'Tis the season to get Pink! Lauren Willig's beloved Pink Carnation series gets into the holiday spirit with this irresistible Regency Christmas caper.
Arabella Dempsey's dear friend Jane Austen warned her against teaching. But Miss Climpson's Select Seminary for Young Ladies seems the perfect place for Arabella to claim her independence while keeping an eye on her younger sisters nearby. Just before Christmas, she accepts a position at the quiet girls' school in Bath, expecting to face nothing more exciting than conducting the annual Christmas recital. She hardly imagines coming face to face with French aristocrats and international spies…
Reginald "Turnip"Fitzhugh-often mistaken for the elusive spy known as the Pink Carnation- has blundered into danger before. But when he blunders into Miss Arabella Dempsey, it never occurs to him that she might be trouble. When Turnip and Arabella stumble upon a beautifully wrapped Christmas pudding with a cryptic message written in French, "Meet me at Farley Castle," the unlikely vehicle for intrigue launches the pair on a Yuletide adventure that ranges from the Austens'modest drawing room to the awe-inspiring estate of the Dukes of Dovedale, where the Dowager Duchess is hosting the most anticipated event of the year: an elaborate twelve-day Christmas celebration. Will they find poinsettias or peril, dancing or danger? Is it possible that the fate of the British Empire rests in Arabella's and Turnip's hands, in the form of a festive Christmas pudding?
Willig picks up where she left readers breathlessly hanging with 2005's . After discovering the identity of the Pink Carnation, one of England's most successful spies during the Napoleonic wars, modern-day graduate student Eloise Kelly is hot on the trail of the Black Tulip, the Pink Carnation's French counterpart. While researching the archives of dashing-but-grumpy Colin Selwick (a descendant of the Selwick spy family), Eloise learns that spy Purple Gentian (Richard Selwick) safely retired to the countryside; meanwhile, the Pink Carnation continues her mission with the help of Richard's younger sister. Spirited Henrietta Selwick discovers that the Black Tulip has resurfaced after a 10-year silence with the intent of eliminating the Pink Carnation. Miles Dorrington (Richard's best friend) works for the War Office and is directed to unearth the deadly spy. As he and Henrietta investigate, they try to deny their attraction for each other — and avoid becoming the Black Tulip's next victims. Hero and heroine can be quite silly, and there are overlong ballroom shenanigans aplenty; like last time, Eloise and Colin's will-they-won't-they dance isn't nearly as interesting as what takes place in 1803. No matter. Willig knows her audience; Regency purists may gnash their teeth in frustration, but many more will delight in this easy-to-read romp and line up for the next installment.
The French eventually unmasked the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian, famed spies in the Napoleonic wars, but as Harvard graduate student Eloise Kelly discovers at the start of this breezy historical romance, the identity of the Pink Carnation remains a mystery. Working in London on her history dissertation, Eloise gets access to a trunk of papers and documents from the early 19th century. She dives into this treasure trove, and suddenly the reader is plunged into a novel within a novel, told from the viewpoint of Amy Balcourt. Amy, exiled to rural England with her mother, now wants to avenge, with the help of her cousin Jane, her father's death at the hands of the French. She hopes to be in league with the Scarlet Pimpernel, who heroically tried to save her father. Willig, a Harvard graduate student herself, does a good job painting a picture of the tumultuous era. She also makes the sparks fly between Amy and the Purple Gentian, a dashing English nobleman in charge of Egyptian antiquities for Bonaparte. But when the Pink Carnation's identity is finally revealed after many obvious clues, the reader wonders why it took Eloise so long to get it. More critically, Eloise's appearances come to seem like awkward intrusions into Amy's - and the Pink Carnation's - more intriguing story.