A review by violetlily13
The Seduction of the Crimson Rose by Lauren Willig


This is perhaps the most interesting book in the series, largely due to the main characters, who aren't at all like the naive, honest protagonists of the previous two Pink Carnation books. Mary and Vaughn are, to put it in Potteverse terms, Slytherins in the best of ways, outwardly cold and cunning, enjoying the finer things in life and using society to their advantage. Yet they are also broken, embittered against those around them and probably also against society itself. They are ambiguous in their loyalties and their behaviour, surprisingly good examples of grey-area characters - it wasn't at all something I expected of Willig's writing. Willig gives us insight into how these characters tick, and the psychological complexities of their development as individuals and of their relationship were fascinating.

The modern portion of this book was also well-developed, not only with Eliose and Colin's blossoming relationship, but also in its introduction of academic rivalry (more like desperation on Dempster's part). It added more realism to the frame narrative to show one of the darker sides of academic work, forcing Eliose to think about her own motives for pursuing the Pink Carnation (and Colin). It was with this book that I saw the frame narrative/modern plot really coming into its own and contributing to the novel as a whole.

There are still weaknesses in this novel's plot and the cliches of nineteeth-century fiction, especially the "Other Woman" that comes between the protagonists. The resolution of that sub-plot was dissatisfying, removing that character too easily so that Mary and Vaughn could be together in the end. The villain was also too obvious - I guessed who it was far too early in the book, and it ruined any sense of suspense this novel could have maintained. It's for these reasons that I rate this book 3/5 rather than 4, but I think that, overall, this book is a strong addition to the series.