Monday, May 21, 2012
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
The title: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
The authors: Lauren Willig
Publication: Penguin, 2005
Got it from: Library booksale, 2008
Happy Victoria Day, everyone! I've spent all weekend in the garden, so no surprises that I have flowers on the brain. Naturally I also read The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. It's based on the idea that the Scarlet Pimpernel was real, and that he later spawned a ring of British spies with flowers for their names. The story follows Amy Balcourt, a young half-French girl who escaped from the terror and grew up wanting to avenge her father's death by joining the League of the Purple Gentian, a sort of spin-off spy of the Pimpernel's. On her way to France Amy meets Richard Selwick, the Gentian's real-life alter ego who is pretending to be a dull archaeologist working for Napoleon. Naturally, there is bickering and romance. Overarching the whole story is the 21st century scholar, Eloise, who's studying the Pink Carnation and butts heads with the Gentian's descendant Colin Selwick. (Of course there won't be any romance there. Of course not).
Have I mentioned how much I love the whole superhero-in-disguise thing, where the woman is in love with the superhero but has a feud going with his true self? Love, love, love it. Way back when I was child, this was the premise of my favourite show of the time, Lois and Clark: The Adventures of Superman. Also in Batman Forever, which everybody thinks is a crappy Batman but I disagree because it's all about how Chase Meridian falls for Batman but is all meh about Bruce Wayne (at least at first). And of course, the origin of the whole trope, the Scarlet Pimpernel, as best embodied in the Anthony Andrews/Jane Seymour movie, which you absolutely must see. I even love stories of highwaymen that invoke this trope, even though they're technically more bad guys than superheroes.
Which is to say that my love of superheroes/superspies kind of taints my reading of this story to err on the side of giddy joy. The middle, where the action picks up, is particularly excellent. Oh, it's silly good fun of course. (And how jealous am I that the author was only twenty-six when she wrote this? VERY JEALOUS.) I figured out who the Pink Carnation was about twenty pages in, and there's not a ton of surprises. But I just can't get tired of the "damnit I am a superhero and I can't fall in love with this annoying woman but I am so attracted to her" plot. It's not gonna happen.