This book has everything one requires of a fluffy romance story. In fact, its a romance within a romance, simultaneously a story of post-revolution France and mondern day London. We follow an awkward woman researching a mysterious historical character, and a young girl desperate to join a famous league of spies and save her country. We’re given a charming and spunky heroine who surprises the daring and handsome hero with her intelligence and determination. Our hero is one part Robin Hood, one part Zorro and one part Indiana Jones, with a title and money to boot. What more could you possibly ask for? Steamy sex scenes in a garden in Paris? Got it. Spies and missions and sarcastic butlers? Got it. A modern day lord with a handsome face, a misanthropic attitude and library full of secret historical documents? Yep, that too. Historical accuracy? Well… who wants that anyways?
We first meet Eloise Kelly, a student of Harvard writing her dissertation on the history of English spies who helped the French noblemen during the revolution. She travels to London to further her research on the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian, both of whom’s real identities were eventually revealed and documented. However, her true interest lies in the Pink Carnation, who’s identity was never discovered. Disappointed by the lacky of any solid information about the Pink Carnation, she eventually reaches out to the descendants of the two known spies, hoping for a tie between the three. In this way, she meets the elderly Mrs. Arabella Selwick-Alderly, who just happens to have a trunk full of old letters and documents relating to her ancestor, The Purple Gentian.
Through letters and journals, Eloise dives into the story of Amy Balcourt, a half French half English girl whose parents were killed in the revolution and was raised in rural England. Amy has always wanted to revenge the death of her parents, and return to the land of her birth to join the league of spies led by the man known as The Purple Gentian. She wants to free France from Napoleon and restore the monarchy, and simultaneously save England from the invasion everyone knows must be coming.
She returns to Paris, now 20 years old, with her cousin Jane and their dragon of a chaperon. There she meets Richard Selwick, apparently a dandy working as an egyptologist for Napolean. She automatically detests him for what seems like a traitorous job, often comparing his actions to those of her dream man, The Purple Gentian. The get into many passionate arguments about the good of England and France, and while she despises his morals she just can’t help admiring his lips, and the shape of his hands. Oh, wait, could it possibly be? Richard IS the Purple Gentian, and working for Napolean is just his cover story! Insert comedy of errors including false identities, masks and capes, and coincidental meetings in libraries at midnight here.
All the while, Eloise is getting into arguments with the young nephew of her benefactor, who just happens to be the current Lord of Selwick Manor. He quite dislikes nosey academics, and seems determined to protect the secret of the Pink Carnation at all costs. He delivers an ultimatum, nothing Eloise learns can leave the circle of his family or become public knowledge in an academic paper. And while Eloise quite dislikes his high-handed and rude attitude, she can’t help admiring his fast smile and blonde hair….
Amy and Richard are of course eventually married, on a boat, by the captain/butler/actor Richard employs, as they escape from Paris after freeing Richard from the dungeous of the French Ministry of Police. Having run out of letters and journals, Eloise breathlessly inquires about what happens next, are there any more documents? Oh, well of course there are, but they’re over in Selwick Manor. She’ll just have to go spend a few days there, with the irritatingly handsom nephew…
This book is so fluffy a marshmallow is as heavy as a rock in comparison. That is not a criticism, I believe fluff has as much a place in literature as, well, actual literature. We need fluff sometimes, because we should never forget that it should be FUN to read, no matter how silly that fun sometimes is. This book was exceedingly fun to read. If you don’t like nonsensical fluff, this book is not for you.
(I really should post a description of my rating system at some point…)
A quote, for your enjoyment (must be read in as dramatic a voice as possible):
“The regular interrogation chamber, sir?” one guard ventured, keeping well on the other side of the stone door frame.
“Oh no.” Belaroche unleashed another of his humorless laughs. “Take him to the extra-special interrogation chamber!”
And that is all!