Monday, March 15, 2010
The Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig
"Modern day graduate student Eloise achieved the academic coup of the century when she unmasked one of history's greatest spies, the Pink Carnation, who saved England from Napoleon. But now she has a million questions about the Carnation's deadly French nemesis, the Black Tulip. And she's pretty sure that her handsome on-again, off-again crush, Colin Selwick, has the answers somewhere in his archives. When she finally comes across an old codebook, Eloise discovers something juicier than she ever imagined: an unlikely pair who were hot on the trail of the Black Tulip and had every intention of stopping him from killing the Pink Carnation and bringing down England. But what they didn't know was that while they were trying to find the Tulip--and stumbling upon something like love--the Black Tulip was watching them..." (from the publisher)
I am absolutely in love with this endearing collection of flower-inspired, Regency-era spies! Book two in The Pink Carnation series, The Masque of the Black Tulip, features Henrietta, the pretty and pampered younger sister of Richard Selwick (aka, the Purple Gentian) and Richard's best friend, Miles Dorrington, a likable, boy-next-door type. The pair become involved in secret activities to protect the Pink Carnation, not to mention the security of all of England, from the Back Tulip, a dangerous French spy that is making the rounds of English society parties. While fumbling their way through one social event after another in the hopes of identifying and capturing the Black Tulip, Henrietta and Miles discover that their developing mutual attraction is causing complications -- especially when protective big-brother-Richard discovers Miles and his little sister in a very compromising situation!
The story at times gets funny and slapstick,(at one point, during the final showdown with the villain, I kept waiting for Curly, Larry, and Moe to pop out of a wardrobe to join the fracas......wooooo,woooo,wooooo, wooooo! nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!) but really, I was glued to the pages of this light-hearted romp through Regency drawing rooms, glittering masqued balls, and moonlit gardens.....while a treacherous spy is right under their nose!
I think one of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much is because I can completely identify with Henrietta! Like Henrietta and her friends, my buddies did our share of spying on boys and feigning surprise when we just happened to be where a group of guys were hanging out -- when you go to an all-girl school like I did, trying to meet boys became a favorite after school activity. And with our green-plaid uniform skirts, we would have blended right in with the bushes, but we didn't go quite that far to do our spying! (Gotta read the book to understand that comment.) And although I hate to admit it, I know exactly how Henrietta felt when she and Miles were confronted by Lord and Lady Uppington! (My situation was all very innocent; it was not havey-cavey**....I was just given the keys to the car, and I told my parents I was going from point A to point B, and somehow I ended up at point C with a boy-who-was-just-a-friend and didn't tell my parents where I was, and someone from point B called my house hours later looking for me and....all hell broke loose. Let's just say the words "sending me to an early grave.....my hair is snow white now.....if I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times....your BROTHERS were going to go looking for you....." are still ringing in my ears.) When Lady Uppington was standing there waiting for them, foot tapping and arms folded, I just had a flashback, that's all!
Anyway, back to the book.....loved it as much as The Pink Carnation, maybe even more! Just wish Colin and Eloise in the present-day could get their story moving along a little faster...can't wait to see what further developments there are in book 3, The Deception of the Emerald Ring. I'm hooked!
title: The Masque of the Black Tulip
author: Lauren Willig
publisher: New American Library
genre: historical fiction/historical romance/mystery/thriller/comedy/old-fashioned western shoot-out/chick-lit/when-harry-met-sally/swashbuckling adventure....the only thing this book DOESN'T have is a Highland warrior in a kilt!!! (but I haven't finished the series yet, so who knows? ;)
**havey-cavey (adj.): highly suspect, clandestine, illicit, behavior generally indicative of some nefarious purpose (from the Personal Codebook of the Pink Carnation)