The Secret History of the Pink Carnation : Pink Carnation

  • by Lauren Willig
  • Narrated by Kate Reading
  • Series: Pink Carnation
  • 13 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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?


What the Critics Say

"Willig's story is a decidedly delightful romp." (Booklist)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


The worst of it is this: if I am to be given lengthy descriptions of sex play, it had better be original and erotic or possibly comic... or even realistic - (God knows "real sex" is interesting enough to warrant an HBO series of the same name). I felt embarrassed listening to these hackneyed scenes, because I felt as if I was eavesdropping on the writer's own rather immature fantasies, instead of being immersed in a world of idiosynchratic and characters. Literally (and literarily) embarrassed, I felt as if I was learning something about the writer's inner life that I was not meant to see. A Jackie Collins meets Barbara Cartland, masquerading as a serious, albeit playful, first novel. Herein lies the problem. Had it been marketed appropriately, I would not have had false expectations. For all it's apparent "naughtiness", the book was strangely antiseptic... None of the dirt and grit of the period - or much to ground it in a different time. In this way it was like a regency romance written during the 50's. Quite a few loose ends left loose as well. I was disappointed enough to take the time to write this critical review, because I think that the writer's underlying idea has great promise. She had a fairly real inner dialogue going for the main male character, and I applaud the notion that people are people in whatever time they live. I like Anais Nin's erotic fiction - it is really unusual: base and erotic at the same time - and some of this is directly from her life (key point: her life, not only - or even in spite of- her fantasies). And I like "Fanny", by Erica Jong: the point being that this criticsim is nothing to do with being offended by sex. To sum it up clearly, the words :"sheath", "scabard" and "Adonis" were actually used, in all seriousness, in a sexual context! Need I say more? Oh, well one more thing: the narrator was great...(which is why I give it 3 stars).
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- Susan-Jane

Anachronisms, ahoy!

Given the author's background - a Ph.D. in history - I expected something showing a powerful knowledge of the period. This book gives the impression she did her "research" by perusing a few Regency romance novels.

The author commits anachronism after anachronism, inaccuracy after inaccuracy as her historical female lead, a misplaced Valley girl with barely enough brains to power a hamster, plays spy in 1803 Paris. The worst errors occur with the characters on board a packet ship -- where they are berthed in a spacious room (on a packet?!?) complete with windows (though passengers were more often stowed below the water line), where the entire crew goes to sleep at night - in a storm, no less (what, did they put the ship in "park"?), while the male and female leads flirt on deck. Worse, on the journey home, the male lead sends a ship's crew away, replacing them with his own household staff. As though sailing a full-rigged ship across the English Channel is like schlepping a delivery van across town. One might think the author doesn't know her topsail from her mizzenmast, and hopes her readers won't notice.

There are many smaller errors sprinkled throughout, from mentions of "blouses" (a term applied originally to military jackets, not female garments), slips, and the male lead's thought that cavemen had the right idea -- a very 20th century cartoonish idea.

The female characters are all drawn from modern models and are entirely out of place for the period. French characters both modern and historical are all hollow negative stereotypes, while the male English characters are mostly heroic caricatures.

The modern framing device is superfluous, and as for the romance scenes, they turn embarrassing in their gory detail, while one is altogether too public.

Lastly, I do wish the author had chosen some other flower than a pink carnation. Now I have the line from Don McLean's "American Pie" stuck in my head: "...with a pink carnation and a pick-up truck..."
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- Kestrel

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-28-2005
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio