. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Where In The Series Are We? . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In the true style of her Pink Carnation series, Lauren Willig’s holiday novel “The Mischief of the Mistletoe” takes several scenes from her previous book “The Temptation of the Night Jasmine” and turns the perspective of the story by describing key scenes through the eyes of a different set of characters.
The Pink Carnation series itself is all about perspective as all the novels are told between the duel view points of a current day historian and the characters she researches who are spies during the French Revolution. In Mistletoe, since readers will/should recognize the scenes from the previous book, Willig has chosen not to include the current day subplot, and leave the reader completely in the historical story allowing us to focus completely on how we get from scenes A to B in a completely new way by bumping into actual historical legends such as Jane Austen.
I have to admit that I’ve been waiting for the inside story about Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh. He is just too kind and a fun character not to learn more about him. If you have read any of the Pink Carnation series you will recognize Turnip playing the stumbling sidekick to the other novels’ heroes. Turnip is the Georgian Era’s version of James Stewart (aka Elwood P. Dowd), in Harvey, minus the Pooka. Turnip is so kind, sweet and honorable it is impossible not to fall in love with this easy-going hero, even if he is nicknamed after a vegetable.
However, in Mistletoe we see a completely new side of our lovable Turnip as he takes center stage in the story’s search for spies at an all-girl school that his sister attends. It is the perfect place for Turnip to discover his perfect match, Arabella Dempsey.
Arabella is Turnip’s opposite in all practical matters. She is the eldest daughter of an ailing pastor who realizes her responsibility to her family and takes a position as a junior instructress. Arabella is so weighed down by reality that she finds Turnip’s and the school girls’ stories of spies ludicrous. Yet there is just enough spirit left in Arabella to seize the day for one last grand adventure before she completely becomes entrenched in the gray, tiring world of a teacher.
Like all of Willig’s books, Mistletoe brings pieces of history to life. With this romantic holiday story Willig brings in the heavy hitter of romance stories herself, Jane Austen. Arabella might have been too tight-laced to expect that one of her best friends is Jane Austen, who often discusses the love stories she is writing to Arabella. This contrast in women’s feelings about society and love is an interesting subplot to the surrounding love / spy plot. Jane is portrayed like her own characters; totally hopeful that all her friends will find love and happiness in the end. Whereas Arabella is so certain that her chance for love has passed her by that she can’t rationalize her passion when her hero is standing right in front of her.
Pink Carnation Series
While we follow along with Arabella and Turnip as they chase down the truths behind the mysteries at what should be a boring and respectable girls’ school, readers are blessed by the accompanying prose and vocabulary that Willig weaves into all her stories. Fostered by her degree in English History from Harvard University, Willig often treats readers with some of the greatest lines in English literature. In Mistletoe you’ll find the tantalizing lines from John Milton’s Comus (1:122):
What hath night to do with sleep?
Night hath better sweets to prove;
This education in literature and a strong vocabulary juxtaposed against the comedic love story of the book’s characters elevates Mistletoe from just a pleasant romantic read into a true work of art and storytelling. Willig is witty in her dialog and paints a beautiful description of the landscape, ballrooms, and a love that her characters experience.
If you like Mistletoe (or other Pink Carnation books), don’t miss out on the free novella posted on Willig’s website: Ivy and Intrigue: A Very Selwick Christmas.
In fact you’ll want to spend some time on this author’s website as she has created an entire Diversion section which includes a bevy of bonus material such as contests, character bios, and behind-the-scenes info. This is just one more way Lauren Willig takes her stories beyond what the average reader expects and gives us more from her books, her characters, and herself.
From Lauren Willig’s official website, here is the reading order for the Pink Carnation series:
- The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (spring 1803)
- The Masque of the Black Tulip (spring/summer 1803)
- The Deception of the Emerald Ring (summer 1803)
- The Seduction of the Crimson Rose (autumn 1803)
- Ivy and Intrigue: A Very Selwick Christmas (Christmas, 1803)
- The Mischief of the Mistletoe (winter 1803)
- The Temptation of the Night Jasmine (winter 1803/spring 1804)
- Bunny & Biscuits: A Very Dorrington Valentine’s Day (Valentine’s Day 1804)
- The Betrayal of the Blood Lily (autumn 1804)
- The Orchid Affair (spring 1804)
- The Garden Intrigue (summer 1804)
- The Passion of the Purple Plumeria (spring 1805)