Book review: ‘The Seduction of the Crimson Rose’ |

Book review: ‘The Seduction of the Crimson Rose’

Kelly Miles
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyTitle: "The Seduction of the Crimson Rose"

Intrigue, suspense and flirtation with strapping English gentlemen. What better story line is there?

Author Lauren Willig’s historical fiction series about French and English spies during and after the French Revolution, which began in 1789, continues to shine in “The Seduction of the Crimson Rose.”

This is her fourth installment in the series after “the Deception of the Emerald Ring,” “The Masque of the Black Tulip,” and “The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.”

In each novel, she draws the reader’s focus to a different pair of characters who, while it’s a little formulaic, fall in love at the end. However, her attention to detail and the interwoven story lines between all of the novels really kept me interested.

Each of the main characters in all four books have personality quirks that drew me in as I learned more about the headstrong and determined women of the time and the equally headstrong yet soft-on-the-inside men.

About the intrigue: The English spies are each named after a different flower as a code name. The lovable but disheveled narrator is a graduate student trying to write her dissertation on the still undiscovered identities of these spies. She leafs through countless pages of antiquated documents, and we step closer to the identities of the spies ” most of which are very surprising.

In “Crimson Rose,” we follow the life of Mary Alsworthy, a classically attractive young woman who, unfortunately, has failed to snag a husband in her three seasons on the market. Each season she goes unmarried, she becomes less and less valuable. Why can’t the most attractive woman on the market catch a husband?

Along comes Lord Vaughn, rarely called Sebastian, who is shrouded in mystery and suspicion. His character and allegiance are in question because of his intensely private nature.

The two form an unlikely alliance. Vaughn asks Mary to be bait for a French spy, code-named the Black Tulip. The Tulip only uses very fair women with black hair to do his dirty work, and Mary fits the type.

Mary, in exchange for her services to attract the attention of the Tulip and draw him ” or her ” into a trap, demands that Vaughn pay the full costs of her season. The costs include gowns, money for gambling and dinners, and all the other costs that a young lady of the time would need to support herself.

Her motivation comes from shame, however. Her family is not well off, and she is ashamed to find herself depending solely on her sister to pay the costs of the season because she married a wealthy man.

And there’s another twist. Letty, the aforementioned sister, actually stole Mary’s fiance from her when they were trying to elope. Letty’s full story and her marriage to Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe are fully explored in “The Deception of the Emerald Ring.”

As Mary and Vaughn draw ever closer to discovering the Black Tulip, they draw inexplicably closer to one another. Her feisty personality and cold-as-ice exterior intrigue Vaughn, who keeps himself distant from society and from love.

However, as they collaborate more and more in their efforts to undermine the efforts of the Tulip, their similarities make them the perfect match.

This story line, although it’s easy to follow, makes much more sense if you’ve read the previous three novels.

However, as a stand-alone, Willig does a great job of doing a brief re-explanation of each of the characters and their connections to one another. So don’t fear if you’d like to jump in right at the fourth installment. However, since I’ve read and loved each of these novels, I can’t help suggesting that you read all four to get the full effect.

This book is available at The Bookworm of Edwards.

Kelly Miles is a copy editor at the Vail Daily. She can be reached at 970-748-2966 or kmiles@vaildaily.

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