The Garden Intrigue (Pink Carnation Series #9)

( 31 )


Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation novels have been called "fun [and] fresh" (Kirkus Reviews) and "clever and playful " (Detroit Free Press). Now she introduces readers to a mismatched pair who find passion in the most astonishing of places...

Secret agent Augustus Whittlesby has spent a decade undercover in France, posing as an insufferably bad poet. The French surveillance officers can’t bear to read his ...

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The Garden Intrigue (Pink Carnation Series #9)

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Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation novels have been called "fun [and] fresh" (Kirkus Reviews) and "clever and playful " (Detroit Free Press). Now she introduces readers to a mismatched pair who find passion in the most astonishing of places...

Secret agent Augustus Whittlesby has spent a decade undercover in France, posing as an insufferably bad poet. The French surveillance officers can’t bear to read his work closely enough to recognize the information drowned in a sea of verbiage.

New York-born Emma Morris Delagardie is a thorn in Augustus’s side. An old school friend of Napoleon’s stepdaughter, she came to France with her uncle, eloped with a Frenchman, and has been rattling around the salons of Paris ever since. Now widowed, she entertains herself by holding a weekly salon, and loudly critiquing Augustus’s poetry.

As Napoleon pursues his plans for the invasion of England, Whittlesby hears of a top-secret device to be demonstrated at a house party. The catch? The only way in is with Emma, who has been asked to write a masque for the weekend’s entertainment. In this complicated masque within a masque, nothing goes quite as scripted—especially Augustus’s unexpected feelings for Emma.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The latest entry in Willig’s Pink Carnation series (after The Secret History of the Pink Carnation) finds Napoleon-era secret agent Augustus Whittlesby hiding his communiqués to the English in his insipid poetry. The young American widow Emma Delagardie covers sadness and intellect with a flirtatious gaiety. Her weekly salon, where Augustus’s work is enthusiastically critiqued, is famous. And Jane Wooliston is a friend to them both, and also the Pink Carnation, another British spy. Whittlesby learns of Napoleon’s plans to reveal a secret weapon at a lavish celebration and, by collaborating with Emma and Jane on a play for the event, gets a glimpse of what he believes to be a steamship. In fact, it is something more sinister, an invention that could greatly help Napoleon to invade England. Whittlesby isn’t the only one interested in the secret; a former lover of Delagardie is intent on selling the plans to the highest bidder. Whittlesby steals them first, but his feelings for Delagardie compromise his mission and force her to make a difficult choice. This time Willig sends Wooliston to the wings to focus on new spies and familiar contemporary characters (a researcher and her lover frame the tale). Whittlesby’s poetry is indeed laughably bad, but Delagardie is only mildly interesting, Napoleon appears rarely, the ex-lover lacks menace, and the double-cross is telegraphed. Even fans of the series won’t find much to engage with this time. Agent: Joe Veltre, the Gersh Agency. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Paris in 1804 is a playground for the effervescent Emma Delagardie, who, widowed at age 20, is now hostess of a famous salon. But it is Emma's connection to Napoléon's inner circle through her friendship with his stepdaughter Hortense and Hortense's mother, Madame Bonaparte, that makes her an irresistible temptation for English spy Augustus Whittlesby. Can Augustus use Emma to discover the truth behind Napoléon's secret naval weapon, or will his attraction lead to a fatal misstep? This may be the ninth book in the Pink Carnation series (after The Orchid Affair), but the characters and parallel story lines (the historical tale is set within a contemporary framing tale) are as fresh and engaging as ever. Mixing historical and modern-day drama poses no trouble for Willig, and the satisfying, uninterrupted progression within both time frames will please longtime readers. The historical pair's interaction consists largely of verbal sparring, and while that somewhat reduces the romantic tension, the trade-off is the enjoyable, witty banter. VERDICT Enlightening and entertaining as always, and full of plenty of romance and intrigue, this is a strong choice for historical fiction readers. And confirmed fans can rest assured, there's more to come! [See Prepub Alert, 8/8/11.]—Stacey Hayman, Rocky River P.L., OH
Kirkus Reviews
The latest installment in the Pink Carnation historical romantic suspense series is as fresh and charming as its floral theme. Emma Delagardie has a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A young American who ran away with a scientifically minded older Frenchman, the petite blonde now plays the merry widow in Paris, hosting visiting countrymen and affecting a fashionable giddiness she does not feel. A friend of Napoleon's stepdaughter, she's recruited to create a masque for the soon-to-be Emperor at his country chateau of Malmaison. What she doesn't know is that her collaborator, and crush, the foppish poet Augustus Whittlesby, is actually an agent for the notorious British spy, Jane Wooliston (aka, the Pink Carnation), for whom he also feels an unrequited passion. Or that her American buddy, Robert Fulton, is not only working on a steamboat but also a tactical weapon that could allow Napoleon to invade England. Between Whittlesby's interest in Wooliston and Napoleon's in Fulton, Emma doesn't seem to stand much of a chance. But true hearts always win out in this delightful series, and this ninth installment holds true to Willig's (The Orchid Affair, 2011, etc.) principles that the female characters should be as involved in the swashbuckling espionage as their love interests. Meanwhile, the modern framing device has a film crew invading historic Selwick Hall, and a job offer back in the U.S. threatening grad student Eloise Kelly's fledgling romance with the smoldering Colin. It may be hard to worry overmuch, but the adventure is worth the ride--and this smart and funny installment concludes with the promise of more suspense (and a treasure hunt) in books to come. A reliable romp through Napoleon's court, filled with romance and yet another adorable and very active heroine.
The Barnes & Noble Review

Charm is a little less studied than wit; in a literary context, it must feel effortless or a novel dissolves into a hopeless puddle of sentimentality. Lauren Willig has achieved that rare thing: her novels depict a delightful, civilized world in which characters charm without being irksome; they captivate without becoming maudlin.

The Garden Intrigue tells the story of Secret Agent Augustus Whittlesby, who is attached to Napoleon's court in 1804 under the cover of being a hopelessly bad poet. In fact, his verses are so terrible that the French secret police can't bear to read his work, and so they never discover the information he passes along to the British War Office.

By the end of a decade of writing drivel, Augustus is heartily sick of his lyrics, but the worst is yet to come when he actually falls in love: "After years of writing about love, he was finally prey to it?. It was the worst of poetic clich?s: the poet infatuated, the lady indifferent." The object of his adoration is his fellow spy Jane (alias the Pink Carnation, whose secret errands on behalf of England are the thread that stitches together Willig's ongoing series); together they are supposed to locate and "contain" a spy known as the Black Tulip. Such a plethora of floral infiltrators could easily become tedious, but Willig deftly spins her story around Augustus, rather than around the submarine that might be used by the emperor to attack Britain (apparently, plans for such an underwater naval craft called the Nautilus were indeed floating around Paris at the time).

Augustus has a definite Bertie Wooster flair. There's a literary tradition of English aristocrats able to talk of "perpetrating unspeakable crimes against unsuspecting adverbs" — or (more prosaically) "Oh, bugger. He was thinking in rhyme again." But whereas Bertie wanders in a hapless sea of silver spoons and charming girls, without — to the best of my knowledge — ever falling deeply in love, Willig takes Augustus straight past insouciance to deeper and (to Augustus) more irritating emotions. In short, Jane has an annoying American friend named Emma. Emma's plumes are too long and spangled; she drinks too much champagne; she comes to all Augustus's readings and pokes fun at him.

Augustus is remarkably dim when it comes to emotion — at one point, he tells Emma that she is his closest friend, and he's glad she's not getting married because "I would have hated to lose you." Of course, Emma doesn't want to be his friend. It's not easy to spin a story in which an intelligent woman falls in love with a man she considers a dithery poet; Baroness Orczy faced an uphill battle in the same vein. Willig shapes the situation as a comedy of manners: "One flirts with poets," barks one of Emma's friends. "One doesn't fall in love with them. And one certainly doesn't marry them." It probably goes without saying that fans of Downton Abbey will find plenty to enjoy here.

When the dithery poet is stripped away, Augustus turns out to be that particular brand of stiff-upper-lip, solid Englishman who is heroic but not lyrical. "You matter to me," he says quietly, in one of the most deeply romantic scenes in the book. "Do I matter to you?"

The Garden Intrigue is a perfect treat for anyone suffering from a surfeit of chocolate and promises. "Flowers withered; words lied," as Emma puts it. But the romance depicted here is enough to put your faith back in love (if not in poetry).

Eloisa James is a New York Times–bestselling author of historical romances, as well as a professor of English literature teaching Shakespeare at Fordham University. Her most recent novel is The Duke Is Mine.

Reviewer: Eloisa James

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451415608
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 12/31/2012
  • Series: Pink Carnation Series , #9
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 212,191
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Lauren Willig

The author of eight previous Pink Carnation novels, Lauren Willig received a graduate degree in English history from Harvard University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School, though she now writes full-time.


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:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 31 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 31 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 25, 2012

    This, unfortunately, is not one of the author's best; in fact, I

    This, unfortunately, is not one of the author's best; in fact, I was pushing to get through it by about the middle. The main characters are just not that likable, and the plot didn't keep my interest. I really liked most of the earlier books, to perhaps varying degrees, but this one disappointed. Hope Ms. Willig gets her vibe back for the next one.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2012

    I have greatly enjoyed this series but this book was not one of

    I have greatly enjoyed this series but this book was not one of the best. The modern storyline is feeling pretty forced at this point while the historical storyline in this one is just kind of flat. I hate to say this because I do love the series but I'm starting to worry it has jumped the shark.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2013

    Love these books

    Willig always delivers fun, romance, and a dash of spy, writing with intelligence and depth.

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  • Posted April 14, 2012

    The 9th book of the Pink Carnation Series was great just as the

    The 9th book of the Pink Carnation Series was great just as the previous books. I was disappointed it did not cover more of Eloise and Colin and more of the time Augustus and Emma spent together. I didn't understand how Augustus in love with Jane could so quickly realize he had feelings for Emma even if he does come to understand later what he felt for Jane was not love. Regardless I love it.

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  • Posted April 4, 2012

    I just finished Lauren Willigs' newest in the Carnation Series &

    I just finished Lauren Willigs' newest in the Carnation Series "The Garden Intrigue" I loved it! I thought the plot was great, even though I had my reservations when I first read the synopsis, it seemed a little weird; however I always by Laurens books and am never disappointed. My only drawback in the whole book was that we didn't actually have much insight to the month Augustus and Emma spent writing the play. Also it was an extremely fast switch of affections from Jane (the Pink Carnation) to Emma which left my head spinning. It was hard for me to grasp that they were really that in love as a result. But I still really enjoyed it and will probably read it again, just as I reread all of her books on a regular basis.

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  • Posted March 28, 2012

    One of her best in this series

    I have read this entire series and I love them all. Of course, I like some more than others, and I have to say that this was one of my favorites. The characters and their relationships are fun and likeable, and they have good chemistry. I only wish that their story hadn't ended so abruptly. I would have liked for Willig to follow them a little longer on their journey.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Absolutely ADDICTIVE!!!!

    I'm strongly addicted to Lauren Willig's work. She's super talented and each of her Pink Carnation books holds something new and excited that will keep the reader hooked from start to finish. Having read all her other Pink Carnation books, I totally could not wait for this book to release. So, when the chance came up to read it, WOW! I was definitely NOT disappointed and swept away once again to the land of Lauren Willig's fantabulous characters and plot lines. This is most definitely one of the BEST historical novels that is blended with the PERFECT amount of spies and adventure! I loved Emma's character. She's a widow living in France, and her friends are Jane and Hortense (oh the poor dear! LoL!). Hortense's father, rather step-father-none other than the famed Napolean Bonaparte, enlists Emma in a job.....a job of writing a masque for Napolean's party. So, Emma's on a hunt for help, and she crosses paths with none of the fabulous Augustus Whittlesby. Now, Augustus Whittlesby has a teensie little problem....he's the world's WORST poet! Oy vay! The indignity of it! The poor man should NOT be allowed to construct poems! But, you see, he has an ulterior motive. He's a spy....a secret spy with the Pink Carnations, and he's out to catch what Napolean Bonaparte is TRULY up to with this party. And what a wonderful spy he is! Watching Emma and Augustus's growing attraction for each other was awesome! There were laugh out loud moments and few, "are you kidding me?!" moments that will not be forgotten! The wonderful characters from the Pink Carnation series are back in this wonderful new installment I loved seeing Jane Wooliston again (poor Augustus has pined for her-until Ms. Emma Delgardie enters his life!) and Gwen Meadows. I definitely recommend this newest installment with the highest of 5 Books ratings! It's worthy, of course, of more, however. Ms. Willig created this novel with wit, charm, and suspense, leaving the reader a little breathless at the end, as another Pink Carnation case comes to an end. Like her others, however, she leaves the reader hanging just enough to know that the Carnations WILL be back with yet another fabulous story and I absolutely can NOT wait!!! If you're new to this series, do despair! This can be read as a stand alone as Ms. Willig does a greatastic job at keeping the reader up to date on the past points of the series. And, if you're familiar with the Pink Carnations, well, don't just sit there! GRAB YOUR COPY NOW!!! Well done, Ms. Willig! This review originated at Reviews By Molly in part with a blog tour.

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  • Posted February 22, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    More please!

    If you didn't already know, Lauren Willig is an amazing writer. I've been a huge fan of hers since her first book came out in 2005. Her books pack a powerful punch and contain some of my most favorite elements; romance, history, and intrigue, not specifically in that order. The Garden Intrigue is no different.

    Augustus Whittlesby has been in deep undercover in France for over a decade. He's been there for so long, he's no longer considered as a threat to Napoleon. After all he is a poet, and a very bad one at that. No one thinks him capable of such treachery. Instead, they all laugh at his horrible prose and him. The only one who challenges him is Emma Delgardie. She never lets him fully worship his Cytherea, the fair Ms.Jane Wooliston. It's only when Augustus is forced to spend time with Emma when he needs to get an invite to Malmaison where Napoleon is going to test out his secret weapon that will allow him to invade England, that either of them realize that the other is not what they seem.

    Meanwhile Eloise and Colin are trying to weather the invasion of Selwick Hall by inconsiderate movie people, all while Eloise is trying to figure out her next step. She's been offered a plush teaching job back home and she doesn't know what to do. Plus someone has been going through her files and e-mails, and lots of unwanted people are roaming the house.

    The book flows well and quickly and I found that I could not put it down until I had finished it. I was left wanting to know more. Especially as Ms.Willig left off just as Eloise and Colin reached some serious conclusions and a treasure search is/will be in progress! Unfortunately, I'll probably waiting for close to another year to find out!

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  • Posted February 20, 2012

    Another great book in the Pink Carnation series!

    Lauren Willig has done it again! Her latest novel, “The Garden Intrigue” is a continuation of the popular Pink Carnation series. And, it's one of her best!

    This adventurous spy tale is set in 1804. Our heroine is New York born Emma Delgardie and she is living in Paris, France. As a young widow, Emma enjoys the Paris salons and an intimacy with Napoleon Bonaparte’s inner circle. Her two best friends include Hortense,(Napoleon’s step daughter) and Jane (who is the Pink Carnation). Emma is commissioned by Napoleon to write a masque for his next party at Malmaison.

    Our hero is poet Augustus Whittlesby. His verse is intentionally awful. So awful that it makes his audience and censors cringe. The puky poetry provides the cover he needs to succeed as England’s undercover agent. Augustus’ current assignment is to steal blueprints for a top secret naval invention. He must smuggle them out of France and get them to London Headquarters. Fast. However, he can’t get an invitation to Malmaison and the plans without Emma’s assistance. Augustus can’t tell Emma what he needs or how he really feels about her, or can he?

    Ms. Willig does a superb job telling this charming story. She doesn’t take the easy way out and use misunderstandings or clichés to further the plot. She does use humor, romance, and well developed characters to make “The Garden Intrigue” a delightful read. This book can be read as a stand alone.

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  • Posted February 19, 2012

    An amazing addition to an addictive series

    Lauren Willig's newest book in the Pink Carnation series, The Garden Intrigue, is an excellent continuation of a fascinating story. Willig keeps the series fresh, as always, with a hero and heroine unlike those of the previous eight books. The modern love story that frames the historical ones moves along wonderfully in The Garden Intrigue -- I'm still swooning. This is an engaging, enjoyable, un-put-downable book from one of the most talented writers of the 21st century.

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  • Posted February 16, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Great addition to the series!

    Yay, a new Pink Carnation book! Jane is actually in this one quite a bit, which was a nice change from many of the more recent ones in the series--not that I haven't enjoyed them all, but it is the Pink Carnation series, after all. Augustus Whittlesby, the truly terrible poet who's really a British spy in disguise, finally gets his own novel--and it's worth the wait. His heroine is an American widow, Emma Morris Delagardie, who also turns out to be far more than she seems. I just loved reading about the development of their relationship. They're not too far behind Miles and Henrietta in my list of favorite PC couples. Their correspondence while working on the masque for Napoleon's country weekend was one of my favorite parts--too funny!

    Newly-made Emperor Napoleon makes a personal appearance this time, as do two American historical figures--Robert Livingston, American minister to France, and inventor Robert Fulton. It was a nice switch to have US history actually be a part of the series. The modern story of Eloise Kelly, researcher, and Colin Selwick, descendant of the Purple Gentian, also continues in this book, with Eloise worrying about the quickly approaching end of her tenure in Britain. (I hate to say it, but as much as I love Colin, Eloise is starting to annoy. She spends far too much time brooding and alone instead of talking things over with oh, I don't know--maybe her boyfriend? I started to skim more quickly through her parts so I could get back to Emma and Augustus faster--she's the main reason for four rather than five stars. I don't want her character to go away, necessarily, just be more decisive and grown up in her relationship, please.)

    All in all, this was a satisfying read. It was well-paced, particularly in the historical parts, hard to put down, and I just loved Emma and Augustus. I can't wait to see what Ms. Willig has in store for us next. (And perhaps we could get a little update on how life is going for Emma and Augustus? Please?)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2011


    Can't review a book that hasn't been published yet.

    0 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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