Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig

Title: The Garden Intrigue
Author: Lauren Willig

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Regency / Napoleon / France / Ex-pats / Historical Figure Fictionalized / Contemporary / Academia Setting)
Publisher/Publication Date: Dutton Adult (2/16/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Really, really liked!
Did I finish?: I did, super fast.
One-sentence summary: British spies in Napoleonic France, a contemporary American historian struggling with love and vocation, and a mysterious invention that might change history all come together in this breezy novel.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I loathe it. Other books in the series featured art but these newer ones have the awkward, headless model thing going and this weird grocery store romance cover vibe.

I'm reminded of...: Janet Mullaney, Carol K. Carr

First line: "A little to the left....A little to the...No!"

Do... I absolutely adore Lauren Willig's website?: YES. A section detailing the artist and painting title of her book covers (thank you!), detailed bibliographies for each book, a suggested reading order for the contemporary and historical storylines, there's a wealth of delicious extras available to her readers.

Did... I have another night or two of late-night snickering while reading?: YES. Which was especially cruel since my wife and I have both been afflicted with this hideous plague and are in desperate need of sleep. I just dosed my wife up on cold medicine, though, and she stopped noticing my laughter!

Did... I enjoy the references to specific places in Harvard Square?: YES. I even get my baked goods at the same market Eloise does!

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow for sure, but be prepared to want to go back and start the whole series!

Why did I get this book?: I've heard nothing but praise for this series and have been dying to give it a try.

Review: It's been impossible not to hear all the raves for Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series, but I've somehow never gotten around to starting it, despite all the promise. Featuring a Harvard-educated heroine who researches Regency-era spies, the series seems a bit like chick-lit-meets-hist-fic in the best way.

And now, I understand why people are so enamored of this series: it's cute, breezy, easy, and diverting. Corset-clad beach read. (Shift-clad beach read? I'm shaky on my Regency undergarments. You get my quip, right??) Despite this being the 9th book in the series, I didn't feel like I was stepping into a story midway. I think the contemporary heroine and the Pink Carnation are two characters common to the series; the rest, I couldn't say. Regardless, Willig immediately pulled me in to story with her clever, bantering main characters and yummy mix of history and romance.

The setting is France, just as Napoleon has declared himself emperor, and the place is thick with British spies (under various covers) and American ex-pats and ambassadors. There are echoes of Much Ado About Nothing in the story, from the contemporary plot line -- where a version is being filmed -- to the Beatrice-and-Benedick-ish prickliness between our historical heroes, Augustus and Emma. Banter plus Shakespeare-ish-ness plus romance? Sign me up!

My only complaint was Eloise, the modern-day heroine, who has that rather aggravating habit of avoiding her big girl responsibilities and being proactive and, say, talking to her boyfriend. Most of the plot related to her unfolded from her passive refusal to take charge of her life, and I found myself skipping through her portions of the book -- which was fine, since her story was only a fraction of the entire novel. (She's the reason I never finished The Pink Carnation -- I couldn't stand her long enough to get to the historical part.) Blessedly, most of this novel was devoted to our Regency cast and I'm eager to remain firmly in their world. I'm going back and starting The Pink Carnation immediately -- if the ninth book is this good, I can only imagine the other eight!

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GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The Garden Intrigue to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/CA readers, ends 3/9.  For more reviews, be sure to check out the rest of the blogs on the tour!


22 comments:

  1. I have read a few of the books in this series and I have really enjoyed them. Thanks for the great review, I am looking forward to this one!

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    1. Thanks, Anne -- I was delighted to see I could jump in and not feel lost -- such a relief!

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  2. I've definitely been curious to try this series. It's not my normal reading fare, but it seems really fun! A book that keeps you up half the night snickering when you should be sleeping is never a bad thing as far as I'm concerned!

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    1. Steph -- there's a blurb describing the series as Bridget Jones meets Regency which is quite apt -- the contemporary heroine is a little too chicklit-y for my tastes but the historical portions are super droll and banter-y which I love. Great fun.

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  3. You're so right about the "grocery store romance cover vibe." LOL

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    1. Right? Someone said they sold better so I guess I need to stop judging!

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  4. Love this series, would definitely like to win this next installment. Thanks for being part of the tour.

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    1. I can so appreciate why everyone loves it -- such fun! I'm hoping to do the series this summer!

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    2. I thought I had responded right away upon seeing this, love this series. I feel lucky that I started with the earliers beautiful covers but will not be detoured even with the changes. But I think we are all in agreement about them.

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  5. I *so* agree with you about the covers. I bought the 3rd book in this series at a Borders waaay back in the day, not realizing it was part of a series, basically *just* because the cover intrigued me. The new ones make me not want to keep reading.

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    1. Apparently they sell better, which baffles me! Don't give up because if this book is any indication of the quality of the series, they're good!

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  6. Oh, man the cover turns me off so much, but the story sounds like fun. What marketing test group likes these kinds of covers?

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  7. I have been wanting to start this series for a long time, but have never picked up any of the books for some reason. I will have to remedy that soon. This was a really fun and wonderful review, and I thank you so much for being so generous with the giveaway!

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  8. Everyone seems to love these and I've wanted to try these. Maybe I should move these up on my TBR list. And good to know that it didn't matter if you start in the middle.

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  9. I actually like this cover more then the other covers in the series ;)

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  10. I love your reviews, Audra :-) Have to agree with your sentiments about the cover -- it doesn't fit with the covers from the previous books.

    I'm a big fan of this series. Thanks for the giveaway!

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  11. I've heard of this author and have not yet read this series. I agree..that cover screams grocery store to me.

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  12. I have been on board with this series since the beginning, but it is mainly because of the historical story. The modern day storyline is moving soooo slowly it is almost glacial.

    I am not a big fan of the new covers either. The older ones were nice, but the new ones, not so much.

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  13. I'm especially glad to hear you liked this one despite not having read the others. I'm so intrigued by this series, but I always find it daunting to start at the beginning. Although I did have great luck reading the Maisie series last year. Perhaps this year I'll start this one!

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  14. For some reason I have a strong desire to lace up my corset, grab a parasol, and lounge on a beach with this book in hand. What fun! :)

    I'm glad that your first foray into this series didn't disappoint! Thanks for being on the tour Audra. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

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  15. Hi...I'm a new subscriber and enjoying your blog. I'm not a blogger, just an avid reader that enjoys many genres,especially historical. I enjoy hearing about new authors and their books, and I'm a big fan of Lauren Willig.
    Thank you for the entry. Have a great day!

    Sandee61

    Muzzley56[at]aol[dot]com

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