When her younger sister steals the man Mary Alsworthy intended to be her savior from spinsterhood, Mary is reduced to living off the generosity of others. Her black hair and fair skin, however, attract the attention of the espionage community–here is a woman who looks like one of the “petals” (operatives) of the mysterious Black Tulip. Perhaps she could be recruited as a double-agent? When Lord Vaughan, at the urging of the Pink Carnation, approaches Mary with this plan, she sizes up the offered reward and agrees to it. If she doesn’t lose her head in this game of feint and counterfeint, she will have enough money for a comfortable independence.
There is nothing comfortable about Lord Vaughan, however. Intrigued by his flirtatious sallies, frustrated by his bouts of coldness, and horrified by the rumor that he murdered his first wife, Mary begins to suspect that he may be the Black Tulip himself. The unmasking of the Black Tulip is a far more delicate matter, and self-reliant Mary finds that she might be in over her head….
This book was rather ho-hum for me. Mary Alsworthy was a bit of a one-note piano, forever complaining about being her sister’s pensioner, forced to live off the generosity of the brother-in-law she had once hoped to marry. Lord Vaughan fit the archetypal character of the jaded Regency rake, but he was just too world-weary and cynical to make me care about him. He claimed to be attracted to the self-seeking quality that Mary Alsworth had, and he never seemed to have an awakening that true love is about self-sacrifice.
Meanwhile, in the modern-day dual narrative, Colin and Eloise finally go on a predictably awkward date. Eloise also meets Colin’s nemesis, an archivist who is determined to scheme his way into seeing the Selwick papers. Will she publish her dissertation before he finds out who the Pink Carnation truly is, or will she get “scooped” and have all her research become old news?
As usual, the prose is replete with witty banter and quotations from Shakespeare and other greats. (I did think I caught an anachronistic Tennyson quotation in the Regency section of the book, but I might have been mistaken.) I had trouble getting into this volume of the series, but I still plan to forge ahead to book five. Onward, ho!
See my reviews of:
- The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (Pink Carnation #1)
- The Masque of the Black Tulip (Pink Carnation #2)
- The Deception of the Emerald Ring (Pink Carnation #3)