Review copy was received from Purchased. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
Series: Pink Carnation #2
Published by Berkley on December 1, 2005
Genres: Historical Romance, Mystery
Amazon, Audible, Audiobook, Barnes & Noble, Apple
Harvard graduate student Eloise Kelly has achieved the academic coup of the century when she unmasked the spy who saved England from Napoleon. But now she has a million questions about the Pink Carnation's deadly French nemesis, the Black Tulip.
After recently reading the first in the series, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, The Masque of the Black Tulip dove right back into the contemporary plot line and then introduced the historical plot line shortly after. Like any good series worth its salt, the second book can tell a lot about how it will go now that the introductions are out of the way. I happily dove in now knowing what to expect from writing, characters, and plot.
The Masque of the Black Tulip picks up with a reluctant Colin Selwick driving Harvard post-grad historical scholar, Eloise, down to his house so she can peruse the family archives in search of more of the Pink Carnation’s activities. Colin leaves her with the correspondence and papers of Henrietta from the year 1803 and she delves in. Off and on, she comes up for a dose of twenty-first century English country air and discovers Colin isn’t so bad at times and she might have an eensy-teensy attraction toward him, but so does a local woman who makes no bones about how its going to be. Eloise isn’t the most graceful or gracious so she is well aware a guy like Colin is well out of her league, but a gal can dream, right?
Meanwhile, in 1803, Henrietta is bored. She hoped her last adventure with her brother, Richard and his wife Amy, along with Jane, the Pink Carnation, would land her with more adventures thwarting Napoleon and his spies. But, instead, she is looking at a season in London. At least, she can help Jane’s work by receiving innocent girlish correspondence about social events and people in Paris, taking out the handy code book Jane gave her their last meeting, and sending the vital decoded letters to the spymaster at the War Office. The latest letter mentions a deadly Napoleonic spy and assassin headed for London. She is determined that it will be herself who brings down the Black Tulip.
Very well, she will be forced to partner with the sometimes outrageous, but affable Miles, family friend and secret crush. Miles is in the same place as Henrietta in that he’s always been the subordinate to the real spies because his appearance of a large blond with big personality is not understated enough to do the job and he’s forced to courier work, admin and busting the obvious spy rings in London, but then Wickham gives him the task of hunting down the Black Tulip and Miles is given a target. He has no trouble believing the man is the Black Tulip and it is NOT jealousy that the rake is interested in Henrietta.
Henrietta and Miles were fun side characters in the last book. They have wit and fab dialogue. They have known each other since childhood because her brother and Miles went to school together and have remained best friends and worked in espionage work. It takes the pair time to admit to themselves they have a more than friendly attraction and then they get into a few social contretemps as they work separately and together to land the Black Tulip. I already liked them and found this a fun romp and adventure. I’m not sure why beyond the characters themselves, but I could tolerate the antics and comedic moments better than I did in the first book. This romance and partnership worked much better for me.
As to Eloise, she still isn’t my favorite character and got on my nerves at times, but I think she’s growing on me even when her awkward moments make me wince. Colin, I’m ambivalent about. He’s reserved and can be caustic. I’ll have to give him a wait and see. Hopefully, I’ll continue warming to the contemporary plot line.
The end of the historical line shows where the next book will be taking things and left me anticipating the new adventures in the Pink Carnation world. I think those who enjoy historical RomCom or cozy mysteries with humor are the target readers for this series.
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