Book Review of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (Pink Carnation, Bk 1)

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (Pink Carnation, Bk 1)
reviewed on + 35 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 10

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!