Review: The Seduction of the Crimson Rose (Pink Carnation #4) by Lauren Willig

Dapper, dark, mysterious, and mature: Lauren Willig’s latest flowery spy novel, The Seduction of the Crimson Rose  was the ‘changeling’ in the series.

Each book follows the usual pattern of ‘romance’ between a dashing international man of mystery (typically of peerage) and a virginal debutant.

The Crimson Rose is principally the same as the other books, but the love story between Lord Vaughn and Mary Alsworthy is more of an intimate, mature, intellectual love not like the previous books that are more of a fairytale romance….Vaughn and Mary for me were more like Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara.

I was actually surprised that the love story was more intellectual in nature….based on the previous books with Vaughn and Mary I suspected their romance would be all passion and elicit romance, so I was surprised that the story lacked ‘compromising’ encounters between the two lovebirds.

Though the story lacked the same dashing, flowery affection that the other books had the lack of overt attraction was one of the reasons I absolutely LOVED LOVED LOVED Lord Vaughn as a hero.

I like my literary heroes dark, brooding, conflicted, excessively arrogant, tormented, passionate, sarcastic, cynical, and haughty almost to a fault: so in essence….with baggage (I’m a sucker for a good gothic/Byronic hero) which Lord Vaughn has in copious amounts!

There is something incredibly sexy and irresistible about a man that you never really know where you stand with him….and that is precisely the problem Mary has….can she trust Lord Vaughn?

The elusive (and unknown) Black Tulip is still on the loose in England, threatening to overthrow the monarchy and Lord Vaughn’s close connection to the Marquise de Montval puts him at the top of the suspect list.

The counter flowery operative, the Pink Carnation, hopes to unmask the Black Tulip and the Tulip’s syndicate for good but in order to do that, the Carnation needs Vaughn’s help and the help of a raven haired, ruthless young lady—Mary Alsworthy.

Having a reputation as a manipulating temptress, Mary is fiery, fierce, unyielding, fearless, and ruthless….she is equally as proud and autocratic as Vaughn. She makes no apologies for who she is and she does what she needs to….to the public she probably seems like she is cool, heartless, and manipulative….she is the bitch you love to hate much like Scarlett O’Hara.

But there is nothing I love more than an unapologetic woman….I admire Mary and of all the heroines I think I am most like her. While I can easily identify with Letty (the level headed responsible, dutiful heroine) underneath it all, I am most like Mary.

Mary’s hopes of eloping with Lord Pinchingdale were ruined when Letty uncovered their plan…now alone with no prospects and her best chance at independence now married to her sister, Mary faces a third season ‘on the shelf’ with Letty and Lord Pinchingdale financing her debutant season.

When Lord Vaughn propositions her to help track down the Black Tulip, he promises financial independence in exchange for her being bait for the Tulip….Mary cannot refuse even if that means selling her soul, compromising herself, and ruining her chances of a proper marriage match she does it without question: she could care less what people think of her….she cannot and will not allow herself the shame of her younger, frumpy sister and ex-would-be-husband financing her season.

Lord Vaughn recognizes the strength and determination in Mary and he can’t help but be attracted to a woman who is entirely unyielding, autocratic, and self-serving. She is a woman who can match him wit for wit, strength for strength, will for will. She is his equal not his inferior.

Together Lord Vaughn and Mary must bait the Tulip and save the crown from a murderous attack. But when long buried secrets from Vaughn’s past being surfacing at an alarming rate, we have to wonder….could Vaughn be a double agent? Could he really be the Tulip after all? Mary and Vaughn are both playing with fire and courting danger in more ways than one.

Some reviews have said they didn’t care for the Crimson Rose and didn’t buy Vaughn and Mary’s romance especially with Vaughn being cast as the villain in the previous books and Mary the wanton temptress. I personally felt their romance entirely appropriate, though I expected more elicit encounters considering the characters–I liked that Willig made their relationship more mature and intelligent….it’s rare to see two people so perfectly matched in personality and love, even in literature. I felt like their love was believable and the most ‘real’ of any of the characters in the series.

For me it’s the combination between Vaughn and Mary that makes the series…. they both don’t claim to be heroes. They acknowledge that they are self-motivated and everyone believes that of them including readers, they never try to be something they are not.

I admire Willig for having the courage and allowing her characters to remain true to themselves and true to their portrayal in previous books. That alone preserved the integrity of the series for me. She could easily have explained away why Vaughn and Mary were the way they were and then made them into the traditional ‘happily ever after’ characters of previous books but she didn’t and I like that.

I’m not sure I would have been convinced enough to like Vaughn and Mary and believe their story/romance if Willig had done otherwise or if she had made the book full of elicit encounters….so bravo!

The only fault I had with the book was Vaughn’s character is now done. It doesn’t seem like he will continue to be a major player in the future books and it’s too bad because his wit and devil-may-care attitude were so much fun. His mystique is gone since all of his secrets have now been revealed….or have they?

Like everyone, I love escaping into the fairytale world of knight in shining armor and true love but sometimes it’s nice to have a changeling, it reminds us that even in the fictional literary world even true love can be flawed and still work out as a happy ending!

I thought I should also note, I am reading this series (at least the series in part) for the Regency & Victorian Reads Challenge over at the Royal Review’s blog. I am REALLY happy I picked this series because it is undeniably amazing! I literally find myself laughing so hard I’m crying at times….it’s funny, rich with history, full of quirky action and comedy….all mixed with a spot of dalliance making it just my cup of tea

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: The Seduction of the Crimson Rose (Pink Carnation #4) by Lauren Willig

  • Hardcover, 385 pages
  • Published January 31st 2008 by Dutton Adult
  • ISBN 0525950338

This book counts toward: Regency & Victorian Reading Challenge

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

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

Memorable lines/quotes:

A woman scorned had a certain grandeur about it; a woman forgotten was merely pathetic (26)

Alack when once our grace we have forgot nothing goes right we would and we would not (42) (also from Shakespeare’s play Measure for Measure IV, iv)

Pledged first in wine then in blood and now in ashes (369)
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6 Comments

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