The History of the Pink Carnation

I admit it. I like a little bit of fluffy reading every now and then... And I'm a sucker for the Scarlet Pimpernel, so when The History of the Pink Carnation crossed my path, I simply had to read it. It's one of those romantic historical novels that follows two stories... the modern-day academic girl is looking for love (and affirmation in her chosen career field) and stumbles across a truly epic love story in a dusty box that has all the staples: secret identities, the French Revolution, swordplay, corsets and petticoats.
The one thing I wasn't prepared for was just how steamy things get. Perhaps I've read too much Austen, but I felt myself go crimson at a particular scene that featured a young lady's first encounter with a gentleman's hands under her petticoats... while they were being ferried across a river in a boat. I mean really!

In any case, here's the summary from the publisher:
Nothing ever goes right for Eloise. The day she wears her new suede boots, it rains. When the subway stops short, she's the one thrown into some stranger's lap. And she's had her share of misfortune in the way of love. So, after deciding that romantic heroes must be a thing of the past, Eloise is ready for a fresh start.
Setting off for England, Eloise is determined to finish her dissertation on two spies, the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. But what she discovers is something historians have missed: the secret history of the Pink Carnation-the most elusive spy of all time. As she works to unmask this obscure spy, Eloise has more and more questions. Like, how did the Pink Carnation save England from Napoleon? What became of the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian? And will Eloise Kelly escape her bad luck and find a living, breathing hero of her own?
It's an amusing little read, but aside from the lead characters, no one's really quite fleshed out. (And even then, neither heroine is really delightful.) Everyone's silly and it's certainly not the Pimpernel, but if you've got a rainy weekend and you want chick lit with a little more of a literary side, then here's what you've been looking for.


jadis said...

i'll admit...i'm a little disappointed that after your description of what was CLEARLY the best part of the book, you chose to give us an excerpt of ... the publisher summary.


scatteredpaper said...

Just for you jadis... Just for you.

A selection from The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig. Penguin Books 2006.

They landed with a thud on the floor next to the bench, Amy sprawled on top of Richard. The boat careened back and forth as though they were on the high seas in a midwinter tempest, rather than on the Seine on a clear spring night. Since Amy was perched on his rib cage, Richard was having somewhat more difficulty breathing than she was. But, given the view afforded by her gaping bodice, Richard had no inclination to complain.
Little trickles of water frothed up over the edge of the boat, and the boatman spat a curse. "Amants!" He made the word lovers sound like the rankest of insults.
"Amy, amas, amants..." Richard chuckled, holding a squirming Amy by the hips as she tried to wiggle off of him.
"Don't you mean, amo, amas, amat?" Amy giggled the conjugation of the Latin verb "to love."
"I like my version better," murmured Richard, nipping her ear.
Amy pushed at the Purple Gentian's chest with both hands, as she attempted to lever herself up. The boat rocked dangerously.
"I think you'd better stay here," he whispered, running a hand under her tumbled skirts to capture an ankle. "It's safer."
"For whom?" gasped Amy, as the Purple Gentian's hand rose higher, sliding from her boot-top, following her silk stocking up along the curve of her calf and knee, pauing to toy with the ribbons of her garter. Amy jumped as his fingers brushed along the bare skin of her thigh.
"For the boatman, of course," The Gentian grinned. "Less chance of us capsizing."
"Oh. I don't know if that's-" began Amy, only it came out as, "Iwa wo wo iwa," because the Purple Gentian made up for the shortcomings in his argument by twining his free hand in Amy's hair and making sure Amy couldn't argue back.
Long moments later, he grinned at a breathless Amy. "I thought you'd see it my way."
All Amy could see were stars, hundreds of stars, thousands of stars, dancing along the backs of her eyelids as he pulled her mouth back down to his, his lips moving on hers as velvet soft as the dark night. Their tongues twined together, warm and sweet. Amy swam in a dizzying wine-dark sea of sensation as the Purple Gentian's lips moved on hers and his knowing fingers teased the soft skin of her thigh. Was the boat swaying or was she? Blindly, she slid her hands up under the Gentian's shirt, the ribbed muscles of his chest the only thing solid and sure in a wildly swaying universe. A dusting of hair tickled her fingertips.
Sensation after sensation assaulted Amy, the brush of hair across her palms and the moist thrust of the Gentian's tongue. The Gentian's fingers rubbed up against the fabric of her linen drawers, creating an odd tension that made Amy wiggle and arch toward him. The Gentian released her mouth and lifted his head to capture a ripe pink nipple in his lips. Amy drew back in surprise, but the Gentian refused to be dislodged, sucking and licking and tugging, until the fingers she had raised to his head to try to push him away were twined in the hair under his hood, pulling his mouth closer.
"Oh," she gasped. The Gentian didn't reply; his mouth was full.
An even louder "oh!" escaped her as the Gentian's fingers discovered the slit in her drawers and slid up into her liquid warmth, stroking, searching....Amy cried out as a tremor of pleasure shot through her. Without withdrawing his intimate touch, the Gentian rolled them over so that she lay beneath him, blinking up at him with eyes dark with desire.
"I thought you'd like that," the Gentian murmured against her lips, before sliding his tongue into her ready mouth.
Moving her hips in restless circles against his fingers, Amy made wordlessly clear to him how much she liked it. She clutched at his shoulders as shivers ran through her that weren't shivers at all but little lightning jolts of intense pleasure. And then the storm itself broke, dispelling all the tension in her body as torrents of indescribable feeling thundered through her. It swept through her like a shower of shooting stars, touching every nerve in her body with celestial fire.
It was the most wonderful night of her life.
It was about to become the most awful night of his.

jadis said...

*blushes furiously*

mmmm i might have to have you read to me more often...