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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Book Review: The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig (The Pink Carnation #8)

Book review of The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig (The Pink Carnation spy series)
If you’ve never read anything by Lauren Willig, you are seriously missing out – her books are bloody brilliant. Willig’s Pink Carnation novels are pitch-perfect blends of romantic comedy, drawing room farce and spy thriller, with just enough history to satisfy the armchair scholar.

The frame of the entire series follows Eloise Kelly, a quirky American scholar researching a network of English spies during the Napoleonic Era.  The head of the spy ring is the Pink Carnation, modeled after Baroness Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel, of course.  Each novel then has a historical story within a story about the spies Eloise is studying. Willig’s premise alone is tongue-in-cheek genius – her books are literally blooming with flowery agents.  Between Eloise’s 21st-century romantic travails and the 19th-century spy goings-on, Willig’s books are witty, romantic, and downright fun.  Her latest, The Orchid Affair, is the story of a governess who finds unlikely success as one of the Pink Carnation’s agents.

Author’s website: Laura Grey, a veteran governess, joins the Selwick Spy School expecting to find elaborate disguises and thrilling exploits in service to the spy known as the Pink Carnation. She hardly expects her first assignment to be serving as governess for the children of Andre Jaouen, right-hand man to Bonaparte’s minister of police. Jaouen and his archrival, Gaston Delaroche, are investigating a suspected Royalist plot to unseat Bonaparte, and Laura’s mission is to report any suspicious findings. At first the job is as lively as Latin textbooks and knitting, but Laura begins to notice strange behavior from Jaouen—secret meetings and odd comings and goings. As Laura edges closer to her employer, she makes a shocking discovery and is surprised to learn that she has far more in common with Jaouen than she originally thought.

Laura isn’t one of the Pink Carnation’s typical debutante operatives.  She’s spent years fading into the background as a governess, so she is perfectly able to slip into the Jaouen household.  Living in Paris with the family, though, she’s confronted by evidence of the revolution every day.  More than any of the other Pink Carnation books, The Orchid Affair focuses on the lasting impact of the Reign of Terror, and the fear it instilled in all citizens.  Jaouen dedicated his life to liberty, equality and fraternity, only to see it degenerate into fear and wanton bloodshed.  I liked how Willig really focused on a family in this book, and how Laura and Jaouen take his children’s safety and happiness so seriously.  It gave The Orchid Affair a greater sense of maturity than some of the other Pink Carnation books have had.

British book cover The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
I highly recommend you start with the first book in the series, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and go from there, but any of the books can be read alone.  And come December, absolutely read Willig’s Christmas novella, The Mischief of the Mistletoe, starring the adorably hapless Turnip Fitzhugh.

Pink Carnation Series: 5 out of 5 stars

The Orchid Affair: 4.5 stars out of 5

Other Books in This Series: The Garden Intrigue

Romance novel book reviews by Sarah The Brazen Bookworm (The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig)

3 comments:

  1. I just bought The Secret History this past weekend. I'll have to move it up my TBR pile :)

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  2. I loved this book when it hit their traveling under cover! :) It was so intense. I love seeing a book I read recently pop up on other blogs.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog as well!

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  3. Thanks for this great review of her books!
    I have seen this series around the used bookshop and wondered about it. Having read your description, I am definitely going to start this series. Thanks again!

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Thank you for your comments!

Romance novel book review