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Literature / Pink Carnation

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Regency espionage comedy-romance series by Lauren Willig. Harvard graduate student Eloise Kelly is in England researching her thesis on Regency spies. Specifically, Sir Percy Blakeney, The Scarlet Pimpernel; Lord Richard Selwick, the Purple Gentian; and the Pink Carnation, whose real name has never been discovered. But Eloise is determined to unmask the Carnation, if the handsome and aloof Colin Selwick will allow her access to the family papers.

In 1803, Amy Balcourt accepts her brother's invitation to Paris. She's spent her life dreaming of joining the Purple Gentian's league, and she's determined to restore the French monarchy, despite the distraction of Lord Richard.

The subsequent novels have followed the adventures of various friends, associates and contacts of the Pink Carnation, all set against the backdrop of The Napoleonic Wars. The series also follows the development of Colin and Eloise's relationship as Eloise continues her research into the Pink Carnation's spy ring.

Titles in the series

  • The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (2005) - Amy Balcourt and Lord Richard Selwick
  • The Masque of the Black Tulip (2005) - Lady Henrietta Selwick and the Hon. Miles Dorrington
  • The Deception of the Emerald Ring (2006) - Laetitia Alsworthy and Geoffrey, Lord Pinchingdale
  • The Seduction of the Crimson Rose (2008) - Mary Alsworthy and Sebastian, Lord Vaughn
  • Ivy and Intrigue: A Very Selwick Christmas - Amy and Richard
  • The Temptation of the Night Jasmine (2009) - Lady Charlotte Lansdowne and Robert Lansdowne, Duke of Dovedale
  • The Betrayal of the Blood Lily (2010) - Penelope Deveraux and Captain Alex Reid
  • The Mischief of the Mistletoe (2010) - Arabella Dempsey and Reginald "Turnip" Fitzhugh
  • Away in a Manger - Arabella and Turnip
  • The Orchid Affair (2011) - Laura Grey and Andre Jaouen
  • The Garden Intrigue (2012) - Emma Morris Delagardie and Augustus Whittlesby
  • The Passion of the Purple Plumeria (2013) - Gwendolyn Meadows and Colonel William Reid
  • The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla (2014) - Sally Fitzhugh and Lucien, Duke of Belliston
  • The Lure of the Moonflower (2015) - Jane Wooliston and Jack Reid

The series provides examples of:

  • Alliterative Name: Percy Ponsonby, Duke of Dovedale, and Serena Selwick
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Richard and Henrietta's parents Lord and Lady Uppington.
  • And This Is for...: "This is for your manners. This is for the scimitar. This is for blind man's buff. And this is for forgetting her name!"
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Letty is one for Mary, especially after she ruins Mary's plans to elope with Geoff.
  • Breakout Character: Turnip
  • Broken Bird: Lucien. Also Penelope, to an extent.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Subverted. Lucien is seen by everyone but Sally as a brooding boy, when he is in fact funny and warmhearted. Sally certainly comforts Lucien, but she is also rather bossy and meddlesome regarding Lucien's affairs.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Turnip is assumed to be this by the Marquis de Montval near the end of Masque of the Black Tulip. She, however, is wrong about him.
  • Dances and Balls: There's usually at least one per book.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Richard, Lord Vaughn and Lucien in particular.
  • Dating Catwoman: The Pink Carnation and the Gardener, aka Jane and Nicolas de Brillac.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Every protagonist in the each Pink Carnation book gets to enjoy their fair share of being a Deadpan Snarker. Lord Vaughn seems to be this the best out of all of them, however.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Laura Grey first appears in Black Tulip as a pupil of the Selwick Spy School who is roped into playing a wedding march for Miles and Henrietta's nuptials. Augustus Whittlesby also cameos in a chapter set in Paris.
    • Emma first appears in Orchid Affair, visiting the same bookshop that Laura has taken Andre's children to.
  • Expy:
  • Femme Fatale: The Marquise de Montval
  • Fiery Redhead: Penelope. Eloise has red hair, but her personality doesn't fit.
  • Framing Device
  • The French Revolution
  • Genki Girl: Amy
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Henrietta and her stuffed toy rabbit, Bunny the Bunny.
  • Good Parents: Lord and Lady Uppington
  • Grande Dame: Dowager Duchess of Dovedale
  • Happily Married: Lord and Lady Uppington; the Official Couple of each book.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Penelope and Eloise
  • Historical Domain Character: Napoléon Bonaparte, his sister Pauline, and Empress Josephine cameo in Pink Carnation.
    • Josephine's daughter Hortense appears in The Garden Intrigue as a friend of the heroine.
    • King George III and his family appear in Night Jasmine and George's episodes of madness are addressed in the plot.
    • In Mischief of the Mistletoe, Jane Austen appears as a supporting character for Arabella Dempsey.
  • Honey Trap: Mary is used as one for the Black Tulip.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Tommy Fluellen is one for Penelope in Night Jasmine; he even proposes marriage to Pen after she publically admits to fooling around with Freddie, but she refuses him so that his reputation isn't tarnished by being with her.
    • Augustus Whittlesby and Nicolas de Brillac are both rebuffed by Jane.
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes: Turnip's carnation-embroidered waistcoat and some of Pammy's outfits.
  • I Read It for the Articles
  • Kissing Cousins: Charlotte and Robert.
  • Legacy Character
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Richard and Amy
  • Marriage Before Romance: Letty and Geoff. Averted with Penelope and Freddy.
  • My Greatest Failure: In the first book, Richard's relationship with Deidre proved disastrous to the point where one of his friends, Tony, died because Deidre's maid was a secret French agent who overheard a conversation about his plans and was in the way. Needless to say, Richard did not want his relationship with Amy to turn out like Deidre's.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits: Richard does not react well to Miles and Henrietta's marriage.
  • Non-Idle Rich: It's hard to be an idle spy.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Most of the protagonists employ this during their feats of espionage. Notably, Turnip zigzags this trope from book to book, eventually falling into this trope.
  • Official Couple: Each book has one, as listed above.
  • Parasol of Pain: Frequently employed by Miss Gwen
  • Parental Abandonment: Miles's parents spent his childhood touring the continent.
  • Preppy Name: Just look at that character list.
  • Purple Prose: In-universe, Augustus Whittlesby's poetry.
    • Also Miss Gwen's prose.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: The Black Tulip is partial to recruiting women of this coloring for his "petals". The Marquise de Montval is one such petal. When the Marquise is killed in The Deception of the Emerald Ring, the Pink Carnation seeks out Lord Vaughn to use Mary Alsworthy, known for being a raven-haired and fair-skinned beauty, as bait for The Black Tulip.
  • Riddle for the Ages: In-universe, the identity of the Pink Carnation, unless you're Eloise or a Selwick.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: It is a series about aristocratic espionage, after all.
  • Running Gag: Minor character Percy Ponsonby has a habit of falling out of windows.
  • Sexless Marriage: Geoff and Letty's marriage starts off this way.
  • Shotgun Wedding: How Geoff and Letty get married, after he's caught snogging her in the back of a carriage. In her nightgown.
    • Penelope and Freddy are also forced into marriage after Penelope admits to being with Freddy in his guestroom. Her confession was heard by a ballroom full of party guests.
    • Also Miles and Henrietta - Miles hastily proposes after Richard discovers them making out and tries to start a fight for his sister's honour.
  • Show Within a Show: Purple Plumeria features excerpts from The Convent of Orsino, Miss Gwen's Gothic Horror novel.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts
  • Spirited Young Lady: Many of the heroines have the traits, but in particular Jane, Amy and Penelope qualify as this. Penelope in particular is a capable rider and has no qualms about diving into a river to save a manservant from drowning.
  • Tall, Dark, and Snarky: Lord Vaughn
  • Team Mom: Lady Uppington for Geoff and Miles
  • Upper-Class Twit: "Turnip" Fitzhugh, initially.
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: Henrietta, to Miles
  • Wrong Girl First: Geoff flirts with Mary before accidentally eloping with Letty.
    • Also in Betrayal of the Blood Lily, where the story starts with Penelope newly-married to Freddy Staines.