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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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1,249446,344 (3.81)93
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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Vacillating between "the heights of espionage to the depths of French farce" (or a Wodehouse-styled bungling with some assistance courtesy of Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh), Willig has produced another energetic and breezy rollicking romp through 1803 Europe and modern 2003 England. Romance continues to sizzle and thrum off the pages with our new romantic couple Miles and Henrietta providing just as much romantic misadventure as Richard and Amy did in the first installment of the series. Continuing the winning formula from the previous book, Willig presents readers with a formidable foe for Miles in the form of the brooding Lord Vaughn, a known rake of London society according to Henrietta’s mother, the Marchioness of Uppington. While the unmasking of the Black Tulip was no surprise to me, I found the budding relationship between Miles and Henrietta to be a delight. The fact that even Eloise has her own misadventures gives the two story-lines a parallel aspect.

Overall, a wonderful blending of Regency romance with swashbuckling Napoleonic Wars espionage anchored to the present via the modern day story-line of historian student/archivist Eloise Kelly. ( )
1 vote lkernagh | Mar 5, 2017 |
This is the second of 12 (full) books (there are also two novellas and a short story) in the Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig (whose bio sounds a bit like the Eloise character in the book).  I listened to the first in the series a couple years ago, and enjoyed it, so I decided to continue when I wanted a "light" read (or listen, in this case).

It's still 1803 (summer), but this book focuses on two characters who played a minor role in the first book, Lady Henrietta Selwick and Miles Dorrington.  They are, respectively, the little sister and the best friend of Sir Richard Selwick, the former spy known as "The Purple Gentian."  Henrietta takes on the bumbling amateur spy role played by her now-sister-in-law Amy Balcourt Selwick from the first book.  In this case, she and Miles are trying to catch the mysterious French spy, the Black Tulip.

Naturally there is romance and some steamy sex and a few cameos by real historical characters, although a bit out of context.  And naturally I figured out pretty quickly who the Black Tulip was.

Once again, framing this story is the 2003 tale of Eloise, who is continuing her work on a dissertation on the mysterious British spy known as the Pink Carnation.  She spends the weekend exploring the archives at Selwick Hall, with Richard's descendant, Colin Selwick (and of course there are hints of romance there - at least for Eloise - but not much).

Kate Reading (real name:  Jennifer Mendenhall) does a fine job with American, British, and French accents and both male and female voices in the audiobook.  I will likely listen to a few more in the series when I'm looking for something funny, easy, and entertaining.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to my local public library.] ( )
1 vote riofriotex | May 27, 2016 |
It has been quite some time since I read the first book in this series but I immediately fell into the story again. I love the juxtaposition of a modern day historian's discovery of the papers of Regency heroes and heroines with the story of the heroes and heroines as they were living their story.

I found many parts of the story to be laugh-out-loud funny. In fact, I was laughing so hard that I had to put down the book to wipe my eyes. The situations as two rank amateurs get involved in uncovering a dastardly French agent were both thrilling and amusing. I especially liked the friends-to-lovers plot as Henrietta and Miles each realize that their long-standing friendship was growing into something more but who don't realize or believe that the other has come to the same realization.

I like the modern parts of the story too which has Eloise wondering very much about Colin Selwick who is definitely a man of mystery. I am eager to carry on with this series to find out what happens next in 1803 and also what happens next for Eloise and Colin. ( )
  kmartin802 | May 8, 2016 |
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 |
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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)

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