Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Review: The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig

Laura Grey, a veteran governess, joins the Selwick Spy School expecting to find elaborate disguises and thrilling exploits in service to the spy known as the Pink Carnation. She hardly expects her first assignment to be serving as governess for the children of Andre Jaouen, right-hand man to Bonaparte's minister of police. Jaouen and his arch rival, Gaston Delaroche, are investigating a suspected Royalist plot to unseat Bonaparte, and Laura's mission is to report any suspicious findings.At first the job is as lively as Latin textbooks and knitting, but Laura begins to notice strange behavior from Jaouen-secret meetings and odd comings and goings. As Laura edges herself closer to her employer, she makes a shocking discovery and is surprised to learn that she has far more in common with Jaouen than she originally thought...(summary from goodreads)

don't know how she does it, but Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series continues to get better and better. I loved that at ages 36 and 32 respectively, Andre and Laura are both older than the other Pink heroes and heroines and therefore more mature and slightly world-weary. 16 years of providing for herself by working as a governess has left Laura cynical and stubborn, while Andre is a man of many secrets weighed down by his job as assistant to the Prefect of Police. Neither of them are perfect, and I loved watching their romance develop as Laura begins to soften and her competence and smarts win the admiration of Jaouen.

I enjoyed the cast of secondary characters as well, like the flamboyant and jovial Monsieur Daubier and the crotchety nurserymaid Jeannette. Willig also deftly weaves in a few scenes with the hero and heroine of the next Pink Carnation book, Augustus Whittlesby and Emma Delagardie. It was fun to get a sneak peek of how their romance will begin (rather contentiously it seems).

Author Lauren Willig

As with Willig's other books, The Silver Orchid is obviously well-researched and grounded in real-life historical events. The edgy environment of suspicion in Bonaparte's Paris was perfectly captured and I felt like I was in the salons and gardens with the main characters. The only part of the book that didn't hold my attention as well was the contemporary storyline with Eloise and Colin. I normally enjoy their chapters but I couldn't help wanting the story to move along so I could get back to Laura and Andre! Overall, however, Willig has mastered how to blend the modern and historical storylines so that they each complement each other. If you've never read any of her books I highly recommend you start.

On a side note, there's an interesting interview with the author here about the journey to the final cover for The Orchid Affair, from the publisher's decision to go for a more contemporary look to one that more resembles the rest of the series' fine art covers (which I love-- I don't think I would have picked up the first book in the series if it had a "traditional romance" cover).

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. Another witty and fun romance with flawed yet appealing characters who I truly liked and an intelligent and well-written story. I can't wait for the next book (which unfortunately won't be released until January 2012)!

source: personal copy


  1. Great review! I'm more anxious than ever to catch up on the Pink Carnation books!

  2. This sounds really interesting. I have not read any of this series.