Lauren Willig has taken us to Paris, back to London, to Ireland, back to London, the English countryside at Christmas, to India, back to Girdings for a parallel story, and back to Paris with her Pink Carnation series. Dizzy yet?
We stay in Paris for Garden Intrigue and follow terrible-poet-and-sometime-spy Augustus Whittlesby as he carries out the Pink Carnation's directives.
Namely: Napoleon has a craft that can travel underwater.
Say what?? Yes, it is rumored that Napoleon has a submarine.
Augustus is tasked with obtaining much needed information about a device that could be devastating to the security of England. Enter one Emma Morris Delgardie. The widowed American ex-pat (oh, that infant nation bothering the mother country) regularly criticises his poetry and is best friends with Hortense Bonaparte nee de Beauharnais. Emma is writing a masque for the entertainment at Malmaison where the device is to be unveiled. Augustus offers his help with the masque and sparks fly...but not in the direction we, the readers, assume they will (the romance finally comes along as expected after taking an extended walk through self-examination).
(view spoiler)One thing that I really quite liked about this book is that Jane pretty much pissed me off (as oxymoronic as that statement sounds). Jane, in her cool, nothing-touches-my-heart persona of the Pink Carnation, squashed poor Whittlesby flat after his sincere declaration of love and then acted like she was doing everyone a favor. It's the first time she's depicted as other than a sweet, proper cousin or master spy. Jane has developed an ego and it gives her more depth, even though it isn't flattering. I hope this is a lead up to knock her off-kilter in a future book.
I also, for the first time, enjoyed Colin and Eloise's framing story this time out. They've always been background for me, the relationship echoing what goes on in the spy story, and never seemed to move forward on their own (over nine books, well, eight since they didn't feature in The Mischief of the Mistletoe, their story has progressed from October 2003 to May 2004). Eloise's dilemma over staying for the boy vs leaving for her career is a very real one and it pulled the relationship forward.
While I liked Emma, she didn't top Letty and Arabella in the heroine rankings (she's probably duking it out with Mary or Laura - after Caroline Murat, Lady Vaughn won't scare her). Augustus, on the other hand, doesn't fare so well in the hero ranking. After Geoff, Miles, Turnip, Vaughn, Richard and Andre (tied), and Alex, the only hero he tops is Robert the Duke of Dovedale (who still strikes me as a wet blanket, sorry). Augustus is probably tied with Alex. He has very tough competition.