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The Sirens of Suspense



The Orchid Affair, the eighth installment of the Pink Carnation series, heralds the return to Napoleonic France for the first time since The Secret History of The Pink Carnation. Recent Selwick spy school graduate Laura Grey has been assigned to Paris by the Pink Carnation where she will serve as governess to the two children of Andre Jaouen, Bonaparte’s minister of police. Jouen, cold and driven, works with the dastardly inspector Gaston Delaroche, whose passion for torture is second only to his desire to thwart the restoration of royal blood to the throne. At first, Grey seems to be the typical Regency governess, eminently worthy of her bland name. However, as we begin to catch glimpses of the past and character buried deep beneath their respective rôles, neither Jaouen nor Grey are at all what they appear. Soon, they are forced to examine their loyalties and their futures when they must flee France, traveling the countryside with a troupe of actors. In Orchid, Willig also returns to the parallel contemporary story of Eloise Kelly, who is researching her doctoral thesis on British spies during the Napoleonic Wars, and her relationship with Colin Selwick, descendant of the Purple Gentian, which readers may have missed in The Mischief of the Mistletoe. We find Eloise and Colin visiting Paris, not for a romantic getaway but as a result of having been summoned by Colin’s mother — with perhaps a side of research for Eloise. Colin’s complex family relationships put Eloise’s own to test . . . but how could anything go too far wrong in the City of Love?

An anything but boring past combined with a quick wit and spine of steel make Grey one of Willig’s strongest heroines, and perhaps the most relatable. She and Jaouen seamlessly blend the maturity of their age — they are both in their thirties, older than Willig’s previous protagonists — and situation with the larger than life adventures they embark upon. The depth of these characters as well as Willig’s brilliant description of a benumbed yet threatening post-terror Paris make The Orchid Affair lend exceptional realism to a thoroughly entertaining read.

Willig doesn’t fail to stun with each installment, and continues to perfect her craft with intricate plotting, wonderful characters, and volumes of research. I can’t wait to meet more of the Carnation “family” — she can’t write fast enough for me — but, I hope someday we’ll have the opportunity to follow up with characters from earlier in series (in more than just cameo appearances). Of course, loyal Willig readers may recognize this request as what it is: a thinly veiled plea for more Lord Vaughn.

If you enjoy Lauren Willig, I also recommend: Tasha Alexander, Deanna Reybourn

This review originally posted on The Poisoned Pen blog, read it and comment here:–the-orchid-affair/

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