The Secret History Pink Carnation is the first book of eleven (so far) in Lauren Willig’s Georgian historical romance series of the same name. Each novel has a framing device featuring a PhD student combing through nineteenth century documents for her thesis research on aristocratic spies and the relation of what she finds as a romantic adventure story. Willig’s writing is light and clever and The Secret History Pink Carnation had a kind of breezy musical comedy tone. It bounced along as a charmingly written and pleasant romp with just a little peril for the protagonists to keep things interesting.
Amy is a displaced French aristocrat who escaped with her English mother to Shropshire on the eve of the Revolution. Her father lost his head to Mme. Guillotine and her brother, Edouard, claimed his safety by becoming a toady to the new regime. Amy has had schemes and stratagems for restoring the old order to France for years, so when her brother invites her to return to Paris, she feels that she will at last have her chance to make good on all her espionage practice. On her way to France, she meets up with Napoleon’s Egyptologist Richard Selwick. Feigning indifference to politics, he uses his position at Court to glean information and carry out deeds of daring do a la Scarlet Pimpernel and thus thumb his nose at the French government.
Amy and Richard spark and spar instantly in delightful bits of comedy. He finds himself irresistibly drawn to Amy even as he desperately tries to keep her safe, defuse her impetuous machinations, and get to the business of foiling Napoleon’s plot to invade England. Things move along nicely with enough twists, jeopardy, and romance to keep things interesting.
The framing device sets up a love story as well that is tracked through the other Pink Carnation books as that relationship develops. Even as the spy stories move farther afield geographically and chronologically, the present day heroine’s life moves forward just a few months. Such is my devotion to romantic subplots that I took three Pink Carnation books out of the library and while I didn’t read beyond the first one, I did go ahead and peruse the present day chapters of the other two books to check on that love story’s progress. I’m reasonably certain those two crazy kids will be able to work things out in the long run.
The Secret History Pink Carnation was very entertaining, well-researched, and a great choice if you like a bit of farce in your romance. It was not, as my romance spirit guide, Malin, warned me, my style as it was both just a bit too devil-may-care on the political elements and insufficient on the romance for my tastes. The key part of that last sentence is “for my tastes”. I like to focus on the love story in any romance I read so subplots are often wasted on me. Spies, in particular, leave me cold. I also have no use for political intrigue. Nor murder mysteries. Supernatural elements annoy me. Road trips are fine. Is someone writing these down? Honestly, there is no pleasing me.
Also by Lauren Willig – The Seduction of the Crimson Rose