The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig [book review]

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation coverThe Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig 
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Release Date: December 27th 2006
Publisher: New American Library
Series: Pink Carnation #1

Goodreads description: Deciding that true romantic heroes are a thing of the past, Eloise Kelly, an intelligent American who always manages to wear her Jimmy Choo suede boots on the day it rains, leaves Harvard’s Widener Library bound for England to finish her dissertation on the dashing pair of spies the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. What she discovers is something the finest historians have missed: a secret history that begins with a letter dated 1803. Eloise has found the secret history of the Pink Carnation the most elusive spy of all time, the spy who single-handedly saved England from Napoleon’s invasion.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, a wildly imaginative and highly adventurous debut, opens with the story of a modern-day heroine but soon becomes a book within a book. Eloise Kelly settles in to read the secret history hoping to unmask the Pink Carnation’s identity, but before she can make this discovery, she uncovers a passionate romance within the pages of the secret history that almost threw off the course of world events. How did the Pink Carnation save England? What became of the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian? And will Eloise Kelly find a hero of her own?

I’ve been wanting to read The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and the series for a few years and it’s been an off and on interest that I never got to. I saw it at the library when I was picking out books for Bout of Books and immediately picked it up! I had forgotten/confused the premise a little, I knew it had to do with secrets (ha), spies, and history but I think I merged it with something else, too.

Eloise is a Harvard grad student in London researching spies in wars between England and France around and after the French Revolution. The Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian are well-known examples but the Pink Carnation is still a mystery. The former two were exposed and written about at length, but nobody ever named the Pink Carnation. In Eloise’s eyes, the Pink Carnation was the best of them all and the most romantic. She seeks the mystery behind the mask and hopes to share it with the world.

I love history and I think it has a lot to do with how nosy I am. I like knowing people’s business and history is all about the lives of others. There were people in the past that did important things that affect us today and they had friends and loves and pets and houses and I need to know about them all! Didn’t they know people in the future would need to know about their life? I mean, seriously! Eloise’s interest in a specific figure in history wasn’t an exact situation I’ve been through but I could definitely understand her drive. She’s been through a lame break up and there’s a dashing masked man she can get to know. The only problem (besides him not being alive) is that nobody knows his true identity. She names her paper something more vague and pretends to research all of the spies at the time and begins inquiring with the descendants of known spies families. She hits some blocks and then finds the break she needs and reads the letters about Amy, a young woman who left France before the Revolution and Richard, the Purple Gentian.

I liked that all the information Eloise read in the letters were interpreted into a story instead of the story being epistolary. I don’t mind letters in books but I’m not a huge fan of books that are written only in letter form. There were some things that made me wonder how it was put together and what must have been included in letters. The history part of the story is in third person so you get to see inside their heads and it’s usually Richard or Amy. There are some things, like love scenes, that I wasn’t sure how they would have been written about in detail but maybe they didn’t mind sharing things like that, I don’t know. I’m sure people did write about physical happenings sometimes, so perhaps it all fits but I’m not completely sold. I enjoyed the way it was written, but there were some things that didn’t seem like they would have been easily translated from letters.

I enjoyed that the story incorporates Eloise and the modern-day story of her discovery and feelings along with the actual accounts of the Pink Carnation. I wasn’t sure going in how it would work out, but Willig did it well. It wasn’t exactly balanced, the story is more about Eloise’s discovery of the Pink Carnation so there’s more about that story than Eloise’s own story. Eloise’s part is told in first person and it was nice to get into her personal and quirky thoughts. It was a little weird to flip between first and third sometimes, but it doesn’t change often enough to be a huge problem. I liked both stories and every time it switched to one I was reluctant to let go of the story I was currently reading!

The story of the Pink Carnation isn’t exactly thrilling but I did find it enjoyable. The romance is similar to most others, which doesn’t make it bad. Amy and Richard start out bickering and there are obstacles but it is a pretty basic situation. There were some amusing side characters like Richard’s mother and some of his colleagues in masked business. The mystery aspect was not exciting for me. There are a few twists, but nothing is surprising. Some things in the story are more shocking to Eloise because of her preconceived views of the story as a whole, and her reaction to the story was entertaining.

I did like Eloise and enjoyed her story more than I expected to. It seemed funny to me that I like the modern part of the story so much. Eloise was enthusiastic and really cared about her subject of study. I enjoyed her interactions with Colin, the surly descendant of the Purple Gentian and Arabella, his aunt. There is definitely chemistry between Eloise and Colin along with antagonism, which is great. I’ve already read the second book so I know Eloise’s story and interactions with Colin continue in the next book but I’m guessing the modern story is strung out to keep you interested. I am, and I’m impatient!

3 star rating

I enjoyed The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, but I don’t think it was amazing. The premise is interesting and characters are okay, but the mystery and plot fails to wow. I’m glad I read it and do plan to continue the series. Thankfully my library has e-copies of most of them (or maybe all, I’m not even sure how many there are!). I have already read the second book in the series and I actually think I enjoyed it more. I’ll read the rest of the series for as long as I’m interested. I probably won’t review each book in the series, but I might do a series/wrap-up sort of post at some point. I would recommend The Secret History of the Pink Carnation if you like: romance, spies, and silliness. 

Check out Lauren Willig‘s website!

Review: The Break-Up Psychic by Emily Hemmer

The Break-Up Psychic coverThe Break-Up Psychic by Emily Hemmer
Goodreads | Amazon | Smashwords
Release Date: May 28th 2013
Publisher: Emily Hemmer
Series: Dangerously Dimpled #1

Goodreads description: Ellie has a bad habit of picking the wrong man; a cheating ex-boyfriend, a mild-mannered foot fetishist, and let’s not forget about the hillbilly with the impolite hard-on. But when Sam James, the oh-so-hot bad boy Ellie has sworn to stay away from, keeps turning up like a bad penny, she’s going to need more than her psychic senses to see what’s coming her way

The Break-Up Psychic sounded kind of cute when I read the description, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Sometimes you’re just in the mood for a certain thing and when you read a description it’s like “oh, that’s it!” In my opinion, the title doesn’t fit because there’s no psychic activity going on, it’s more like intuition. I guess psychic sounds better!

Ellie is fun and flawed. She’s got daddy issues that affects her relationship intuition and ability to trust. She is very suspicious and always listening for “psychic” powers to warn her that a guy isn’t on the level. She can “spot a breakup coming days, even weeks ahead of time” — it’s a feeling. Lately, she’s been getting that feeling about Tim, her current boyfriend. He hasn’t done anything demonstrably terrible but he’s been buying a lot of flowers and lacks interest in foreplay, sending red flags.   

Unfortunately for Ellie, the signs are accurate, and she walks in on a rather heated er, interaction between Tim and the neighbor. Ellie is quick to call it quits but Tim wants another shot. The idiot mansplains that her suspicions drove him away. According to him, he made a mistake, but it was her lack of trust and paranoia that pushed him towards another woman  Wrong is wrong, but trust is an important part of any relationship. Ellie seems to fling her suspicions at guys, which causes problems. Obviously, being overly suspicious doesn’t make it okay for anyone to cheat, there are other ways to deal with the problem!

Ellie is jaded but she still wants a happily ever after, who doesn’t? She thinks going for a different kind of guy might be the answer. No more bad boys, just stable and boring guys. That should be easy, right? Ha! Soon after vowing to take a different path, she meets bad boy, Sam James. People warn her not to get involved with this guy. She tries to stay away from him, but after she meets him she starts seeing him everywhere. Plus, he is really hot so even though she made a vow, she doesn’t really want to stay away. BUT, she doesn’t know if she can trust him.

There were some things that bugged me: 

  • It wasn’t exactly instalove, but it was quick. I know that sometimes people fall in love fast and sometimes that works out. It wasn’t completely unbelievable in this story, but it’s still a little annoying.
  • One thing it seems like most romance books have is a “if you want me to stop, I need to know right now,” line. This always bugs me because sure, it’s uncomfortable if guys are ready and have to stop but who cares? If at any point during any kind of interaction a person decides they need to stop, it’s time to stop! So maybe the guys should say something like “It would be really nice to know if you want to stop now, but if at any point you need or want to stop, let me know. I’m a human being and I respect you so if you need to stop, it will be fine.” I know the characters aren’t trying to be jerks, but there’s always time to stop, guy who was enamored with her from the beginning!

Things I enjoyed:

  • Hilarious bad dates
  • Funny moments in general
  • Ellie has some great friends that look out for her.
  • Seriously steamy love scenes
  • Ellie makes realistic mistakes and works through her issues
  • I actually really liked that Ellie didn’t have a negative body image. She seems pretty confident about her body and happy with herself. I don’t mind reading about people with confidence issues or body image problems (and I can relate to them) but it was a nice change.

There was some cheesiness but it is a romance novel so that’s pretty much a given. I’d recommend it to someone wanting a hot, sweet, and funny contemporary read! Give a new author a shot!

4 star rating

Check out Emily Hemmer’s website and twitter, and she’s hosting a giveaway on Goodreads!

Armchair BEA: Development and Genre Fiction

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Thanks to Nina at ninareads.com for the graphic! You can find out more about the awesome online conference Armchair BEA at armchairbea.com!

I always feel late with post that have link-ups because so many people have already done them! I meant to do this earlier, but I was having computer issues.

Development

I’m a new blogger, so I have a lot of development and improvement to work on. I would definitely like to become a part of the community and work with other bloggers. So far I’ve done some memes and commented on other blogs. I would like to have a self-hosted blog at some point. I’m just going to take things as they come and try to be a better blogger!

Genre Fiction

I love genre fiction! I love any book with a good story and characters I can really care about. When I was younger, I really branched out and tried a lot of different genres. As a teenager, I read Robin McKinleyStephen King, Agatha Christie and Anne McCaffrey. When I got into college, I started trying out more romance. I love Lisa Kleypas and Julia Quinn! Regency Romance books are fun, even when they’re infuriating. I like contemporary romance and paranomal stories, too. I’m not sure I have ever met a genre I didn’t like.

My favorite genre lately is probably fantasy. I really love George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. He’s created a world with so many characters, and all of them are so important. They’re in a fantasy setting, but they deal with realistic problems and you can relate to their feelings. It’s also impressive how many characters I’ve changed my opinions about. There were some characters I absolutely hated in the beginning, and now they’ve become some of my favorite characters. When you start out hating a character but an author shows you what they are like and how they feel and you find yourself loving them, that is just good writing.

I have been a bit hooked on the fantasy genre lately. I’ve also been reading the Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb. I’m on the last book and I’m taking a break because I got a little too invested. I’m also taking a break from The Name of the Wind, which is the first book in The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. I read Sabriel by Garth Nix and need to finish the rest of the Abhorsen trilogy.

I read genre fiction because I love a variety of worlds and characters. I have never been particular about genres. If a story is engaging and enjoyable, I will read it. I read for enjoyment and an escape, and magic worlds with dragons, a futuristic story in space, and ballgowns and romance are all enjoyable to me.

  I’m not sure why genre fiction books don’t get as much respect. If people can connect to a story, I think that should be enough.

I feel like I probably rambled. Hopefully it makes enough sense! I’m excited to read other posts about development and genre fiction! Maybe I can pick up some recommendations!