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Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig

Masque of the Black Tulip (edition 2010)

by Lauren Willig

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1,180426,821 (3.79)86
Title:Masque of the Black Tulip
Authors:Lauren Willig
Info:Allison & Busby (2010), Paperback, 480 pages
Collections:Your library, Kindle

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The Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig


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Book Two in the Pink Carnation series

Graduate student Eloise Kelly’s research takes an unexpected turn as a new archive of family papers reveal an amazing story from the past. When a courier for England’s War Office is murdered, Miles Dorrington is ordered to uncover the identity of the killer, a French spy known only as the Black Tulip. Racing him to solve the mystery is Henrietta Uppington, associate of the Pink Carnation and sister of Miles’ best friend, the retired spy once known as the Purple Gentian. As childhood friends, Miles and Henrietta are as close as can be, but when a rival for Miles’ attention appears Henrietta realizes she wants more than just friendship. Flirtation and romantic misunderstandings mingle with adventure and spycraft in Regency England as twenty-first century girl Eloise struggles through her own romantic misadventures.

If ever a book series could be labeled a guilty pleasure, it’s the adventures of the Pink Carnation and her friends. Actually, the Pink Carnation barely appears in the story, and that’s a shame, because she is the character about whom I am most curious. What is she doing in France and in Ireland? How is she managing her massive spy operation? Sadly, we only get glimpses through her correspondence with Henrietta and a few brief chapters where she pops up.

Instead the book focuses on the romance between Miles and Henrietta, two very modern characters types thrust against a 19th century backdrop. Henrietta is a spirited and clever young lady but, not unlike her predecessor Amy in the previous book, comes across as quite dense at times. She misses obvious clues about the identity of the Black Tulip (a mystery solved by readers within the first third of the book but missed by the characters until the closing chapters) and suffers an endless stream of miscommunications and romantic mishaps. It just gets silly and somewhat repetitive.

Meanwhile Eloise’s modern day dilemmas pop up at the most inopportune moments. She’s rather grown on me compared to when I first read the book back in 2007, but her story is still far less compelling than the historical sections of the book, and I just want to rush through her romancing of the owner of Selwick Hall so we can get back to the action and the spy stuff.

I’m looking forward to the next volume, which hints at major activities for the Pink Carnation that I hope will mean more page time for her. There’s also the promise of more appearances by “Turnip” Fitzhugh, a highly entertaining idiot who is either a brilliant actor-spy a la the Scarlet Pimpernel or a delightfully oblivious fashion-obsessed weirdo whose presence is so refreshing when surrounded by super-serious espionage and supersized romances. ( )
  makaiju | Jun 14, 2015 |
A delightful entry in the Pink series. I loved Miles and Henrietta, but I'm sad they misunderstood each other for so long before realizing they were in love. They can't get their first romance back, you know? Plus Richard is a big doofusface. Apparently it's fine for him to fool around with Amy in book one, but he might shoot Miles for smooching Henrietta? Kind of made me think less of him. And everyone's general failure to actually CONVERSE about what happened.

Again, the writing is delightful, though. It's very light for a historical, almost Monty Python-esque... Just that little pinch of the zany madcap stirred into the mix to keep things interesting and the reader laughing. It's a big book, but a quick read, and the characters are all great. I like the prospect of exploring all the minor characters one by one as the series continues! Turnip Fitzhugh is actually my favorite, but it remains to be seen if he's a fop like he seems, or something more. (I really thought [the note he passed to Miles would reveal he's a spy too, but the note is never mentioned again. Hmmm. Oversight, or foreshadowing? (hide spoiler)]).

On the other hand, I'm entirely bored with Eloise and Colin at this point. Neither is compelling, their story can't really go anywhere if it's supposed to stretch over all these books a little at a time, and they're always interrupting the good bits. I also don't feel like the "reading old letters" structure really works, since the historical parts of the book aren't epistolary. That's really a small complaint in comparison to how much I enjoyed the rest of the book, though. ( )
  FFortuna | Feb 27, 2015 |

It wasn't even properly edited! The plot was contrived and completely transparent.
I finished it in the hopes it would improve. It didn't. ( )
  Gorthalon | Dec 6, 2014 |
The mix of past and present really keeps the story moving. I know the spies should be the most important part of the story, but I keep looking for the flashes to the present. Wonder what Colin is up to... ( )
  Libis83 | Jul 1, 2014 |
It was okay; certainly nothing I will devote precious real estate on my bookshelves to keeping against a future rereading.

I picked up the first five books in the series at a used book store and have not been sufficiently put-off as to leave the remaining volumes unread. (Such a move is unheard of for me -- to invest so much into a series without any prior recommendations, but the selections for historical fiction were slum pickings that day.) I liked the main characters (Henrietta and Miles) in this book better than I liked Richard and Amy from the first book. [Amy struck me as too childish and her romance with Richard/the Purple Gentian felt coincidental and contrived. As did their meeting, especially in light of all of Amy's girlhood daydreams and fantasies. And then there was the not-at-all-believable scene in the rowboat. I won't even start on that.] I felt that the simmering-under-the-surface attraction between Miles and Henrietta, as characters who had practically grown up together, was realistic, even to the point of their feelings catching each of them off-guard...but the animosity from Richard didn't sell for me. I could happily do without the gratuitous sex scene Willig feels obliged to include in each of her books. Aside from being unrealistically "perfect" (and aside from her heroines not seeming to care for a second that the hero has obviously been "sowing his wild oats" before she ended up as his bride), it adds nothing to the story.

In the end, even though it is apparently Richard and Amy who set up the secret spy school, I would rather see more of Miles and Henrietta, who seem to be a more valid couple. (And while I can appreciate the interspersed "modern day" tale of Eloise and Colin, if the author doesn't do something with that story soon, I may cease to care. Eloise, while ostensibly the reason we get the Regency-era tales (through the device of her research in various archives for her dissertation), is a far less interesting and sympathetic character. Her neuroses are starting to wear a bit thin after only two books and an apparent month or so in"real time" elapsed; how in the world will that last through the ten or so books that apparently make up the series? ( )
  tarheel96 | Apr 11, 2014 |
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An appealing tale that deftly blends the intrigues of wartime with the oldest story of all.
added by 4leschats | editBookPage, Sandy Huseby (Jan 1, 2006)
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To Brooke, paragon among little sisters, between whom and Henrietta any resemblance is more than coincidental.
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I bit my lip on an "Are we there yet?"
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451220048, Paperback)

...But now she has a million questions about the Pink Carnation's deadly French nemesis, the Black Tulip. And she's pretty sure that her handsome onagain, off-again crush, Colin Selwick, has the answers somewhere in his archives. But what she discovers in an old codebook is something juicier than she ever imagined.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:10 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Harvard grad student Eloise Kelly achieved the academic coup of the century when she unmasked the spy who saved England from Napoleon. But now she has a million questions about the Pink Carnation's deadly French nemesis, the Black Tulip. And she's pretty sure that her handsome on-again, off-again crush, Colin Selwick, has the answers somewhere in his archives. But what she discovers in an old codebook is something juicier than she ever imagined.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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