Lauren Willig’s The Garden Intrigue is the ninth book in the League of the Pink Carnation series. I recently came back to this series after getting stalled on book six, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily. In the end I decided to skip The Betrayal of the Blood Lily as the plot did not appeal to me at all and move on in this fun, historical series.
In The Garden of Intrigue we once again return to the dual narratives of Eloise, the modern day scholar, and the subjects of her thesis, the spies that make up the League of the elusive Pink Carnation. In this volume we head over to France and visit Napoleon’s court. In this court serves poet, Augustus Whittlesby. Augustus is a horrendous and cliched poet, complete with billowy sleeves and too tight pants. His most vocal critic is the young widow, Emma Morris Delagardie, who married a Frenchman and was cut off from her family. Emma’s husband died four years previous and she’s now feeling a lit lost at sea; but it certainly doesn’t stop her from poking fun at Augustus. Unbeknownst to Emma, Augustus is more than a billowy shirt, he’s actually a British spy working with Jane, the Pink Carnation.
When Augustus catches wind of a mysterious device in Napoleon’s hands, he knows that he must get access to house party where the new technology will be reportedly tested. Emma, as a close friend to the Bonaparte family, has been asked to write a short play for the house party and Augustus takes advantage of that to secure his own invitation. What Augustus does not count on is learning that Emma is more than the facade she presents to the wider world.
In addition to this historical intrigue, we also have the continuation of Eloise Kelly and Colin Selwick’s romance. In this installment a film crew has invaded Selwick Hall and Eloise has to face the fact that her fellowship has run its course and she has to go back to the States. Once again, I wish readers were given a longer look at the Eloise and Colin relationship drama – Eloise is a great character and I would love to hear more from her point of view. I would love it if Willig devoted an entire novel to Eloise and Colin, but alas I have no control over that.
Overall, I really enjoyed returning to this series, and while I may feel a touch guilty for skipping a book, I’m glad that I could move on without feeling like I was missing an integral part of the series as a whole.
One thing I have to mention with this series is the romance aspect. Initially, I loved that Willig was incorporating more of a historical romance in a more in-depth novel; however, I have noticed that with each subsequent book the romance has gotten lighter and lighter and if I were to complain about anything, that would be it. I loved that the earlier books in the series were heavier on the romance side of things and I didn’t really see why this had to change; that said, I think this series would then appeal to readers outside of the historical romance genre.
At any rate, I’m happy to have caught up on the series since the next installment comes out in August 2013 – we get the ferocious Miss Gwen’s story next!