Review: The Masque of the Black Tulip (Pink Carnation #2) by Lauren Willig

If the Pink Carnation left you feeling a little wilted and longing to drink in the next flowery caped crusader….look no further, Lauren Willig’s The Masque of the Black Tulip, is sure to quench any lingering thirst readers had!

Ravishing and bewitching, the whole Regency era upper-class turned spies with cute horticultural names thing is a force to be reckoned with…these books are simply amazing. I am reading them as part of the Regency & Victorian Reads Challenge over at the Royal Review’s blog.

As I was about thirty or so pages out from finishing the first book, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, I had to stop myself, get out of bed, put on something other than PJ’s, and make a quick trip across town (in the rain and cold) to find the next book in the series….as CLEARLY waiting a day or two to pick up the next book was not an option.

At the time this sounded like a capitol idea….though now that I think about it, I could easily have ordered the next book on my iPad with one click ordering but at the time that concept did not compute!

This book follows the escapades of Miles Dorrington (Lord Richard’s best friend) and Henrietta “Hen” Selwick (Lord Richard’s sister) and their search for the deadly French operative, The Blck Tulip. Having met Hen and Miles in the last book, they were two of my favs….I though Miles was hilarious and Hen was so sensible that I couldn’t help with identifying with her the most out of all the female characters.

This book turned out to be just as good, if not better in some ways than the first… I really fell for Miles and Hen not just as friends but also as a romantic couple. There is just something about two people who fall in love and have also known each other their whole lives that is terribly romantic and these two are adorable beyond words!

Now retired and newly married, The Purple Gentian (Lord Richard) has left England unguarded….when a man turns up dead with a note attached marked by a black tulip the War Office panics. They can no longer rely on The Purple Gentian to investigate so who do they turn to instead….Miles Dorrington that’s who!

And who does Lord Richard turn to protect his sister from unwanted courtly advances in his absence? Yep you guessed it, Miles Dorrington! Having grown up with the Uppington family, Miles is Hen’s stand in ‘big brother’ but having caught sight of Hen in a decidedly reveling nightgown in the Pink Carnation….Miles can’t get the graphic image out of his head!

Somewhere along the way he has become horribly attracted to Hen in a not so platonic fashion! What is a stand in big brother to do???

Well what can one do when he knows his best friend sister to be ‘the one’ for him? Before he knows it, Miles is picking out his own special spot in Dante’s inner inferno one especially reserved for traitors and men who seduce their best friend’s sisters!

When sweet, practical Hen meets the glamorous, mysterious, sultry, and exotic Marquise de Montval at a party….she is immediately put off, not just because the Marquise is shamelessly flirting with her oldest friend and stand in brother Miles (insert sarcasm here)….but because she is simply vile, rotten to the core! Suddenly it all makes sense! Hen rationalizes her annoyance at the Marquise’s presence as a realization she seemed to have known all along….she is in love with Miles!

But then there is the dark, brooding, sarcastically intriguing….yet sinister looking Lord Vaughn.  Ever the Gothic hero….Lord Vaughn has his own amorous designs for Hen. When Miles sees Vaughn’s interests run deeper than they should for Hen….he too realizes he might not just lust after Hen but perhaps he might actually love her?!?!

Then, the Black Tulip strikes again…..another murder, this time one of Hen’s “sources” top that off with a warning letter from Jane that her and Miles are being watched….Hen and Miles must be on the lookout for danger at every turn, not to mention Hen’s real big brother–Lord Richard.

While the story jumps around, pulling you from character to character, making you wonder who might be a spy, the real story centers around this complicated relationship between Henrietta and Miles. I felt this more so in this book than the previous….as Miles and Hen’s relationship is more complicated and shocking than Amy and Richard. Although there is mystery, action, and spying going on, the tension is mainly focused on the misunderstandings and social pressures felt by both Miles and Hen.

I was quite anxious throughout the book….each chapter ended in a cliffhanger and then I just HAD to read the whole next chapter so I could know what happened next. With each book the reader learns more about the people who are with and around the Pink Carnation which makes the world of the books even more interesting and give the reader a sense of completeness that I have not seen in other books/series/trilogies.

These books are first and foremost romantic feel good books with happily ever after endings (which even I have to admit…..never gets boring!!). Secondly, the books clearly have a historic piece to them. I like that Willig really cares about the historic accuracy and historic integrity of the novels. So far I haven’t felt like any of the historic references (including society standards and etiquette) were out of place or not believable.

If you have been looking for a feel good romance with a healthy dose of historic fiction in the world of adventure and espionage you have found it in this series. If you aren’t too much into the whole historic part, not to worry there is a modern day romance at work in the series as well…. let me assure you these books are truly great escape reads of the best kind!

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: The Masque of the Black Tulip (Pink Carnation #2) by Lauren Willig

  • Hardcover, 406 pages
  • Published December 29th 2005 by Dutton Adult

This book counts toward: Regency & Victorian Reading Challenge

Recommendation: 5 out of 5 (comical romantic novel that will sweep you off your feet)

Genre: Historic fiction, Regency fiction, chick-lit, romance

Memorable lines/quotes:

Henrietta had always known she ran more to Portia than Juliet. Besides she never understood how tragic, veiled figures managed to get anything accomplished with their vision permanently obscured like that…..but that, Henrietta considered, was precisely why she would never make a tragic heroine. She had been cured with a logical mind. (232-233).

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