Tina's Reviews > The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
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Aug 03, 08

bookshelves: romance-historical
Read in August, 2008

I was bitterly disappointed in this book. Given the quality hard cover, the lovely cover art and the blurb, I was expecting something that strives to be Heyer or Austen. I would have been happy with something that fell along the lines of Tasha Alexander or Deanna Raybourne. Heck, I would counted myself lucky if the book had been vaguely reminiscent of Mary Balogh or Julia Quinn. Instead I got something that fell far short of all of those.

Instead of sparkling wit of Heyer and the mannered prose of Austen, I got a by the numbers, derivative, cliche historical romance novel that (weirdly) also wanted to be modern chick lit and a rollicking spy adventure as well.

The heroine Amy is a firm and permanent resident of the too stupid to live category.

Seriously. This girl did one dumb thing after the other. Just from the glimpse of a black cloak, she believes she has discovered the identity of the Purple Gentian (a famous spy a la the Scarlet Pimpernel). So she sends the man a note to meet her at night in a deserted park. So very smart! The fact that the real Purple Gentian happened to coincidentally have a conversation with the other man (who was a leering jerk) where he learns about the assignation, is what largely saves the stupid twit from being raped.

But Amy is not the only dull knife in the drawer. For a super spy who has eluded capture for years, Richard is also remarkably inept. First he has pretty much told his entire family his secret identity. Isn't that like rule number 1 in the spy handbook? You don't tell anyone your identity especially not your mother and your younger sister. And then there is the scene where he and Amy are in the apartment of the head of Napoleon's secret police to steal papers. Instead of getting in and getting out, they have a conversation on issues of love trust and almost end up making love right then and there. Sigh. There are not words enough...

And there were many more moments where I just rolled my eyes so hard.

There was also a very modern feel to the language that struck me as out of place. While not overtly anachronistic in word usage, the tone was just off. It was too droll, too arch. I got the impression that author was doing this on purpose and trying to let us in on the joke. But imo, it failed miserably.

Also, I could pretty much predict how the H/h were going to act and react to each other. This book was just stuffed with romance novel obviousness. Not one character did anything surprising or unpredictable.

Actually, I retract that last statement a bit. This book was not a total waste. Jane, the heroine's cousin was actually an excellent character. She had all the brains, wit and composure the heroine should have had. Had Jane been the heroine of this novel and been allowed to retain her character this may have been a much different story.

And I do have to admit the book was funny in some places. Toward the end of the novel the scene where Richard's family shows up and wants to meet Amy was a entertaining.

But even with those one or two positive things, the book overall was still a big disappointment.

I can't recommend.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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anieva I'm over half way finished with this book and really enjoying it. Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion but, it seems to me, that the book doesn't try to masquerade as Austen. Jane Austen is in a category of her own, after all.

I don't think the book takes itself too seriously. It's more like a story told orally by a really witty person. Its strength is more in its descriptive qualities - she's tends to hit the nail on the head in her descriptions and, on top of that, she's very observant.

This book is plain fun. Why bemoan its silliness. It silliness is part of its charm.


aubrey yay for your review. i thought this book was terrible.


Kimberly I completely agree with your review, especially regarding the characters of Amy and Jane. I couldn't stand Amy and kept wishing the author had chosen to focus more on Jane.


Estela Mulloy Your review is right on! Thanks!!!


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