Review: The Forgotten Room

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig

Hardcover, 384 pages

Expected publication: January 19th 2016 by Berkley/NAL

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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1945: When the critically wounded Captain Cooper Ravenal is brought to a private hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, young Dr. Kate Schuyler is drawn into a complex mystery that connects three generations of women in her family to a single extraordinary room in a Gilded Age mansion.

Who is the woman in Captain Ravenel’s portrait miniature who looks so much like Kate?  And why is she wearing the ruby pendant handed down to Kate by her mother?  In their pursuit of answers, they find themselves drawn into the turbulent stories of Gilded Age Olive Van Alen, driven from riches to rags, who hired out as a servant in the very house her father designed, and Jazz Age Lucy Young, who came from Brooklyn to Manhattan in pursuit of the father she had never known.  But are Kate and Cooper ready for the secrets that will be revealed in the Forgotten Room?

I was very curious to see how this book was done with 3 authors.  I think it has come across pretty clear that I am a big fan of Lauren Willig.  I have also really enjoyed what I’ve read by Beatrice Williams, but Karen White was new to me.  These ladies were great together!  I am really curious to learn more about how the writing process worked.  As we follow three women in the story, did each author write one?  The writing flowed pretty seamlessly so I am impressed if that’s what they did.  I think they’re already working on another book together and now i’m excited to learn about that project!  

We jump between time periods to meet Olive, who has begun working as a maid for the Pratt family after her architect father was disgraced by the Pratt patriarch and killed himself.  Next comes Lucy, who has fled her family’s German bakery after the death of her own parents to work as a legal secretary.  Then we have Kate, working as one of a very few female doctors receiving injured American soldiers returning from the front in Europe.  

I loved that the Pratt Mansion was just the first connection between generations.  I could see this beautiful old house in my mind as it transitioned from the design on paper created by Olive’s father, to the cold family manor where she served as a maid, then the single women’s apartments that Lucy lived in and finally the World War II hospital that Kate worked at.  The house and the attic room were almost characters in their own right.  They held their secrets well and released them with perfect timing.  

I admit at first I was a bit confused at the transitions at first and wondering how these ladies could connect to each other – but once I figured it out I was HOOKED.  The loves were sweet and the heartaches were brutal.  The clues that the authors left us to follow outside of the house were perfect I thought.  I loved how they kept popping up with a new story in each generation.  

I don’t think every book has to have a happy ending – and sometimes they’re better for it (see Hausfrau) but I was really afraid I’d be walking away disappointed in the end.  Thankfully these ladies pulled through for me and I was happy with the ending.  I can’t decide who my favorite was still!  Perhaps I’ll have to reread and decide.   

4 stars!

Thank you Berkley/NAL and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

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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!

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?

Pink for All Seasons: Books 4-6

We are halfway through with Pink For All Seasons, a Lauren Willig read-along of her Pink Carnation series. We will be officially hosting book # 9 of the read-along over at The Bubblebath Reader in May, but once again we’ve decided to offer our unsolicited opinions. Here’s our take on books 4, 5, and 6.

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The Seduction of the Crimson Rose (2008)

Synopsis: In modern times, graduate student Eloise continues diving into the lives of English spies and French counterspies – while also deciding that she is interested in Colin for more than just his family’s archives. From there, the story dives into scheming Mary Alsworthy (sister of the heroine in book 3) and equally conniving Lord Vaughn, as the two embark on a business relationship that turns into something else.

Holly: After the virtuous naivete of the ladies in the first three books, I found Mary to be a refreshing change. Of course, I loved Amy, Henrietta, and Letty while reading about them, but Mary’s point of view offered an entirely different perspective on her life and her choices.

Amanda: I admit on my first read of this series I wondered why Lauren would want to write about Mary Alsworthy.  She just sounds like a jerk!  And then you get into her head.  She’s well aware of her place in Society -she has the face everyone wants but no money to back up a marriage.  So despite myself I found myself sympathizing for Mary a bit and then rooting for her to find her own happily ever after.  After all the pleasantness of the other heroes and heroines I have to say I really enjoyed the snark Mary and Vaughn bring to the series.  They can be a bit too condescending for me, but I suppose as the son of an Earl Vaughn can be as rude as he’d like.  These two are simply perfect for each other in the end.

The Mischief of the Mistletoe (2010)

Synopsis: Arabella Dempsey, friend of Jane Austen, has grown up on the outskirts of the ton, the British high society to which so many of the characters in the Pink books belong to. She takes a teaching position at a girl’s school, and finds herself involved in a web of school girls and spies, while one Turnip Fitzgerald finds himself suddenly quite interested in visiting his sister at school. Notes – here, Lauren Willing recommends reading the series slightly out of order from their publication years, so this book jumps over some earlier published titles. She lists the order here. Also, unlike the rest of the Pink books, this one has no modern Eloise & Colin storyline.

Holly: I was prepared not to like this book – we’ve got a random appearance of Jane Austen, a serious lack of Eloise and Colin, AND the male lead is played by the comic relief of book #2 (I mean, not that Hen and Miles need much comic relief as they’re pretty hilarious on their own). However, Lauren got me again, because I loved this one. I thought it was interesting that this is the first book without um, a vivid romantic scene, but I think that is quite fitting. I’m pretty sure Turnip would call it deuced dodgy to talk about his and Miss Dempsey’s business like that.

Amanda: Something about this book made me grumpy when I started and I was prepared to rate it much lower on my re-read.  Maybe it was the Jane Austen cameo?  I love Austen so I don’t know why this irked me.  But Turnip- or Reggie as I now prefer to think of him- is just so stinking pleasant! And like Arabella, I fell a little bit in love with him.  I did miss Eloise and Colin but I was totally entertained by Arabella and the antics of her students.  Even though this was a reread for me I was surprised in the end by the spies!

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine (2009)

Synopsis: Eloise spends time at Selwick Manor – both hanging out the Colin and researching in the family archives. She uncovers the letters and diary of Charlotte Lansdowne, who has fallen in love with her just-returned-from-India-very-very-distant cousin Robert, the Duke of Dovedale, who seems to be hiding something.

Amanda:  I have such a good story about this book! My best friend wanted to get this for my for my birthday-but it was not going to released until later that month.  She emailed Lauren and explained what fans of the series we were and asked if she knew any way to get a copy early. Lauren mailed me one of her very own copies and signed it!  Sweetest author ever!  Dear Charlotte is also the sweetest and you just have to want her to be happy.

Holly: I adore Charlotte. In sharp contrast to the heroines of Pink 1-3, she is not at all afraid to tell Robert what she feels about him, what she wants, and how his actions affect her. I just loved reading her story, and six books in, I am still quite enjoying the series!

Are you reading along with us?  Or eagerly awaiting the conclusion to the Pink Carnation series?

Pink for All Seasons, Books 1-3

As participants in Pink For All Seasons, a Lauren Willig read-along, with The Bubblebath Reader, we thought we’d share our thoughts on the first 3 books in the Pink Carnation series. And, if you’re not reading these, you should be – they’re fun, quick reads, and the first one came out in 2005, so your odds of finding them at your local library are pretty good! Holly has been reading them all for the first time (with the exception of #1), while Amanda has been rereading.

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The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (2005)

Synopsis: Eloise, a modern day Harvard graduate student finds herself engrossed in studying the family papers of the British spy called the Purple Gentian, hoping to discover the identity of his successor, the Pink Carnation. She navigates the story of Amy Balcourt who returns to France with dreams of joining the league of the Purple Gentian, and her relationship with Lord Richard Selwick, who is not exactly what he seems.

Holly: This book is a lot of fun – I reread it, and I remembered enjoying it the first time, and then I dove right into the second one, wondering why I hadn’t done that before. Amy and Richard are hilarious, and, how many books offer both a steamy luv scene on a moonlit boat on the Seine, and an overview of Napoleonic history?

Amanda: I admit it I haven’t reread it this time.  I love Amy and Richard though, and Eloise is adorable! Despite my love for this series, this is actually my least favorite Pink book.  That sounds worse than I want it to-this is a must read to get sucked into the Pink fun!

The Masque of the Black Tulip (2006)

Synopsis: Eloise continues her research into the Selwick family papers, this time discovering that Lord Richard’s sister Henrietta was involved in trying to catch a French spy – while also catching the attention of her brother’s best friend, Miles.

 Holly: I think I started this one the same night I finished #1, and I started #3 right after. And, I started to figure out that while there are connections between the characters across books, each one focuses on a different pair. Also, Richard proves to be a bit of hypocrite here!

Amanda: Hen and Miles might be my favorite couple.  I love the spark between them.  Its great that this book is set in London so we can really get an idea of the circle that Willig has created and get excited for the stories to come.  I had forgotten about Miles and all his mistresses though-that makes him a bit less loveable I have to say.  Yes, realistic for the period and all, just gets my feminist 2014 self slightly riled up.

The Deception of the Emerald Ring (2006)

Synopsis: This time, Eloise finds herself researching Viscount Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe, another good friend of Richard and Miles’s, along with his accidental bride Letty. More chasing spies, more last minute getaways, and more Eloise waiting for the phone to ring.

 Holly: I actually really liked this story too, even though my synopsis makes it sound like more of the same. Maybe I just read too much Pink back-to-back. However, I did start to get annoyed here with another marriage because someone might be “compromised.” In the first book, Amy and Richard are all but d-o-i-n-g-i-t on a boat, and then here, there’s a little k-i-s-s-i-n-g which immediates necessitates getting married to avoid a scandal. I know Lauren Willig worked on a doctorate in history so maybe British high society really was so uptight, but it comes across a bit heavy-handed. We’ve had three innocent and virtuous young women for whom marriage is the only way to experience intimacy, while the men are allowed to engage in affairs with impunity (going back to books 1 & 2). And I suppose that’s not the author’s projection – that is/was the reality – with the modern-equivalent being that Eloise thinks that Colin is playing games with her so she tries to play right back. I’m looking forward to reading #4, because I don’t think Mary Alsworthy is going to be such an innocent maiden!

Amanda-Yes! Get to reading! #4 is one of my favorites and I think was the book I tried to get for the Pink readalong to begin with.  But back to your points, I definitely don’t think Willig is over-exaggerating the risk of being compromised.  Not that I’m a Regency scholar, but that’s the impression I have.  I had forgotten how poorly our hero and his bride start off in Pink III.  I really like Letty and the spunk that she surprises even herself with.  I did feel the romance moved a bit too quickly in the end, but at the same time I was totally entertained because this book has one of my favorite villians.  Also, I kind of adore Lord Vaughn so I’m always happy read when he’s skulking about.  Now I’m even more excited to get the Seduction of the Crimson Rose!

Last-another perk for following the Pink readalong is that Ashley is giving away copies of all the books and other fun prizes.  Holly and I have both won so far! Maybe you’ll win next?

Pink for All Seasons

Amanda: Holly and I are excited to say we’re participating in Pink for All Seasons along with Ashley at the Bubblebath Reader.  What is Pink for All Seasons you ask?  Maybe I haven’t book pushed The Secret History of the Pink Carnation on you yet and for that I apologize! I love this series and the happy escape to the past that they always give to me.  

Holly: So, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation is the first of twelve books in the Pink series. #12 will be released in 2015, so Pink for All Seasons is a year-long read-along of the whole series, one book per month. I had actually only read #1 before, so I’m jumping into uncharted territory here. Amanda of course, is doing a re-read.

Amanda: Starting with #1, the adventure is off! Spies abound throughout Europe and abroad, romances flourish and parasols are used as fearsome weapons.  And Eloise-oh I am going to miss her!  Though I’m really sad to know that this series is coming to an end next year I know its probably time.  I hate to see a series I love drag on and become painful to read (I’m looking at you Sookie Stackhouse)  Thankfully Lauren Willig is writing other great historical romances to keep me happy.  

Holly: And yeah, I decided to jump right into this read-along – so much so, that I read the first three Pink books in September. I’m totally digging them!

Amanda: We are going to have a stop on the tour next May with the Garden Intrigue (#9) but we’re definitely going to be reading along in the meantime.  We hope you join in and love these books too!  There’s even going to be a giveaway every month with a signed copy so keep an eye out for those! Amazingly, I won the first giveaway so I now have 2 signed Lauren Willig books!  #booknerdheaven  Please join in reading with us along the way! I hope someone else I know wins another signed book!

Photo credit to Elizabeth at Strange and Random Happenstance

Photo credit to Elizabeth at Strange and Random Happenstance