Friday, August 16, 2013

Review: The Passion of the Purple Plumeria by Lauren Willig

Title: The Passion of the Purple Plumeria
Author: Lauren Willig
Format: Paperback
Publisher: NAL Trade
Publish Date: August 6, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a historical fiction fan.
  • You're a romance fan.
  • You like a little bit of mystery.
What's the Story?:

From "Colonel William Reid has returned home from India to retire near his children, who are safely stowed in an academy in Bath. Upon his return to the Isles, however, he finds that one of his daughters has vanished, along with one of her classmates.

Having served as second-in-command to the Pink Carnation, one of England’s most intrepid spies, it would be impossible for Gwendolyn Meadows to give up the intrigue of Paris for a quiet life in the English countryside—especially when she’s just overheard news of an alliance forming between Napoleon and an Ottoman Sultan. But, when the Pink Carnation’s little sister goes missing from her English boarding school, Gwen reluctantly returns home to investigate the girl’s disappearance.

Thrown together by circumstance, Gwen and William must cooperate to track down the young ladies before others with nefarious intent get their hands on them. But Gwen’s partnership with quick-tongued, roguish William may prove to be even more of an adventure for her than finding the lost girls…"

My Two Cents:

"The Passion of the Purple Plumeria" is the 10th book in Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series. While this is only the second book of the series that I have read, I am already very appreciative of how light and fun these books are. There's historical elements present. There's love! There's a little bit of mystery! I definitely want to read more of this series.

So do you need to read the other books in the series? No, not necessarily. You will definitely be able to pick up on as well as enjoy the story without having read any of the other books. That being said, this book may spoil some of the story lines of the other books for you.

This series is all about spies during Napoleonic times a la the Scarlet Pimpernel. The bits of history that we get on how and why the spying was conducted was fascinating. Even though all the main figures in the book are made up, historical fiction lovers will find a lot to love about these books; they are great stories about another time and place.

This book tells the story of Miss Gwen, who has appeared in other Pink Carnation books. As a right hand lady to the Pink Carnation, she knows the in's and out's of spying and saving the day but this book gives her a chance to shine!

Overall, this was a really fun book and like I said, it only made me want to go back and read more of this series! 

Author Interview:

1.     Do you listen to music when you write?  If so, could you create a “playlist” for the book?  What music did you listen to while writing?  Or what music does the book make you think of?

Being a creature of habit, I tend to listen and re-listen to the same things while I work, largely because I’m too lazy to queue up something new.  The more familiar the songs are the better, since that means they fade into the background as ambient noise. It all varies book to book: my second book, The Masque of the Black Tulip, was all about the Shrek II soundtrack (in my own defense, it was the summer of 2004, and “Accidentally in Love” was so Miles and Henrietta); my fourth book, The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, was composed almost entirely to Bach; and my stand alone novel, The Ashford Affair, involved a lot of Toad the Wet Sprocket.

For The Passion of the Purple Plumeria?  Miss Gwen’s book seemed to call for a certain amount of girl music: I listened to a lot of The Weepies and Vienna Tang—and whatever happened to be playing at my favorite Starbucks.

You can find detailed playlists for the first five Pink Carnation novels on my website:  One of these days, I’ll get around to adding the playlists for Books Six through Ten!

2.     Do you ever go back and read previous novels from the series before writing the next one?

Years ago, when my first book came out, I remember being shocked at a conversation with a seasoned author who informed me that she never re-read her own work.  How could she not?  At the time, I was flipping lovingly through The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, savoring every phrase.  I could practically recite chunks of it from memory.  After all, it was my book—and that was still an amazing and alien concept.

Now, I get what she meant.

When I’m working on a book, I’ll go back and spot check details in previous novels, flipping through to find specific incidents or phrases, but I find it very hard to read my own work.  There’s always something I would have changed or done differently now, some spot where the plot mechanism is creaky or the dialogue is forced, and nothing I can do to fix it.  So I tend to avoid re-reading my own work.

Not to mention that there are so many other books out there to read….

3.     Before you became a novelist you were a lawyer.  How did that experience influence your career as a novelist?

It was actually the other way around.  I’d begun playing around with the book that becameThe Secret History of the Pink Carnation way back in 2001, towards the end of my second year of grad school, because it was far more fun than working on my dissertation—and grading undergrad papers was making me cranky.  In 2003, around the same time I finished off the manuscript, I came to an important conclusion: I really, really didn’t want to spend the rest of my life grading undergrad papers.  At the same time, I knew my odds of making it as a fiction writer were slim to nonexistent—so I did what most disgruntled humanities majors do.  I lobbed in an application to law school. 

Naturally, as Murphy’s law would have it, this meant that I got my agent the month before I started at Harvard Law and signed my first book contract about a month into my 1L year.  I wound up writing three novels during law school. 
Hey, it was more interesting than Torts.

Being a glutton for punishment, I signed a contract for another two Pink Carnation books and toddled off to a large New York law firm as a litigation associate.  I found that it was relatively easy to keep dashing spies out of my memos and shareholder derivative suits outof my novels, but harder to find time to sleep.  After about a year and a half, with my veins running more coffee than blood, I decided that it was time to bite the bullet and left the law to write full time.

One thing I do owe to my year and a half as a practicing lawyer is a hearty respect for deadlines.  When a partner wants something, he doesn’t want it a week from now; he wants it five minutes ago.  Likewise, with my writing time limited to the odd weekend, there was no time to dawdle and dither and wait for the muse.  When you have a book deadline looming and only scraps of time to write in, you make those scraps count.

Most of my books have very little to do with my legal career, but I was finally able to make use of that experience with my first stand alone novel, The Ashford Affair, in which the modern heroine is an associate at a large New York law firm.  Not like I would know anyone like that….

4.     What authors have inspired your work?

The authors who had the greatest impact on the Pink Carnation series, with its swashbuckling spies and madcap humor, are, in no particular order:

n  the Baroness Orczy and Rafael Sabatini, for their tales of daring-do (or derring-do), in which able heroes wield razor sharp rapiers and even sharper wit, usually while jumping off tables or other bits of convenient scenery;
n  Georgette Heyer and Julia Quinn, for their witty, if very different, Regency romances;
n   and Elizabeth Peters, whose mystery novels taught me most of what I know about comic timing—and whose inimitable Amelia Peabody provided a model for Miss Gwendolyn Meadows, heroine of The Passion of the Purple Plumeria. 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I can't wait to read this one as I'm a fan of the series! So glad that you enjoyed it because I was worried about the typically crotchety Gwen being a likeable heroine :)


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