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The Masque of the Black Tulip (Pink Carnation Series #2)

The Masque of the Black Tulip (Pink Carnation Series #2)

4.4 111
by Lauren Willig

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The author of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation continues the romantic adventures of England's greatest spy with a newly arrived adversary from France, the murderous Black Tulip.

The Pink Carnation, history's most elusive spy and England's only hope for preventing a Napoleonic invasion, returns in Lauren Willig's dazzling imaginative new historical


The author of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation continues the romantic adventures of England's greatest spy with a newly arrived adversary from France, the murderous Black Tulip.

The Pink Carnation, history's most elusive spy and England's only hope for preventing a Napoleonic invasion, returns in Lauren Willig's dazzling imaginative new historical romance. The Masque of the Black Tulip opens with the murder of a courier from the London War Office, his confidential dispatch for the Pink Carnation stolen. Meanwhile, the Black Tulip, France's deadliest spy, is in England with instructions to track down and kill the Pink Carnation. Only Henrietta Uppington and Miles Dorrington know where the Pink Carnation is stationed. Using a secret code book, Henrietta has deciphered a message detailing the threat of the Black Tulip. Meanwhile, the War Office has enlisted Miles to track down the notorious French spy before he (or she) can finish the deadly mission. But what Henrietta and Miles don't know is that while they are trying to find the Black Tulip (and possibly falling in love), the Black Tulip is watching them.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
In this sequel to her delightful debut novel, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, Lauren Willig brings all the exuberance of a swashbuckler movie to the page -- action, romance, intrigue, swordplay, and history.

As modern-day graduate student Eloise Kelly goes through the Selwick archive, she uncovers the story of Lady Henrietta Selwick, who ultimate unmasks the identity of the Black Tulip, France's deadliest spy circa 1803. Henrietta had been angling to become involved in the war effort against Napoleon ever since her brother's exploits as the Purple Gentian; her cousin Jane spied most productively as the Pink Carnation. This left both Henrietta and Miles Dorrington, her brother's best friend, at home, on the shelf, and dying for action. How Henrietta deciphers secret messages and how she and Miles track down the notorious spy, all the while falling in love, makes for a wonderful romp through history. Ginger Curwen
Publishers Weekly
Willig picks up where she left readers breathlessly hanging with 2005's The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. After discovering the identity of the Pink Carnation, one of England's most successful spies during the Napoleonic wars, modern-day graduate student Eloise Kelly is hot on the trail of the Black Tulip, the Pink Carnation's French counterpart. While researching the archives of dashing-but-grumpy Colin Selwick (a descendant of the Selwick spy family), Eloise learns that spy Purple Gentian (Richard Selwick) safely retired to the countryside; meanwhile, the Pink Carnation continues her mission with the help of Richard's younger sister. Spirited Henrietta Selwick discovers that the Black Tulip has resurfaced after a 10-year silence with the intent of eliminating the Pink Carnation. Miles Dorrington (Richard's best friend) works for the War Office and is directed to unearth the deadly spy. As he and Henrietta investigate, they try to deny their attraction for each other-and avoid becoming the Black Tulip's next victims. Hero and heroine can be quite silly, and there are overlong ballroom shenanigans aplenty; like last time, Eloise and Colin's will-they-won't-they dance isn't nearly as interesting as what takes place in 1803. No matter. Willig knows her audience; Regency purists may gnash their teeth in frustration, but many more will delight in this easy-to-read romp and line up for the next installment. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In this sequel to The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, Harvard Ph.D. candidate Eloise Kelly travels to the Selwick home in England to look at the family's manuscript collection in hopes of learning more about the British spy the Pink Carnation. This time, the research and the story focus on Henrietta Selwick, the sister of Richard Selwick, the renowned (and fictional) Purple Gentian, and his best friend Miles Dorrington. Henrietta is currently serving as a courier for the Pink Carnation, and Miles continues to work at the War Office, trying to detect French spies and protect England from the wrath of Napoleon. Both want more adventure in their lives, and they find it when the War Office determines that the Black Tulip, one of France's most dangerous assassins, is out to kill the Pink Carnation and the Carnation's associates, including Miles and Henrietta. Though it has its moments, The Masque of the Black Tulip does not live up to the earlier book. There is another sequel planned, but the many loose ends and abrupt conclusion here will leave listeners frustrated. Kate Reading does her normal masterful job with a less-than-successful story. Libraries will want this title to meet demand. Danna Bell-Russel, Library of Congress Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
After her pleasant debut chronicling England's most elusive spy (The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, 2005), Willig is back with a second installment, this time featuring the Black Tulip, France's deadliest secret agent. Harvard graduate student Eloise Kelly is searching the archives in hopes of learning more about the Pink Carnation for her much delayed dissertation. Instead, she finds the Napoleonic-era correspondence between 20-year-old Lady Henrietta Selwick and the spy, which reveals that after a two-year silence, France's Black Tulip is planning murder. Unfortunately, no one knows the Black Tulip's identity. Lady Henrietta, who longs to be a spy, decides to unmask the secret agent before he or she strikes. Unbeknownst to Henrietta, the war office has asked Miles Dorrington, Henrietta's best friend and soon-to-be-beau, to solve the case. Is Lord Vaughn, the well known rake who favors masquerade balls, the Black Tulip? Or is it the beautiful Marquise de Montval, she of the immodest necklines? Or could it be the unlikely "Turnip" Fitzhugh, the foppish dandy? Willig's delightful plot takes Lady Henrietta to spy school, to the brink of a ruined reputation and on to romantic happiness. It's clear that alone or together, Henrietta and Miles are a force to be reckoned with. As for Eloise, the protagonist who sets off the novel within a novel, she is so little used that when she does appear, she seems to interrupt the espionage adventure. Perhaps in the third installment, the author will devote more time to this deserving 21st-century archivist. With such appealing characters and plots, one fears that Willig, currently a Harvard Law student and History Ph.D. candidate, will never getthose degrees.

Product Details

Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
Pink Carnation Series , #2
Edition description:
Unabridged, 12 CDs, 14 hrs.
Product dimensions:
5.34(w) x 5.58(h) x 1.58(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

"A footman was found murdered this morning in Mayfair."

Miles rested one booted leg against the opposite knee, trying not to look disappointed. He had been hoping for something more along the lines of, "Bonaparte is poised to invade England, and we need you to stop him!" Ah, well, a man could dream.

"Surely, that's a matter for the Bow Street Runners?"

Wickham fished a worn scrap of paper from the debris on his desk. "Do you recognize this?"

Miles peered down at the tiny fragment. On closer inspection, it wasn't even anything so grand as a fragment; it was more of a fleck, a tiny triangle of paper with a jagged end on one side, where it had been torn from something larger.

"No," he said.

"Look again," said Wickham. "We found it snagged on a pin on the inside of the murdered man's coat."

It was no wonder the murderer had overlooked the lost portion; it was scarcely a centimeter long, and no writing remained. At least, no writing that was discernable as such. Along the tear, a thick black stroke swept down and then off to the side. It might be the lower half of an uppercase script "I", or a particularly elaborate "T."

Miles was just about to admit ignorance for a second time-in the hopes that Wickham wouldn't ask him a third-when recognition struck. Not the lower half of an "I", but the stem of a flower. A very particular, stylized flower. A flower Miles hadn't seen in a very long time, and had hoped never to see again.

"The Black Tulip." The name tasted like hemlock on Miles' tongue. He repeated it, testing it for weight after years of disuse. "It can't be the Black Tulip. I don't believe it. It's been too long."

"The Black Tulip," countered Wickham, "is always most deadly after a silence."

Miles couldn't argue with that. The English in France had been most on edge, not when the Black Tulip acted, but when he didn't. Like the grey calm before thunder, the Black Tulip's silence generally presaged some new and awful ill. Austrian operatives had been found dead, minor members of the royal family captured, English spies eliminated, all without fuss or fanfare. For the past two years, the Black Tulip had maintained a hermetic silence.

Miles grimaced.

"Precisely," said Wickham. He extricated the scrap of paper from Miles' grasp, returning it to its place of his desk. "The murdered man was one of our operatives. We had inserted him into the household of a gentleman known for his itinerant tendencies."

Miles rocked forward in his chair. "Who found him?"

Wickham dismissed the question with a shake of his head. "A scullery maid from the kitchen of a neighboring house; she had no part in it."

"Had she witnessed anything out of the ordinary?"

"Aside from a dead body?" Wickham smiled grimly. "No. Think of it, Dorrington. Ten houses-at one of which, by the way, a card party was in progress-several dozen servants coming and going, and not one of them heard anything out of the ordinary. What does that suggest to you?"

Miles thought hard. "There can't have been a struggle, or someone in one of the neighboring houses would have noticed. He can't have called out, or someone would have heard. I'd say our man knew his killer." A hideous possibility occurred to Miles. "Could our chap have been a double agent? If the French thought he had outlived his usefulness..."

The bags under Wickham's eyes seemed to grow deeper. "That," he said wearily, "is always a possibility. Anyone can turn traitor given the right circumstances-or the right price. Either way, we find ourselves with our old enemy in the heart of London. We need to know more. Which is where you come in, Dorrington."

"At your disposal."

Ah, the time had come. Now Wickham would ask him to find the footman's murderer, and he could make suave assurances about delivering the Black Tulip's head on a platter, and...

Meet the Author

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.

Brief Biography

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

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Masque of the Black Tulip (Pink Carnation Series #2) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 111 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Having just finished my own dissertation, like Ms. Willig's fictional Eloise, I needed a chick-lit break and found it with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, quickly followed by The Masque of the Black Tulip. These books are absolutely delightful, and the historical detail is well done. As an acknowledged homage to The Scarlet Pimpernel, they leave a bit to be desired - Lady Blakeney (Marguerite St. Just) is never mentioned (at least not in either of the books I've read so far), and Ms. Willig's heroes and heroines don't begin to reach the depths of character that Percy and Marguerite share. (Besides, in the time when these novels take place, the Blakeneys would only be in their thirties and hardly out of the fashionable world - Percy was supposedly the Prince of Wales' closest friend, after all - so why do they never appear in a cameo?) Nonetheless, these books taken in themselves are a pleasure, and I applaud Ms. Willig for keeping the romantic mores true to the time - no consummation until the wedding night. (Heroes, heroines and readers are well rewarded for the wait.) That factor alone is so refreshing that it's well worth supporting by continuing to buy the series! In comparing the two books, I found the romance in Black Tulip even more endearing than that of Pink Carnation, although Pink Carnation had a slight edge in the swashbuckling department (which was clearly Ms. Willig's intention, as her hero and heroine in Tulip progress sweetly and convincingly from a brother-sister relationship into grown-up love). I really fell for Miles, and Henrietta is adorable. Richard's behavior toward Miles - challenging him to a duel, which precipitates the marriage between Miles and Henrietta - seeems a bit absurd since Richard, as the Purple Gentian, got into some very heavy petting with Amy before their marriage, and Miles hasn't progressed nearly as far with Henrietta when Richard comes upon them (but I suppose it is possible that an older brother might overreact in such a way, and I'm holding out hopes that the boys will make up in the next novel). As for Eloise and Colin, I don't find the interludes intrusive so much as too slow. They shouldn't jump into bed - that would be too out of keeping with the parallel historical romance - but by the end of the second novel, I would have expected a kiss. (As other reviewers have mentioned, there seems to have been a bit too much eye on the potential for sequels.) Ms. Willig's style is entertaining and breezy (the historical dialogue sometimes seems a little modern), but her editor needs to do a better job - her sentences do not always cadence as they should, and words are too often repeated in the same paragraph. In a novel of this length, a phrase like "made a sound that wanted to be laugh when it grew up" should be used once - and no more. That said, I couldn't not have spent two more pleasant weekend afternoons than I did with these two books - they are quick reads, and for romantic Anglophiles, a perfect love potion! If you read Baroness Orczy's Pimpernel novels first - in this order: The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Elusive Pimpernel, El Dorado, and The Triumph of the Scarlet Pimpernel - you'll understand Willig's plots better and you'll get a tremendous dose of history, heroism and romance along the way. (At the very least, read The Scarlet Pimpernel.) Meanwhile, I look forward to reading The Deception of the Emerald Ring!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have enjoyed this installment of Lauren Willig's mystery romance set in two different time periods, yet intertwined. I like the way her characters carry from one book to the other. She also blends the tension and romance well. I have read four of the five and can't wait to read book five and the sixth which is soon due. I also have shared them with friends who enjoyed them as well.
Anonymous 6 months ago
After reading The Secret History of the Pink Carnation years ago and never knowing it was only the first in a series, I reread it recently and was delighted to follow it up with the Black Tulip. I love the mixture of past and present, and this book especially had me on the edge of my seat as it switched between them at the most inconvenient of times. (Cliffhangers abound.) I liked Miles and Henrietta's story a little less than Richard and Amy's but it was still exciting. Historically speaking, these books have a creative, entertaining voice where I think some people expect to find a more serious one. I, personally, enjoy the wit. My one criticism: the almost laughable dialogue of the men. The overuse of "chap" and "sport." I prefer the men's dialogue found in Judith McNaught's "Whitney, My Love" for example. That aside, I'm enjoying my time in these books!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If they came to the med den, i would expect you to fight to save your life, but it is still unacceptable that you disobeyed direct orders from the medcat. You will be confined to the medicine cat den unless supervised by patchfur, snowfall or a senior warrior, and you will clean the warriors den bedding for one moon.
MADreaderMD More than 1 year ago
Miles and Henrietta may be more bumbling as spies than the Pink Carnation and the Purple Gentian, but they just prove that anyone can be of service to their country if their hearts are in the right place! And, of course, they were a little distracted by the whole falling in love thing. They made a very cute couple! I enjoyed how the definitions from the Pink Carnation's code book at the beginning of each chapter informed what would happen in the chapter. The double meanings were great. And I liked how the modern-day story tied in with what was going on in the past. My only complaint is that the romance between Eloise and Colin in the present-day is proceeding very slowly. Guess I'll just have to continue with the rest of the series to see where they end up.
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TheKarenJones More than 1 year ago
Second in the series, The Masque of the Black Tulip was just as delightful (perhaps more fun even?) as The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. If you've read Pink Carnation, then you've already met the main hero and heroine of Black Tulip. Henrietta Selwick, younger sister of the notorious Richard Selwick, is funny and bright and even occasionally silly. There's a scene where she hides from Miles Dorrington that it just hilarious. Miles is, of course, the hero of this story. Being Richard's best friend from childhood and very close to the whole Selwick family, he is deeply involved in all things spy. Miles is deliciously awkward and gets distressingly tangled up in things he shouldn't, including Henrietta. This was a fun romp full of mystery, romance and humor. A fantastic addition to the series. And don't forget, you get to follow along with modern-day Eloise and her budding crush on Colin Selwick, a descendant of Lord Richard, the Purple Gentian.
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