Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Secret History of the Pink Carnation - Lauren Willig

This week I would like to talk about Lauren Willig’s Secret History of the Pink Carnation series. This is a series of five books (currently, the sixth book is set to come out in January). I originally found this book at an everything-you-can-fit-in-a-paper-sack-for-$8 sale and it was one of the best things that I got in the deal (though several of them have been good buys –and those that weren’t got put up on Paperback Swap).

It’s pretty interesting in its storytelling format because in each book there are two storylines. The first storyline is a continuing storyline throughout the series. It’s a modern story told in the first person perspective of Eloise, a grad student who is doing her doctoral dissertation in England on spies during the French Revolution and the Regency period in England. There’s a great tone to Eloise’s voice, and she feels like a real person with real struggles. It’s great to get the little pieces of her story throughout each book, though sometimes you want to hear more and more about Eloise (especially the farther along the story goes).

The other parts of the books are stories from the spies that Eloise is studying. They’re third person accounts that are mainly from the heroine’s point of view, though there are portions that are from that of the hero. They are told with great voices and the characters are so wonderful. They’re creative and the main characters are all unique from one another (though some of the periphery characters—members of the ton—can blend together). Their stories can be quite exhilarating, with carriage chases and fights and villains and love scenes from time to time (definitely not books for those who are easily embarrassed by romance—and by romance I mean sex). Each novel covers a different set of characters, though they’re all popping up in the other books as well (e.g. Richard, the hero of the first book The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, is the brother of the heroine of The Masque of the Black Tulip, Henrietta, and the best friend of the hero, Miles).

With each book that is released I find myself waiting with bated breath for the next one.

Lauren Willig is an author that I think pushes the boundaries of what is considered “chick lit.” While one aspect of traditional chick lit is that it has a contemporary setting, Willig’s books are written mostly from a Regency England setting. I think this is the only thing that keeps Willig from firmly grasping the “chick lit” descriptor. The portions of the book that are written from the first person from the perspective of the modern Eloise quite solidly fall within the chick lit description, it’s the main portions of the book that are set in the past that fall more into the romance category. As the genre of Chick Lit continues to evolve (because it is a fairly young genre, around 15 years by most reckonings) I think that eventually a category of “Historical Chick Lit” will arise (though some feel that it already has) Willig will be a staple of the category.

The books are:
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
The Masque of the Black Tulip
The Deception of the Emerald Ring
The Seduction of the Crimson Rose
The Temptation of the Night Jasmine
The Betrayal of the Blood Lily
(Coming January 2010)

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