Fantasy Mystery Comics Non-Fiction Fiction

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (2005) Lauren Willig

The Secret History of the Pink CarnationSet in England and France in 1803.

I knew I’d read this before, but after checking, it was 2010, so I can be forgiving for remembering next to nothing about the story.

Amy’s father was killed during the Revolution, and her English mother died of grief soon after. So from a small age she wanted little more than to avenge the deaths of her parents, and came up with many interesting ways to do so.

It was Jane who figured out how to rub soot and gum on teeth to make them look like those of a desiccated old hag— and then how to rub it all off again before Nanny saw. It was Jane who plotted a route to France on the nursery globe and Jane who discovered a way to creep down the back stairs without making them creak.

When Amy’s brother invites her to return to France and join in, she eagerly takes up the offer, hoping to join the revolutionary, The Purple Gentian, and overthrow the government.

But the Purple Gentian doesn’t want to deal with young women–he just wants to discover Napoleon’s plans for invading England, and put a stop to them.

Except that perhaps he might be a tiny bit interested in one specific young woman.


But he probably shouldn’t be.

What I’d forgotten in the intervening years was that this story was lighthearted and somewhat silly.

“Really, indeed,” echoed Richard, looking quite impressed. That one comment about the reproductive habits of camels had been quite original.

“This is ridiculous!” Amy exclaimed.

“I quite agree.” Thump! “To refer to an innocent camel in that salacious way—”

Not that there is anything wrong with ridiculous–it’s fine–I just had it in my head that it was a slightly different kind of story, so the silliness was unexpected and took me aback initially. Mostly because that wasn’t quite what I was in the mood for.

The other thing this story does is switch between a “current day” narrative, and the past. The majority of the book is set in the past, telling of the adventures of Richard and Amy and everyone else, but there are parts in the modern day, and those part I like less well–partially because of this:

SPOILER (but this book is 15 years old, so I’m not hiding)

I should have known. I should have expected. But who would ever have imagined that the Pink Carnation could be a woman?

Umm… anyone?

How could I have missed it? As a scholar, how could I have been so careless? That stung, that my preconceptions had so blinded me to the truth of what I was reading. What kind of a historian was I, blundering along blindfolded by my own imagination?

We never get the answer to this. Because this was written in 2005, not 1950, so the modern character not even considering that the spy might have been a woman is… annoying? Frustrating? Something anyway.

I do have the second book (I’ve picked up several books on sale) so I’ll probably read it, but when I’m in the mood for something lighter.

Publisher: Berkley
Rating: 6/10

Categories: British, Covers, Female, Historical, Mystery, Re-Read, Romance, Sexual Content     Comments (0)    

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