Laura Grey is a plant in Andre Jaouen’s household, acting as a governess to his children but sent by the Pink Carnation to find out more about his allegiances. Laura, originally a Frenchwoman, does have the experience to teach the children at the same time, since she’s spent half her 32 years as a governess. The surprise is that Jaouen has much more in common with Laura’s side than anyone initially thought, and the challenge will be to keep everyone safe as certain members of the French government begin to suspect him. In the modern world, Eloise and Colin head to Paris to meet his mother, but her husband (who is actually of Colin’s generation) has some nasty plans in store to prove his position as the new head of the family.
After the light-hearted fun that was The Mischief of the Mistletoe, we’re right back in the thick of Napoleonic France with The Orchid Affair. Things are not easy or delightful for Laura and Andre. The dark side of the series and the espionage factor have come back in force, as Laura is immediately aware of the danger around her when she presents herself as a governess, right at the start of the book. Things simply escalate as the story continues. The modern day story doesn’t lighten things up here either; instead, Colin and Eloise are hit with some unpleasant bombshells of their own of varying severity. Willig’s writing is still as witty and polished as ever, but we’re much more aware that things can and sometimes do go wrong.
Regardless, it was nice to be transported back to the feel the books had at the beginning of the series, to be reminded that these books are about spies and that post-Revolutionary France was still a ridiculously dangerous place to be. Certainly some of the last few have run the risk of letting us slip into a delightful idyll of romance, but this book isn’t like that. Even the inevitable relationship between Laura and Andre, when it comes, isn’t like that. Instead, it’s a meeting of minds and a love borne almost out of necessity. They’re attracted from the start, but I got the feeling that neither of them would have acted on it without some external pushes. I can’t say I’m as fond of this couple as I have been of previous couples, but overall the storyline works very well and flows completely naturally – I was able to speed right through this book.
The Pink Carnation series is still an auto-buy for me; I continue to enjoy each and every installment of the series. I would definitely recommend them to anyone looking for delightful, romantic, and sometimes suspenseful reads centered around spies in Napoleonic France and eighteenth century England.
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