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For this month's Book Review Club, I'm technically reviewing The Betrayal of the Blood Lily by Lauren Willlig, but in reality, I'm going to cover the whole Pink Carnation series. Don't worry--just the highlights.
There are now six books to the Pink Carnation series--all of them with lovely, unique, rather entrancing covers, and I have read them all, since the very beginning. The tag line on Lauren Willig's website reads, "Intrigue. Espionage. Romance. Swordplay. Comedy." And that pretty well sums things up. The series records the secret history of a series of flower-named spies working in early nineteenth century England, France...and now, with The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, India. But really that's just part of the story, because these secrets are being discovered in real-time by a Harvard grad student living in England, dating a descendant of one of these very spies. So the stories are part romance, part action/adventure, part chick-lit, and part historical fiction, with Willig wielding her English history degree very, very well. Not to mention her flair for the witty one-liner.
In The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, a rather bitter Penelope, Lady Frederick Staines has just arrived in India with her husband, who is to be the Special Envoy to the Court of Hyderabad, basically a spy for Lord Wellesley, the Governor General. While her husband hunts and plays cards, Penelope finds herself spending her time with Captain Alex Reid, trying to piece together if he might be involved in the rumored plots inciting the locals to rise against the British.
When she finds her husband has taken a mistress (and flaunting her), she tries, unsuccessfully, to seduce Captain Reid. Her husband then goes off on a hunting trip in a region that is evidently central to the rumored plots, and so Penelope and Captain Reid covertly follow...and engage in a spot of adultery. I don't want to give away more than that, so suffice it to say that, like any good novel with a romance at its core, it all works out well in the end. Just like I like it.
This was not my favorite in the series, mostly because I don't like to have to work too hard when reading a book, and this book took a lot of concentration as Willig included copious details about the state of the British Empire in India in the early nineteenth century. In fact, if you read the Author's Note at the end, a significant portion of the book was based on historical fact. Also...Penelope was not my favorite heroine. Let's just say she had a few personal issues to work out, which, at the end, she did. That said, it was definitely an enjoyable read, and I would recommend it on its own merit, as well as part of the immensely enjoyable Pink Carnation series.