Friday, October 8, 2010

Book Review - Lauren Willig's The Masque of the Black Tulip

The Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig
Published by: Dutton
Publication Date: December 29th, 2005
Format: Hardcover, 406 Pages
Challenge: Historical Fiction
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy
(different edition than one reviewed)
After her brother was revealed to be the Purple Gentian, that most elusive of spies thwarting those Frenchies, Henrietta Selwick thought her life would return to normal. Almack's, balls, being seen at all the right parties, and having her brother's faithful best friend, Miles Dorrington, at her elbow, preferably with a glass of lemonade. But when everyone else gets to do espionage and she's been forced onto the sidelines once too often she leaps at the chance to correspond in code with the Pink Carnation, Jane Wooliston, her cousin by marriage. Because, while her brother Richard and his new wife Amy are "technically" out of the spying game, opening a spy school in your house kind of defeats the purpose, and having something little, even if it's these letters and her contact in the ribbon shop, it makes Henrietta feel special. But she fails to realize how special she is, and not just to Miles, but to a deadly French spy with the name The Black Tulip. Hen is that most coveted of clues, the little sister to the Purple Gentian, and perhaps a link to the Pink Carnation. But who could the Black Tulip be? That spy has been out of action for so long that when a murder is committed behind Lord Vaughn's house the War Office goes into a tizzy at the calling card left by the Black Tulip. Could this spy actually be Lord Vaughn, that slippery and seductive fellow with silver snakes on his waistcoat who has just returned from a long sojourn on the continent? If he isn't said spy, then why is he fascinated with Hen? But spies are only one thing Henrietta has to deal with. Miles seems not as Miles like lately. It all started with that mysterious Marquise de Montval, she of the blue black hair and flawless beauty, despite her age. Miles has been seen once too often with her, even if he was seen through the shrubberies by a not very well concealed Hen and entourage... they thought the green clothing would help to camouflage themselves. But could Hen's irritation with Miles be more of a romantic nature? Does she stand a chance against this Marquise or should she just resign herself to being killed by the Black Tulip? Meanwhile, back in the present, Eloise is is put off and turned on by a certain descendant of the Purple Gentian named Colin. Boys, no matter what time period, are such a annoying mystery, it's so much easier dealing with deadly Napoleonic Spies with flower names.

The second book in Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series sees us leaving the shores of France and venturing into that most dangerous of territories, the London ton at the height of the season. Dealing less with espionage and more with friendships, when I first read this book it was not my favorite, despite being more like a Jane Austen story than the previous installment. I felt the ending and the reveal of the Black Tulip lacked something and was on the verge of French farce. Of course, with reading further books I have gained further knowledge, and have returned to this book and, reading it with a knowing eye, I enjoyed it immensely, French farcishness and all. Miles and Henrietta are usually everyones favorite couple, even if she anachronistically calls him a dinosaur (seeing as that word is 40 years too early), but to me, the joy in this book lies within all the subtle characterizations of their friends on the periphery, friends who have been slowly stepping forward and getting their own stories. But besides Hen's two best friends, Penelope and Charlotte, who make their first appear, there are three characters without whom this book would mean nothing to me. Those three characters are Turnip, Lord Vaughn, and the Dowager Duchess of Dovedale. Turnip is a true fop with his over the top embroidered waistcoats. A man who is not afraid to show his allegiance to the Pink Carnation and whose attire leads him into a spot of bother. Lord Vaughn, ah, you seductive, enigmatic man. You are only looking out for yourself and I love you for it and for the images of James Purefoy in Regency garb you bring to mind. Finally, last but not least, because I don't want to be harmed, The Dowager Duchess of Dovedale. Scourge of the ballrooms and impudent young men. She is a force to be reckoned with. My favorite scene? While at a fancy dress ball she confiscates her granddaughter's friend's spear from her Boadicea costume and uses it to poke people with. Pure, priceless and wonderful.


Glad to know I am not the only one who did not enjoy this one as much the first time around! I am going to read it again soon and am happy to hear it has such a rebound the second time :)

I think the re-reading is really helping me like the two I didn't the first time around, ie Masque and Ring... I wasn't as invovled as I am now with these characters. Hope you enjoy more the second time as well!

Post a Comment

Newer Post Older Post Home