This review was originally written in June 2006.
Two hundred years ago, secret documents so sensitive they could alter the course of history were stolen from a courier with the London War Office. A the scene of the crime, the victim was left with a curious note containing only a small black symbol pinned to his chest. Authorities were baffled. It took two centuries for a young American history student, Eloise Kelly, to uncover the missing pieces of the puzzle...
As Eloise reads from an old codebook, she discovers that the Black Tulip, the deadliest spy in Napoleon's arsenal, has returned to England with a terrifying mission. Only a pair of star-crossed lovers stand in the way of the Black Tulip. But will stopping the Black Tulip's secret mission cost them their lives or, even worse, their love?
It's funny you know...when I was rereading what I wrote about Secret History, it struck me as quite ironic that I wrote that the back cover blurb wasn't really accurate for that book, as I have to say the same thing again. Reading the blurb above, it makes it seem as though the missing documents were a key part of the story, and that Eloise was the first person to discover the true identity of the Black Tulip...which isn't exactly the way the book pans out.
Our hero from the previous book (Lord Richard Selwick aka ThePurple Gentian) has had to retire from active spy service given that his cover was blown. That actually suits him as he is now settled into married bliss with Amy. He is, however, keeping his hand in by running a spy school from his home.
The Pink Carnation is still plying her trade in Paris, obtaining secret information and sending it home to England using a series of chatty letters to Lady Henrietta Selwick (sister of Lord Richard). What looks like gossip is in fact a complex series of codes that Henrietta then passes onto The War Office.
Miles Dorrington was a close personal friend of Richard (in fact has basically been a member of the family since he was a very young boy) and also employed at The War Office.
When the news comes through that there is a deadly new spy who has made their way to London, both Miles and Henrietta decide that they will track down the deadly Black Tulip.
There is a small problem though. All of a sudden they are both finding each other more and more attractive. Whilst Henrietta acknowledges her feelings, Miles is somewhat slower...very concerned about the fact that he is lusting after his best friend's sister, which apparently is just not done.
After both having numerous escapades and false leads, Miles and Henrietta both end up at a special spy weekend (the event is meant to appear as a house party) at her brother's home, where they are training their latest recruits, things don't quite go to plan. When it seems as though the Black Tulip has infiltrated the house, all of the potential spies are required to stay in the grounds of Selwick Hall, and in some ways, it is inevitable that Miles and Henrietta will be caught in a compromising situation.
There were times that I did just wish that Miles and Henrietta would just talk to each other, and things would have been a lot easier for them. As for Eloise, she spends the weekend at Selwick Hall, searching through the archives there for more evidence about The Pink Carnation and The Black Tulip, and the spy school that was convened there, but is she also succumbing to the charms of Colin Selwick? There's been no action on that stage yet, but it is building nicely!
Another fun, light read. The next book comes out later this year and has The Pink Carnation setting off for Ireland. I will definitely be getting hold of it when it comes out!
The books in this series in order are:
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
The Masque of the Black Tulip
The Deception of the Emerald Ring
The Seduction of the Crimson Rose (out January 2008)