The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla
With just one book remaining in Ms. Willig’s Pink Carnation series, I find myself savoring each new entry. So I’ll have to admit I was less than enthusiastic when I heard that Sally Fitzhugh is the historical heroine for The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla. The Mischief of the Mistletoe, Sally’s older brother Turnip’s story, didn’t work for me, and I associate Sally with that book. I should’ve known better. Rike gave the print version a B. I like it more than Rike, but like Rike, find myself wanting more of Colin and Eloise.
As usual, the book switches between a historical story and the continuing modern (2004) story of Colin and Eloise. As always, Ms. Reading makes it easy to distinguish between the modern sections narrated by American Eloise and the historical sections featuring Sally and Lucien. Eloise is given a clearly American voice, while Sally and Lucien have British accents.
In the historical portion, London is abuzz with vampire fervor thanks to Miss Jane’s wildly popular novel, The Convent of Orcino. Sally Fitzhugh’s in her second London season and feels purposeless, bored, and left out. In the previous book, The Passion of the Purple Plumeria, her two best friends Lizzy and Agnes, had an adventure. Sally’s used to being the leader of the three friends, and now they share secrets she doesn’t know about.
And most of all, Sally longs to have purpose and adventure. Rumors abound that the Duke of Bellistone – Lucien – is a vampire. When her friend challenges Sally to see if he is, she takes it. Sally’s certain he’s not a vampire but she’s curious and up for any challenge.
Ms. Reading’s narration shines through the introductory extended conversation between Sally, Izzy, and Agnes, performing each distinctly in a manner that fits their personalities. The conversation could’ve been difficult to follow without this. Most particularly, Sally’s opinionated and sounds that way.
We quickly see through little actions that Sally’s a protector of her friends and family. Soon after meeting Lucien the two discover a woman who’s been murdered, and made to look as if a vampire killed her. Sally leaps to Lucien’s defense and concocts a scheme to protect him. At loose ends, Sally decides she needs a project, and that Lucien will be her project. She’ll show him “how to get along” and stop looking so brooding and gloomy. Perhaps that will make people less likely to suspect he’s a vampire. While a meddler, Sally’s good at heart, and Ms. Reading lets some of Sally’s caring nature come through in her voice as the story goes on.
In the modern story, Eloise has been back in the U.S. for three months. She’s unhappy teaching at Harvard and her dissertation isn’t going well. Colin and Eloise talk every day on the phone, but now Colin is coming to visit. Eloise is worried about their ability to keep up a long-distance relationship. Ms. Reading gets every emotion spot on. In Eloise’s case, she’s alternately excited, wistful, nervous…and each one is correct. And frequently, you can hear Eloise’s wry humor in her voice.
I’ve enjoyed the series since the beginning, but my enjoyment has increased in recent entries; The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla is no exception and I found myself wanting each part – the modern and the historical – to go on. I was especially taken with Colin and Eloise’s story and I absolutely adore where the story leaves off for the two. I know I’ll download the audio version of the final entry in the Pink Carnation series the day it’s released. I can’t wait to see what happens with Jane, and am equally excited to discover Colin and Eloise’s final adventures. And Ms. Reading’s narration has become forever connected to my enjoyment of the series.
Breakdown of Grade – Narration: A and Book Content: B+
Unabridged. Length – 12 hours 19 minutes