The Betrayal of the Blood Lily (Pink Carnation Series #6)

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A New York Times extended list bestseller in hardcover-the sensational sixth book in the national bestselling Pink Carnation series.

Whisked away to nineteenth-century India, Penelope Deveraux plunges into the court intrigues of the Nizam of Hyderabad, where no one is quite what they seem. New to this strange and exotic country- where a dangerous spy called the Marigold leaves venomous cobras as his calling card-she can trust only one man: ...

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The Betrayal of the Blood Lily (Pink Carnation Series #6)

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A New York Times extended list bestseller in hardcover-the sensational sixth book in the national bestselling Pink Carnation series.

Whisked away to nineteenth-century India, Penelope Deveraux plunges into the court intrigues of the Nizam of Hyderabad, where no one is quite what they seem. New to this strange and exotic country- where a dangerous spy called the Marigold leaves venomous cobras as his calling card-she can trust only one man: Captain Alex Reid.

With danger looming from local warlords, treacherous court officials, and French spies, Alex and Penelope may be all that stand in the way of a plot designed to rock the very foundations of the British Empire...

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The latest sure-to-please installment to the popular Pink Carnation series transports the action to colonial India. Lady Frederick Staines, née Penelope Deveraux, averts a scandal in early 19th-century London with a hasty marriage and a posting for her louche husband as special envoy to the court of Hyderabad. In India, Penelope discovers dangerous intrigue having to do with the overthrow of British rule and a spy called the Marigold. After demonstrating considerable bravery uncharacteristic to ladies of her rank, she finds an ally in the honorable Capt. Alex Reid. Together they chase traitors, travel the countryside on horseback, dodge assassination attempts, challenge each other to duels, wrestle with long skirts and numerous buttonholes (crucial in the love scenes), battle cobras and unravel the mystery of Marigold. As in other books in the series, the story is presented by a contemporary narrator, another strong-willed woman involved with an English aristocrat. Willig hasn’t lost her touch; this outing has all the charm of the previous books in the series. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Reading the sixth book in Willig's "Pink Carnation" series (after The Temptation of the Night Jasmine) is like getting a plate of warm-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies; it's hard not to eat them all at once, but you also want to savor each bite. The cleverly connected historical and contemporary story lines are well blended with complementary turning points, but it's really the historical characters who steal the show. Penelope and Lord Frederick Staines have been forced into marriage and shipped off to India to serve as Governor General Wellesley's Special Envoy to the Court of Hyderabad. Escorting the couple is Capt. Alex Reid, born and raised in India. The unexpected connection between steadfast Alex and headstrong Penelope transforms the pair into appealing underdogs. The political intrigue among nations, intricate and double-crossing spy system, and engrossing historical view of India add essential elements of drama and action. VERDICT A great choice for readers who like their mysteries with historical or romantic elements. Fans of Deanna Raybourn, Tasha Alexander, Ariana Franklin, or M.M. Kaye are likely to love Willig, too. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/09.]—Stacey Hayman, Rocky River P.L., IL
Publishers Weekly
Harvard grad student Eloise Kelly continues her dissertation research on 18th-century British spies among the treasure trove of Colin Selwick's family archives and finds an unexpected offshoot of the Pink Carnation's spy network foiling French conspiracies. The documents reveal that Penelope Devereaux is forced into a loveless marriage with Lord Frederick Stains, and they are both sent off to a British enclave in India. As Freddie pursues drinking, gambling, and womanizing, the headstrong Penelope is left to the care and protection of Capt. Alex Reid, who fears a spy hidden in their midst. Slipping easily between the contemporary world and the Napoleonic era, Kate Reading delivers a superb performance in this sixth book of the romantic mystery series as she gives unpolished Eloise her broad mid-America accent and brings her mildly clumsy persona to life. Her Penelope, on the other hand, is suitably aristocratic, and the multitude of supporting vocal characterizations is equally precise and entertaining. A Dutton hardcover (Reviews, Oct. 5). (Feb.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525951506
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 1/12/2010
  • Series: Pink Carnation Series, #6
  • Pages: 401
  • Product dimensions: 6.52 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 1.36 (d)

Meet the Author

Lauren Willig

Lauren Willig is a law student and Ph.D. candidate in history at Harvard University. She is the author of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.


Although she may not have realized it at the time, Lauren Willig had her life pretty clearly mapped out when she was a mere nine-year-old. That's when she completed her first "novel" -- 300 handwritten pages of a Nancy Drew-inspired mystery titled The Night the Clock Struck Death featuring not one, but two teenage sleuths. (Twin detectives, if you please!) She sent it off to Simon & Schuster -- who promptly sent it back. "I was utterly crushed for at least a week," the young author admits.

Crushed, perhaps, but apparently the pull of becoming a writer was considerably stronger than the sting of rejection. Several years later, while she was in grad school, Willig began work on another novel -- although she wasn't sure which novel it would be. "There were three contenders: one, the Pink Carnation; another, a mystery novel set at Yale; and the third, a historical novel set around a group of Luddites in 1812. The Yalie mystery novel nearly won out... but the image of a masked spy on a rope tipped the balance the other way, and The Pink Carnation was born."

A witty melding of espionage thriller, swashbuckler, and the kind of classic "bodice-ripping" romance novels she first discovered at the tender age of six, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation was published in 2005. The premise is irresistible: A modern grad student researching her dissertation in London stumbles on the identity of a mysterious English spy from the Napoleonic Wars. With its clever book-within-a-book format, Willig's novel was an instant sensation. Almost immediately, she penned the sequel, The Masque of the Black Tulip. Willig was off and running with a hot and sexy – not to mention bestselling -- series.

Although the Pink Carnation books build on one another, each story focuses on a different pair of lovers and can be read as a stand-alone. Willig tries to weave in any information from previous installments that might be key to understanding the characters or plot. All her books have become Romantic Times Top Picks. In 2006 Lauren was nominated for a Quill Award.

Good To Know

Even before she committed her stories to paper, Willig was amusing herself with her very own fiction in the privacy of her head. "I remember lying in bed, staring up at the underside of my canopy, composing complicated narratives complete with dialogue, generally based on whatever movie I had just seen," she told The Readers "Star Wars spawned weeks' worth of bedtime dramas in which I starred as Princess Lea's best friend. Who would, of course, wind up with Luke Skywalker as co-ruler of the Universe -- you know what they say, if you're going to dream, dream big."

According to Willig's official biography, she is a Native New Yorker. However, she admits that this isn't entirely true being that she was actually born in Philadelphia -- a fact that her "real" Native New Yorker siblings aren't quick to let Lauren forget.

Some fun and fascinating outtakes from our interview with Willig:

"Like my modern heroine, Eloise, I spent a year in England doing research for my dissertation (mine is about Royalist conspiracies during the English Civil Wars in the 1640s), and living in a little basement flat in Bayswater. Unlike Eloise, on my very first week in London, I ate a bad kebab, and got so sick that I wound up briefly back in the States, on the same medicine they give people who have anthrax poisoning. Not exactly an auspicious beginning...."

"I still don't have a driver's license. Having grown up in Manhattan, there was never any need of it -- other than as a means of getting into bars, and learning to drive seemed a bit extreme just to get a drink. Of course, that was before I moved to Cambridge for grad school and realized that in other parts of the world, you can't just walk into the middle of the street, stick your arm up into the air, and, lo!, immediate transportation appears. Since I really don't want to have to learn how to drive, I've decided the only remedy is just to live in Manhattan for the rest of my life."

"Many years ago, at my Yale college interview, the interviewer took one look at my resume, and announced, ‘You can't be a writer.'

Getting a little panicky -- since no one takes kindly to having their life's dream flung in their face -- I blurted out, ‘Why not?'

‘Writers,' he said firmly, ‘are introverts. You,' he indicated the long list of clubs on my resume, Drama Club, Choral Club, Forensics, interschool plays and public speaking competitions, ‘are not.'"

"It is true; I've never been able to resist a stage. There are embarassing videos (which may have to be confiscated and burnt at some point) from various family weddings, where I, as a wee child, coopted the microphone to serenade the wedding guests with off-key renderings of "Memory" (from Cats). It's a wonder I lived past the age of ten without being murdered by a bride wielding a sharpened cake knife. Point me to a podium, and I can talk indefinitely (and usually do, as anyone who was with me in the Yale Political Union can verify). I simpered through Gilbert & Sullivan Society productions, taught drama to small tots through Yale Drama Hands-On Theatre Workshop, and was chairman of a debating society in college. And those were only the official performances. Recently, I appeared in a toga and bare feet (well, really a chiton, but why be picky?) in front of a hundred-odd people at the law school to argue a mock Athenian trial. And, yes, those pictures will also be confiscated and burnt -- as soon as I find out where my camera-happy friends hid them."

"I've always had trouble with the ‘writer as introvert' trope. I argued then, and still believe now, that the performative arts and creative writing have a great deal in common. After all, music, drama, public speaking, writing... all involve words! My interviewer wasn't too impressed by that argument, but there is a bit more to it than that. Singing and public speaking create an enhanced awareness for the rhythm of language. As for drama, how better to get inside one's characters' heads than to walk in their footsteps? Frequently, while writing, I'll tumble out of my chair (literally -- my chair isn't all that sturdy) and act out bits of a scene for a more concrete grasp of a character's movements. Most of all, acting, singing, and writing all involve the desire to get out there and share a story, a desire that can't be balked by the threat of rotton tomatoes, or even bad reviews."

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York and Cambridge, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 28, 1977
    2. Place of Birth:
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    1. Education:
      B.A., Yale University, 1999; M.A., Harvard University, 2001
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

There were times when Lady Frederick Staines, nee Miss Penelope Deveraux, deeply regretted her lack of a portable rack and thumbscrews.

Now was one of them. Rain drummed against the roof of the carriage like a set of impatient fingers. Penelope knew just how it felt.

“You spoke to Lord Wellesley, didn’t you?” she asked her husband, as though her husband’s interview with the Governor General of India were one of complete indifference to her and nothing at all to do with the way she was expected to spend the next year of her life.

Freddy shrugged.

Penelope was learning to hate that shrug. It was a shrug amply indicative of her place in the world, somewhere just about on a level with a sofa cushion, convenient to lean against but unworthy of conversational effort.

That hadn’t been the case eight months ago.

Eight months ago they hadn’t been married. Eight months ago Freddy had still been trying to get her out of the ballroom into an alcove, a balcony, a bedroom, whichever enclosed space could best suit the purpose of seduction. It was a fitting enough commentary on the rake’s progress, from silver-tongued seducer to indifferent spouse in the space of less than a year.

Not that Freddy had ever been all that silver-tongued. Nor, to be fair, had he done all the seducing.

How was she to have known that a bit of canoodling would land them both in India?

Outside, rain pounded against the roof of the carriage, not the gentle tippety tap of an English drizzle, but the full-out deluge of an Oriental monsoon. They had sailed up the Hooghly into Calcutta that morning after five endless months on a creaking, pitching vessel, replacing water beneath them with water all around them, rain crashing against the esplanade, grinding the carefully planted English flowers that lined the sides into the muck, all but obscuring the conveyance that had been sent for them by the Governor General himself, with its attendant clutter of soaked and chattering servants, proffering umbrellas, squabbling over luggage, pulling and propelling them into a very large, very heavy carriage.

If she had thought about it at all, Penelope would have expected Calcutta to be sunny.

But then, she hadn’t given it much thought, not any of it. It had all happened too quickly for thought, ruined in January, married in February, on a boat to the tropics by March. The future had seemed unimportant compared to the exigencies of the present. Penelope had been too busy brazening it out to wonder about little things like where they were to go and how they were to live. India was away and that was enough. Away from her mother’s shrill reproaches (If you had to get yourself compromised, couldn’t you at least have picked an older son?); Charlotte’s wide-eyed concern; Henrietta’s clumsy attempts to get her to talk about it, as though talking would make the least bit of difference to the reality of it all. Ruined was ruined was ruined, so what was the point of compounding it by discussing it?

There was even, if she was being honest, a certain grim pleasure to it, to having put paid to her mother’s matrimonial scheming and poked a finger in the eye of every carping old matron who had ever called her fast. Ha! Let them see how fast she could be. All things considered, she had got out of it rather lightly. Freddy might be selfish, but he was seldom cruel. He didn’t have crossed eyes or a hunchback (unlike that earl her mother had been throwing at her). He wasn’t violent in his cups, he might be a dreadful cardplayer but he had more than enough blunt to cover his losses, and he possessed a reasonable proficiency in those amorous activities that had propelled them into matrimony.

Freddy was, however, still sulky about having been roped into wedlock. It wasn’t the being married he seemed to mind—as he had said, with a shrug, when he tossed her a betrothal ring, one had to get married sooner or later and it might as well be to a stunner—as the loss of face among his cronies at being forced into it. He tended to forget his displeasure in the bedroom, but it surfaced in a dozen other minor ways.

Including deliberately failing to tell her anything at all about his interview with Lord Wellesley.

“Well?” demanded Penelope. “Where are we to go?”

Freddy engaged in a lengthy readjustment of his neck cloth. Even with his high shirt points beginning to droop in the heat and his face flushed with the Governor General’s best Madeira, he was still a strapping specimen of aristocratic pulchritude, the product of generations of breeding, polishing, and grooming from the burnished dark blond of his hair to the perfectly honed contours of his face. Penelope could picture him pinned up in a naturalist’s cupboard, a perfect example of Homo aristocraticus.

“Hyderabad,” he said at last.

“Hyderawhere?” It sounded like a sneeze.

“Hyderabad,” repeated Freddy, in that upper-class drawl that turned boredom into a form of art. “It’s in the Deccan.”

That might have helped had she had the slightest notion of where—or what—the Deccan was.

In retrospect, it might have been wiser to have spent some time aboard ship learning about the country that was to be her home for the next year, rather than poking about in the rigging and flirting with the decidedly middle-aged Mr. Buntington in the hope of readjusting Freddy’s attention from the card table. The upshot of it all was that she had learned more than she ever wanted to know about the indigo trade and Freddy had lost five hundred pounds by the time they reached the Cape of Good Hope.

“And what are we to do there?” she asked, in tones of exaggerated patience.

I,” said Freddy, idly stretching his shoulders within the confines of the tight cut of his coat, “am to be Special Envoy to the Court of Hyderabad.”

And what of me? Penelope wanted to ask. But she already knew the answer to that. She was to be toted along like so much unwanted baggage, expected to bow to his every whim in atonement for an act that was as much his doing as hers. An ungrateful baggage, her mother had called her, tossing up to her all the benefits that had been showered upon her, the lessons, the dresses, the multitude of golden guineas that had been expended upon her launch into Society.

It didn’t matter that Penelope would have preferred to have run tame in Norfolk, riding the wildest of her father’s horses and terrifying the local foxes. She was, she had been told, to be grateful for the lessons, the dresses, the Season, just as she was to be grateful that Freddy had condescended to marry her, even if she knew that his acquiescence had been bought and bullied out of him by the considerable wealth and influence of the Dowager Duchess of Dovedale.

The thought of the Dowager brought a pinched feeling to Penelope’s chest, as though her corset strings were tied too tight. Penelope elbowed it aside. There was no point in being homesick for the Dowager or Lady Uppington or Henrietta or Charlotte. They would all have forgotten about her within the month. Oh, they would write, letters that would be six months out of date by the time they arrived, but they had their own families, their own concerns, of which Penelope was, at best, on the very periphery.

That left only Freddy.

“What, no residency of your own?” goaded Penelope. “Only a little envoy-ship?”

That got his attention. Freddy’s ego, Penelope had learned after their abrupt engagement, was a remarkably tender thing, sublimely susceptible to poking.

Freddy looked down his nose at her. It might not be quite a Norman nose, but Penelope was sure it was at least Plantagenet. “Wellesley had a special assignment for me, one only I could accomplish.”

“Bon vivant?” suggested Penelope sweetly. “Or official loser at cards?”

Freddy scrubbed a hand through his guinea gold hair. “I had a run of bad luck,” he said irritably. “It happens to everyone.”

“Mmm-hmm,” purred Penelope. “To some more frequently than others.”

“Wellesley needs me in Hyderabad,” Freddy said stiffly. “I’m to be his eyes and ears.”

Penelope made a show of playing with the edge of her fan. “Hasn’t he a set of his own?”

“Intelligence,” Freddy corrected. “I’m to gather intelligence for him.”

Penelope broke into laughter at the absurdity of Freddy playing spy in a native palace. He would stand out like a Norman knight in Saladin’s court. “A fine pair of ears you’ll make when you can’t even speak the language. Unless the inhabitants choose to express themselves in mime.”

“The inhabitants?” Freddy wrinkled his brow. “Oh, you mean the natives. Wouldn’t bother with them. It’s James Kirkpatrick the Governor General wants me to keep an eye on. The Resident. Wellesley thinks he’s gone soft. Too much time in India, you know.”

“I should think that would be an asset in governing the place.”

Freddy regarded her with all the superiority of his nine months’ stint in a cavalry unit in Seringapatam. From what she had heard, he had spent far more time in the officers’ mess than the countryside. “Hardly. They go batty with the heat and start reading Persian poetry and wearing native dress. Wellesley says there’s even a chance that Kirkpatrick’s turned Mohammedean. It’s a disgrace.”

“I think I should enjoy native dress,” said Penelope, lounging sideways against the carriage seat, like a perpendicular Mme. Recamier. The thin muslin of her dress shifted with her as she moved, molded to her limbs by the damp. “It should allow one more…freedom.”

“Well, I’ll be damned before I go about in a dress,” declared Freddy, but he was looking at her, genuinely looking at her for the first time since he had rolled out of bed that morning.

Letting her eyelids drop provocatively, Penelope delicately ran her tongue around her lips, reveling in the way his gaze sharpened on her.

“You’ll probably be damned anyway,” murmured Penelope, allowing the motion of the carriage to carry her towards him, “so why fuss about the wardrobe?”

With an inarticulate murmur, Freddy caught her hard around the waist. Penelope twined her arms around his neck, pressing closer, despite the wide silver buttons that bored through the muslin of her dress, branding his crest into the flesh above her ribs.

At least they had this, if nothing else. She knew his smell, his taste, the curve of his cheek against the palm of her hand as one knew the gaits of a favorite horse, with a comfort grown of eight months’ constant use. Penelope wiggled closer, running her hands against the by-now-familiar muscles of arm and shoulder, giving herself up to the fleeting counterfeit of intimacy offered by his hand pressed against her back, his lips moving along the curve of her neck.

Until the carriage rocked to a stop and Freddy set her aside with no more concern than if she had been a carriage rug provided for his convenience on the journey. Lust might work to get his attention, but it was remarkably ineffectual at keeping it.

Penelope quickly straightened her bodice as the inevitable crowd of servants descended upon the carriage, yanking open the door, carrying over a portable flight of steps, running forward with blazing torches that too clearly illuminated Penelope’s disarray.

By the time Penelope reached up to fix her hair, Freddy had already swung out of the carriage. He had been trained to do the gentlemanly thing, so he held out a hand in her general direction, but he was already angled towards the portico, the party, the inevitable card room.

“Pen…,” he said impatiently, waggling his hand.

Penelope paused as she was, arms curved above her head, pressing her breasts into prominence. She leaned forward just that extra inch.

“If you will muss my hair…,” she said provocatively.

Freddy was no longer in the mood to play. “If you will behave like a wanton,” he countered, hauling her down from the carriage.

Penelope narrowed her amber eyes. “I’m not a wanton. I’m your wife. Darling.”

Freddy might be lazy, but he had a marksman’s eye. “And who’s responsible for that? Ah, Cleave!” Donning charm like a second skin, he waved to an acquaintance and carried on without pausing to introduce Penelope.

“Whose party is this?” hissed Penelope as she trotted along beside him.

“Begum Johnson—Lord Liverpool’s grandmother,” Freddy tossed in, as though that explained it all. “She’s a Calcutta institution, been here longer than anyone. It’s the first place one comes on arrival.”


“I think it means ‘lady’ in the local lingo,” Freddy said vaguely. “Some sort of form of honorific. It’s what they call her, is all.”

With that elucidating explanation, Penelope found herself swept along in his wake into a vast white-walled mansion decorated with English furniture and English guests as Freddy scattered greetings here and there to acquaintances. The rooms were a colorful blur of brass-buttoned uniforms from every conceivable regiment, embroidered waistcoats straining across the bellies of prosperous merchant traders, large jewels decking the hands and headdresses of the middle-aged ladies in their rich silks. In one room, a set of couples formed rows while a sallow young lady in sweat-damped muslin and a cavalry officer cinched into a woolen jacket danced down the aisle, the familiar tune and figures of the country dance contrasting oddly with the fan sweeping slowly overhead. It did more to displace than dispel the muggy air. Through one archway, Penelope could see bowls of cool beverages sweating beads of water down the sides and iced cakes on porcelain platters. Through another, a room had been set out for cards, in small clusters of four to a table.

Freddy’s eyes lit up at the sight of that last. “You’ll excuse me, won’t you, old thing?” he said, without looking properly at her. “I have a few old scores to settle.”

Without waiting for a response, without introducing her to their hostess or fetching her a beverage or even making sure she had a chair to sit in, he was off. Penelope found herself standing alone in a drawing room that smelled faintly of foreign spices as a tropical monsoon battered against the windows and the chatter of the other guests shrilled against her ears like so many brightly colored parrots. Penelope gathered her pride around her like a mantle, trying to look as though she had always meant to be standing there on her own, as though she weren’t entirely without acquaintance or purpose in a strange drawing room in a strange city, abandoned by her husband in a lamentable breach of manners that he would no doubt justify to himself by the fact that he had never intended to shackle himself to her in the first place.

Unfortunately, the little scene had not gone unobserved. Penelope found herself facing the regard of a man in the bright red uniform of one of the native regiments, spangled with enough gold braid to suggest that he had attained a suitably impressive form of command. He was no longer in the first, or even the second, flush of youth. His hair must once have been as red as her own, but age had speckled it with white, making his face seem even ruddier in contrast. His face was seared by sunshine and laugh lines and liberally spattered with a lifetime of freckles. Beneath wrinkled lids, his pale blue eyes were kindly.

Too kindly. It made Penelope want to shake him.

He strolled forward in an unhurried fashion. Just as Penelope was prepared to stare him down with her best Dowager Duchess of Dovedale glare, he said, “That’s always the way of it with these young men, isn’t it?”

He gave a sympathetic wag of his head, his matter-of-fact tone making it sound as though abandonment by one’s spouse was commonplace, and nothing to be bothered about at all.

“No sooner do they arrive at a party than they’re straight off to the card tables. A blight on society, it is, and a lamentable offense to all the fairer sex.”

Penelope’s stiff posture relaxed. It wasn’t that she cared what people thought—but it was very unpleasant to be left standing by oneself.

“I imagine you are a notable cardplayer yourself, sir,” she riposted.

“Not I,” he averred, pressing one hand to the general vicinity of his heart, but there was a twinkle in his sun-bleached blue eyes that told Penelope he must have been quite a rogue in his youth. It took one to know one, after all. “I have my share of vices, to be sure, but the cards are not among them. At least, not when there’s a lovely lady present.” He swept into a bow that would have done credit to the court of St. James. “Colonel William Reid, at your service, fair lady.”

“I am—,” Penelope began, and stuck. She had been about to say Penelope Deveraux, only she wasn’t anymore. She was Lady Frederick Staines now, her identity subsumed within her husband’s. She wasn’t quite sure who Lady Frederick was, only that it wasn’t really her. “Pleased to make your acquaintance,” she substituted.

Mistaking her hesitation, the Colonel leaned away, holding up both hands in a gesture of contrition. “But not without a proper introduction, I wager. I should beg your pardon for being so bold as to impose myself upon you. After years in a mess, one forgets how to go about.”

“Nothing of the sort,” Penelope hastened to correct him. “It’s just that I’m recently married and I still forget which name I’m meant to call myself. My husband’s name doesn’t feel quite my own.”

A sentiment with which Freddy would heartily agree.

“Married?” The Colonel rearranged his features in a comical look of dismay. “That’s a pity. I meant to introduce you to my Alex.”

“Your Alex?”

“My boy,” the Colonel said proudly. Before Penelope could stop him, he raised his arm to hail a man who stood in conversation with an elderly lady in an exuberant silk turban, his back to them. “Alex! Alex, lad.”

Hearing his father’s exuberant hail, the man turned in a fluid movement that bespoke a swordsman’s grace. “Boy” was the last word Penelope would have used to refer to him; he was tall and lean, with the muscles of a man used to spending long hours in the saddle. Unlike his father, he wore civilian dress, but the indifferently tailored breeches and blue frock coat looked wrong on him, like a costume that didn’t quite fit. His face was as tan as the Colonel’s was ruddy. Had she not been told otherwise, Penelope would have taken him for an Indian, so dark were his hair and eyes. A thin scar showed white against the dark skin of his face, starting just to the left of one eyebrow and disappearing into his hair. He was a handsome man, but not in the way the Colonel must have been handsome once. Where one could picture the Colonel in a kilt and claymore, standing by a distant loch, his son looked as though he belonged in a white robe and Persian trousers with a falcon perched upon his wrist.

Tact had never been Penelope’s strong suit. “Are you quite sure you’re related?”

Far from being offended, the Colonel chuckled comfortably. “It takes many people that way on first meeting—sometimes after, too! My Maria, the boy’s mother, was of Welsh extraction. He gets his coloring from her. It’s been a mixed blessing for him out here,” said the Colonel.

Penelope looked at him quizzically.

“Life is seldom kind to the half-caste,” explained the Colonel, and some of the twinkle seemed to go out of him. “Or those perceived to be so. And especially not in India.”

“I’m half Irish,” Penelope volunteered, by way of solidarity.

She could picture her mother cringing as she said it. Respectably brunette herself, her mother had spent most of her life trying to pretend that she was as English as Wedgwood pottery. Penelope’s hair had been a sore point with her mother, who saw her secret shame revealed every time her daughter’s flaming head hove into view.

“A fine people, the Irish, and bonny fighters,” said the Colonel politely. From his name and his diction, he was Scots, although his accent veered off in odd ways on vowels in a way that was no longer quite any one particular accent at all. “Ah,” he said with pleasure, looking over her shoulder. “Here comes my Alex. He’ll be far more entertaining for you than an old man like me.”

“Nonsense,” said Penelope, smiling up at the darling old Colonel. “I couldn’t have been better entertained.”

His Alex appeared just as the Colonel was tapping a finger against Penelope’s cheek. He looked from his father to her with a resigned expression that suggested that this was not the first time he had come upon his father chatting up an attractive young woman.

But all he said was, “Forgive me. I didn’t like to rush away from the Begum.” Unlike his father’s, his accent was unimpeachably English.

The Colonel laughed his rolling laugh. “She’s in her usual form, is she?”

“Invariably,” he said fondly, with a glance over his shoulder to where the Begum held court in her chair. Recalling himself to his social duties, he looked quizzically at his father.

His father knew exactly what was required. With all the bombast of a born raconteur, he began, “Alex, this charming young lady has been kind enough to sacrifice her own amusement to enliven an old man’s dull existence—”

“Scarcely old,” interjected Penelope, “and never dull.”

The Colonel beamed approval at her, clearly delighted to have found someone who played the game as he did. “See what I mean, Alex? An angel of goodness, she is. Now, my dear, you must allow me to introduce to you my son, Captain Alex Reid.”

“Captain Reid.” Penelope nodded to him, her eyes alight with laughter.

Captain Reid smiled ruefully in response, complicit in the joke on his father.

The Colonel waved a hand at Penelope. “And this is—”

“Lady Frederick Staines,” supplied Penelope.

The unaccustomed name felt clumsy on her tongue, but certainly not clumsy enough to warrant the reaction it garnered from the two Reids. Any glimmer of warmth disappeared from the Captain’s eyes, while the Colonel looked perturbed, as though he knew there were some bad odor about the name, but he couldn’t remember quite what.

There was only one conclusion to be drawn. The news had spread.

She ought to have expected it would. Just because Calcutta was half a world away didn’t mean that it took no interest in London gossip.

“What brings you to India, Lady Frederick?” the Captain asked. His studiedly casual tone brought a flush to Penelope’s cheeks.

“My husband is undertaking a commission from the government,” she said sharply. “He is to be envoy to the Court of Hyderabad.”

“And you, Lady Frederick?” he asked, in an uncomfortable echo of her own thoughts earlier that evening. Those dark eyes of his were too piercing by half. It was as though he were rooting about in her mind. Penelope didn’t like it one bit.

“Whither he goest, I goest,” said Penelope flippantly.

“I see,” said Captain Reid, but whatever he saw appeared to bring him no pleasure. After a brooding moment, he said abruptly, “Lady Frederick, do you know anything of Hyderabad?”

Penelope eyed him suspiciously, but before she could reply, a hand settled itself familiarly on her bare shoulder.

“There you are, old thing,” Freddy said, as though it was she who had walked away from him, rather than the other way around. “I wondered where you had got to.”

He had brought two friends with him, one in regimentals, the other in evening clothes. Penelope wondered which one of them carried Freddy’s vowels this time. From the smug expression on the face of the army man, Penelope suspected it was he. On the other hand, smugness might very well be his habitual expression. Penelope would expect nothing less of a man who wore three rings on one hand.

Penelope stepped out from under Freddy’s questing hand. “I’ve been very gallantly entertained by Colonel Reid,” she said, batting her lashes at the Colonel and achieving a very petty satisfaction at completely ignoring his son.

Freddy nodded lazily to the Colonel, the gesture amply conveying his complete lack of interest in any man who had served in the East India Company’s army rather than a proper royal regiment. Having dispatched the Colonel, Freddy took inventory of the Captain’s tanned face, his uninspired tailoring.

“And you are?” he demanded.

For a moment, Captain Reid forbore to answer. He simply stood there, studying Freddy with an expression of such clinical detachment that Penelope could feel Freddy beginning to shift from one foot to the other beside her.

After a very long moment, a grim smile sifted across Captain Reid’s face.

“I,” said Captain Reid, “am the man who has the honor of escorting you to Hyderabad.”

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide


Attention: Some plot spoilers in this guide.

The heroines of Lauren Willig's bestselling Pink Carnation series have engaged in espionage all over nineteenth-century Europe. In the sixth stand-alone volume, our fair English heroine travels to India, where she finds freedom-and risk-more exciting than she ever imagined.

Everyone warned Miss Penelope Deveraux that her unruly behavior would land her in disgrace someday. She never imagined she's be whisked off to India to give the scandal of her hasty marriage time to die down. AS Lady Frederick Staines, Penelope plunges into the treacherous waters of the court of the Nizam of Hyderabad, where no one is quite what they seem-even her husband. In a strange country, where elaborate court dress masks even more elaborate intrigues and a dangerous spy called the Marigold leaves venomous cobras as his calling card, there is only one person Penelope can trust...

Captain Alex Reid has better things to do than play nursemaid to a pair of aristocrats. Or so he thinks-until Lady Frederick Staines out- shoots, out-rides, and out-swims every man in the camp. She also has an uncanny ability to draw out the deadly plans of the Marigold and put herself in harm's way. With danger looming from local warlords, treacherous court officials, and French spies, Alex realizes that an alliance with Lady Staines just might be the only thing standing in the way of a plot designed to rock the very foundations of the British Empire...


Lauren Willig is a law student and Ph.D. candidate in history at Harvard University. She is the author of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.


  • Lauren Willig employs nineteenth-century India and modern-day London as the settings for The Betrayal of the Blood Lily. If you had to choose two different places or eras in which to set this book, which would they be?
  • What did you think of Penelope when she was first introduced? Did your opinion of her change as the novel progressed?
  • “She hated that name. It was like a shackle around her neck, engraved with the name of her master” [page 53]. Talk about Penelope’s resistance to conventions such as manners, marriage, and mores. Why did she buck authority so much? Why do you think she was attracted to Alex, who appeared to be the personification of tradition and honor?
  • Which figures in the nineteenth-century story line most resemble some of the modern-day characters, such as Eloise, Colin, or Serena?
  • Willig created Eloise as a first-person protagonist, but chose to tell Penelope’s story indirectly, through a third-person narrator. As a reader, do you prefer being “in the head” of a character, or would you rather experience their stories through the filter of an outside party? Would the novel have been different if Eloise and Penelope’s perspectives were swapped?
  • Captain Alex Reid first appears as a mysterious figure. Initially, did you have any clues to what he might have been hiding? What did you think of him as his secrets were revealed?
  • The portion of The Betrayal of the Blood Lily devoted to Penelope is longer than Eloise’s part. Did you want to read more about Eloise, and/or less about Penelope? Or did you find the balance between the two story lines to be satisfactory?
  • “When had it become about making Captain Reid jealous?” [page 207]. Answer this question yourself: What was Penelope’s motivation here? Why did she feel compelled to stoke Alex’s protectiveness?
  • Once the identity of the Marigold was revealed, were you shocked or surprised? What were some hints that might have pointed to who the Marigold really was?
  • Given his principled nature, was it surprising that Alex worked to construct the cover-up described in Chapter Thirty-One? Why did he work so hard to shield his brother from scrutiny?
  • Prior to reading The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, what did you know about India in the nineteenth century, and Britain’s interests in the country?
  • Eloise and Colin, Alex and Penelope: Discuss some of the couples in The Betrayal of the Blood Lily. What did you think of them? Which were the more unlikely pairs?
  • In its praise for the Pink Carnation series, USA Today has said that “Pride and Prejudice lives on.” Do you agree with this characterization? Can you think of other authors or series to compare to Lauren Willig and her Pink Carnation books?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 93 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2012

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  • Posted September 10, 2011

    Having not read the rest

    I Really enjoyed this for the light romp with some history tied in.. Not as much history as some books but I found the past present thing fun and well done. I MUST admit I did miss the by play the last two commented on. I guess my mind leaks out information. It was well written with good dialoge

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  • Posted March 6, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Not for me.

    I love, love, love this series, but I couldn't get into this book. I found Penelope and Freddy to be completely unlikable. This is the only book out of the entire series that I haven't finished, and I'm not sure I ever will.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2011

    Deja vu?

    A handsome, principled English captain named Alex R. (for Reid) who must escort a young, titled, and married Englishwoman to the remote outpost in India where her rake of a husband has been appointed to a position for which he is frighteningly unqualified ... the extramarital consummation of a relationship that seems justified by the husband's cruelty to his wife ... the husband's subsequent death that allows the hero and heroine eventually to marry ... this must be M.M. Kaye's great novel, Shadow of the Moon! No ... it's The Betrayal of the Blood Lily. I fell in love with the first few books in the Pink Carnation series but had some concerns that the line between homage, inspiration or even wink-wink references to other novels (notably those of Jane Austen) was becoming blurred with too much borrowing. (How can anyone who calls herself an Austenite 'forget' that Donwell Abbey is Mr. Knightley's home?) That's one of the reasons I waited for the paperback of Blood Lily to come out in January - and I really am very disappointed this time. Shadow of the Moon (whose hero, for the record, is Captain Alex Randall) is one of the finest historical novels I have ever read, on a par with Gone With the Wind or Forever Amber in its breathtaking scope and meticulously detailed depiction of period and culture. For my money, it is a better book even than Ms. Kaye's well-known The Far Pavilions, which was loosely a sequel (it begins where Moon ends, and briefly mentions Captain Randall) and became a hugely successful bestseller and miniseries. Shadow of the Moon also gives the reader tremendous insight into the politics of India in the 1850s that continue to influence geopolitical dynamics today. (Granted, Ms. Willig's book is set earlier, but that is one of her few divergences.) For the record, an Army officer serving in India named 'Colonel Arbuthnot' - hardly a common name, and also that of a character from Shadow of the Moon - appeared in The Temptation of the Night Jasmine. I looked in vain for some sort of acknowledgement by Ms. Willig that this book had been her inspiration; that would have made Blood Lily a lot more enjoyable. I don't believe Eloise's dissertation advisor would let her get away with this level of derivation without footnoting the original sources. Ms. Willig does acknowledge that's she's read M.M. Kaye, but says nothing more specific, and this story is way too close in significant respects not to make some sort of explicit homage to Shadow of the Moon. I love a good romp, and I think Ms. Willig has real talent for coming up with these romantic spy plots - she obviously does substantial historical research, which she does explain in her afterwords - but the uncredited employment of other authors' original ideas really bothers me. I don't think I will buy another of these books.

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  • Posted October 10, 2010

    Great read

    I have read the entire series and have really enjoyed every one of the books. A must read.

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  • Posted June 6, 2010

    Loved the series but this is my least favorite.

    I have been a big fan since the "Pink Carnation", but the blood lily did not hold my interest. i reread the other books right before I started the "Blood Lily" and it just didn't flow like the provious books. I just could not like Penelope.

    I found some of the other character much more worth following. I agree that it appears Jack will be the next book and I am looking forward to that.

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  • Posted May 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Blood Lily is good but I've seen better

    Out of all the heroines of the Pink Carnation I think I liked Penelope the least. She's as cynical as Mary Alsworthy but not as charming. She's physical enough and clever enough to do something but really does nothing except try to save the hero who all ready had everything under control. Captain Reid was also kind of flat as a character. Not surprising as this is the first time we met him and he really has no back story. The most interesting thing about him is his black sheep brother, who I have a feeling will be coming back in the next Pink Carnation book. So The Blood Lily was a good book but I'd pick the others in the series over it any day of the week.

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  • Posted May 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    better than the last book

    I liked the previous book with the Duke of Dovedale, but this book seemed to return more to the style of the earlier books, and I liked it better. I did think the spy plot was not as interesting, but the Penelope romance was better and a little sexier.

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  • Posted February 26, 2010

    Hooray Lauren's Back

    I was getting worried there for a minute because her last one (Crimson Rose) was complete and utter boo boo. However our fave Miss Willig is back in top form w/the Blood Lilly. The book was well paced, she kept you interested from beginning to end. It didn't go silly on you like a few of her earlier books did and it was an all around good/fun read. I surprisingly liked the new location of India. I wasn't sure how or if I was going to enjoy the new setting but I really did and I hope she continues to explore the globe in her writings. I really enjoyed the two lead characters, even though you saw a certain someone's demise coming it didn't spoil things. Good job, can't wait til the next one.

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  • Posted February 23, 2010

    Another Great Installment in the Pink Carnation Series!

    I loved this novel! Lauren Willig has got to be one of my favorite authors and her series is one of my very favorites! I loved this book, it was a really great installment to the series. At first I was unsure what to think when I read that the book was set in India, I was unsure how a series about french spies in the revolution period could be successful in the area. On top of that it was about Penelope, who was already married to a decidedly bad character. But the novel was really wonderful! the new setting spiced up the book and was perfect for Penelope since she is too bold and outspoken to fit into the ballroom scene. The romance between Penelope and Alex was adorable and believable, another thing I was wary of. I also really enjoyed Eloise's story in this installment. Her motives and desires are very true to life, as are her worries.
    The story was enthralling and inventive and the characters very alive. If you enjoyed previous books in this series you are guaranteed to love this one as well!

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  • Posted February 20, 2010


    Love, love the concept and the author's progression of the story line. Recommend to anyone who loves an interesting, captivating cross-over from 1800's to current day. Hard to put down, the series is making the rounds through my friends. Be sure to read in order from the first to the most current. Funny, witty,and makes women's participation in undercover work

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  • Posted January 19, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great installment

    Love the continuing saga of each of Willig's characters. Eloise's story is a bit stretched, but Penelope more than makes up for it. As every teenage girl would like an Edward, every widow should have a Captain Alex Reid.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    not my cup of tea I guess

    fresh lovely but dull

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Moving the Pink Carnation series to India adds freshness even as the basic theme remains the same

    In London, Penelope Deveraux avoids a ruinous scandal with a hasty marriage to Lord Frederick Staines as they were caught canoodling. Also abetting their ability to elude social humiliation is his assignment as special envoy to the court of Nizam of Hyderabad in India.

    Penelope struggles somewhat to adjust even as she bravely participates in court activities, but soon uncovers a plot to throw out the imperialists who are turning India into a crown of the British Empire although the French have forces and agents there to counter that. In fact the Nizam uses both sides against one another to keep control. She finds a brave companion in Captain Alex Reid who teams up with her to expose the traitors behind the plot. As they fall in love while competing with one another in sporting contests that she continually wins, the elusive Marigold continues seditious activities to remove the British from India.

    Moving the Pink Carnation series to India adds freshness even as the basic theme remains the same of a modern day researcher uncovering information of a nineteenth century Englishwoman going undercover to try to thwart a Napoleonic plot. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Penelope muses over being married to Freddie especially after meeting Alex. Fans of the saga will enjoy her adventures as an amateur female agent causing mayhem that shakes up the dysfunctional triangle of power sharing by the English, the French and the native Nizam..

    Harriet Klausner

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 28, 2010

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    Posted January 25, 2010

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    Posted November 23, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2012

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    Posted March 15, 2011

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