Saying Goodbye to the Pink Carnation Series

Last September, we started the Bubble Bath Reader’s Pink for All Seasons – a year long read-along of Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series, timed to finish with the release of the 12th and final book in the series.

These books are fun and fabulous and full of interesting historical tidbits. We’ve done quick summaries on the books so far – click for books 1-3, books 4-6, and books 7-9. (And if you notice that the reading order is listed differently in different places, here’s Willig’s official list.)

And, so it ends here, with books 10, 11, and 12:

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The Passion of the Purple Plumeria (2011)

Synopsis: When the younger sister of Jane Wooliston (AKA our Pink Carnation) goes missing from her boarding school in London, Jane and her faithful chaperone Miss Gwen search for her, and along the way meet Colonel William Reid, whose daughter disappeared from school as well. Miss Gwen and Col. Reid get to know each other quite well in the search. In modern England, Eloise reads Miss Gwen’s gothic novel, 200 years after it’s one-hit-wonder debut.

Holly: I definitely enjoyed the relationship between Miss Gwen and the good Colonel, especially the time Miss Gwen dropped the line “we had a satisfactory romp; that’s all.” Things I did not love about this book, however, include Jane’s moodiness and Jeremy’s sliminess.

Amanda: I admit that I had a good sulk when Lauren originally announced this book.  I did not want to read anymore about Miss Gwen except as Jane’s chaperone.  I wanted a book about Tommy (See the Temptation of the Night Jasmine)!  But then I read The Passion of the Purple Plumeria and I fell in love with Colonel Reid and Miss Gwen.  I loved how she tried to boss him around and how he just doesn’t fall into line with what she wanted.  So I apologize Lauren for doubting your judgement of your own stories!    

The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla (2014)

Synopsis: Sally Fitzhugh, whose root-vegetable-named brother we got to know quite well back in Pink #5, stumbles into the garden of the mysterious (and rumored vampire) Duke of Belliston, and ends up helping him uncover the truth about his family. Back in the 21st century, Eloise returns to grad school in Cambridge, MA, and has trouble with her advisor.

Holly: I read some reviews hating on this book for being a far cry from the start of the series, as the actual-spy contact is limited, and, well, there’s the vampire thing. However, I adored Sally and Lucien!  And, while I would have fully supported Eloise if she decided not to return to grad school, I am glad she had a chance to come to the right decision for her.

Amanda:  I’m glad I didn’t know my sister had read hating reviews because I was already apprehensive due to all the hints about the stoat.  I mean – who wants to read about a stoat?  But Sally was a delight!  So there wasn’t a spy connection – big deal – is a creepy murder not enough for people?! Loved the glimpse at a happy Turnip with his bride.

The Lure of the Moonflower (2015)

Synopsis: At last, the final book in the Pink series brings Jane’s story – we find Jane on assignment in Portugal, looking for a missing queen and forced to rely on Jack Reid for tactical help along with way. We get a conclusion to the Colin and Eloise storyline as well, but not without some final hijinks from one of our previous villains.

Holly: I am glad Jane got her story, and I’m so glad to have been a part of the Pink for All Seasons readalong. There are parts of this book that I quite enjoyed, but parts that didn’t quite sit well. Both Jane and her parents seemed like entirely different characters than those we’d gotten to know in previous books. Though, to be fair, that’s exactly what Lauren has done throughout the series – characters like Mary Alsworthy and Turnip Fitzhugh become totally different people once brought into the spotlight. The difference is, I guess, that I liked Mary and Turnip better after getting to know them, and Jane less.

Amanda:  I was totally surprised as this book began at how Jane ended up in Portugal.  As Holly said, Jane’s parents sounded like totally different people than those we met in the Passion of the Purple Plumeria. This annoyed me but I went with the story because since I’ve loved and trusted Jane all these years I kind of had to.  I did love Jane and Jack together, even if things were a bit too convenient in the end.  Maybe everything wrapped up a bit too well – including Eloise and Colin – but it was really a satisfying ending to a series I’ve really enjoyed.  If Lauren writes more Pink books I will read them!

OMG The Invasion of the Tearling

So, we’ve finished – one of us more slowly than the other – The Invasion of the Tearling.

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Catch up on our first two posts here and here.

As we resumed reading, our texting returned to the previous pattern.

Amanda: I am scared for the choices Kelsea is making!  But some of them I think I love.

Really glad there is a third book coming!

10% left. I am glad we didn’t stop at each 30% because I wouldn’t have waited for you sister.

Holly: This book is crazy. I am at 65%.

Amanda: [expectantly] Crazy good?

Holly: Crazy crazy. And icky.

[Many many days later]

Amanda: Please tell me you are off today pal.

[This because working has seriously interfered with Holly’s ability to blog/read/be-a-good-sister-pal/enjoy life]

Holly: Yessss! And I finished the Tearling in bed this morning. That is a weird book.

Amanda: But did you like it?

Holly: [Avoiding] You first. Did you?

Amanda: Not as much as #1, but totally. The [removed spoiler] was genius.

Holly: I do not understand why [removed spoiler]. I am so full of confusion.

Amanda: In the end, I really like how much we got about the pre-Crossing world – just wasn’t expecting it to come through flashbacks. [Or fugues]

Holly: [borrowing my niece’s go-to expression] It’s not my favorite.

Amanda: What I like is that Kelsea isn’t all pure bravery and goodness.  She’s clearly really got a dark side. I’m scared at how dark she’s going to go and whether she’ll be able to pull herself back.

Holly: What I didn’t like was the weird cutting phenomenon, the focus on Kelsea’s level of attractiveness and how that changes her, the combination of fantasy/magic and future/dystopia, and any and all romantic impulses and relationships among these people.

Amanda: Yes, clearly the cutting creeped me out. It breaks my heart whenever I read on that topic.  I didn’t like the physical changes at all – until we understand why.  Even then, I got it, but that certainly didn’t do a lot to further the story for me.  I wonder if Kelsea could have made the decisions she did for her personal life without those changes though?  I really hope there is some mutual love in the 3rd book! No loving anyone unattainable! I’m over that.

Amanda’s bottom line: I loved this, though not quite as much as the Queen of the Tearling.  I am kind of dying to see how it ends.  How does Kelsea pull it off?  WILL she pull it off?  She has to right?

Holly’s bottom line: WTF?

Have you read The Invasion of the Tearling?  Tell us what you think!  I know I’m going to be rereading both of these books before the end of the year – and buying the Australian editions because the covers are WAY better – anyone else?

Still Reading: Invasion of the Tearling

Here we are, halfway through the Invasion of the Tearling.  Queen Kelsea is basically waiting for the evil queen of Mortmesne to invade with her superior and sadistically cruel army.  The Invasion of the Tearling promises to give some history of why people fled what was the United States and crossed to Europe to found the Tearling.

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This pretty much sums up our lives, right now:

Day 1 Reading:

Amanda: I am way too excited about starting this book. I fear disappointment.

Amanda: WTF? Manhattan?  I wanted history, but I didn’t expect flashbacks!  Where is Kelsea’s head?

Amanda: Bad Queen is real bad. She had seriously better get what is coming to her.

Amanda: Stopped at 29%

Holly: Hahah I read like 3 pages. #theworst

People, I mean well, I swear. It’s just that my reading time has been limited lately. My next text to my sister said “I am resuming human work hours next week,” which I’ve been trying to do. Clearly, these books Amanda shouts at me about aren’t going to read themselves! So, back to it.

[4 days after Amanda finished ⅓ of the book]

Holly: Hi. I read to 10%. I am slow. You can start a post about how slow I am. [She did.]

Holly: When Kelsea was talking about her rage, I was waiting for someone to belt out Let It Go! I was pissed that everyone knows rape was a weapon of war in the last invasion, but apparently it’s taboo to mention that men were raped. Because somehow that’s worse? Wtfever.

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Holly: I don’t mean to stomp on your parade. Things in the Tearling just annoy me.

Amanda: Yes, I was totally pissed about the rape conversation as well – but this is why I love Kelsea! She’s full of rage too! She doesn’t want to let things just be the way they always have been.

[Another day later]

Holly: I am at about 20% now

[Another day later]

Holly: I told you there was something in #1 about anti-sodomy squads! 22%

Amanda: Yes, yes you were right – dislike

[3 days later]

Holly: Announcement: I finished to 29% last night so we can discuss and move on.

So, for discussion:

Holly: I don’t think I hate this book, but I do think it’s weird. And I’ll try not to be SO slow through the rest of it.

Amanda: Ok so it is weird.  I so wanted the history of the Tearling, but I think I wanted to be TAUGHT a lesson.  I didn’t want flashbacks to Manhattan and spousal abuse. I am going with it and trusting, but right now this is not my favorite aspect of the book.

And we read on.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation Books 7-9

We are a bit late in posting this, but we’ve are still participating in Pink for all Seasons, a yearlong readalong of Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series. The series is coming to close in August with Book 12, so we’re catching up with books 7-9 here. Click for our posts on 1-3 and 4-6.

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The Betrayal of the Blood Lily (2010)

Synopsis: Lady Frederick Staines, née Penelope Deveraux is off to India with her ill-gotten husband, where she becomes involved in local politics and, of course, French espionage plots, while also dealing with her relationship woes. In modern times, Eloise is confronting her own relationship woes and learning about Colin’s family.

Holly: I would give Penelope’s story a five-star review, but the Eloise and Colin storyline here really brought me down. There is a really hard-hitting passage where Pen realizes that her status as a young woman of the ton, while seemingly limited, affords her countless privileges that are not afforded to women of lesser social status – including the fact that women of the lower class can be assaulted with impunity. Pen is smart, fierce, and independent, and she demonstrates growth in her character throughout. Unfortunately, I don’t see the same in Eloise’s storyline – she gets fixated on Colin’s sister and his family and I found myself getting annoyed with all the Eloise chapters in this book. Pen is fighting snakes, rebels, and the limitations of women in society, and Eloise is fighting troubles of her own making.

Amanda:  I also loved Penelope and her devil-take-society attitude.  I will say I actually felt a bit bogged down in all the spies at the end.  But the end I was happy with how heads rolled (or not) and I actually liked the Eloise and Colin storyline.  As I’ve said, I’ve read all these but I can’t remember all my Colin and Eloise details- I want to see how this relationship works when there is trouble in paradise.

The Orchid Affair (2011)

Synopsis: Laura Gray, a former governess recruited by the Pink Carnation, finds herself as a governess once again while spying on Andre Jaouen, a high-ranking French police official. Of course, It turns out Jaouen is also hiding something, and the two have to learn to trust one another. Eloise spends minimal time researching this story while in Paris for a weekend with Colin and his dysfunctional family.

Amanda: I think this is by far the weakest link of France to Eloise.  She just happens to remember all this while in Paris for the weekend? I know she’s a smart girl, but that pushed things a bit too far for me.  Also, I like that Willig has expanded her cast of characters, but I do miss checking in with Henrietta, Charlotte and the other.  I appreciate Laura for being a woman that can take care of herself- but I like my references to Turnip too!

Holly: Willig has definitely gone off-script here with the way the modern and historical stories usually weave together – though, I suppose she tossed out that script back with The Mischief of the Mistletoe. Laura’s story was another refreshing change of pace – as a 32 year-old used to taking care of herself, the romance that developed was different from those of the young heroines in the first few Pink books.

The Garden Intrigue (2012)

Synopsis: British agent Augustus Whittlesby has been hiding in plain sight in Napoleonic Paris, posing as an insufferable poet. He is commissioned by Emma Delagardie, a widowed American in Paris, to help write a masque for the newly appointed Emperor. Hijinks ensue, sparks fly, and the awful Georges Marston gets what he deserves. Meanwhile, Eloise and Colin negotiate the terms of a relationship when each has commitments on different continents.

*Bonus note: for this book we got to be the moderators for the readalong over at Ashley’s site – so much fun!

Holly: I went into this book expecting to be annoyed by Augustus, but, of course, I was completely won over. I love how Lauren has continued to evolve the series, with each character having different backstories and motivations. And, I always seem to learn something – like this.

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Amanda: I loved that the series got a bit of American spunk thrown in (aside from Eloise obviously) with the delightful Emma.  She is such a smart-ass to poor Augustus that I had to fall for him a bit right away for holding his own against her.  It was also fun to see where our contemporary relationship might lead.  Colin and Eloise are heading into decision time – is a long distance relationship across the Pond in the cards?  And of course because I want to be like my sister, this book left me wanting to learn.  About Napoleon specifically.  I think I have my eye on a book or two for when Non-Fiction November rolls around.

Are you reading along with us?  Or considering giving the Pink books a try?

We’re reading: Invasion of the Tearling

Usually, we post our sister-readalongs in three parts. As we dive into the much anticipated Invasion of the Tearling, we have to set up the backstory on the first book.

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If you’ve followed us for a bit you may have noticed that I have a slight obsession developed with the Queen of the Tearling.  Yes, there were some problems with the book but I LOVED it and have been basically waiting with grabby hands for the sequel to become available.  I may have badgered my sister into reading it as soon as she had the time – but hey at least I bought her a copy when I did the badgering!

My anxiety was high when I got these messages:

Holly: Is this a YA book?  Because the bad queen just referenced the slave in her bed as a good fuck.

Amandar: NO

Amanda: [As I frantically text Holly to see where she is] Anyone try to kill Kelsea yet?

Holly:  Hold your horses pal I just read the first 2 pages of chapter two! [Followed by] Hmm, I am wondering if you would keep reading a book where a king referenced the slave girl in his bed and then had her tongue removed for snoring? [As the gender roles are reversed in Q of the T]

Amanda: Good question,  I did not like that.  That bad queen is BAD.

Holly: If [redacted] ends up being Kelsea’s dad I’m going to be pissed. Not sure I love this book

[Cue weeping in Chicago]

Holly: [upon finishing] I did not hate the T but certain things annoyed me: the weird child sacrifice in the nude, the stockholm-syndrome-esque obsession with a captor, and the fact that sometime in the future, ALL THE F’ING DOCTORS AND MEDICAL EQUIPMENT SUNK ON A SHIP AND THEN SOCIETY IS BACK TO ZERO?  I would think someone else could have figured that out…

Amanda:  Ok so I’ll give you that, maybe some modern medicine could be recreated.  But just accept it and go on ok?  The bad queen has all the scientists because she is BAD.  Just love Kelsea that’s all I ask sister.  We’re totally going to get more backstory in Book 2!!

And with that, we are diving into the Invasion of the Tearling!

Actually, we started diving in, but it’s taking a while to get ONE of us through the book and her name rhymes with Jolly.

Catch up with us if this is on your TBR! We’re going to stop about 30% and chat about it!

Review: That’s Not English

That’s Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us, Erin Moore

Published March 24th 2015 by Gotham

Hardcover, 240 pages

Source: ARCs provided by publisher

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Holly –

I think it’s fair to say that I am something of an Anglophile. Amanda and I were fortunate in getting to visit London several times on family vacations growing up, and something about that city still feels a bit…magical to me. Maybe it’s the fact that the sheer age of some of the buildings boggles the mind of this Midwesterner, maybe it’s the palaces, maybe it’s my love of Henry VIII – regardless, England feels both familiar and foreign at the same time. I could happily wander London and not feel like a stranger, while at the same time, not lose my sense of wonder at the place. Speaking of which, I am probably due for a visit across the pond to visit my favorite Brit (that’s a test to see if you’re reading, Katie!).

Anyway, that sense of commonality while also being thousands of miles apart in space and in thought, is the premise of Erin Moore’s That’s Not English. Moore is an American ex-pat living in London and raising her daughter there. She takes 31 words that mean different things (or nothing) in American English and British English, and uses each word as a starting point to highlight historical, social, and cultural differences. For instance, “moreish” offers a treatise on snacking habits of Americans and Brits, while “quite” demonstrates American overenthusiasm versus British understatement.

Overall, this is a funny, poignant little book full of conversation starters. My favorite word was “crimbo,” an irreverent nickname for the Christmas season which I was not familiar with. I also appreciated a reference to “the little black dress of swears” (you can guess what word that refers to) and a letter from Jane Austen to her sister used as background for the word “sorry.”

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As usual, I agree with my sister– England does feel like a magical place, but also somewhat familiar every time I’ve been.  Maybe it’s that we were blessed to go at an early age combined with loving reading anything I can set in England.  I thought I knew what I was getting into but I’m still shocked at “crimbo”!  Do Americans know this term?  My favorite thing might have been this “Americans are really earnest – in a way that the English find faintly ridiculous.”  Well- we generally are I think!  This was a fun and engaging read, definitely a book for anyone who wants to be sure they’re speaking the Queen’s English correctly!  I quite liked it.

Some people still think of the English spoken in England as the mother tongue, and the English spoken in America as it’s wayward child. But it isn’t true. Today’s English English, like American English, evolved as a dialect from sixteenth-century English, and neither can claim to be closer to the original.”

Thank you Penguin Random House for these advance read copies in exchange for honest opinions!

#PersuasionReadalong – Chapters 17-24

If you’ve been following, we have been reading Persuasion along with Eva at the Paperback Princess.  This is a favorite reread for Eva and a first time read for Holly and myself thanks to the Roofbeam Reader 2015 TBR Challenge.  Spoilers ahead-though as this book was published 1818 so if we ruin it for you I have to say #sorrynotsorry. Here’s a link to our thoughts on the first third and middle if you want to catch up!

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I loved Persuasion in the end! I almost wish I’d read it sooner, but I had so much fun reading it this way I’m glad I waited.

Eva: It was still great reading it this time. I think it’s more enjoyable re-reading it because you know the major plot points but you forget the details. So as you’re reading it, you know more what to look for. I think that all of JA’s work improves on re-reading.

As for the story, the action has all moved on to Bath.  Anne is now staying with with her father Sir Walter and her total poop of a sister Elizabeth.  Mrs. Clay just can’t find her way to her own home and Mr. Elliot is around all the time.  Even whiny Mary finds a way to get herself to Bath because she can’t stand thinking that she’s missing out on the fun!

Anne comes to learn that a very dear friend from school is living in Bath for her health.  Poor Mrs. Smith – she thought she married well, but her husband died in debt and she’s now nearly friendless and only goes out to the waters.  Though Sir Walter of course looks down on this connection, it doesn’t stop our kind Anne from visiting her friend often.  Mrs. Russell is in Bath as well and is hoping for Anne to make a match with Mr. Elliott about as strongly as she wished against Wentworth in the past.

Everyone seems to think Mr. Elliott is about to propose to Anne-I was expecting it while thinking of Lizzy Bennet adamantly refusing Mr. Collins.  I was wondering how Anne could talk her way out from someone she is so clearly not interested in while still being perhaps the kindest character ever. Then she goes to see her friend Mrs. Smith who congratulates her on the presumed match. When Anne explains that this marriage will never happen Mrs. Smith comes clean in a surprising rush!  Mr. Elliott not only led her poor husband into financial ruin be can’t be bothered to help Mrs. Smith claim what inheritance she may yet receive.

Holly: I thought the scene with Mrs. Smith was a little weird – she goes from being convinced her friend is going to marry Mr. Elliot to sharing all the details about his shadiness. I mean, I get that in her situation she didn’t think it was worth sharing – but again, this whole story exists because people talked young Anne out of an engagement, yet Mrs. Smith can’t make an effort to talk Anne out of this one? It’s not as if she had a lot to lose by speaking up!

Then Eva, wisely pointed out that yes, there is still a lot for Mrs. Smith to lose, perhaps: Mrs Smith had her own, rather desperate, reasons for letting Anne marry Mr. Elliot. Today, yes what Mrs. Smith almost did would be unforgivable, but you have to try and read it from the perspective of the time. Mrs. Smith has no options – she is a widow with lots of debts and no way to get the money that is rightfully hers because of her gender. She will do almost anything to change that. JA writes often about there being nothing worse than a poor woman.

Point taken, eh?

Anyway, there is an amazing scene after that where Wentworth overhears Anne talking to his friend, and he hands her a hastily written letter on his way out.

Eva: Um, that letter that Wentworth writes? It’s up there with “you must allow me to tell you how I ardently I admire and love you.”

Holly:  Half-agony, half-hope – pretty much sums up the entire experience of reading this book (even if you know that they’ll ultimately get together!).

We don’t learn too much about what happens with Sir Walter and Elizabeth, but who cares?

Eva: I do think Austen left Elizabeth and Sir Walter to sort their own shit out because they are horrible and don’t deserve a proper ending.

In summary we all agree, Jane Austen is the bomb.