Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

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Sometimes I start a book, get through a chapter and then toss it to the side because the first chapter sucked, or the main character was whiny, or there was too much back story, or all of the above.  Then I feel like a quitter, and feel guilty that I didn't give it a fair chance, and I feel like I hurt the books feelings {I know, right???}.  So that is usually when I head to the library and get the audio book.  I would say that 99% of the audio books I listen to are books I tried to read and just couldn't get past the first few chapters.  And usually I end up hearting the story after all!!  This is exactly the scenario I had with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.  The first few chapters weren't so hot, it starts out in modern time and I was expecting historical fiction all the way.  I thought the main character was whiny and needy, and there was too much of a back story.  I read 20 pages and tossed it to the side.  Then the guilt came and I rushed out to pick up the audio book at my library.  I really enjoyed it!  I mean it isn't great literature, the historical part of the book is utterly and truly fiction, but Lauren Willig wrote a great book that was full of mystery, espionage, and romance and.... onomatopoeias.  Yes this story is chalked full of WHACKS, POWS, CRUNCHES, OOMPHS, BANGS, and WHOPS..  At some points I felt like I was in one of those old Batman TV shows.  However, besides the assortment of expressive sound words I rather "guilty pleasure" enjoyed The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.  

Let me just say it.  This book is kind of a romance novel in a not so Harlequin form.  The writing (besides the random POW), is very well done, and the plot is clever and interesting, but on the whole this is a story about a boy and girl falling in love and sometimes getting to second and third base rather descriptively (fortunately for the reader there were no sounds mentioned at these parts).  We start out in modern day London where we meet Eloise.  Poor Eloise is trying to write her dissertation on the Pink Carnation, the most cunning and successful British spy during the Napoleonic wars.  But no one knows the true identity of this fabulous sleuth, the identities of the other great spies of the time (the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian) have been revealed but no where in history has anyone unmasked the Pink Carnation.  So Eloise is on a mission, she tracks down an old lady living in London who is a descendant of the Purple Gentian, and the lady gives Eloise diaries, and correspondence that shed some light on who this wonderful Pink Carnation might be.  At this point in the story we are flung back through time to the 1830s where we meet Amy and Jane.  These two English Victorian young women are getting ready to journey to France to live with Amy's brother Edward, their main goal in France is to find the Purple Gentian and help him restore the French Crown.  Amy is the protagonist here and she blunders her way from one thing to another until she accidentally meets and falls in love with the Purple Gentian.  Meanwhile she is in deep social drama with a excruciatingly handsome, but irkingly impossible man named Richard Selwick.  Espionage ensues and Napoleon's plans are curtailed, identities are revealed, there is much POW BOP BANGING, and there is even a cliff hangerish type ending {because this is a series people}!  It is quite a funny ride!

If you are in the mood for some light hearted summer reading I would give this one a chance.  I was expecting a serious piece of historical fiction so maybe that is why my first impression was blah.  But after I got the audio book I really enjoyed it.  The characters cracked me up!  Read it on the beach, don't expect a challenge, but do expect to be at least a little bit entertained.

On a side note, I am sorry for all these audio book reviews!!  I feel like such a slacker in my reading but I have been doing A LOT of driving to and from work and then A LOT of working and in my free time I sleep {between the hours of 1:30am - 7:00am}, so I am grateful for my longish commute to work so I have time to indulge in books!  I can't wait for wedding season to slow down a tad bit so I can pick up a real live book again! 

BOOK vs. MOVIE: There isn't a Pink Carnation movie but if there were I don't think I'd be camping out in line to be the first to see it.  I would however pick it up at Redbox for a buck.

RATING: 3.95 stars

3 More reviews on The Secret History of the Pink Carnation:

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
ISBN 0143057324
13 Hours and 36 minutes
Read by Kate Reading

If you liked The Secret History of the Pink Carnation you may also like: Wideacre by Philippa Gregory 


  1. I need to find a library where I can do this... at present, I'm at the mercy of what my work library decides to purchase.... But, this is a great way to finish books I'm not enjoying, and like you, I personify books & feel like I've hurt their feelings for not finishing! Crazy. I know. I'm in therapy. ;-)

  2. Haha! I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one!

  3. I know how that goes. I feel sorry for books. I try to finish each one. I actually read the second book of the series, The Masque of the Black Tulip, I didn't think it was a series. I fell in love with that one first. After reading the 3rd book, I realized I missed something, so I found out that I missed the first book. =D That's how I feel in love with the series.

  4. i loved your piece on the pink carnation. for the past two years i've been addicted to the book and have read it at least five times.its an amazing book... i'm still trying to get my hands on the black tulip. i live in india and the book isn't available here as i think i'd have to buy it off the net..
    anyway... it was lovely to find someone with a pink carnation fixation... cheers to you and happy reading.

  5. I absolutely loved the Pink Carnation. I agree with you. I didn't find the main modern day story very intriguing. But I loved, loved, loved Richard and Amy! They were so much fun. Definitely a guilty pleasure (: