The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation is a genre-bending book. It begins by introducing Eloise Kelley, our heroine in designer shoes; but instead of being a Chick Lit chick, said heroine is a student researching an historical figure. It doesn’t take too long before she finds a cache of diaries and letters, and pretty soon we are back in the 19th century following the adventures of English spies. This is a unique and funny book that is just the ticket for readers who want something really different.
The book opens with Eloise in England trying to find information about a mysterious English spy, the Pink Carnation. This person was a contemporary of the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian, but while those two gentlemen’s identities are well known, the Pink Carnation remains a mystery, and a perfect subject for a doctoral dissertation. After several dead ends, Eloise is given access to the private papers of Arabella Selwick-Alderly, the descendant of Richard Selwick – the Purple Gentian himself.
Pretty soon Eloise is deep into the story of Amy Balcourt, a young woman whose father was killed in the French Revolution. Amy was raised in England, and loathes the French. When Napoleon assumes power, Amy and her cousin Jane go to Paris to visit Amy’s brother Edouard, who survived the Terror. Amy wants to join the spies of The League of the Purple Gentian. She has hero-worshipped the Purple Gentian for years, for his feats of bravery. On the trip over, Amy runs into Lord Richard Selwick, who works for Napoleon as an antiquities expert. Since Amy hates the French, she considers Richard almost a traitor.
Actually, Richard is the Purple Gentian, and uses his cover as an antiquarian to spy on Napoleon. As he mixes with the cream of French Society, Richard keeps his eye and ears open as to French plans for a possible invasion of England. He falls in love with the bright and intelligent Amy, but she loves the Purple Gentian and for awhile, Richard is rival to himself for Amy’s love. But she is smart, and figures things out just in time for them both to find themselves in danger with the French police. And as for the Pink Carnation? Read the book!
Richard and Amy are very engaging characters, although I found them to be quite modern in their sensibilities. The secondary characters, especially Richard’s mother, were delightful and really served to flesh out the story. They too, though, seemed quite modern – not 19th century at all – but this did not bother me.
There is a parallel modern story involving Eloise and Colin, Arabella Selwick-Alderly’s nephew and a descendant of Amy and Richard. Colin seems to be a stuffy member of the upper class, but there are strong sparks between he and Eloise. Their story is left up in the air, but there are lots more Selwick-Alderly papers for Eloise and this could be the first book in a series.
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation takes a bit of time to get started, but once it does it moves along at a brisk pace carried by the delightful characters. They are the best thing in the book and I would like to see them again. If you would like to see how a marriage of Chick Lit and Historical Romance looks, give this book a try. It’s wonderfully different.