Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig

Long-time blog readers are well aware that I am a HUGE fan of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig. Which is why, when The Orchid Affair went on sale on Thursday (not Tuesday - I was surprised by that, but whatever), I made the staff at my local Barnes & Noble go dig it out of the back room for me. (I am so not kidding.) Sadly, my ability to stay awake deserted me on Thursday night, but I am now entirely triumphant, having just finished reading this, the seventh book in the series, if one does not count October's issue, The Mischief of the Mistletoe, which was basically a straight-up Regency romance (with a bit of a mystery twist) featuring Reginald "Turnip" Fitzhugh and a young lady named Arabella Dempsey.

Of course, one should count Turnip's book, even though the Pink Carnation does not appear in it, and neither does her devoted modern-day researcher, Eloise Kelly or her boyfriend, Colin Selwick, descendant of a different floral spy during the Napoleonic wars. I like seeing what's going on with their real-life romance, and hearing about the life of an actual researcher (I know, I know - I'm a total nerd; you needn't tell me about it). I also like Eloise's voice. Here's the first paragraph on page three, one of my favorite examples in this particular tome:

Colin's great-great et cetera grandfather had been one of those masked men. Under his chosen fleur de guerre, the Purple Gentian, Lord Richard Selwick had dashed around Europe in tights, rescuing aristocrats from the clutches of the guillotine. Colin liked to point out that at the time they had been called pantaloons, not tights, but a man in tights is a man in tights, call it what you will. Nothing says buckle and swash like a pair of skintight leg coverings.
In this particular novel, Colin and Eloise are in Paris for a long weekend - which is a bit less romantic than it sounds, since they are there for a weekend-long fête in honor of Colin's mother, thrown by Colin's cousin/stepfather (who is only about eight years older than Colin - and smarmy). Eloise is sneaking in a bit of spy-related research about the Silver Orchid, a female spy deployed in France in 1804.

The Silver Orchid was the code name for one Miss Laura Grey, a thirty-two year old governess whom we met back in the second book, The Masque of the Black Tulip, at the spy school run by Richard Selwick and his wife. Born in France, Laura was orphaned at age 16. She became a governess for the next 16 years, and joined the league of the Pink Carnation in 1803. She's now been sneaked into France and provided with false papers in order to become the governess for André Jaouen, a relative of Fouché (the Minister of Police), who has access to papers in which the Pink Carnation has an interest.

Let's just say that this one has some rather heart-pounding adventures in it, as well as some heart-pounding romance, since Monsieur Jaouen and Miss Grey/Mademoiselle Griscogne have quite a complicated relationship for any number of reasons. I enjoyed every minute spent reading it, and look forward to a somewhat more leisurely re-read in the future. (Once M gets through it, of course - she's also a huge Pink Carnation fan.) It was marvelous to see the actors back in France (where we spent most of the first book), and while it wasn't exactly a pleasure to re-encounter the insanely evil Monsieur Delaroche again, I was still glad to see him. I was also quite glad to see the over-the-top poet, Monsieur Whittlesby (whom I secretly ship with the Pink Carnation, but I rather expect - and hope - that it will be ages until I find out if I am correct).

If you're interested in my reviews of the earlier Pink Carnation books, they can be found here, in reverse order.

Kiva - loans that change lives

No comments: