Book: The Masque of the Black Tulip

Title: The Masque of the Black Tulip
Author: Lauren Willig
Genre: Regency Romance
Length: 406 pgs

Summary: Eloise Kelly, our favorite history graduate student, continues in her determined quest to unmask the Pink Carnation, an English operative during the Napoleonic Wars that some don’t think existed. This time, she’s accompanying Colin Selwick to his ancestral home to read the archives in his family library for more information on the Pink Carnation, and in her research reads about Henrietta Selwick’s romance, which unmasks the infamous Black Tulip, a French assassin!

Excerpts:
pg 121 – We nodded at each other in complete historical complicity. His hazel eyes caught mine. That look was an entire conversation in itself, one of those odd moments of unspoken communication when you know beyond a doubt that you’re on the exact same page.

pg 214 – A human! Addressing me! I could have hugged her. There’s nothing more demoralizing than standing alone at a party–unless it’s tagging along after someone who palpably doesn’t want you there. I’d be damned if I was going to trail after Joan and Colin to the drinks table. If he wanted to extricate himself, he could bloody well do it himself.
He didn’t seem to be trying all that hard.

pg 257 – It wasn’t that the silence was uncomfortable. Quite the contrary. It was the peaceful sort of silence that attends long acquaintance, the comfort that comes of knowing you don’t need to say anything at all. And that very lack of discomfort made me profoundly uncomfortable.

I pinned down that thought, and followed it, writhing and slippery, to its source. It was the sham of instant coupledom. That was the problem. … It’s something that anyone who’s been single for a time will recognize, the pretense of intimacy that comes of being the only two singles at a couple-y dinner party, or, in this case, sharing a house for a weekend. It’s an intensely seductive illusion–but only an illusion.

Why should you read this book?
So this is the sequel to The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, and as I found that book a fun, easy, amusing read, I thought I’d give this a chance. At times insightful, and at times a cringe to read (adverbs are a pet-peeve of mine, as are onomatopoeias), I liked the romance of this book better than its prequel, and liked the actual writing of it less. Something about how the modern characters kept quoting things to one another… I know I do that, and a history graduate student would probably do that, but it got a little heavy-handed. Same with the allusions to mythology in order to explain how the characters felt around one another. There were times where I felt we got a little too much of the history student (Willig is currently working on a PhD in history), and not enough of the novelist. The fight around the climax had me rolling my eyes, but the chase scene had me smiling in approval. Still a good read for an afternoon, despite my little complaints. It’s always hard to make the second as good as the first, so writers, read this series to look out for sophomore pitfalls.

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