Wednesday, July 02, 2008

REVIEW: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

Title: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
Author: Lauren Willig
Protagonist(s): Eloise Kelly, a Harvard graduate student and Amy Balcourt, a young wannabe swashbuckler
Setting: present-day London and Paris, France in 1803
Series: #1
Rating: F

First Lines: The Tube had broken down. Again.

Harvard graduate student Eloise Kelly knew that the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian, famous spies of the Napoleonic era, had been unmasked, but when she discovers that the identity of the Pink Carnation is still a mystery, she knows what she wants to write her dissertation on and heads off for London. Allowed access to a private treasure trove of early nineteenth-century papers, the reader is suddenly thrown into a novel-within-a-novel. Young Amy Balcourt was exiled to rural England with her mother. More than ten years later, she receives an invitation from her brother to return to France. It is her fondest wish to join forces with the Purple Gentian to overthrow Napoleon and gain some small measure of revenge for the deaths of her parents.

This book held my interest through 250 pages. The voice of Eloise was refreshing, and many of her one-liners were laugh-out-loud funny. And although Amy Balcourt was one of those feisty heroines I'd rather slap than listen to, her adventures in Paris interested the latent swashbuckler in me. However, by page 250 the entire book descended into a traditional bodice ripper--a genre of which I'm less than fond. The alternating storylines did not blend seamlessly into each other, and I had serious doubts about Eloise's intelligence, since the identity of the Pink Carnation was blindingly obvious. I skimmed through the remaining 200 pages vowing never to darken the doorway of historical chick lit again. Everything's a learning experience, eh?

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