Review: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

secret historyThe Secret History of the Pink Carnation
Author: Lauren Willig
Publisher: Signet
Age Group: Adult
Source: Library
Amazon     Barnes and Noble     IndieBound
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Summary from 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?

My Thoughts

One of my favorite characters ever created is The Scarlet Pimpernel (Sir Percy Blakeney).  I first discovered Percy when I saw one version of The Scarlet Pimpernel on TV.  I actually wasn’t totally in love with this version (it had Richard E. Grant as Percy), but I was kind of curious about it.  So I asked my mother (I think I was in high school at the time) to see if the library had it so I could watch it again.  She brought home The Scarlet Pimpernel with Anthony Andrews.  And that was it, my friends.  I totally fell in LOVE with the idea of this character.  For those that aren’t familiar with Percy (seriously, if you haven’t seen this, you need to!) , he is a British nobleman who rescues French nobles from the guillotine (it’s set during the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution).  A huge part of his success is due to his amazing disguises.  To avoid suspicion (after all, he is constantly in Paris) he develops an identity of being a complete idiot, only interested in the latest fashion.  Amazing, right?  Anyway, the reason I went into  all my love for The Scarlet Pimpernel is that when I heard that there was a series of books that was based on the author’s love of the Anthony Andrew’s Scarlet Pimpernel, I was all hell to the yeah!  I am not missing out on this!  That series is The Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig.

Okay, now on to the actual review.  This is the first of the series.  This series is set in 1803 (a few years after The Reign of Terror) and Sir Percy has retired.  In his place, a member from the League of the Pimpernel, the Purple Gentian, has taken up the cause to save England from Napoleon.  And the MC, Amy, is totally obsessed with him.  Actually, that was one of the problems I had with the story.  Amy’s obsession is kind of nuts.  She is so obsessed with joining the League of the Purple Gentian that it reminded me of a tween obsessed with Justin Beiber.  It was hard to believe that Amy, who has been practicing disguises since she was a child, at 20 years old, would be that crazy infatuated.  One other thing I had an issue with was Amy’s complete ineptitude at attempting espionage.  Seriously, a more clumsy spy I can’t imagine.  She is also very slow on the uptake.  She is the last person to figure out that Richard is the Purple Gentian (not a spoiler, we are told in the first chapter).  But, all that said, I did like Amy.  She certainly isn’t a favorite character of mine, but I did enjoy her story.

Now onto Richard, AKA The Purple Gentian.  I did like him more than Amy, and he is certainly better at espionage.  I guess that is to be expected, since he had training with . . . Sir Percy!  Yeah, I got all excited everytime Sir Percy was mentioned.  Anyway, he disguise is not a bumbling fool (like Percy) but as a man only interested in antiquities – a scholar.  I’m not going to lie, I found this a little hard to believe.  And moreso, I wanted to see him in disguise action.  Does that make sense?  What I mean is that I wanted to see Richard fooling the French by pretending to be this scholar, and boring them to death with an hour long lecture on Egypt (not that I actually wanted to read that lecture).  Unfortunately, I didn’t get that.  Still, I liked Richard, even if he thought it was okay to be kissing Amy during his spying time.

The story was pretty interesting.  Although this story is mainly about Amy and Richard keeping England safe from France, part of it is set in modern day.  It is about Eloise, who is a Harvard graduate student studying in England.  She wants to discover the true identity of The Pink Carnation, and ends up being invited to a descendant of the Selwicks to read personal papers of Amy, Richard, etc.  She, of course, meets the lady’s nephew, Colin, and they get off to a rocky start.  I actually liked this part of the story.

Anyway, I did like The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.  It is Willig’s first novel, and I see potential for her to grow as an author.  I will definitely check out the second of the series.  I do hope to see more on the espionage front, though.

Life Tidbits

    • You guys, I have watched episode 78 of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries a zillion times since Thursday.  It might be my favorite, but I do love ep. 60, tons!  Seriously you guys, if you don’t watch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries you are missing out!  Here’s episode 78 (BTW, if you haven’t been watching LBD, then I would start from the beginning – trust me, it’s better than way):
  • I watched While You Were Sleeping this weekend.  This movie is adorable!
  • My dad was awesome this weekend, and installed some shelves for my books!  They are super pretty.
  • I am hoping to go to D.C. in April.  I want to see American Ballet Theatre’s Le Corsaire, and stop at my favorite ice cream place in the whole world (Carl’s in Fredericksburg, VA).
  • Although I’m sad it’s the start of another work week, I’m glad it’s Monday because it’s time for LBD’s new episode!!!
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About Quinn

I'm a twenty-something children's librarian at a public library in Central New York. I've long left my teen years behind me, but I love to read YA and children's books. I have two adorable dogs. Ginger is a mix between a poodle and havanese, and Daphne is Bichon Frise. Other things I love: Favorite Movie: Singing in the Rain Favorite Book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen Favorite TV Show: Monk
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5 Responses to Review: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

  1. Liesel Hill says:

    Great review! Haven’t seen the Scarlet Pimpernel in so long, but I loved it too. Maybe I’ll TBR thius one! 😀

  2. We have a lot of interests in common! I LOVE THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL! Have you listened to the musical? I love the Lizzie Bennet diaries I needed my smelling salts after the last episode!!

    • Quinn says:

      Yes, I have the soundtrack for the Scarlet Pimpernel musical! Douglas Sills – totally dreamy. I wasn’t in love with Marguerite, though. Have you seen this video of the tour? Make sure to watch till the end of the video – Sills shows his comedic chops!

      So glad to meet another Pimpernel obsessed!

  3. Heidi says:

    Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed this one! Even if Amy does bumble around quite a bit (you’re right, it’s kind of crazy, but I liked her anyway). I think you’ll like the next couple of books better, there’s no masks or barging into crazy situations like an idiot. The third has been my favorite so far. I actually can’t stand Eloise and Colin. So much so that I started skipping that part of the plot all together…everyone else seems to enjoy them though.

    I swear I’ll watch The Scarlet Pimpernel and let you know how it is. 🙂

    • Quinn says:

      I definitely liked this book. I think I came across a little harsh in the review. Sometimes it’s easier to talk about what I don’t like I guess. I have the rest of the books from the library, though, and I am definitely going to read them. I like Eloise and Colin now, but after awhile of reading about them, I could see where one would get frustrated.

      Can’t wait to hear what you think about The Scarlet Pimpernel and Anthony Andrews!!!

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