The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

Willig’s novel (and now series) was on my radar for quite some time so I eagerly snapped up a copy of the book when I discovered it at a used book sale back in July. The book alternates between the present-day character of Eloise Kelly, an American from Harvard trying to finish her dissertation on the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian in England, and the character of the Pink Carnation, the most elusive spy of the 1800s who single-handedly saved England from Napoleon’s invasion.

This book was perfect fodder for my two plane rides to school. It was engaging enough that my attention was kept despite the cramped, uncomfortable conditions and accommodated my fried brain cells with an easy narrative to follow. Almost four weeks later, I still remember and have fond memories of reading this book.

The character I did not remember again until I sat down to review this novel was Eloise. The back of the book jogged my memory and, now that I think about it, I do remember being annoyed with Eloise’s interruption of the narrative. I really did not need her commentary on the Pink Carnation other than possibly her opening remarks to put the time period and the other spies in context.

Warning! Willig went the way of other authors I’ve read recently and left the ending so open that you are compelled to pick up the next book in the series. This is a major pet peeve of mine! If your book is good enough, I will more than likely be compelled to pick up the next one in the series. But I hate feeling like I am forced to do so.

Book Mentioned:

  • Willig, Lauren. The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. New York: New American Library, 2006. Originally published 2005. Print. 428 pgs. ISBN: 045121742X. Source: Purchased.
Book Cover © New American Library. Retrieved: August 27, 2011.


  1. I thought this was an enjoyable book too. Like you, I find it annoying when an author leaves the ending so open. I picked up the second book after reading the first but never progressed beyond the first third of it. Perhaps it is time to get back to after more than a year?


  2. This is a series I’ve meant to try for several years now, after watching a coworker at my old bookstore job recommend it over and over to customers. As for open endings, I don’t mind them if I enjoyed a book and planned to read the next one anyway. What I hate is when it’s a mediocre book, but the ending is so intriguingly unfinished that I feel compelled to keep reading even though I ordinarily would not!


    1. Exactly! I don’t mind it at all if your book was great, but I find it really annoying when a “just okay” book does it. I also find it very frustrating when, such as this case, I do not have access to next book in the series.


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