The French Revolution was an interesting time period, with long-lasting and far-reaching political and historical implications. But this is not these things that interest American historian Eloise Kelly — and actually, it’s not a what that captures her attention, but a who. Three of them, to be precise.
The Scarlet Pimpernel. The Purple Gentian. The Pink Carnation — three men who repeatedly thwarted Madame Le Guillotine and all the villains of France. In time two of these men were unmasked: Sir Percival Blakeney and Lord Richard Selwick, heroes both.
Now only the mystery of the Pink Carnation remains, and Eloise is determined to discover the man’s identity. What she discovers, however, is far more surprising than she could have imagined.
This book was recommended to me by a friend, and I’m so glad she shared it with me (thanks, Anna!). I’ve always loved the stories of the Scarlet Pimpernel, and I’m excited to see that a modern author is using those tales for her own inspiration.
American historian Eloise has had a rough go of it. She’s sifted through hundreds of centuries-old newspaper clippings, journals, and historical accounts of the French Revolution and its aftermath. But her goal—to discover the identity of the Pink Carnation—continues to elude her. The twenty letters she sent out to the descendants of Blakeney and Selwick have gone mostly unanswered, except for a rather snarky response from one Mr. Colin Selwick.
It is from Mrs. Arabella Selwick-Alderly that Eloise finally receives assistance. It is a stack of faded letters, dated from the early 19th century, that contains the story and identity of the Pink Carnation.
Meanwhile, in 1803…
Amy Balcourt has spent most of her life in England, an exile from her native France. She’s an impulsive young woman, prone to flights of fancy. Her father’s death during the French Revolution weighs heavily on her, and she has spent years reading of the heroic exploits of the dashing Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. She has always vowed that, given the chance, she would join the mysterious heroes in their missions, and help rescue the innocents of France.
She may now get her chance. Her triumphant return to France—accompanied by her cousin Jane and their draconian chaperone, Miss Gwen—will just happen to take them past the Fisherman’s Rest, the supposed meeting place of the masked heroes. But an unexpected mix-up in travel plans makes her miss her chance, and forces her into crossing to Calais in the company of one Lord Richard Selwick — possibly the most infuriating man she’s ever met.
A genuinely excellent story
You see where this is going. But just because I could guess the ending, doesn’t mean that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy the journey.
I immediately fell in love with Amy, who despite being young and fairly naive is eager and intelligent. There are many times when Richard sets off to do something daring and Purple Gentian-like…only to discover that Amy has beaten him to it. Their verbal sparring is amazing, with just the right amount of sexual tension (yea, I said it).
On the modern side of the story we have Eloise, who is pretty much hopeless. She’s just gotten out of a bad relationship, is unpolished, a bit clumsy, and consistently puts her foot in her mouth. But she’s a great character, and I loved seeing her reactions to the letters, and watching her put the pieces of the mystery together.
Read. This. Book.
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, I’ve discovered, is the first in a series. A long one, actually — nine and counting. I’m a bit worried that the series might lose its originality after nine books, but I’m definitely going to check out the next few, if only to see the end of Eloise’s story.
If you enjoy what I call “swashbuckling stories” (disguises, adventures, mystery, swordplay, danger, heroics, and witticism), you should most definitely get a copy of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. It’s on my list of favorite reads of the year.
What are your favorite kinds of adventure books? Do you like the swash-and-buckle stuff as much as I do?