Reviews

The Orchid Affair: A Pink Carnation Novel by Lauren Willig

alanaleigh's review against another edition

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4.0

Here's the thing. If you're at the point where you're reading the SEVENTH of a series in HARDCOVER, you don't really need my review. You're like me; you're going to read it regardless of what the main storyline might be. We've come this far and we've been amused enough with the ride, so we'll continue on.

The Orchid Affair is, indeed, the seventh book in the Pink Carnation series (a count which doesn't include the Christmas intrigue published a few months ago or that little online novella) published by Lauren Willig -- historical romance novelist who found her way to full time writing only after going to Harvard Law (something tells me that when they talk about the many things you can do with your law degree, this might not have been what they had in mind). Willig has certainly published a great deal since The Secret History of the Pink Carnation appeared in 2005, so thank goodness she seems to know exactly what her readers want. The series is loosely gathered around the doings of the Pink Carnation, an English spy, but the Pink Carnation herself is a somewhat elusive character -- only peeking in occasionally while each book focuses on the love lives of two other individuals. Most of the pairs of lovers in question are English, regardless of the country that provides our setting, but The Orchid Affair is unique; rather than featuring Englishfolk running about France while sporting flowery spy names, this installment features a Frenchwoman returning home after spending years in England as a governess... so she can sport a flowery spy name and be planted in the home of a French official. Much less Englishness. And running. At least in the first half. In the end, what she (and her super secret spy boss The Pink Carnation) doesn't quite count on is that the French official in question might not be totally on board with the current government's practices either, which would make them surprising allies in the need to smuggle a French claimant to the throne out of France.

Willig readers know the basic idea of what they'll be getting here. Some ridiculous fun and an eventual happy ending, preferably with a sexy scene or two tossed in... or at least some nice romantic angst. And when the obvious set up is between a secret spy governess and the employer she's spying on, well, there you have it. Laura Grey is, indeed, a governess, so posing as a governess isn't a terribly difficult role for her. Her parents were artists (her mother a poet of some note and her father a well-known sculptor) and while they had many friends in life, when they died in a boating accident, Laura made her own way in life. Now, the thrill of serving as a spy (and having gone through the Selwick Spy School) is a bit muted by the daily duties of teaching children, so thankfully the story does eventually veer off into something much more amusing -- a traveling troupe of actors. Andre Jaouen is her employer, the right-hand man (and cousin by marriage) to the Chief of Police. It's not surprising, therefore, that the Pink Carnation might want someone in his employ to glean any useful bits of information... what Laura eventually discovers, however, is that Andre is assisting the Royalist cause, having grown jaded with what the Revolution has led to. As a result, we get a fresher look at all the post-Revolution politics in France, which provides a welcome perspective in a series where naturally one must worry about the whole "those Frenchies seek him everywhere" storyline could get tired.

On the modern end of things (as each novel does tie together with the modern graduate student Eloise and her blossoming romance with the many-time-great-grandson of one of these flowery spies), we actually are seeing some drama stir up that goes beyond Eloise and Colin. I was a tad disappointed that we get no new information about exactly what Colin might be up to (is he really writing a spy novel or is he, perhaps, taking up the family business of spying?), but we do get a bit of drama as it concerns his family's estate and his mother's husband (who was her husband's nephew... ew) making a bit of a power play in his desire to be head of the family and trump Colin. The trouble here is that we get so little time with this cast that I always find myself wishing for more and not in the good sense, strictly speaking. Certainly it's interesting, but it does feel like we're rather eking along there.

I enjoy Willig's novels because she clearly has fun with the story -- which means that the reader is more likely to have fun reading it. She creates likable characters (often of the bumbling variety) and they get up to ridiculous antics -- and The Orchid Affair one was about par for the course (though it takes a little while to get to the ridiculous antics, as Paris is far too grim and serious for such things, evidently). Sadly, we're getting to the point where Willig has paired off so many people, it seems almost absurd when you come across them... a whole group of perfectly matched couples in charge of espionage operations across the Channel. But I chuckled and read the book in a weekend, so clearly it was all still amusing enough. It wasn't my favorite of her novels by any means -- the best one in the recent past was The Betrayal of the Blood Lily. It was good to get back to the actual center of the series (aka the French Revolution), though, and the French perspective was a nice angle. The Mischief of the Mistletoe introduced a whole crop of younger sisters, so clearly Willig has ample future heroines tucked away, so I'll keep on reading. Reading a Lauren Willig novel is an exceedingly pleasant way to pass a winter's afternoon/evening. Just keep the tea warm and the scones at the ready.

katietopp's review against another edition

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4.0

Not my favorite heroine. But a nice story like always. I liked hearing what happened to the children at the end.

courtknee_bee's review against another edition

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2.0

2.5 stars

For the first half of this book, I couldn't remember why it was my least favorite. It was a breath of fresh air to be set in Paris instead of England with an older hero/heroine. But once the main characters suddenly got together about 60% in, I remembered: this book has no build up. We go from Laura and André being friendly coconspirators to suddenly in ~love~ for no real reason. The ending also felt very contrived. My least favorite to date.

2022 Pink Carnation Re-Read Rankings
1. [b:The Mischief of the Mistletoe|7720480|The Mischief of the Mistletoe (Pink Carnation, #7)|Lauren Willig|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1290575915l/7720480._SY75_.jpg|10468223] (#7)
2. [b:The Secret History of the Pink Carnation|84351|The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (Pink Carnation, #1)|Lauren Willig|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1442617435l/84351._SY75_.jpg|2950861] (#1)
3. [b:The Betrayal of the Blood Lily|6580569|The Betrayal of the Blood Lily (Pink Carnation, #6)|Lauren Willig|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1442867052l/6580569._SX50_.jpg|6644882] (#6)
4. [b:The Masque of the Black Tulip|397844|The Masque of the Black Tulip (Pink Carnation, #2)|Lauren Willig|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1442518160l/397844._SY75_.jpg|2584] (#2)
5.[b:The Temptation of the Night Jasmine|3701590|The Temptation of the Night Jasmine (Pink Carnation, #5)|Lauren Willig|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1442867052l/3701590._SY75_.jpg|3752586] (#5)
6. [b:The Seduction of the Crimson Rose|1363577|The Seduction of the Crimson Rose (Pink Carnation, #4)|Lauren Willig|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1389293004l/1363577._SY75_.jpg|1353384] (#4)
7. [b:The Deception of the Emerald Ring|25802|The Deception of the Emerald Ring (Pink Carnation, #3)|Lauren Willig|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1427729363l/25802._SY75_.jpg|26522] (#3)
8. [b:The Orchid Affair|8111651|The Orchid Affair (Pink Carnation, #8)|Lauren Willig|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1286301124l/8111651._SY75_.jpg|12906677] (#8)

balletbookworm's review against another edition

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5.0

Oh dear. Laura and Letty are now having a face-off over who is the best Willig heroine. Arabella is looking on to see if she can capitalize on the disagreement (if Pen doesn't beat her to the punchline). Mary thinks she is better than all this, Charlotte is reading a book, and Hen and Amy are far too busy training new spies to notice.

kim_chelf's review against another edition

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4.0

Another fun book in the Pink Carnation series. I enjoyed this one a lot...it is different from the rest of them in that there is more intrigue. Unlike the last few books in the series, I found myself genuinely invested in the characters and I wanted everything to work out for them in the end.

This was the first book where the main character hadn't been introduced in an earlier book at all. While I liked adding fresh blood, I missed the tie-ins to earlier titles. But overall it was a fun read.

gaderianne's review against another edition

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4.0

This was my favorite book in the Pink Carnation series since the first one. The Orchid Affair takes you back to France (after the Terror but still in very dangerous territory) with the newest member of the flower named spy network, a former governess. This book was more serious then most of the books in the series. I didn't realized I missed the lighthearted bravado from other books until the end when we again see Lord Richard. Still, I liked the serious tone. Everything in the book seemed more dire and dangerous than the spy action taking place in England. In the very last book (The Mistletoe Book) I mentioned in my review that I missed the modern day romance/story between Colin and Eloise. Perhaps because it wasn't as good of a story. In this book I just wanted to say immersed in the French Revolution. I thought that the story between Colin and Eloise was tired and I just didn't care. I suppose, the better the story the more I want to stay with it and not be bothered by Colin and Eloise. I wonder if Willig can wrap up their story somehow so we don't need to be bothered with them anymore.

maferg01's review against another edition

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5.0

I really enjoyed the story in this installment of the Pink Carnation series. It started out a bit slow but Laura and Andre were great characters to tell this fast paced story. I really enjoyed reading more about Paris after the Revolution.

tartbarbie's review against another edition

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4.0

Laura Grey has joined the Selwick Spy School her first mission is to go undercover as a governess which she's had lots of experience as. She's on a mission to report anything suspicious about the plan to unseat Bonaparte. It's clear after arriving that she needs to purchase some books to teach the children as they are lacking. Bundling up the kids they set out on an adventure in Paris encountering several characters.

It isn't long that Laura starts to piece together the things going on with Jaouen and his work. However, things spiral out of control when a blast from her past comes into play and her secret identity is almost revealed. As if that wasn't enough now someone she cares about is about to be wrongfully accused and they jump into action. Saving the day with an elaborate plan that will risk them all.

I'm not a huge historical fiction fan but I instantly was drawn into Laura's story it's captivating right from the start. I admit the book was read out of order but each book seems to tell a different story and I don't think that caused any issues reading out of order. I found the concept super interesting a creative spin on the Neopolianic war times.

I really liked Laura as a character she was easy to connect with right from the start, and I was drawn into her story. I wasn't sure about Jaouen but the more we got to know him the more I liked him as a potential love interest for Laura. Who says you can't fall in love with the man you are sent to watch and end up saving. This is my first book by the author and I'm a huge fan. I look forward to going back and reading from the start.

kleedc73's review against another edition

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4.0

In the seventh installment in the Pink Carnation series, Laura Grey has been recruited as a spy by the Pink Carnation and completed a "spy course" at Selwick Hall. In her first assignment as the Silver Orchid, she is placed in the household of the right-hand to the French Minister of Police, Andre Jaouen, as governess to his two children. Miss Grey (or Mlle Giscogne in French) had been a governess for 16 years prior to her spy career, so the cover was perfect. Miss Grey becomes embroiled in uncovering important details about French efforts to thwart a plot to overturn Bonaparte and reinstate a Bourbon on the throne of France. In the course of her duties, Miss Grey starts to see possibilities for a new life for herself, a life that might even include love......even though a love match with the forbidding Andre seemed unlikely at first. Both Laura and Andre are interesting, complicated characters, both in their personalities and in their professions. The plot of the book tracks a true historical plot in or around 1805 post-Terror France and the book is rich with historical details. Unlike some authors who write series, Willig manages to retain the heart of her books -- plucky, somewhat unlikely heroines who find love despite long odds -- without turning the book into a cookie-cutter copy of her previous works. Each of her heroines. including Laura, is original and uniquely loveable. In addition, Andre is refreshingly different as a "hero", given his occupation with the Minister of Police, an organization diametrically opposed to everything the Pink Carnation (and her cohorts) stand for. As usual, this book was delightfully entertaining.