The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig

18693637This is one of the better Pink Carnation novels and it makes me sad that there’s only one more book in this series. It also made me want to start reading them again from the beginning to get a better handle on all these ancillary characters. I recognize their names, but can’t remember much more about them.

Anyway, this is Sally Fitzhugh’s story (little sister of Turnip Fitzhugh). She meet-cutes Lucien, presumed vampire of London, in his backyard after being dared by her friends to hop the fence. Oh those 1806 hijinks! Lucien’s back in London after being away for 12 years after discovering his parents’ murdered at their estate in Hullingden. (Oh yeah, Lucien’s a duke.) He’s ready to solve their murder (though conventional wisdom says that his mother killed his father and then herself) and Sally ropes herself into helping. There’s a lovely “we’re going to pretend to be engaged and then fall in love” storyline, which totally works, even though it’s completely predictable. I didn’t realize who the real killer was until it was being revealed, so that was an added bonus.

Eloise and Colin are still together in 2004 (so funny that it seems like so long ago even though it was pretty contemporary when the series started 10 books ago). As per usual, Colin is being weird and Eloise is freaking out about it, without talking about it. I used to love their romance, but since they are stuck in the same year for 10 books, I’ve grown a little tired of how slowly everything moves. But it looks like things are going to wrap up nicely with them all the same in the last book, so good for them!

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The Passion of the Purple Plumeria by Lauren Willig

15768463I usually grab the next Pink Carnation book as soon as it comes out, but since I knew this one was about Miss Gwen, I wasn’t as enthused. So far, Miss Gwen has been a snarly, sharp-tongued old lady who likes to hit people with her parasol while making sure that The Pink Carnation does what she needs to do. Watching her fall in love with whatever old man Ms. Willig would dream up just didn’t sound like a good time. But I saw that Katia has enjoyed it and I figured I’d try it out.

Turns out Miss Gwen is only an old lady by Napoleonic terms being all of 45. She has a tragic back story that makes clear why she acts the way she does and most of the surliness is just a part she plays while with Jane and the youngsters. It was nice to see that Gwen doesn’t give up her chirpiness with Colonel Reid and they have a nice repartee, reminiscent of those 40s and 50s screen couples. And because of their advanced ages, we actually get some bedroom scenes in the way that we don’t usually because it’s 1804. Much more satisfying than longing glances and fleeting touches on the arm.

There was some development in the Pink Carnation organization as well, and it really set the stage for the next book, which I’m now eagerly awaiting. It was nice to see some of the couples from the previous books coming together at the end of this one, though I do still have a hard time keeping everyone straight.

The modern-day plot with Colin and Eloise was charming, though I could have done without it as well. They used to be my favorite thing about these books, but their relationship moves so slowly that it’s hard to go back to 2004 every time. They took a nice step forward here, but with Eloise heading back to the States in the next book (likely), I’m curious how that relationship will shake out.

The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig

11732928I’m averaging a book a month these days, so I’m not optimistic that I’m going to get to 50 by the end of the year. But I’ve finally caught up on the Pink Carnation series, so that’s a win!

This book picks up around the time that the last book dropped off, following Emma Delagardie, American friend of the Pink Carnation. I can remember frightfully little about Jane Wooliston at this point, but apparently she’s BFF with Bonaparte’s step-daughter, gaining her lots of access to meetings, people and locations. Emma’s interaction with our leading man, Augustus Whittlesby, is a little predictable, but still fun. There’s a love triangle in this book, which is a bit different from the others and I was hoping that we’ve a different sort of ending than usual. We end too quickly as per usual, but it’s still nice.

The Colin/Eloise storyline is a little more intriguing this time and feels more grounded in real life. It’s hard to believe that we’ve only been with them for six months since it’s been YEARS that I’ve been reading this book. I was happy with the decision Eloise made at the end. It may not be romantic, but it felt more real. There’s also a rando cliffhanger towards the end of their story that’s setting up Pink X, I guess, but it really comes out of left field.

Bring on Pink Ten!

The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig

8111651Thanks to Southwest’s inability to have their planes arrive or take off on time, I managed to finish this book in record time. Willig’s books are always quick reads for me and this was no exception.

Willig returns to our modern-day couple in this book, but to be honest, it’s been so long since I read about them, it’s hard to remember where they are in their relationship. The transitions to Eloise and Colin from the regency period protagonists was always jarring and found myself not caring as much about their drama. I remember loving them a lot more than I do now. Not sure if it’s the writing or me that’s changed, but something has.

The main protagonists, Laura and Andre, are pretty sympathetic, though Pierre-Andre, Andre’s little boy, quickly became my favorite character. I didn’t see the climax coming and the falling action was quite pleasant. The ending wrapped up too quickly and neatly with just a small postscript of sorts in the Eloise/Colin chapter. It seemed like their issues needed more discussion and I wanted to know more about how they ended up, since it seems unlikely we’ll be running across them in any of the future books. It was nice not to have to remember all the different debs that have been featured in the previous books, but start to run together after years of reading.

I’ve ordered the next book in the series, but in meantime, I hope to clear out another book from my nightstand about Anne Boleyn. Fingers crossed!

The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig

7720480After a couple non-fiction books in a row, I decided to revisit an old favorite author. I used to get these books as soon as they came out, but I’ve fallen behind. I’ve got two more in the series to read to catch up and there’s another one coming out shortly, if I’m reading her blog correctly.

This book takes place back a ways in the series, but since I can hardly remember which heroines go with which heroes in which book, it really doesn’t make a difference to me. It stays with our historical couple from start to finish, not detouring back to the present with the grad student and her society boyfriend. They used to be my favorite part of this series, but I found I didn’t miss them at all. This book also features Ms. Jane Austen as Arabella’s childhood friend. I’m not an Austen fan myself, but it was a nice cameo nonetheless.

I really enjoyed how the romance between Arabella and Turnip seemed to develop organically. I mean, all of Willig’s books follow the same formula and you know that when the main girl meets a guy, that’s who she’s going to end up with. But these two really seemed to get each other and you can see how they could make it work. I finished this book in two days, but I wished I’d had more to read. (Turns out there’s a bonus chapter on her website.) I miss these two (and Sally!) already.