The Seduction of the Crimson Rose (Pink Carnation Series #4)

( 93 )


Now in paperback-a novel that 'handily fulfills its promise of intrigue and romance.'(Publishers Weekly)

Determined to secure another London season without assistance from her new brother-in-law, Mary Alsworthy accepts a secret assignment from Lord Vaughn on behalf of the Pink Carnation. She must infiltrate the ranks of the dreaded French spy, the Black Tulip, before he and his master can stage their planned invasion of England. Every spy has a weakness and for the Black Tulip ...

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Now in paperback-a novel that 'handily fulfills its promise of intrigue and romance.'(Publishers Weekly)

Determined to secure another London season without assistance from her new brother-in-law, Mary Alsworthy accepts a secret assignment from Lord Vaughn on behalf of the Pink Carnation. She must infiltrate the ranks of the dreaded French spy, the Black Tulip, before he and his master can stage their planned invasion of England. Every spy has a weakness and for the Black Tulip that weakness is beautiful black-haired women-his 'petals' of the Tulip. A natural at the art of seduction, Mary easily catches the attention of the French spy, but Lord Vaughn never anticipated that his own heart would be caught as well. Fighting their growing attraction, impediments from their past, and, of course, the French, Mary and Vaughn find themselves lost in a treacherous garden of lies.

And as our modern-day heroine, Eloise Kelly, digs deeper into England's Napoleonic-era espionage, she becomes even more entwined with Colin Selwick, the descendant of her spy subjects.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In the fourth installment of the Pink Carnation series, Mary Alsworthy suddenly finds herself on the outside of polite society after her younger sister, Letty, marries Mary's intended. Partly from boredom, partly from fascination, Mary accepts the advances of spy master Lord Vaughn when he asks her to help uproot a French spy called the Black Tulip who has a weakness for dark-haired women. As it turns out, the Black Tulip is no longer interested just in beautiful companions; he demands a sacrifice of Mary that she is reluctant to make. Navigating both the world of high society, where, if Mary doesn't find a husband soon she'll be doomed to live off her sister's charity, and the underworld, Mary may only realize too late that the Black Tulip is more connected to her than she ever imagined. This historical romance is filled with witty repartee and arch conversations between Mary and Vaughn, leaving no doubt as to the story's conclusion. Though the occasional jumps to the modern-day travails of Eloise Kelly, a grad student researching the Vaughn family for her dissertation, are as jarring as ad breaks in the middle of a film, the novel handily fulfills its promise of intrigue and romance. (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Eloise Kelly, Willig's perpetual Ph.D. student, remains in London trying to piece together her study of the spy network that operated during the time of Napoléon (begun in The Secret History of the Pink Carnation). Having uncovered the identity of our heroic Carnation in the archives of spy Richard Selwick, Eloise continues her floral fascination with the unmasking of the dastardly Black Tulip in this latest blossomy imbroglio (after The Deception of the Emerald Ring). While Eloise ponders all things espionage and the romantic potential of Colin Selwick, readers are thrust back two centuries to follow the machinations of the reputedly dissolute Lord Vaughn as he enlists the aid of Mary Alsworthy in an attempt to bring the Tulip to justice. Mary agrees to work her wiles for the price of a dowry and a London season. Together, she and Vaughn force the Tulip's hand, as they fight their mutual attraction and parry verbal badinage that never ceases to charm and amuse. But is their quarry really dead at novel's end? You never can tell with Willig. And when will the Carnation herself (yup, she's a gal) find her own true love? This appealing sequel holds up well on both ends, with Eloise and Colin encountering some intrigue of their own. Recommended for public libraries, especially those growing the whole botanical series. [See Prepub Alert, LJ9/1/07.]
—Bette-Lee Fox

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616800574
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/31/2008
  • Series: Pink Carnation Series , #4
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (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:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 93 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 93 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Entertaining but disappointing

    As a fan of the Willig series, I was thrilled that the devastatingly clever and slightly wicked Lord Vaughn was set to star in the fourth book. Despite the focus on social-climbing nitwit Mary Alsworthy (jilted sister from the horrid Book #3), it was a page turner. There was less of the insufferable, latter-day Taster's Choice couple Eloise and Colin to contend with, which is an improvement. However, I censure the author's judgement and her editor's wisdom in pushing forth a well-researched but utterly dry diatribe on the Jacobite Rebellion when Willig's true charm lies in witty dialogue (of which there is plenty) and steamy interludes (sadly lacking despite protestations of the anti-hero's profligate tendencies). In other words, the book is slow, burdened with the author's literate but heavy-handed knowledge of English history, and cheats the reader out of an amusing, awkward Alsworthy-Vaughn country wedding and, the annoyingly lascivious title being a bit of a misnomer, any "seduction" was obviously sacrificed in the editing process to make room for more of Ms. Willig's Shakespearean epigraphs.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2008

    Great writing, but less spice than the earlier books

    I love all of Lauren Willig's books, and I really enjoyed the main characters in this book, and their jaded, world-weary witticisms. However, while I hate to admit my prurient romance novel inclinations, this book was too PG-13 compared to her previous books, and those that enjoyed the R+ rated passages in the series' previous books are going to be disappointed...there's no spicy pay-off scene(s) at the end of Mary and Lord Vaughn's 'courtship.' At least things moved along with Eloise and Colin, but I'm hoping she embellishes more with all characters the next time around.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2009

    The best one yet

    Crimson Rose is unique among the Willig books; it harks back more than any of her others, in its overall level of sophistication, to the series' acknowledged inspiration, The Scarlet Pimpernel. In fact, Lord Vaughn and Mary Alsworthy come closer to Percy and Marguerite Blakeney in many respects than do any of Willig's other pairs so far (with the caveat that Percy is never described as having engaged in any kind of dissipation). Like Vaughn and Mary, Percy and Marguerite use their social and intellectual aplomb as a tool - Percy to mask his secret identity, Marguerite to hide the private heartbreak of their estrangement. Mary, not unlike Marguerite, gives the initial impression of being rather brittle yet becomes increasingly sympathetic as the novel progresses, while Vaughn turns out to be not quite so much a rake as the first three novels led us to believe. I found the story extremely satisfying, and while some readers have complained that it doesn't contain a big marriage-consummation scene, as the other Willig books do, the intellectual foreplay between Vaughn and Mary and their 'close encounter' after Vaughn is shot help to make up for that omission. (After all, there's no bedroom scene in The Scarlet Pimpernel or P & P, either - just the hint of things to come at the end, as is the case here.) Overall, an excellent read, including the Jacobite plot and the many Shakespearean allusions. For my money, while Black Tulip is far and away the most charming novel in the series, Crimson Rose is hands down the best written (with fewer editorial gaffes, as well). Plus, Eloise and Colin are finally dating! Having devoured the first four books in a month, I look forward to reading Night Jasmine, though I'm hoping the paperback comes out in time for beach season!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 8, 2010

    An Intriguing Romance

    I bought this novel on a whim this weekend and I truly enjoyed it. It has a little bit of everything a true romance novel should have and most of all it was tasteful! I am definitely going to read the series.

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  • Posted March 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I love her books

    This is an easy read that is fun but not empty minded. It ties historical ficition with current day romance. The historical fiction is based around the time of Bonaparte and show cases the Brits and the French. The current day romance is nothing heavy or cheap, just a little romance with two people who love history. I look forward to her books.

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  • Posted April 21, 2009

    Very entertaining

    No anachronisms, competent grasp of period, engaging characters. I went off and bought the others in the series after reading this.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    One of the best in the series

    I have read the whole Pink Carnation series and this book is my second favorite. If you like historical fiction and adventure you'll like this book. The relationships with the characters can be confusing, but the author does a good job of providing backstory. What I like best is the story within the story. A majority of it takes place in history while during current times a woman is doing research on these people. This is a bit darker than the rest of the stories, but it doesn't make it any less enjoyable to read.

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  • Posted February 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    My fngers kept pulling this cd of the shelf but one look at the cover and back it went

    I just gave in to fate the last time and I am glad that I did the book is proving to be a fun listen and I am going to select another from the series. I will just keep a blind spot for the cover.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2009

    Another Hit in the Series

    This is another great book by Lauren Willig.
    Loved the twists and turns.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2009

    A bit different than the other books in the series, but still good.

    Not as much intrigue and the plot seemed a bit low-key compared to the other books in the series, but still a fun read. Hard to like the 2 characters, Mary Alsworthy and Lord Vaughn, after reading the previous book in the series, but they are almost human and likeable by the end of the book. Looking forward to a bit more information about Eloise and Colin in the next book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2008

    Simply Amazing!

    When I discovered book 4 was going to be about Lord Vaughn, I was ecstatic! Lord Vaughn is my favorite character and the book definitely showcases all his characteristics, like his hilarious sarcasm. I think he is the perfect match for Mary Alsworthy. Their dialogue is extremely funny while their story line is heart wrenching. I think this might be the best book of the series. Lauren Willig really hit the nail on the head with this one!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2008

    I adore this book!

    When I first heard that Book 4 was going to be about Lord Vaughn and Mary Alsworthy, I was furious! Those two, my very least-favorite characters, were going to be featured in their own book! But, devoted fan of Lauren Willig that I am, I knew that she would somehow captivate me, and so I purchased the book the very day it was released with high hopes. To say I wasn't disappointed would be a huge understatement. It was laugh-out-loud funny in several scenes, heart-wrenching in others, and much to my surprise, I found that I enjoyed the Crimson Rose even more than the Black Tulip and the Emerald Ring (but not as much as the Pink Carnation, because, let's face it, no sequel can every trump the original... although, this one came quite close!). Vaughn and Mary were very different from the heroes and heroines from the first three books... Mary was set up as the anti-heroine since her first being mentioned in the Pink Carnation, and brooding, cynical Vaughn was about as unpatriotic as one could get during the Napoleonic Wars. But, despite their serious flaws, I was just as enamored by Vaughn and Mary as I had been by Richard and Amy, Miles and Henrietta, and Geoff and Letty. It was a real page-turner, and I was bitterly disappointed that schoolwork and classes prevented me from reading it in one sitting. Definitely a must-read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2008

    Not as good as her earlier novels . . .

    I thoroughly enjoyed Lauren Willig's earlier novels, beginning with the Pink Carnation. They are extremely witty, and I often found myself laughing out loud. Not so with this latest in the Pink Carnation series. It lacks the wit and charm of her prior novels, and although I enjoyed portions of the story, I was disappointed. I hope Ms. Willig will revert to her roots in the next installment.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2008

    Fantastic and refreshingly different!

    I've read all of Lauren Willig's novels in the Pink Carnation series, and The Seduction of the Crimson Rose is far and away her best yet. No stereotypically virtuous and naive hero-and-heroine set here instead, two main characters who seem to have been set up as anti-heroes - flawed, scheming, jaded, and therefore decidedly loads more interesting than any other run-of-the-mill 'romance' novel couple. The dialogue sparks with quick wit and intelligence, and plentiful action and suspense keeps the pages turning. Well-written atmosphere makes the clandestine meetings in true-to-history locations such as Vauxhall gardens easy to imagine, and the chemistry between Vaughn and Mary is utterly believable and charming in its own quirky way. Loved it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2008

    A bit different from her others...

    I've been a fan of Lauren Willig's since I read her first book, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, and I've been following her series ever since. I have to say that overall it was a good book. However, it seemed to be missing the witty interactions between her historic couple that the others had. Now granted, in the previous novels part of that witty banter stemmed from the basis that her historic characters were a bit naive and in this new novel, her historic couple is far from naive. I did enjoy their interaction though. There was a lot more 'action' happening in this book than the others. It was a real page turner! I also LOVED Colin and Eloise in this book. The fans have been waiting for their story to unfold a bit more and I'm sure they'll be happy in this latest segment! Overall, an enjoyable read.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    an exciting historical espionage romance

    Graduate student Eloise Kelly continues her research into the Napoleonic era Vaughn family with information on the tangential Mary Alsworthy. Mary wishes the best for her younger sister Letty who inadvertently fell in love and married her sibling¿s betrothed (see THE DECEPTION OF THE EMERALD RING). Mary finds social events quite boring especially loathing those who pity her as they all point to her living off her brother-in-law¿s charity. Thus when spymaster Lord Vaughn asks her to help him uncover uncover French spy the Black Tulip, she accepts as their target obsesses over dark-haired young women.---------- Mary hooks the interest of the Black Tulip, who sees her as more than just another flower petal to toy with. However, he wants much more from Mary, which upsets Lord Vaughn who finds he is falling in love with his agent.---------- The fourth Pink Carnation tale is an exciting historical espionage romance that fans of the series will enjoy as two secondary players (Lord Vaughn was in THE MASQUE OF THE BLACK TULIP) return as the stars. The story line is fast paced especially when the events focus on the nineteenth century. When Eloise intrudes with her modern day issues, the story line decelerates as she feels like an unneeded interloper. Still readers will enjoy this fine romantic suspense.-------- Harriet Klausner

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    Posted June 7, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2010

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