Kelly's Reviews > The Seduction of the Crimson Rose

The Seduction of the Crimson Rose by Lauren Willig
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's review
May 21, 09

bookshelves: grown-upbooks, historical-romance
Read in April, 2009

I reviewed this book at my blog. Twice, since it's one I've re-read quite a number of times now. Here's the combined craziness:

In The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, Lauren Willig has pulled off an extraordinary feat: She has taken a woman who was established to be a spoiled, somewhat conniving social-climber as her Regency heroine, and paired her with a man who, in two prior books, has shown himself to be a somewhat predatory and amoral rake at best, and a dangerous double-agent at worst - he's too slippery to pin down, really - and she makes me love them both. With a big, hearty love. And that, my friends, is some Very Good Writing.

In this, the fourth novel in the Pink Carnation series, we follow the story of Mary Alsworthy (sister to Letty, the heroine of The Deception of the Emerald Ring). Master spy, the Pink Carnation, has asked Lord Vaughn (rogue, bounder, scoundrel and somewhat pretentious cad) to enlist Mary's assistance in catching the Black Tulip - a French spy first introduced properly in The Masque of the Black Tulip. Vaughn never speaks in simple sentences when double entendres will do, and is a bit of a roué. Mary is, as stated, a social-climbing conniver who finds herself in the awkward position of being a hanger-on in the home of her younger sister, who accidentally eloped with Mary's intended beau; naturally, Letty and Geoff are blissfully happy in their romance, and Mary is, well, in a state of constant mortification.

Mary and Vaughn have a lot in common, as well as a lot of issues to overcome. The plot moves along at a terrific pace, and is extremely interested. Once again, points to me for immediately sorting out the identity of the Black Tulip. I mean, I know I said that in book 2 as well, but I should qualify that I correctly identified the person acting in the capacity of the Black Tulip in that book, and I spotted the correct person in this one as well. I didn't, however, sort out the backstory for the Black Tulip, and was delighted to find it all out.

I was also terribly delighted with Eloise Kelly's story in this one, Eloise being the modern-day researcher who is relating/reading/uncovering the Regency romance portion of the book (which occupies the vast majority of the pages). Eloise finally has her date with the dishy Colin Selwick in this book, as well as interacting with a nefarious archivist. I couldn't be more pleased, I think, than I was with this book.

I realize that my fondness for this particular title in the series beginning with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation is based in part on my admiration for her taking an unlikeable woman and making her the heroine of the historical part, in part on her selection of the morally ambiguous and always urbane Lord Vaughn, in part on the modern-day romance between Eloise and Colin (which involves an actual date and first kiss in this particular book), and in part on the amount of poetry and Shakespeare that is quoted throughout the book, sometimes as chapter headers, and frequently in Vaughn's dialogue.

"Break of Day" by John Donne, is quoted twice in the book. The last couplet ("He which hath business, and makes love, doth do/Such wrong, as when a married man doth woo") is quoted as an epigram to chapter 28, and the first two lines ("Tis true, 'tis day; what though it be?/O wilt thou therefore rise from me?") are spoken by Vaughn in chapter 26. So now I'm not only re-reading the book (as mentioned in Thursday's post), but also re-reading yesterday's poem selection. Plus, I'm about to embark on re-reading Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare, which is quoted several times as epigraphs to various chapters (along with quotes from Hamlet, King Lear, Measure for Measure, As You Like It, The Winter's Tale, and Richard III, and the text includes additional quotes and references from those plays as well as Romeo and Juliet as well). Additional references are made to Paradise Lost by John Milton, several other John Donne poems, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, Robert Burns, and more.

I have realized that I am a complete sucker for Shakespeare and other quotes. And now, I'm off. No, not "pursued by a bear."* I'm going to conclude my re-reading of the book, and then fish out my Complete Works of Shakespeare to start Much Ado About Nothing.

*Points to you if you recognize that as the (perhaps most-famous ever) stage direction from The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare.
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