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The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig

Long-time blog readers are well aware that I am a HUGE fan of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig. Which is why, when The Orchid Affair went on sale on Thursday (not Tuesday - I was surprised by that, but whatever), I made the staff at my local Barnes & Noble go dig it out of the back room for me. (I am so not kidding.) Sadly, my ability to stay awake deserted me on Thursday night, but I am now entirely triumphant, having just finished reading this, the seventh book in the series, if one does not count October's issue, The Mischief of the Mistletoe, which was basically a straight-up Regency romance (with a bit of a mystery twist) featuring Reginald "Turnip" Fitzhugh and a young lady named Arabella Dempsey.

Of course, one should count Turnip's book, even though the Pink Carnation does not appear in it, and neither does her devoted modern-day researcher, Eloise Kelly or her boyfriend, Colin Selwick, descendant of a different floral spy during the Napoleonic wars. I like seeing what's going on with their real-life romance, and hearing about the life of an actual researcher (I know, I know - I'm a total nerd; you needn't tell me about it). I also like Eloise's voice. Here's the first paragraph on page three, one of my favorite examples in this particular tome:

Colin's great-great et cetera grandfather had been one of those masked men. Under his chosen fleur de guerre, the Purple Gentian, Lord Richard Selwick had dashed around Europe in tights, rescuing aristocrats from the clutches of the guillotine. Colin liked to point out that at the time they had been called pantaloons, not tights, but a man in tights is a man in tights, call it what you will. Nothing says buckle and swash like a pair of skintight leg coverings.

In this particular novel, Colin and Eloise are in Paris for a long weekend - which is a bit less romantic than it sounds, since they are there for a weekend-long fête in honor of Colin's mother, thrown by Colin's cousin/stepfather (who is only about eight years older than Colin - and smarmy). Eloise is sneaking in a bit of spy-related research about the Silver Orchid, a female spy deployed in France in 1804.

The Silver Orchid was the code name for one Miss Laura Grey, a thirty-two year old governess whom we met back in the second book, The Masque of the Black Tulip, at the spy school run by Richard Selwick and his wife. Born in France, Laura was orphaned at age 16. She became a governess for the next 16 years, and joined the league of the Pink Carnation in 1803. She's now been sneaked into France and provided with false papers in order to become the governess for André Jaouen, a relative of Fouché (the Minister of Police), who has access to papers in which the Pink Carnation has an interest.

Let's just say that this one has some rather heart-pounding adventures in it, as well as some heart-pounding romance, since Monsieur Jaouen and Miss Grey/Mademoiselle Griscogne have quite a complicated relationship for any number of reasons. I enjoyed every minute spent reading it, and look forward to a somewhat more leisurely re-read in the future. (Once M gets through it, of course - she's also a huge Pink Carnation fan.) It was marvelous to see the actors back in France (where we spent most of the first book), and while it wasn't exactly a pleasure to re-encounter the insanely evil Monsieur Delaroche again, I was still glad to see him. I was also quite glad to see the over-the-top poet, Monsieur Whittlesby (whom I secretly ship with the Pink Carnation, but I rather expect - and hope - that it will be ages until I find out if I am correct).

If you're interested in my reviews of the earlier Pink Carnation books, they can be found here, in reverse order.

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( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 22nd, 2011 06:47 am (UTC)
These sound like great fun, but as I have a self-imposed ban on certain levels of "heart-pounding romance," could you stick a film rating on this for me? PG? R?

I am, for example, no longer allowed to read Emma Bull's "War for the Oaks," despite really enjoying the characters and dialogue, if that gives you an idea *wistful sigh*.
Jan. 22nd, 2011 11:54 pm (UTC)
It is interesting. The books don't all have the same level of sexual content, and none of them get especially explicit. All of them have kissing, of course, and I believe they all have above-the-waist petting as well. Only a few of them have any below-the-waist activities described (the first and the sixth, for sure - the fifth and seventh books decidedly have none). And I've not read Emma Bull's book, so I can't draw a comparison.

I can say that my 16 yo has read the first seven and will be moving on to The Orchid Affair once she gets back from her weekend, however. I guess if I had a better idea what level of physicality you preferred, I could answer better.
Jan. 24th, 2011 11:30 pm (UTC)
Hmmm, tricky, as I don't know what books we have in common to compare... my problem is with explicit description - I'm not worried by the characters carrying on, I just don't need to "see" it in detail, if that makes sense.
Jan. 24th, 2011 11:59 pm (UTC)
In order to better answer your question, I started re-reading the series. Books one and two might be too involved for you when they eventually get to the sex part, but it's easy to skip the couple of pages involved - not like some of my other favorite romances which have increasingly lengthy and detailed encounters throughout the book. For sure you could read book four, The Seduction of the Crimson Rose and book seven, The Mischief of the Mistletoe, in which the characters do not have relations.
Jan. 25th, 2011 03:23 am (UTC)
Well, you ARE a kind soul! Thank you for checking into it for me. I know it's bad to jump into a series in the middle, but I think I'll put book 4 on the list, that way I can see if the books appeal to me enough to skip a few pages now and then in the rest of the series (something I hate doing, but the little snipped you quoted was fun indeed).
Jan. 22nd, 2011 08:17 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm excited too :)
Jan. 22nd, 2011 11:54 pm (UTC)
It's truly delightful.
Jan. 25th, 2011 05:31 pm (UTC)
Oh, this sounds so good! I have the first two books in this series on my shelf, borrowed from my sisters. So many books, so little time!
Jan. 25th, 2011 07:18 pm (UTC)
I re-read the first three books in the series between Sunday and last night. (Lucky for me, reading didn't make me nauseated - just looking at screens - computer & TV.)

They are so much fun - I hope you get to them soon!
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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