Before I start in on the real review, may I first say, who in the world is attracted to books with ridiculous covers like this?! I am super sick of book covers featuring porcelain-skinned ladies from another century. Even when the plot sounds mildly interesting, covers like this make me think “I’m going to be embarrassed reading this in public!” I would have preferred a nice carnation instead.
But I digress…
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig begins with Harvard graduate student, Eloise, pursuing a subject for her dissertation in England. Recently separated from a cheating boyfriend, she seeks refuge in trying to find the true identity of an early 19th century spy, the Pink Carnation, of whom she has been secretly fantasizing about in her post-break-up haze. The Pink Carnation is famous for infiltrating Napoleon’s court and in order to discover his name Eloise tracks down the records of another famous spy, the Purple Gentian.
A new novel thus begins within this one, as we become voyeurs (almost literally) to Amy Balcourt and her hunt for the Purple Gentian. Amy and her cousin Jane have been enraptured with espionage since childhood, and now are off to France to do some spying of their own. On their way Amy meets a young man who, unbeknown to her, is the Purple Gentian, and so sets off a strange love triangle between two people.
Along the way we break back into Eloise story, as the documents owner’s nephew Colin tries to stop Amy from discovering the family secret of the Pink Carnation. And of course Colin is as equally attractive as he is maddening.
Eloise took FOREVER to figure out who the Pink Carnation was. Isn’t a Harvard scholar supposed to be brighter than this? Despite that fact, I actually enjoyed the character Eloise more than 19th century Amy, who is much too flighty to have a whole story built around. There was a little to much “romance” (read: bodice-ripping ridiculousness) and not enough adventure, excitiment, and intrigue! Although, what should I have expected with a cover like that…