There once was a wonderful swashbuckling tale of a daring Englishman who would sneak off to France at the height of the Revolution and steal French aristocrats from under the shadow of La Guillotine. The book was called The Scarlet Pimpernel and was made into to a movie at least three different times. If you haven’t heard of it please do yourself the favor and get the book from the library. Picking up where the Baroness Orczy left off her tale, Lauren Willig has tried to continue the tradition in The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. The Pink Carnation is a friend of the Scarlet Pimpernel (Sir Percy Blakeney) and is continuing his mission since the Scarlet Pimpernel was outed as Sir Percy. The book flips back and forth from the late 1799 - 1803 to the present day, where a young American graduate student is trying to find the secret papers of the Pink Carnation for her dissertation. To add to the mix, the young heir to the family, Colin Selwick, is very good looking but equally committed to keeping our heroine, Eloise, from gaining access to the family papers. There are other spies with outrageous names such as The Purple Gentian and the action takes place from Revolutionary France back to England and then England in the present day. It’s a romp of a book, but a fun one.
Willig has continued the saga in subsequent books: The Masque of the Black Tulip, The Deception of the Emerald Ring, The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, The Temptation of the Night Jasmine, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, The Mischief of the Mistletoe, and the latest, The Orchid Affair. I’ve read most of them, and while they are not up to Jane Austen, they are a fun way to spend an evening. If you’re fond of historical fiction without too much historical fact to get in the way and just want to spend some pleasant time, try The Pink Carnation. You may want to read the entire series!