Thursday, October 28, 2010
Arabella Dempsey's dear friend Jane Austen warned her against teaching. But Miss Climpson's Select Seminary for Young Ladies seems the perfect place for Arabella to claim her independence while keeping an eye on her younger sisters nearby. Just before Christmas, she accepts a position at the quiet girls' school in Bath, expecting to face nothing more exciting than conducting the annual Christmas recital. She hardly imagines coming face to face with French aristocrats and international spies...
Reginald "Turnip"Fitzhugh-often mistaken for the elusive spy known as the Pink Carnation- has blundered into danger before. But when he blunders into Miss Arabella Dempsey, it never occurs to him that she might be trouble. When Turnip and Arabella stumble upon a beautifully wrapped Christmas pudding with a cryptic message written in French, "Meet me at Farley Castle," the unlikely vehicle for intrigue launches the pair on a Yuletide adventure that ranges from the Austens'modest drawing room to the awe-inspiring estate of the Dukes of Dovedale, where the Dowager Duchess is hosting the most anticipated event of the year: an elaborate twelve-day Christmas celebration. Will they find poinsettias or peril, dancing or danger? Is it possible that the fate of the British Empire rests in Arabella's and Turnip's hands, in the form of a festive Christmas pudding? -- Dutton
I have always been intrigued with The Pink Carnation books by Lauren Willig, and I've wanted to read them because they sound like books that I might enjoy. The problem is that I like to read series in order and six books in this series have already been released (with more to come in the near future.) I find it daunting to go back and start at the beginning, but on the same account, I would like to give these books a try. Such a dilemma! So in my effort to branch out in my reading (and that means trying new things like reading books out of order), I decided to give THE MISCHIEF OF THE MISTLETOE: A PINK CARNATION CHRISTMAS a try. I figured it I didn't just jump into the series, I might never get around to reading them. Plus I heard that this novel works as a standalone.
I have to say that I found THE MISCHIEF OF THE MISTLETOE to be a very entertaining read. It was light and funny and absolutely perfect for holiday reading. I'm not sure what I was expecting when I picked up this novel except to say that it looked like a historical fiction book, but I have to say that I was a little surprised. THE MISCHIEF OF THE MISTLETOE was part spy novel, part romance book and part mystery; and I found it to be a delightful combination. I was most surprised by just how funny this book was. The characters were definitely "characters" (especially Turnip and his sister) and their actions were hilarious.
I'm not a big fan of romance books, although I think I make an exception for Christmas books (I guess I get all sentimental this time of year.) However, I really enjoyed the romance parts of this story. The romance scenes were very light-hearted and the characters were extremely likable, so I found myself wanting them to fall in love (and realize each other's feelings.) I especially loved the banter back-and-forth between Arabella and Turnip.
I should probably admit that I enjoyed the mystery aspects of the story a little bit more than the love scenes (but that's just me.) However, I thought the author did a great job of playing each of these components off of each other. There was just the right amount of love and suspense to keep the flow of the book moving. THE MISCHIEF OF THE MISTLETOE was action-packed and suspenseful and kept me guessing right up until the end, although I wasn't really trying very hard to figure out the mystery.
As far as whether THE MISCHIEF OF THE MISTLETOE works as a standalone novel...I think it does. In fact, I found myself wanting to explore more of Ms. Willig's novels because some of the secondary characters in THE MISCHIEF OF THE MISTLETOE were so interesting. What I really appreciated was that Ms. Willig included a note about the Pink Carnation Series in the back of the book. It gave some insight into the history of the series which, as a new reader, I found very helpful, but it also gave some information about where the story fits into the series for seasoned readers. I especially appreciated that there was a list of characters which not only explained their roles in THE MISCHIEF OF THE MISTLETOE but also referenced what other books they appear in.
If you are looking for a cute read during this very busy time of year, then I suggest giving THE MISCHIEF OF THE MISTLETOE a try. I can almost guarantee that you will fall in love with the characters and get quite a few laughs in the process.
Note to all of you Jane Austen fans out there: Jane actually makes a cameo appearance in this novel!
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel.