The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig
Publication date: February 16, 2012
Secret agent Augustus Whittlesby has spent a decade undercover in France, posing as an insufferably bad poet. The French surveillance officers can't bear to read his work closely enough to recognize the information drowned in a sea of verbiage.
New York-born Emma Morris Delagardie is a thorn in Augustus's side. An old school friend of Napoleon's stepdaughter, she came to France with her uncle, the American envoy; eloped with a Frenchman; and has been rattling around the salons of Paris ever since. Widowed for four years, she entertains herself by drinking too much champagne, holding a weekly salon, and loudly critiquing Augustus's poetry.
As Napoleon pursues his plans for the invasion of England, Whittlesby hears of a top-secret device to be demonstrated at a house party at Malmaison. The catch? The only way in is with Emma, who has been asked to write a masque for the weekend's entertainment.
Emma is at a crossroads: Should she return to the States or remain in France? She'll do anything to postpone the decision-even if it means teaming up with that silly poet Whittlesby to write a masque for Bonaparte's house party. But each soon learns that surface appearances are misleading. In this complicated masque within a masque, nothing goes quite as scripted- especially Augustus's feelings for Emma.
People are not always the way the seem, and Augustus Whittlesby and Emma Delagardie are perfect examples of this fact. Augustus has spent ten years in France as a agent for Britain. He's been undercover all that time posing as a poet, a very bad poet at that. The last years have been spent writing and reciting his ode to Jane Wooliston entitled "The Perils of the Pulchritudinous Princess with the Azure Toes." To most of French society, Augustus is considered harmless and this is fortunate as it provides him the opportunities to obtain the information needed to thwart France. Regrettably, Augustus has spent so much of his time pretending to be in love with Jane Wooliston, that he now believes himself to actually be in love with her. That is until he begins to spend time with another woman, Emma Delagardie.
Emma is an outcast to her family because of her elopement with her husband. She then behaved liked a spoiled brat and left her husband to participate in French society. Fortunately she grew up, reunited with her husband and actually came to know him, respect him as well as love him before his untimely death. She is friends with Bonaparte's wife and stepdaughter and spends a lot of time entertaining. In her efforts to please, she has been volunteered to put on a small play for the Emperor Napoleon, his family and courtiers. Emma, in turns, volunteers Augustus to assist in writing the play.
The close proximity provides an opportunity for both Emma and Augustus to realize that neither is as bad as they seem. It also provides a great opportunity for Augustus to observe and report on what is happening with the Emperor from closer quarters. Can Emma and Augustus see beyond the public masks/personas they both wear? There's also more revealed about the modern romance between Eloise and Colin.
The Garden Intrigue is the ninth volume in the "Pink Carnation series" from Ms. Willig. As with previous volumes, the international intrigue is a main part of the story line but the romance is also front-and-center. Although the "pink carnation" isn't an authentic historical figure, the historical aspects included of the ongoing intrigues between France and Britain are entertaining. The ongoing romantic story of Eloise and Colin provides a great launching point for each of the historical romances. The question that seems to loom after reading each book in this series is what will happen once Eloise completes her educational research and returns to the States? Fortunately, Ms. Willig hasn't provided an answer to that question just yet, and hopefully more can be expected in the future. If you're intrigued and want to read an excerpt from The Garden Intrigue, please visit the author's website: http://www.laurenwillig.com/books/garden.html.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."