Many years ago I read The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and enjoyed it. I am finally getting interested in continuing the series, which last I checked now has twelve novels and is not done yet!!
I would definitely recommend reading The Secret History of the Pink Carnation first, as it introduces the reader to the fictionalized world of flowery espionage in England during the days of the Napoleonic wars. We also first meet our cast of characters in it.
Though The Masque of the Black Tulip puts emphasis and focus on a different set of characters, they are within the same family and social circle. So, I still recommend reading it first.
Okay, now onto deets of The Masque of the Black Tulip!
Having discovered the shockingly delicious identity of the Pink Carnation, modern day graduate student Eloise has even more questions. Especially when she reads of the deadly French nemesis, the Black Tulip. Such a tantalizing morsel of info.
So, Eloise dives into the archives of the attractive but hard to read descendent Colin Selwick. Figuring out the old codebooks and chicken scratch writing in letters will probably be easier to do than interpreting the actions of her sometimes crush Colin.
Her research finds an unlikely pair at the center of the action, related to the Pink Carnation, who had every intention of stopping the Black Tulip. Not actually spies themselves, the two get mixed up in more than they possibly could handle – including finding themselves realizing romantic feelings in an extraordinarily bad time to do so…
The Masque of the Black Tulip was loads of fun!
I’ve seen some people complain about Eloise, that her contemporary role is boring compared to the romance and espionage of the Regency era we are primarily narrated in. I disagree, I find her appealing, hilarious and relatable.
Regarding the primary storyline during the Napoleonic wars, I found Henrietta a more likable character than Amy was in The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. Far less wanton and much more brainy and witty. That’s the way I like my gals!
Henrietta and her brother’s best friend Miles have some excellent dialogue interplay and they have a foundation in friendship – knowing each other very well – that makes the rest of the story play more smoothly and believably than the first novel, for me.
On the actual suspense and spying aspect, as it was so long since I read the first book, I did occasionally get a bit lost. Overall, though, it was an entertaining jaunt of a novel. It was lighthearted to read with an adventurous spark, delightful humor and plenty of romantic tension. It didn’t take itself TOO seriously, making The Masque of the Black Tulip an enjoyable mystery!
I will continue to dive into this series – though I am still not in state to scramble all over myself to get the next book. It’ll happen when it happens.
I *am* curious about what happens with Eloise and Colin though…