also Lord Richard's constantly flirting parents and his sister who is eager to please and be involved with the spy games. His two best friends Geoff and the irreverent Miles provide a good foil for Amy and Richards antics. Stiles, Richard's butler who is an ex-actor is positively a hoot with his mad cap antics.
The novel despite being about spies is not a spy novel but definitely in the romance genre. There is a few scenes of a sexual natural that are neither amazingly written or cringe worthy whilst I didn't avoid reading them they were not the stand out part of the book for me. The main enjoyment of the novel was the fun witty dialogue and farcical situations and budding romances.
Overall I would recommend this novel to fans of historical romance and it is written in a fun way that reminds me of Julia Quinn's novels so if you have enjoyed those this book would be worth a try. It is full of engaging characters and witty dialog just don't expect huge depth from the novel.
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: ALLISON & BUSBY (1 July 2009)
Available on Amazon from 1 pence in the market place to £4.75 new.