Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Seduction of the Crimson Rose by Lauren Willig

"Pride and Prejudice lives on," (USA Today) "a fun and zany time warp," (New York Daily News) "history textbook meets Bridget Jones" (Marie Claire): Readers and reviewers alike praise Lauren Willig's bestselling Pink Carnation series for its passion, adventure, and tantalizing stories of flower-named spies during the Napoleonic wars.

Lauren Willig continues the exciting Pink Carnation series with her fourth novel, The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, featuring Lord Vaughn, the delightfully devilish spy from The Masque of the Black Tulip, and Mary Alsworthy, the raven-haired beauty whose sister accidentally stole her suitor in The Deception of the Emerald Ring. Determined to secure another London season without assistance from her new brother-in-law, Mary accepts a secret assignment from Lord Vaughn on behalf of the Pink Carnation: to infiltrate the ranks of the dreaded French spy, the Black Tulip, before he and his master can stage their planned invasion of England. Every spy has a weakness, and for the Black Tulip that weakness is black-haired women—his "petals" of the Tulip. A natural at the art of seduction, Mary easily catches the attention of the French spy, but Lord Vaughn never anticipates that his own heart will be caught as well. Fighting their growing attraction, impediments from their past, and, of course, the French, Mary and Vaughn find themselves lost in the shadows of a treacherous garden of lies.

As our modern-day heroine, Eloise Kelly, digs deeper into England's Napoleonic-era espionage, she becomes even more entwined with Colin Selwick, the descendant of her spy subjects.
I have been reading this series now for a couple of years, and for the first two books, after I closed the book I was very much interested in knowing when the next book came out. After I read the last book, I was still interested, but I was aware that the third book in the series hadn't quite lived up to the first two. Unfortunately, neither did this book, the fourth in the series.

I still love the idea that Willig started off with. Two time lines, one where a grad student (Eloise) is trying to pick her way through the historical record to find out exactly who the leader of the Pink Carnation spy ring was, and what happened to the group. As Eloise finds more letters and information, then we travel back in time to see the events as they unfold.

In this book, the heroine is Miss Mary Alsworthy, who in one of the previous books was jilted quite by accident in favour of her sister. Mary is seen as something of an ice princess by the ton, and she keeps any unsuitable men away from her using her iciness as a weapon. It is unthinkable that Mary may well have to rely on the kindness of her sister and her husband to look after her, because Mary is very much in danger of being left on the shelf. When Mary is approached by Lord Vaughan, she does not realise that it is because her looks are very much the type preferred by the infamous Black Tulip, and her task will be to infiltrate the gang.

What follows is kind of a hotch-potch. The plot takes twists and turns that seem unlikely, despite the fact that Willig acknowledges exactly that in the Author's Note, and then elaborates that it wasn't far from actual events.

By far the biggest problem for me in this book was the build up of tension between our heroine and her hero, Mary and Lord Vaughan. Now, I love reading about the aristocratic lord who is somewhat aloof, cold and haughty who thaws dramatically when he meets the love of his life. He may still be aloof to everyone, except to that inner circle of people. The problem in this case is that Vaughan is cold (and yes we do find out the reasons why) and Mary is an ice princess - there's no thawing going on here. There also wasn't enough build up of attraction between them.

In terms of the contemporary strand of the story, I understand that Eloise only gets 5 or 6 chapters per book, but it just seems to me that it is moving forward to slowly. I want to see Eloise get it on, although it seems as though the momentum is building.

I am hoping that it is just me, and that this series is not losing steam, because I really want to see it through to the end, finding out exactly what happened to the Pink Carnation and whether Eloise finally gets her man.

In the end I rated this book a 3.5/5. That in itself is a respectable grade. I guess I just wanted more, and I do definitely want more from the next book, The Temptation of the Night Jasmine, which is due out on 22 January 2009. The main thing that concerns me about the next book though is that I can't remember meeting the heroine before. If I have time I might try to reread at least the first couple of books to give myself a refresher course in all the minor characters.

This is one of the books that I chose to read for the Pub08 Reading Challenge and also one of the books that I nominated to read for the Bang Bang Book Challenge.

Cross posted at Historical Tapestry


  1. I had to do a double take on this one since that is the same cover of my Wuthering Heights copy. Interesting. Anyway, sounds like an compelling read--haven't heard of this author before.

  2. I had to go back and check but we have met Charlotte - she's the mean dowager's granddaughter and one of Hen's friends.

    With Crimson Rose I think a large part of the problem is that Mary was pretty unlikable, although when I reread it I discovered I felt rather sorry for her. I love Vaughn but then I always rather did like bad boys...

  3. Hmm, I was thinking that Charlotte was one of Letty's friends, but I think sassymonkey is right. I also agree that my biggest problem with Crimson Rose was Mary, about whom I am still not crazy.

  4. You've gotten a lot further in the series than I have! I absolutely detested Pink Carnation.

    PS--I'm having trouble reading the post at Historical Tapestry--all I get is a blank, green screen, with the banner at the top.

  5. Trish, if you want something light and entertaining then the first couple of books are really entertaining.

    Sassymonkey and Jen, I think you are both right. Mary was just so cold and never seemed to thaw

    Actonbell, you have a whole world out there to explore! ;-)

    Katherine, I liked the first one. Can you tell me what browser you are using so I can try and make some changes so you can see it.

  6. I don't know, something about the way it's described kind of reminds me of Brenda Joyce. I'll have to put this series on my wishlist!

  7. Hi Marg,
    I was thinking of this series last night and thought that I'd look up your blog again today...What a coincidence!

    I read the first one years ago on holiday in Sydney and really enjoyed it, although I did think that it was a bit silly.


    Soon I will see if I can find the series at the library.

    I am also going to look up Tasha Alexander - your blog made me aware of her books too.

    Thank you!


  8. Viola, check out Deanna Raybourn as well!

  9. I have the first one in this series on my MP3 player -- I'll post a review when I finally get to it. Thanks for your review.