Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Book Review - Lauren Willig's The Garden Intrigue

The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig
ARC Provided by Dutton
Published by: Dutton
Publication Date: February 16th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy
There's only so many times you can throw yourself at someones feet till you start to fall for the owner of said feet. Augustus has been throwing himself at the feet of the Pink Carnation for some time now. Working with her as an undercover agent in Paris and using his horrible poetry to foil the French has made him invaluable to the British, but really, he only wants to be invaluable to one person; Jane, the Pink Carnation. Despite his flowery poetry that goes beyond the ridiculous, his sentiments of love are becoming more and more true. Jane though does not share these sentiments. She would gladly play matchmaker though.

Emma Delagardie is an American living in Paris. She spent most of her life in France, going to school with Napoleon's stepdaughter, then marrying a man whom she didn't quite get. Widowed young, she flung herself back into life, even making a few mistakes along the way in the form of Georges Marston. Yet her new favorite pastime is heckling Augustus. She is ever by the side of Jane and Augustus is ever by Jane's feet... he makes a very logical target. Jane thinks though that perhaps Emma's taunting is a deflection of her true feelings for Augustus. Throwing the two of them together to write a masque for Napoleon's house party seems the perfect way to see if these two crazy kids might not find a way to work things out and hopefully foil whatever that wacky emperor is doing next... because declaring himself emperor seems a pretty big step onto the crazy train.

Augustus is perhaps the most beloved character we have been waiting to get his happily ever after. That is after Turnip. I'm sorry Augustus lovers, but Turnip will always be my man, on the plus side, Turnip got his happily ever after so now it's time to spread the love. Ever since this absurd poet flung himself at the feet of the Pink Carnation speculation has been running wild as to whether this would be the man to win the heart of the elusive spy. As is the case in fiction as reality, the course of love never runs smooth. While busy admiring "The Princess of the Pulchritudinous Toes", the Princess's short little American companion heckling him has never left a good impression. She's American, for a start, a little too gaudy, a little too sultry, and a little too much "the Grand Inquisitor for Poetical Excellence, Greater Paris Branch." Emma Delagardie is the perfect foil for Augustus.

Until this book I have always pictured Augustus as one of those over the top, Byronic poets, like Shelley, Byron and Coleridge, but as depicted in Blackadder, laying about prostate in Mrs. Miggins' Coffee Shop half dead of consumption, but with a very puffy shirt on. Never discount the puffy shirt! Aka, a stereotypical poet, which for Augustus is the perfect disguise. Lauren does a wonderful job though of showing what playing this stereotype for so long might do to ones mind. Like all deep undercover agents, sometimes it can be too much, and sometimes you just can't get away from the bad rhymes, even in your head. I felt an empathy towards August and his muddled mind. Are his feelings for Jane even real, or has the job just fully taken over control of his senses. He is far more tragic and dark than one might expect... a true romantic poet, not just some parody.

The bubbly Emma as Augustus' counterpoint was perfect. She too has inside turmoil, but there's an exuberance about her that is undeniable. I kept trying to think of petite blond Americans who could due her justice, seeing as I always cast books in my head for my dream miniseries. I thought Kristen Bell would be good, but for some reason that wouldn't stick. The initial spark in my mind was Bernadette from The Big Bang Theory, and you know what, I think Melissa Rauch is Emma. The way she has that bubbly way of speaking, but then her happy smile can freeze and all of a sudden there is menace and you are very afraid. I think she is Emma. The facade and the interior, the whole shebang if you will. I got a "Bang" joke in, yeah!

The only flaw this book has, which can be said of all the books in this series, is once the couples are paired off, they rarely make a return performance. They are forever relegated to supporting or cameo roles. I think perhaps a sequel or two might one day be in order... the love I have for these characters just can't be contained to one book and then a shout out. Even when the wicked Georges Marston makes a come back, having been MIA since book once, it gives me a thrill. Ah Lauren, you have created a world I love to visit, and a new book once a year is never enough.


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