I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Passion of the Purple Plumeria by Lauren Willig

For those who read the Pink Carnation series, this is one that came out last year and I missed it.  If you do read the Pink Carnation series and haven't read this one, then you must, as it is finally the story of Miss Gwen Meadows, the chaperon of Jane Wolister, the Pink Carnation, herself, in France.  Gwen is considered a dragon lady of a spinster at forty-five; always with her pointy parasol that hides a sword within.  She swings from rooftops and hides in dark alleys, always looking for information to help the English cause in the Napoleonic War against France.

When Jane's sister, Agnes, and her roommate, Lizzy Reid, go missing at their private school, Gwen and Jane hurry back to England to find them.  There they are greeted by the handsome and charming Cololnel Reid of the East India Company, who is the father of Lizzy, who is a bastard born from a relationship he had with an Indian woman.  He sent Lizzy and her sister away to England ten years ago for their protection, as things in India were not safe for young women, especially those not born to English parents.  Now he's come back to find a house for them and settle down, when he learns that Lizzy is gone and his other daughter has not been truthful about the circumstances of her life with her mother's mother.

After discovering that the girls are not in Brighton, with Lizzy's sister, Reid gets set upon by a set of footpads, that he and Gwen manage to fight off, but not before Reid gets stabbed.  They stay for five intimate days in an inn, where Gwen patches him up and Reid has fevered dreams and kisses her.  Once he is well, they return to Bath, where the school is, and discover that the girls have gone to Selwick Hall, to visit Agnes's cousin Amy, possibly because they have a set of jewels that were once owned by a sultan of Berar.  One of which is said to have mystical powers.  These jewels were stolen by Jack, one of Reid's sons and sent to Lizzy for safekeeping.

The other story that goes with these books is that of grad student, Eloise, who has been researching the Pink Carnation for her dissertation. Through her research, she meets Colin Selwick and they begin dating.  She has essentially moved into Selwick Hall, after her grant ended.  She is supposed to go back to the States in two months for a teaching job and is dreading it.  Having hit a road block in her studies (she can find nothing about the Pink Carnation after April 1805), she decides to help Colin look for the family treasure: the famed treasure of Berar.  When they go to his great aunt for help, his evil cousin/step-father Jeremy is there for the same reason.  His great aunt intimates that she doesn't have long to live and that she would like the two of them to bury the hatchet and find peace.  She does this by giving them information on where the treasure could be hidden, but only if they work together.   So while everyone in 1805 England is looking for the treasure of Berar, as well as the two girls, who may have it, a very modern hunt is going on in Selwick Hall.

Reid and Gwen are a perfect match, even if she doesn't want to see it.  She feels she is too old for this nonsense and she loves the thrill of being a spy so much, she doesn't want to give it up.  However, this may not be her decision to make, as the Pink Carnation, Jane, has been keeping things from Gwen, such as the identity of the Gardner, the ultimate French spy, and what her plans are after the girls are found.   Can Gwen give up her old life and "settle down" with a retired Colonel, as much as the two could possibly settle down, and finish the gothic novel she has been writing?  This book was everything and more.  It was quite satisfying to see Gwen find someone as strong as she is both in wit and daring, to be with, when, I have, quite frankly, thought she'd never be a character to have a story of her own.  I, too, thought she was too old and was too tied in with Jane and the Pink Carnation to have a life of her own.  I have to say I was pleasantly surprised and very happy with the result.


Things turn up in strange places all the time… For example, library books, which possess a disconcerting ability to move from place to place, seemingly of their own volition.
--Lauren Willig (The Passion of the Purple Plumeria p 10)
 It was the rankest effrontery on your part to get yourself stabbed.

---Lauran Willig (The Passion of the Purple Plumeria p 127)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Passion-Purple-Plumeria-Carnation-Novel/dp/0451414721/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1476640850&sr=8-1&keywords=the+passion+of+the+purple+plumeria

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