Desert Isle Keeper
The Orchid Affair
The Pink Carnation series is one that I have been following with great pleasure for a number of years, but, as much as I have been enjoying the protagonists’ adventures in England, Ireland, and India, I was somewhat disappointed that after the first volume the action never returned to Napoleon’s home turf. I was thrilled when I discovered that The Orchid Affair would be set in France, and it proved a delightful read that surpassed my expectations.
Laura Grey aka Laure Griscogne aka the Silver Orchid is a graduate of Lord Richard Selwick’s school for spies in Sussex. She has been working as a governess for the last sixteen years and yearns for a change, hence she is hugely disappointed (but resigned) about her first assignment: to infiltrate, in the guise of a governess, the household of widowed André Jaouen (to this day I do not know how to pronounce his second name), a civil servant working for the Préfecture de Paris and with strong links to the infamous chief of police, Fouché.
This is first time in the Pink Carnation series that we get a glimpse inside the head of a member of the opposing side who is no fanatic, but an idealist and revolutionary who has to deal with what has become of France, do his work and look after his family. Laura quickly realises that André is not just an enemy but a person with many facets, whom she actually grows to like. André, on the other hand, at first dismisses Laura as a grey mouse, but soon begins to see far more in her. The way their relationship is developed is adorable. They are both in their thirties, with a past that has shaped them but does not overwhelm them, and they act like adults. I loved, loved, loved them.
What I also adored was the setting. I visited countries in the Eastern bloc many times as a child and teenager, and Lauren Willig’s desciptions of Paris in the aftermath of the Terror reminded me strongly of these visits. There is a country whose society was shattered, with many buildings damaged and a whole way of living gone, forever. Yet people live on – fighting their ghosts, frightened of the police state France has become, but looking for simple pleasures and the slow emergence of a new society – that of Napoleon’s favorites – with both wariness and anticipation. The atmosphere of such a place is captured just spot-on.
There are a number of minor characters to like as well, with a few very short cameo appearances of other Pink Carnation personnel. Eloise and Colin, in the present-day scenes, spend a weekend in Paris, and we get to know more about the dynamics of Colin’s family. The latter scenes are pleasant to read as usual, but in no way as fascinating as the main plot.
As you can see, I recommend The Orchid Affair whole-heartedly. I loved every minute I read it, and am more hooked than ever on the Pink Carnation series.