To be perfectly honest, if I forced myself to slog through this book, I'd probably give it two, or even three stars. Usually, books with horrible openings tend to find their ground (usually) and present some sort of redeeming characteristics. Unfortunately for the author, and for me, I don't have time -- and these too-precious characters have gotten on my nerves. The Scarlet Pimpernel
and its sequels are among my favorite books and, as with most of my favorite classics, I'm a bit protective of them. I'm not a purist -- I LOVE
retellings, have an entire shelf devoted to them, in fact -- and a Pimpernel follow-up does
need to be done. If it has a healthy dose of girl power, so much the better! I'm always up for female empowerment.
Unfortunately, this book falls short on a very excellent premise. The main character is some ditzy posh girl (who I kept picturing in my head as Anne Hathaway for some reason) who is determined to find out the identity of the Pink Carnation, a co-conspirator with the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. The fact that no other historical scholar has ever managed to achieve this does not daunt her at all. Why? Because she does the one thing that nobody else in the world ever thought to do
: she calls up their surviving ancestors and asks if they have any helpful papers
. All those silly scholars must be scratching themselves and saying, "Why didn't I think of that?"
Of course, the documents are in the keep of a delightfully
eccentric old woman (read: in another genre of novel, she'd either be a wicked witch or a serial killer) who keeps these invaluable papers and journals in a trunk in the middle of her living room
. For some reason, the excerpts from these journals and letters are written in neither epistolary nor journal form. Instead we get a running third-person narrative chronicling the accounts of Amy (who I'm guessing is the Pink Carnation or will be -- I stopped reading well before that point), and the Purple Gentian, who is such a blockhead, it's no surprise that his secret identity is no longer a secret. What surprises me is that the Pink Carnation's is, since it's clear that Amy (and all of her descendants) are blockheads, as well.
Maybe if I hadn't just finished Possession
by A.S. Byatt
which dealt with a similar concept only better, or if I didn't have a whopping big pile of books to read, I'd be more generous. I doubt it, though. The style it was written in screamed of the trashy romance novels I was so inordinately fond of in my early teens. When I want to read a romance novel, I'll read a romance novel, but if a book is going to market itself as a historical fiction novel, it had damn well better be a historical fiction novel and not some insipid account of a teenage girl who ought to be singing some Disney song about how some day her
Purple Gentian will come.
I see the author is a Goodreads author and that always makes me feel guilty if I didn't like the book and write a negative review, because I'm always afraid that they might read my review and on the off-chance that they're bored enough to do so, I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. I write, too, and I know firsthand that an author's book is like their baby. I desperately want to say something nice -- I guess, the covers are gorgeous, and I like the concept? It's always nice to see a fan of the classics; we seem to be a dying breed (I blame high schools and they way they tyrannize their students on exams, asking what color shirt Sir Peter Blakeney was wearing in chapter six or what kind of flowers were growing outside Mrs. So-and-so's fence. Christ's sake! If you're trying to make children HATE reading, you're doing a fantastic job -- even if they do just read the Cliff's notes or watch the movies, at least they're getting the gist of it). Anyway, if you're into this kind of thing (i.e. historical romance, period romance), you should definitely give the book a go. It's not mind-explodingly horrible
, mind, just not for me, but I can see why others would like it. It's cute. I'm not so into cute. If you're into those heavily researched tomes that feature intricate plots and long paragraphs describing the clothes, manners, and language of the times, put the book down and back away -- slowly.