The Masque of the Black Tulip

Written by Lauren Willig
Review by Margaret Barr

Willig’s breezy second offering in her series of Napoleonic-era spy romances features the intrepid and amusing Henrietta Uppington, closely guarding the secret identity of The Pink Carnation, an English spy operating in Paris. As modern-day researcher Eloise Kelly roots through Colin Selwick’s manor house, she learns of Henrietta’s adventures unmasking the infamous and dangerous Black Tulip, at large in England.

While she and family friend Miles Dorrington pursue the mysterious French spy, they also discover a mutual attraction. Miles, more dismayed by this development than Henrietta, fears her brother (the spymaster called the Purple Gentian, contently wed and dwelling in the country) will disapprove. The chief suspect appears to harbor a sinister interest in Henrietta, which unsettles Miles and reinforces his desire to protect the self-reliant young lady. Henrietta, more concerned about her friend the Pink Carnation than her own safety, tumbles into difficulty with no apparent escape.

Eloise traces these developments with intense interest, while coping with the stereotypical rural characters that people Colin’s English countryside. The humor is occasionally overdone and historical mistakes periodically occur, but the dual tale is lively and engaging, and its mystery is satisfactorily resolved.