This is my first foray into the world of The Pink Carnation as there were six others the preceded this chapter. I did receive the first as a gift, THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE PINK CARNATION, but it got buried among the other books that were calling me at the time. Normally I never read series out-of-order but thanks to my friends at Dutton Books I received a copy of THE MISCHIEF OF THE MISTLETOE and it is the holidays after all and now I am hooked. Have to see how all of this began and learn the back story if there is one to the characters I met in this story.
As I did not read the others I am going to just dish about this one and feel free to chime in cause it is much more fun that way. I love Jane Austen, always have always will, so Regency England is a period that interests me from the start. And then to have Jane herself written into a supporting role in this book I was immediately delighted. There is more to this tale indeed so don’t turn away if you are not a fan.
Mystery and intrigue wrapped up in the style and customs of the period in history so you get several genres in one read. This should not be a surprise to those who have read other Lauren Willig books in the series or have flipped to the back cover of her books as she received a degree in English History from Harvard.
Arabella Dempsey had few options as a single young lady without money or a suitor on the horizon. Lady Osborne, her aunt, whom she had been in the employ of until recently discharged. Lady Osborne married a much younger man, Captain Musgrove, with designs on her money who shamelessly flirted with Miss Dempsey while in her aunt’s employ. It would seem and there was no longer a proper place for Miss Dempsey in that household with the addition of her new uncle. Faced with the poverty of her situation and wanting to help her family she secured a position at Miss Climpson’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies.
Quite by accident she encountered Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh as he was at the school visiting his sister Sally. Willig entangled the two from the start in a mystery involving Christmas pudding of all things. Christmas pudding while an English tradition, kind of like fruit cake here in America with the same mixed reviews. Turns out there was a message hidden inside of the pudding Turnip and Arabella stumble upon and they are immediately involved in an adventure to determine whose message they intercepted.
Thank goodness Willig included the detail that Turnip has been linked to the spy community before, some even suspect he is The Pink Carnation. Make no mistake this books stands alone and I did not feel confused or cheated at anytime but I do want to read all of the others and catch up. Unfortunately or fortunately based on your take, a new release is just around the corner, The Orchid Affair from Dutton is due this month.
It seems I have digressed. Turnip and Arabella dive into the mystery of the french message in the Christmas pudding. Turnip notices Arabella from the start as she is not like the other young ladies. She is willing to embrace this adventure and has a good mind and quick reactions. Arabella too falls for Turnip but he is well about her station in life and he has been linked to other more suitable women such as Penelope Deveraux.
Twists and tangles ensued complete with chases, captures, knives and guns. Along the way delightful characters are introduced and it is not clear who is involved in this mystery but there is danger everywhere for Arabella. A second message was found in Christmas pudding at the school and it was the same night something valuable quite by accident came into the possession of Arabella. Her room is searched several times at Miss Climpson’s school, she is held at knife point twice. It turns out Arabella was clever enough to deduce one was a paper sheath but it did not change the fact that she was in the thick of things.
Both Arabella and Turnip find themselves at Aunt Osbourne’s Christmas party and events kick into high gear. Not only are Arabella and Turnip present but those trying to find what it is still perceived Arabella has are at the party as well. Things come to a crescendo at the party and as with all beautiful presents they are tied up with a stunning bow. And since I love surprises I will not tell you more till you unwrap it for yourself.
To Lauren I would offer I for one would like to see what is next for Arabella and Turnip. I do recognize it is a shortcoming that I have not read the other books in the series to know how you treat other lead characters but this is just my two cents because clearly there are more books to come in this series.