Lauren Willig is one of my all-time favorite authors. I stumbled across The Secret History of the Pink Carnation on one of those “Buy 2, Get 1 free” tables in Borders many years back. It is marked as one of the most serendipitous reading moments of my life. Since falling in love with the stories of the Pink Carnation, I tell all and sundry to read Willig if they like a good Regency romance cum spy novel. Think Jane Austen meets James Bond and you’ll get a vague idea of what is going on. Hmm, maybe Bond with more of a sense of humor too. Anyhoo, Willig is releasing her seventh Pink Carnation novel this month (see, there was a reason I didn’t get to this until now) and I am counting the days. Willig remains the only author I actually pre-order books for. It helps she usually publishes vaguely around my birthday so I just consider it an early birthday present to myself.
However, Willig’s latest installments of the Pink Carnation series have not been my favorites, I’ll be the first to admit. I feel like the heroines have been lacking something and, gasp!, these books have been more serious than the first books in the series. I was concerned Willig was losing a spark in her writing that I counted on. However, I was still excited when she announced there would be a special Christmas-themed addition to the series and it would include a cameo from Miss Austen herself. Be still my heart. The hero would be the ever bumbling yet endearing Turnip Fitzhugh which gave me pause since he was not exactly my dream hero but Willig had successfully made Lord Vaughn into hero material for The Seduction of the Crimson Rose so I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.
To add to my excitement, Willig was going to be in a former haunt of mine, Ann Arbor, and one of my best friends was willing to go and get The Mischief of the Mistletoe signed for me! I have lots of pictures of her signing my book and apparently my friend made sure Willig was informed of my Pink Carnation ambassador status. People, Lauren Willig knew I existed for three minutes. The literary fangirl inside of me is squealing.
So, when I got the book, a very early Christmas gift from my friend, I dove in as quickly as possible. And I was not disappointed. This was by far one of the best books Willig has written in a long time. It has everything I fell in love with in the first three books: a dashing, if often thwarted, hero, a practical yet romantic heroine, hijinxs, misunderstandings and a delightful last scene complete with unrealistic yet totally please-let-that-happen-to-me-someday dialogue. Turnip may just be my favorite hero since Geoff in The Deception of the Emerald Ring which is high praise I assure you. However, what helps this book climb my personal Willig rankings, and I think what puts it firmly at the top, were the laugh-out-loud moments in this book. I kid you not, I was laughing so hard there were tears during the midnight library scene when a “burglar” is thwarted by a bunch of school girls, one of which sits on him to detain him. Add Turnip lurking out the window, a disgruntled school mistress and lots of broken china and I literally could not stop laughing. I am laughing right now just thinking of this scene.
Willig definitely has her genre niche and I realize she is not for everyone. But, if you at all enjoy a good regency romance, you must at least try her once so at least then you know what you are missing!