I love this series, and this book is an example of what Lauren Willig always does so well.
Summary via Lauren Willig’s website:
As Napoleon pursues his plans for the invasion of England, English operative Augustus Whittlesby gets wind of a top secret device, to be demonstrated over the course of a house party at Malmaison. The catch? The only way in is to join forces with that annoying American socialite, Emma Morris Delagardie, who has been commissioned to write a masque for the weekend’s entertainment. Even so, it should leave plenty of alone time with Augustus’ colleague (and goddess), Jane Wooliston, who has been tapped to play the heroine. Or so Augustus tells himself. In this complicated masque within a masque, nothing seems to go quite as scripted… especially Emma.
What the cover blurb (and description above) miss is the framing contemporary story line, which continues through the series. American graduate student Eloise is living in England researching spies in Napoleon’s time. She discovers that this is harder than she expects, gets tied up in some intrigue of her own, and along the way, finds her own romance, one that doesn’t wrap up quite as tidily as those in the spy stories she’s encountering in her research.
I admit that as of the last installment, I thought the contemporary storyline was getting pushed further and further into the shadow of the historical. As the historical stories were becoming even stronger, I didn’t exactly mind, but I was happy to see it back with some real oomph here. It had real relationship questions mixed in with an absolutely goofy movie set plot, and I found it delightful. It’s a bit more chck-lit than romance, and Eloise is far from perfect, and all in all, it worked for me.
I didn’t like the historical story quite as well as the last few, but that’s a high standard to hold. Certainly, it still stands up well to the genre as a whole.
As is typical for a Lauren Willig heroine, Emma is not your run of the mill society miss, and isn’t afraid to stand out in society. Her links to the Bonaparte family put her in an situation of interest to the network of spies these books center around, but her flirty personality and interest in her late husband’s mechanical endeavors make her interesting to read about.
I wasn’t enamored with her love interest, but he didn’t pose a problem for me either. Between the fun and frivolity of the masque the two teamed up to put on, the excitement of the spy story, and the interesting historical details, I was well entertained.
I always appreciate Lauren Willig’s notes from her historical research– the most unlikely seeming characters and events turn out to be those pulled from the past.
The big question when reviewing book 9 of a series is whether this one is a good place to start reading. This book would be fine as a standalone, but the series is worth starting at the beginning, and watching the plot build and the characters come and go.
I read this book as part of a TLC Book Tour. Thank you to TLC and Dutton Adult books for providing my copy of the book and the chance to participate. For more thoughts on Garden Intrigue, check out the other tour stops:
- Thursday, February 16th: Unabridged Chick
- Monday, February 20th: In the Hammock
- Tuesday, February 21st: A Fair Substitute for Heaven
- Wednesday, February 22nd: Book Reviews by Molly
- Thursday, February 23rd: Broken Teepee
- Monday, February 27th: Calico Critic
- Tuesday, February 28th: Stiletto Storytime
- Wednesday, February 29th: The Allure of Books
- Thursday, March 1st: Colloquium
- Monday, March 5th: The Bookworm
- Tuesday, March 6th: A Chick Who Reads
- Wednesday, March 7th: Library of Clean Reads
- Monday, March 12th: YA Book Nerd
- Wednesday, March 14th: Write Meg