The summary on the back cover of this book is rather misleading. It gives you the impression that this is a typical chick lit book set in modern day England with occasional references to dashing spies and romantic heros of the past. That is incorrect. The bulk of the action actually takes place in the past, focusing on the exploits of Amy and Richard in the time of the Napoleonic War, with modern-day grad student Eloise's chapters serving as a framing story. Eloise is the narrator. She speaks to us in the first person at the beginning and the end (and the occasional middle chapter interspersed throughout) of the book, but make no mistake, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation is unquestionably Amy and Richard's story. They're the characters who we care the most about and who we're the most involved in. Which is not to say that we don't care about Eloise, because we do, and I, for one, am looking forward to seeing how her relationship with Colin progresses over the course of this new series, but she's not the focus. In a sense, she's almost a plot device to involve us in the historical story. But not completely. After all, if that was all she was, then the author could have cut her out altogether and just told a straightforward historical romance.
Okay, that was clear as mud, wasn't it.
I found this book to be a great deal of fun, one of the most purely enjoyable books I've read in years. The sheer swashbuckling intrigue of the noble and romantic spy the Purple Gentian running around France foiling Napoleons evil plans was utterly charming, and it combined in an odd, quirky, but very appealing way with the Bridget Jones-esque tone of the modern-day chapters (although Eloise is far more intellectual than Bridget would ever dream of being) -- creating a frothy, satisfying confection of a novel, fascinating, surprising, and wonderful. The ensemble cast was a thoroughly delightful touch, adding a zany charm to moments that would otherwise have been hackneyed and cliched, familiar from a thousand other romance novels. This time, when the Pink Carnation makes a daring rescue at the end of the book, Richard's mother is along for the ride -- a welcome breath of originality.
The only flaw in this novel is, I'm sorry to say, a common one to mystery novels. Eloise serves as a stand-in for the reader; her reactions on her search for the identity of the Pink Carnation mirror the reader's reactions. Unfortunately, the reader is one step ahead of her the whole way through.
That one blemish was not enought to mar the whole, though, and I recommend this book highly for anyone in the mood for a fun, romantic, original, and light but still intelligent read!
Pretty good, but I was expecting something different. This was much lighter and fluffier than I thought it would be - I thought there'd be a lot more suspense and drama. This was so powder-puffy that I'm surprised it came out in hardcover first!
Not to say that I don't like fluffy, 'cos generally speaking I love my fluff. I was a little disappointed though, probably just because I was expecting something different. That may be my own fault - the blurbs on the back of the book should have given my a clue if nothing else did! Once I got past my surprise this was a fun read. I've heard several people complain about the jumping back and forth between the present day and the past storylines, but that didn't bother me a bit. I can easily imagine myself in Eloise's position, thinking a sojourn to London sounds like a great idea and obsessively sorting through old papers!
This is one of the few books that I have ever wanted to burn, or at the very least throw hard against a wall. The book description led me to believe that the book was historical fiction centered around a female spy. Instead, I found it to be a very poorly (IMO) written romance, with an insufferable heroine who spent most of her time sniffing, and who couldn't spy her way out of a paper bag.
I absolutely LOVED this book! There were several parts that made me bust out laughing! I was glad it wasn't some stuffy history book. I literally couldn't put it down. I loved the characters, plot, scenery... I thought it was wonderfully written. I can't wait to read the other books in the series.
It took me forever to get into this book. It's the first in the Pink Carnation series. If I had to describe it I'd say it's historical fiction meets Stephanie Plum. Light weight historical fiction with a little humor along with your intrigue.
Love this series. Pure chick-lit at its finest. While this is part romance, part mystery, it is an amazing adventure which you don't want to miss. I highly recommend all of Lauren Willig's books in this series.
This book is NOT something I would have ever read on my own, but a few friends were raving about it, so I decided to give it a shot. I think it's classified as "historical romance" -- romance is NOT my thing. The audio recording was some 15 hours long, I believe. The first 5 hours I was bored - so bored, I was wanting to hear some romance, something, anything... please! It picked up and really what made this book good for me was the last 4 hours. THAT is when it really got good... and you know what, I was expecting a lot of "romance", but there really wasn't that much in there. A surprise for me, for sure. Having said that, it interested me enough that I think I'll look for the next book that seems to be a spin off of this one. The historical angle was interesting (although the vast majority of it seemed to be made up or very large liberties taken for the sake of the story). Interesting book, the narrator freaked me out at first and was driving me crazy, but I quickly came to like how she gave a voice, a very specific voice, to each character. I wish I could do that when I read to my kids half as well as she does!
Stephanie C. (3steph) reviewed The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (Pink Carnation, Bk 1) on
I personally loved this book. My husband and I listened to it on a road trip...normally NOT his thing, granted there were a few embarrassing parts, but it kept even his attention! I would recommend it highly for those Historical/Romance/Just Plain Entertainment/lovers!!
If you are anything like me you'll enjoy this book. Ms. Willig blends historical romance and chick lit to create a page-turner of a story with fun characters and a mystery. I laughed out loud too many times to count and while the leads were an absolute delight the secondary characters kept stealing the spotlight. I did have trouble getting into the story but the pace picked up in the second third so I'm not complaining too much. Another thing that didn't always work for me is the language - it didn't really fit the Napoleonic era. I kept being distracted by modern turns of phrase and American spelling although the characters were all English.
All in all this is a delightful read that did a wonderful job of distracting me from the tedium of the never-ending dishes-laundry-work rotation and put me in a good mood. I look forward to reading the next volume in the series!