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The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig
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The Lure of the Moonflower

by Lauren Willig

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The final story in the Pink Carnation series, which centers on the woman at the center of the carnation spies, the Pink Carnation herself, Jane. I have liked Jane's character since she was introduced in the first novel, a foil to her ebullient cousin Amy who is the heroine of that book. Jane was the quiet and common sense friend, who didn't draw attention to herself, but was clever and cunning and the intelligence behind all of Amy's exploits. Jane took on the identity of Pink Carnation after Amy's brief run ended in her marriage to the Purple Gentian, and she has been quietly pulling the strings behind the whole enterprise ever since. I was therefore very eager to read about Jane's romance, and also sad, because I knew that her story would be the one to conclude a series which I have greatly enjoyed from start to finish.

I also wanted to see if the author could provide a romantic interest that deserved Jane's love and affection. Lauren Willig again provided, giving us the delightful Jack Reid, who is one of those rough and handsome rogues who seems like a bad boy but is quite the opposite once a person gets to know him. Not only does his commitment to the spying life and adventure equal Jane's own involvement, but he respects women and has an open-minded tolerance that is out of keeping with most of his peers. (Hey, this is fiction, so I can accept a man like that might possibly have existed during the Napoleonic wars.) Jane and Jack don't hit it off immediately, which is not too surprising, considering that Jane is dressed like an elegant prostitute and forces Jack to "save" her from an angry mob. When she reveals that she is none other than the Pink Carnation herself, and not one of the regular foot soldiers, Jack is highly suspicious, and annoyed. He isn't totally pleased to be working for the Pink Carnation in the first place, and has a complicated relationship with both sides of the war, and moreover, he resents Jane's condescension and the fact that she was able to so easily fool him. Jane, for her part, isn't thrilled to work with him, either; she still remembers that Jack's gift to his sister caused the great adventure that led to her outing and removal from home and family.

The two leads, therefore, instantly fall into the hate-that-will-turn-into-love relationship, a particular favorite of mine (it has to be done well, the dislike must clearly be based on misunderstanding and suppressed romantic chemistry, but yeah, I like that trope). The novel also immediately begins with a darker tone than some of the earlier entries in the series. After all, a lot has happened to Jane at this point. Recent events have pushed her to the conclusion that the only way to continue doing her job is to cut all ties with family and friends, she feels exiled from her home, and she has just realized that she doesn't actually love the man that brought about a lot of these painful changes. Jack's back story is also grim, and together they have a lot of past baggage to overcome. Fortunately, they also share something much more positive, a love of adventure and making the world a better place, as little hope as they have left in it. While working in Portugal to find the mad Queen Maria before the French do, they will be forced to face their demons and work through their issues, together.

Willig finished her Pink Carnation series with a solid novel that fully justifies all the fun that came before. Jane and Jack are amazing and adorable, with chemistry that crackles through every page. Their happy ending was perhaps the best one of the series. It also didn't close the chapter on the Pink Carnation saga; rather than Jane retiring from the spy business to be the doting wife, she and Jack continue their espionage adventures together as equal partners. While readers know that the series is over, we can console ourselves with thoughts that while we aren't reading them, Jane and Jack are still fighting the good fight, and the adventure continues. I am sorry that Pink Carnation is over, because I felt so many more stories could have been told, so many more couples brought together, but I am delighted that it ended on a high note, with a great story. From her blog, it sounds like Willig is working on stand alone novels, but I hope she embarks on another romance/adventure/mystery series in the future, because I will be reading it. ( )
1 vote nmhale | Jan 4, 2017 |
Jane, the master spy known as the Pink Carnation, is in Lisbon to rescue the kidnapped Queen Maria of Portugal, with the assistance of Jack Reid, the spy known as the Moonflower. Their mission takes them all over Portugal with the master French spy known as the Gardener behind them (or is he ahead of them)?

Happily, the epilogue shows that Jane doesn't give up espionage once she is married, like the rest of the heroines in the series. I would love to read the further adventures of Jane and Jack in Russia and Brazil. ( )
  soraki | Sep 5, 2016 |
Knowing that this was the last book in the Pink Carnation series, and knowing that Jane was going to be the star, made me a little apprehensive. Jane has been a character in many of the previous books in the series but she was always the quiet, self-contained mastermind who kept her plots and plans really close to her chest. I had trouble seeing her let herself be vulnerable enough to fall in love. I was wrong and Lauren Willig is a rock star!

This story takes place in Portugal just as the French are invading and the Portuguese Royal Family is fleeing to Brazil. Rumor has it that Queen Maria missed the boat, literally, making her a pawn for whichever side manages to control her. The Pink Carnation is sent to try to find her and get her on her way to Brazil. However, Jane doesn't speak Portuguese and doesn't know the territory. She is set to make contact with the Moonflower - Jack Reid - who has been working in Portugal for a few years.

Jane has a good idea who Jack is both from knowing his exploits in India and from her family connections in England. After all, she is godmother to Jack's youngest sister Plumeria. Her chaperone married his father. But the written reports and even the memories of his father don't tell the whole story. Jane learns that there is much more to Jack Reid.

At first, Jack and Jane's relationship is difficult. Both of them are used to being independent operators and, if they are part of the team, they are definitely the leader of the team. So these two strong-willed people, besides not really trusting each other, are constantly butting heads. They do grow to know each other and trust each other through the events of this story which is complicated when the Gardener makes his appearance. He was Jack's boss until he ordered him killed in India. He and Jane also had a brief relationship in Venice after she was disowned by her family.

This story neatly ties up all the historical events. It also ties up the present story line which mostly takes place at the run-up before Colin and Eloise's wedding complicated by the kidnapping of Colin's great-aunt. I laughed hysterically as I was reading about Pammy's cell phone going off at the wedding and her fishing it out of her bodice to answer it.

This was a great series. I hope Lauren Willig does wind back and tell some of the stories that didn't fit into this series someday. ( )
  kmartin802 | Jul 15, 2016 |
First of all, I found the Eloise and Colin chapters more disruptive than usual. I could just have particularly little patience for the various nonsense around weddings. However, I did enjoy the revelation of just what the modern day secret agent connections that have been hinted at throughout the series really are, so that wasn't a total loss.

The Pink Carnation and the Moonflower's mission was fairly straight forward, with the emphasis being on their relationship. I do rather miss the fact that the novella "The Pink Carnation in Love" was never completed, but Willig incorporates what's happened to Jane since we saw her last into the story in a way that isn't info-dumpy and is still easy to follow. And for a book that is primarily driven by the romance rather than by dealing with external obstacles, Willig also manages avoiding falling into the trap of creating more drama within the relationship than necessary. When Jack finds out that Jane has been withholding the information that she knows his father and sister, he is momentarily thrown, but it doesn't become a huge thing.

And spoilers in the next paragraph:

I was also pleasantly surprised that Jane and Jack carry on their espionage career after they marry. With Willig having said several times over the years that Jane's story would have to be the last one in the series, I thought she meant that Jane would have to settle down and be a proper early 19th century wife once she got a love story of her own, and I've often been annoyed at how many of the heroines have vanished from the field after their book was over (although a few of put in appearances closer to the action to conclude the series). Knowing that the Pink Carnation and the Moonflower's exploits continued together from Russia to Brazil makes me happy.

This was a far better conclusion to the series than I thought that I could expect, great fun by any standard: ( )
1 vote Unreachableshelf | Feb 8, 2016 |
Although I am sad to see the series end, Jane's adventure had everything I like about the series: swashbuckling adventure and great dialogue and more importantly bringing in the humanness in the romance and the spying ( )
  ewillse | Jan 18, 2016 |
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To my agents, Joe Veltre and Alexandra Machinist; to my editors, Laurie Chittenden, Kara Cesare, Erika Imranyi and Danielle Perez; to my publishers Brian Tart and Kara Welsh; and to everyone on the team in production, publicity and marketing at Dutton and NAL for seeing the Pink Carnation series through fro its inception in 2003 to its final chapter in 2015.

So many thanks to you all!
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Sussex, 2005

Reader I married him.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
In the final Pink Carnation novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla, Napoleon has occupied Lisbon, and Jane Wooliston, aka the Pink Carnation, teams up with a rogue agent to protect the escaped Queen of Portugal.

Portugal, December 1807. Jack Reid, the British agent known as the Moonflower (formerly the French agent known as the Moonflower), has been stationed in Portugal and is awaiting his new contact. He does not expect to be paired with a woman—especially not the legendary Pink Carnation.

All of Portugal believes that the royal family departed for Brazil just before the French troops marched into Lisbon. Only the English government knows that mad seventy-three-year-old Queen Maria was spirited away by a group of loyalists determined to rally a resistance. But as the French garrison scours the countryside, it’s only a matter of time before she’s found and taken.

It’s up to Jane to find her first and ensure her safety. But she has no knowledge of Portugal or the language. Though she is loath to admit it, she needs the Moonflower. Operating alone has taught her to respect her own limitations. But she knows better than to show weakness around the Moonflower—an agent with a reputation for brilliance, a tendency toward insubordination, and a history of going rogue.
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Portugal, December 1807. Jack Reid, the British agent known as the Moonflower (formerly the French agent known as the Moonflower), has been stationed in Portugal and is awaiting his new contact. He does not expect to be paired with a woman--especially not the legendary Pink Carnation. All of Portugal believes that the royal family departed for Brazil just before the French troops marched into Lisbon. Only the English government knows that mad seventy-three-year-old Queen Maria was spirited away by a group of loyalists determined to rally a resistance. But as the French garrison scours the countryside, it's only a matter of time before she's found and taken. It's up to Jane to find her first and ensure her safety. But she has no knowledge of Portugal or the language. Though she is loath to admit it, she needs the Moonflower. Operating alone has taught her to respect her own limitations. But she knows better than to show weakness around the Moonflower--an agent with a reputation for brilliance, a tendency toward insubordination, and a history of going rogue.… (more)

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