Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

Mass Market Release: Oct. 5, 2010

Publisher: Signet

Pages: 400

Copy provided by: Bought

Summary: Goodreads

Deciding that true romantic heroes are a thing of the past, Eloise Kelly, an intelligent American who always manages to wear her Jimmy Choo suede boots on the day it rains, leaves Harvard's Widener Library bound for England to finish her dissertation on the dashing pair of spies the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. What she discovers is something the finest historians have missed: a secret history that begins with a letter dated 1803. Eloise has found the secret history of the Pink Carnation the most elusive spy of all time, the spy who single-handedly saved England from Napoleon's invasion.
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, a wildly imaginative and highly adventurous debut, opens with the story of a modern-day heroine but soon becomes a book within a book. Eloise Kelly settles in to read the secret history hoping to unmask the Pink Carnation's identity, but before she can make this discovery, she uncovers a passionate romance within the pages of the secret history that almost threw off the course of world events. How did the Pink Carnation save England? What became of the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian? And will Eloise Kelly find a hero of her own?

I first read 'The Secret History of the Pink Carnation' back in March of 2005, not long after it's original release in February. I've always enjoyed historical novels and I thought it looked intriguing. Besides, the title reminded me of one of my favourite books 'The Scarlet Pimpernel' by Baroness Orczy, and the Scarlet Pimpernel was mentioned in the blurb - I just had to try it. How glad I am that I did - I had fun with this book from start to finish. It's witty, exciting, romantic, adventurous and downright funny in places.

You're really getting a two'fer with this book. We have the story of Eloise, who is trying to finish her dissertation, escape her bad luck, and find out if heros really do exist. Then there is the historical story of the Pink Carnation, which takes place during the Napoleonic wars and is full of excitement and intrigue.

History has identified the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian, but no-one has ever been able to identify the Pink Carnation, and Eloise finds herself in London chasing clues. After meeting Mrs Selwick-Alderly, she is given access to a series of letters that will eventually lead to the identity of the elusive 'carnation'. Eloise has to navigate her way through the English countryside and cope with English 'upper crust' and at the same time the Pink Carnation is trying to save England from France. The two stories mesh seemlessly, and at times I had a hard time remembering that it is all fiction.

One of the best things about this novel to my mind is the fact that the story trancends age barriers. It is totally appropriate for teens as well as adults. There are a few sexual references, but nothing explicit (a fact that was confirmed by Ms. Willlig herself - thank you), and for any older teens out there who enjoy historical fiction I highly recommend this novel. It is a great transitional novel for those of you who have finished all the YA historical titles and don't know what to try next.

In fact, I highly recommend the series. Secret History is the first, closely followed by: 'The Masque of the Black Tulip'; 'The Deception of the Emerald Ring'; 'The Seduction of the Crimson Rose'; 'The Temptation of the Night Jasmine' and 'The Betrayal of the Blood Lily'. 'The Mischief of the Mistletoe' is due out later this month and 'The Orchid Affair' is due Jan. 2011 - I have to add those last two to my Christmas list. Check out THIS LINK to find out more about all the titles in the series. Now that Secret History is out in a mass market edition it makes it more affordable for teens and I'm certain you will absolutely love it. Give it a try and let me know what you think.


  1. Nice! I just ordered 'The Orchid Affair,' I thought it was only 'The Mischief and the Mistletoe' coming out soon. I've been reading this series since 2005 as well! Some I liked better than others though.

  2. Hello Princesses!

    I've been looking for Canadian YA book blogs and was so happy to have discovered yours!

    I really like your thoughtful reviews and reading suggestions. I've added you to my blogroll at Erin Explores YA and look forward to reading more.


  3. Wonderful review - the whole series is delightful, charming, and witty (just like Lauren Willig). I had the pleasure of meeting her this summer at an event and she was so nice!

  4. Thanks Erin and Joanne, it's always nice to get the feedback. Glad you're enjoying the reviews.