Friday, October 23, 2009

Book Review - Lauren Willig's The Betrayal of the Blood Lily

The Betrayal of the Blood Lily by Lauren Willig
Published by: Dutton
ARC Provided by Dutton
Publication Date: January 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 401Pages
Rating: ★★★★ 1/2 ★
To Preorder

The official patter:
"Everyone warned Miss Penelope Deveraux that her unruly behavior would land her in disgrace someday. She never imagined she'd be whisked off to India to give the scandal of her hasty marriage time to die down. As Lady Frederick Staines, Penelope plunges into the treacherous waters of the court of the Nizam of Hyderabad, where no one is quite what they seem—even her own husband. In a strange country where elaborate court dress masks even more elaborate intrigues and a spy called the Marigold leaves cobras as his calling card, there is only one person Penelope can trust....

Captain Alex Reid has better things to do than play nursemaid to a pair of aristocrats. He knows what their kind is like. Or so he thinks-- until Lady Frederick Staines out-shoots, out-rides, and out-swims every man in the camp. She also has an uncanny ability to draw out the deadly plans of the Marigold and put herself in harm's way. With danger looming from local warlords, treacherous court officials, and French spies, Alex realizes that an alliance with Lady Frederick just might be the only thing standing in the way of a plot designed to rock the very foundations of the British Empire."

The Lady Frederick Staines, the person Penelope has become. But she is not that person, but she's no longer Penelope either. She has become a stranger, not just to India, but to her newly inadvertently acquired husband and the name that came with it. Penelope's crisis took a back seat in the previous Pink Carnation book, The Temptation of the Night Jasmine, where she was stained, in more ways than one. Following a hasty marriage we finally get to hear her story upon her arrival in India. I really enjoy Penelope as a heroine and with her starting out the book already married to a man she doesn't love we are in a far different position than Lauren's previous novels. Instead of an innocent happy virginal character, we have someone a little flirty, a little more worldly, a little bitter and very much taken.

What follows is typical Willig fare, there are spies and intrigues and misunderstandings, and romance all in the tradition of, and with a nod and a wink to, M.M. Kaye's The Far Pavilions, but at a far more manageable size. At first I didn't know how I would take the new "hero" Alex Reid. I was very disappointed that Tommy Fluellen would not be returning somehow to save Penelope, but then I met Alex and all is forgiven. Tommy can find his own girl, preferably in a future book. Alex is a good, upstanding man with many a family woe, but with good morals and a fierce loyalty to India and eventually to Penelope. Their dialogue crackles and sparkles and just keeps the pages turning late into the night.

Lauren Willig has got to be one of the best writers of historical fiction today. She makes you truly love the characters despite all their flaws. The writing flows and is witty, fresh and not stayed and dull like history books sometimes make history to be. History could never be as dull as some of those academic books make it out and with Lauren's series you can see a glimpse of what it might really have been like back in the court of the Nizam. I also have a feeling that the sixth installment of her series could lure new readers. It's not just the exotic location and the romance of precolonial India instead of soggy wet old England that will do it. I feel that while Penelope does have a past that weaves through the previous books, India is such a break from who she was and Lauren has set out to create such a new environment that does not heavily relay on the previous installments that anyone could pick up this book and not be lost. Of course if they read this book they will have a desperate urge to read the other volumes.

Also I just realized, I haven't even mentioned Colin and Eloise! All I'm going to say is Valentine's Day. Not enough for you? Colin's family problems are nothing to Alex's, but Lauren has a clever little insertion of a quote from Mansfield Park that neatly ties their story and a little bit of a mystery together.

I really want to thank Jamie McDonald for the Advance Reader Copy, this book made me glad to get the flu. Truthfully! I would have had to fake an illness because I could not put it down until I was done. Also the lack of that final 1/2 star...due to the fact that Lauren is such a gifted writer I can't help but compare to her previous novels and The Seduction of the Crimson Rose has set a standard that will be hard to beat...this is easily a 5 star book where it not for my little quirks. It is my firm wish that I get to spend many more years with these characters, and with Lauren's prodigious output, we've been getting a book a year from her, perhaps she will one day outstrip Georgette Heyer's output. Until then, I can't but help spread the love. I will be giving away my ARC in the coming weeks, as well as making January Lauren Willig month, with many a flowery spy themed giveaway! So be sure to stop back often, you never know when a spy may come calling.


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I can barely wait for this new installment of the Pink series. It sounds like Pink with a great twist to it! Thanks for the glimpse.

Thanks for stopping by Georgia, make sure to come back on Friday for you chance to win it!

This book looks every bit as good as her previous books. I can hardly wait to read it.

I can hardly wait for the latest book after reading your review. I have been a faithful Lauren Willig fan since I was first told of the series around when The Masque of the Black Tulip was released – but I have to admit I was a little hesitant if I would like how the story would play out in this latest book. Your review has given me the confidence I should have previously had. I just hope that Penelope gets her own happily ever after.

I cannot wait to read this book! And your review just made it that much harder! I'm sure it will be as wonderful as her other books, if that is possible.

Somehow I have gotten one book behind, but your review has me calling up the library webpage to request the Night Jasmine. I need to be ready for the Blood Lily's release!

I found the hardback of 'The Secret History of the Pink Carnation' tucked away in the fiction section at Barnes and Noble not long after it was released. Intrigued by the summary I took it home and have loved it and each subsequent book since. From the looks of it, Lauren's sixth book is not going to disappoint and I cannot wait to pick it up the moment it is released!!!

I have a hard time waiting for the next Lauren Willig each year. My fave is The Masque of the Black Tulip, but I have a major crush on Lord Vaughn (aahhh the sarcasm, the sophistication, the name Sebastian...mmmm) so Crimson Rose has a special place on my shelf as well!

Thank you for your review I know I won't be disappointed when I get my hands on a copy of Blood Lily (although I am sure I lose fan points for not giving a hoot about Colin/Eloise the longest romance since the Taster's Choice couple lol).

To each there own right? I have friends who can't stand Eloise, and then there's me who loves her :)

The contrast between Penelope and Willig's other heroines so far is the thing that has me looking forward to "Blood Lily" the most!

Thanks for the great review! I already couldn't wait to read it, and now it will be worse!!! Maybe I will win that ARC ;)

I cannot wait to read Lauren Willig's next book. I'm currently rereading the series yet again in preparation for the upcoming novel. I'm so excited. I'm even making my boyfriend read the series. The next book sounds like it's going to be as good as her previous novels. Thanks for the insight! :)

I don't know which I'm looking more forward to: Penelope's story or the continuation of the Colin/Eloise relationship! One thing is for certain: the publication of the book is top on my list of things to get after Christmas!

I don't know which I'm looking more forward to: Penelope's story or the continuation of the Colin/Eloise relationship! One thing is for certain: the publication of the book is top on my list of things to get after Christmas!

Thanks for the review--I absolutely cannot wait for the book to come out!!

Just wanted to thank you again for introducing me to Lauren Willig's work. I've got two teens in my book group completely hooked now too!

I've never read anything by Lauren Willig before, but this sounds good! Hope I can read it as a stand alone book. :)

Thanks so much for the review! I really can't wait to read this book. I agree with you that at first I wanted Tommy with Penelope, but when I read that first chapter on Lauren's website, Alex won my heart and hopefully Penelope's.

I am so beyond excited for the new book! The same thing happens to me every year (and has for the past 6 years!) I finish her latest book in January, then pout for a while because I have to wait an entire year for the next one!

I am also really relieved to hear a good review of Alex. I was very taken with Tommy, but feel reassured that Alex is up to the task of living with and loving Penelope.

My only question now, is how will LW neatly dispose of Freddy!!

One of the side effects of really enjoying a series is that there's always a chance that the new installment won't live up to the expectations set by the previous ones. I have to say, I'm relieved to read that you enjoyed the book so much, as I love Lauren Willig's books and am really excited for this to be released. I enjoy how there's always a happily ever after but it's a fair one that the characters have to work towards.


sounds cooll(:

Cant wait to read it! It sounds like it will be an awesome book!

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