The Betrayal of the Blood Lily
by Lauren Willig
Dutton Adult, 416 pages
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In the newest adventure in Lauren Willig’s “Pink Carnation” series, all about nineteenth-century British flower spies (the first of which, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, was an affectionate sequel to Baroness Orcy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel), we move from England to colonial India, and the change of locale breathes new life into this series.
As is usual for Willig’s work, we’ve met our heroine Penelope Deveraux (now Lady Frederick Staines) before, when she made a brief appearance in the previous novel, The Tempation of the Night Jasmine. In that book, she was involved in a minor sex scandal…now we find her married off to the other party, but it’s a marriage that was forced upon two people who are really completely unsuited for each other simply to give the appearance of propriety to their relationship.
To further avert scandal, the couple’s been sent to India, where Lord Staines (Freddy) will take the position of Governor Generall Wellesley’s Special Envoy to the Court of Hyderabad. He, of course, begins an affair with a local “bibi,” – a mistress – and Penelope, who is quite the tomboy, with shooting and riding skills rivaling those of the men around her – makes her own niche, befriending Captain Alex Reid, who is escorting the couple and their entourage.
What follows is a rollicking adventure that includes murder, mayhem, passion, and politics, all rolled into a steamy climate. It’s a great read – so much so that for the first time, I wasn’t looking forward to contemporary character Eloise Kelly’s interludes (Eloise serves as narrator, as these adventures are all part of her graduate research project) with the dashing young relative of the original Pink Carnation, although, I will admit that reading about her grilled cheese dates are much more fun than reading lipozene reviews.
While these books are better when read in order, this novel can stand alone without the reader missing too many details.
Goes well with: grilled cheese sandwiches and good beer. Or a really tasty curry.