Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Perfect 10:

THE PASSION OF THE PURPLE PLUMERIA – Lauren Willig
A Pink Carnation Novel
A Perfect 10
NAL
ISBN: 978-0-451-41472-4
August 2013
Historical Fiction

England - 2004 and the Regency Era

Eloise Kelly is winding down her research time in England. With her dissertation near completion and a guaranteed teaching position back home in Boston, she now must come to grips with leaving her boyfriend, Colin Selwick, Even though they are living together in Selwick Hall, Eloise isn't completely confident in Colin's feeling for her. The dissertation, “Aristocratic Espionage during the Wars with France: 1789-1815”, dropped Eloise into Colin's life when she discovered that his family ties went back to a spy network who worked against Napoleon. Her discovery of the spy known as the Pink Carnation has helped her come close to tying up the loose ends of her research. But Eloise hits a dead end when all correspondence from the Pink Carnation suddenly ceased in 1805. What happened?

Jane Wooliston, a.k.a. The Pink Carnation, and her chaperone, Miss Gwen Meadows, are in Paris, staying at the home of Jane's cousin. They have spent the past two years secretly monitoring the comings and goings of Napoleon's spies. When Jane hears that her younger sister, Agnes, has disappeared from the boarding school in Bath, England, though, the two women return to their homeland. Jane is convinced that it's because she's been discovered to be a spy, and that the French have taken her sister. But upon arrival in Bath, they discover that not only is Agnes missing, but so is her roommate, Lizzy Reid. And Lizzy's father, retired Colonel William Reid, late of the East India Company, is also there and distraught that the daughter he hasn't seen in ten years is missing.

Gwen isn't at all happy to be back in England. As a middle-aged spinster, she has thoroughly enjoyed the freedom she had in France, concocting intricate disguises as she spies for her government. Her unhappy history all comes crashing back upon her return. And the Colonel doesn't help matters. He doesn't seem to respect her obvious intelligence, her icy retorts, or her take-charge mentality. In fact, his sarcastic responses to her orders, while entertaining Jane, are a little difficult to take. Still, they will all have to work together to find the missing girls. Then Gwen and William are attacked on their way back from visiting his older daughter, and an entirely new issue has sprung up. Who were the thugs really after, Gwen or William?

Continuing the terrific Pink Carnation series, THE PASSION OF THE PURPLE PLUMERIA is the best one yet. As Eloise struggles with her emotions and tries to conclude her research in the twenty-first century, Gwen has her own issues to resolve in the eighteenth. Eloise is pretty sure of her feelings for Colin, but Gwen must let her guard down some as William worms his way into her heart. It isn't easy for either woman to admit anything, but for Gwen, her need for freedom may outweigh her other need for companionship.

There are some wonderfully humorous scenes in both centuries, a few laugh-out-loud worthy. Both Eloise and Gwen are strong women, but for Gwen to let down her guard for a man, it's going to take some true soul searching.

Great writing and excellent research make THE PASSION OF THE PURPLE PLUMERIA a Perfect 10.

Jani Brooks

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