Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Masque of the Black Tulip

Author: Lauren Willig
Published: December 29, 2005 (Dutton)
Category: Historical Fiction/Romance
Quote of choice: "Love, of course, would be properly attired in tight tan buckskins, wear an immaculately tied cravat, and have a vaguely rakish air."

The events in The Masque of the Black Tulip take place right after the events of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, and I'm glad to say that the feel of Tulip is the same as that of Carnation.

This book brought a smile to my face while I was reading it, sometimes in inappropriate places (like during my proofreading class). This time, our couple is Henrietta Selwick (the younger sister of Richard Selwick, otherwise known as the Purple Gentian), and the Honorable Miles Dorrington (Richard's best friend).

Ah, the age-old rule of "don't date your best friend's sister." Of course, Miles makes a big fuss about this rule, but falls in love with Henrietta anyways. You know, love conquers all, etc., etc. The dialogue of Miles and Henrietta is like that of the oldest of friends, after all, he met her when he was 6 years old. They tease each other and he had been looking out for her longer than he realized. It's so sweet that I'll forgive the fact that Miles had the same problem taking off his breeches that Richard did on their respective wedding nights (meaning getting stuck at the ankles, you dirty minded readers). Wow, those buckskin breeches must've been tight!

This was a sweeter book than Carnation, since Miles and Hen didn't have secret identities between them. Those little moments, where they'd look at each other from across the room (before realizing they were in love) and Hen would blush, made me smile because Willig wrote them so well.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

Author: Lauren Willig
Published: December 27, 2005 (NAL)
Category: Historical Fiction/Romance
Quote of choice: "Madness only runs in part of my family," Richard said softly to Amy. "My brother Charles is quite sane, I assure you. And Miles isn't related at all."

What an adorable book to review for my first reading blog entry!

I thought the book had a slow start, especially when it changed to the 1803 storyline. I'm glad I stuck it out for a few chapters, because it hooked me in that "stay up way too late reading on a work night" way.

Eloise is a Harvard Ph.D. candidate (like Lauren Willig, the author) researching the mysterious British spy, the Pink Carnation. Her research tells us of a series of events in 1803. Amy, our heroine, wants revenge on the French for her father's death at the hands of Madame Guillotine, and intends to do so by joining up with the dashing spy, the Purple Gentian (I had no idea there was a flower called a purple gentian until I read this book). Amy, being a feisty, not-prim-and-proper young lady, comes up with all sorts of crazy schemes and anxious scrapes to achieve her goal. Of course, she falls in love with her hero, the Purple Gentian.

The Purple Gentian/Lord Richard Selwick is a lovable hero. Actually, he's perfectly charming. Heck, I'd fall in love with him too. His double identity leads to amusing situations, like being jealous of himself. Willig writes quick, sparky dialogue between Amy and Richard, not to mention the rest of the characters' dialogue, making the good guys very likeable, and the bad guys very unlikeable.

Willig spends most of the book in 1803, but the interludes in the present-day storyline with Eloise help break up the story. In short, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation is not your ordinary romance, not your ordinary historical fiction, and not your ordinary historical romance. However, it did have rather judicious usage of that lovely phrase, "heaving bosoms." I will definitely pick up the sequel, The Masque of the Black Tulip.