Emerald rings aren't all they are cracked up to be....
Eloise Kelly has gotten into quite a bit of trouble since she's been spying on the Pink Carnation and the Black Tulip - two of the deadliest spies to saunter the streets of nineteenth-century England and France. Not only has been unearthing secrets that will change the course of history, she's been dallying with Colin Selwick - great-nephew of Mrs Selwick-Alderly, the keeper of important hidden documents - looking for a romantic adventure of her own.
Little does she know there's another fierce heroine running headlong into history...
It's 1803 England, and Letty Alsworthy awakens in the middle of the night to discover that her sister, Mary, is about to make the very grave mistake of eloping with Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe (second in command of the League of the Purple Gentian). In an attempt to save the family name, Letty tries to break up the midnight assignation - only to find herself accidentally carried off in her sister's place. The ensuing scandal forces Letty and Geoff into a hasty marriage - and just as hastily, Geoff disappears on their wedding night, under orders to hurry to Ireland and help the Pink Carnation squash a ring of Irish rebels led by the Black Tulip. Not to be outdone by her husband, Letty steals away on a ship bound for the Emerald Isle, armed and ready to fight for her integrity, and learn a thing or two about espionage - never imagining that she might learn a few things about love on the way...
After the intensity of the last couple of reads, something a bit light was in order, and one of the Pink Carnation books by Lauren Willig fitted the bill perfectly....that and the fact that it was due back at the library!!
The first two books in the series, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and The Masque of the Black Tulip very much set the tone for this book, which really continues two stories in two different time lines.
In the first time line we have a chick lit style story where young American Eloise Kelly is living in London, whilst she is working on her dissertation which proposes that in addition to the more well known Scarlet Pimpernel and Purple Gentian, there was another spy called the Pink Carnation. For the chapters that focus on Eloise, the main topic is her love life, and more specifically her infatuation, for want of a better word, with Colin Selwick.
The book is stronger when the narrative concentrates on the events of the past. This time, the Pink Carnation has been sent to Ireland to quash a rebellion that is brewing which appears to be backed by old enemy Napoleon. After a botched elopement where Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe ends up engaged to the wrong Alsworthy sister, and a hasty wedding, he too is off to Ireland. Unfortunately for his new bride, Letty, he chose to run off on their wedding night, choosing to believe that she has manipulated matters to try and destroy his happiness. Letty has never one to let sleeping dogs lie (case in point - interrupting the elopement in the first place), and so she follows her errant husband to Ireland, very nearly causing the mission to fail.
For the most part I enjoyed the relationship between Geoffrey and Letty. In many ways Geoffrey was a reluctant spy/hero. Whilst he loved his work in the league and the War Office, he would have been content to do his desk job instead of actually being out in the field - especially when his wife keeps on getting in the way! I did, however, think that the relationship between Letty and Geoffrey didn't really build up all that well - there was lots of angst and then it seemed all too suddenly they were in love, and then the book was over!
So whilst this one probably wasn't as good as the first two books in the series, there were still lots of fun elements in this book in both time settings, and I will definitely read the next book in the series.
Edited to add: A quick check of the author's website reveals that the next book in the series is going to be called The Seduction of the Crimson Rose and is going to be out in February 2008 - looking forward to it!