The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, a wildly imaginative and highly adventurous debut, opens with the story of a modern-day heroine but soon becomes a book within a book. Eloise Kelly settles in to read the secret history hoping to unmask the Pink Carnation's identity, but before she can make this discovery, she uncovers a passionate romance within the pages of the secret history that almost threw off the course of world events. How did the Pink Carnation save England? What became of the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian? And will Eloise Kelly find a hero of her own?
Comment: I got interested in this book because I saw some reviews about the last of the series (currently installment #11) and it was set in my country or part if the action was. I really wanted to read it but I've decided I should begin with the first book so I could have a better idea about the main plot, despite it's been said some titles can be read as standalones. I've purchased this book in September and it is my most recent read.
In this story we meet Eloise Kelly, a student working on her thesis about the Pink Carnation, a spy from the 19th century whose identity is unknown. Eloise travels to England to be closer to her research sources and she attempts to have meeting to descendants from the spies whose identity they do know like the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian, both English lords.
Only one person accepts to welcome Eloise and lets her read a journal written by someone close to both the Purple Gentian and the Pink Carnation. But the friendly older lady's nephew, Colin, isn't as thrilled about her unmasking the spy's identity... can Eloise do her work and be fair at the same time?
Ok, so this sort of summary presentation isn't very correct because if I were to divide the percentage of the book dedicated to the contemporary plot and what really fills up this book's content - the historical section detailing how the Pink carnation came to exist and why - then I'd have to say this book has 20% of its pages about Eloise Kelly's life and reading the journals lent to her and 80% is about the historical part.
Basically there's a contemporary section, very short in development, and a bigger part about the Pink Carnation and the Purple Gentian, set in the past.
Now, I don't mind the historical parts but the blurb in my copy's edition kind of sells me the idea this would be about Eloise studying and finding ways to know more about the spies in the 19th century. Which means I thought I'd be reading about Eloise, her life, her work, things about her. I assumed some historical parts to make us understand better why and how things happened at that time, but I really thought the focus would be contemporary.
Of course I was left a bit disappointed by that. Because in the end, the contemporary part was only a setting up to why are we reading about the historical plot and that's it. I've come to realize the contemporary is rather pointless and why didn't the author stick to it instead of inserting a contemporary part that accomplishes nothing.
I assume those parts will be developed in the following two books in the series (based on the blurbs of those books) but maybe it would have been better to just tell the historical part and that was it.
As for the historical part, is quite interesting, the author added a comical side to the plot and character's actions, which can be fun but that made the plot feel like a caricature of those times and challenges. I understand the idea, the informal writing and the attempt to present us the story in a more funny "voice" but often I'd think it sounded too fake and it wasn't a success.
Overall I did like the writing but I can't say if it was the best choice for the type of story presented. I guess one gets used to it though, but the reality is it took me a long time to read and I admit I was slightly bored here and there.
The characters are interesting. The contemporary characters seemed the most intriguing but sadly there wasn't much development here and I missed that.
The historical characters make this book, especially Amy and Richard. Amy was funny but I didn't warm up to her. She has preconceived ideas about certain things but she acted rather childish and I care much for her, to be honest. I liked her sensible but more practical cousin Jane better. Richard is the hero, I liked him more, in particular his parents and their relationship, he was a good hero but because I didn't really love Amy's behavior, I feel he didn't get such a great deal in the end. Of course, for romance purposes, I liked they got their HEA.
In the end, I felt a bit disappointed by this book's structure, but what I thought I'd get and didn't and overall, the "voice" in the story wasn't the most appealing.
I'm still feeling curious about certain future characters so I think I'll read the 2nd installment and hopefully it will better or I'll be already used to this style.
Nevertheless, it was a pity the contemporary part - that caught my eye after all - was such a small section of the book.