The Seduction of the Crimson Rose

Written by Lauren Willig
Review by Ellen Keith

Fourth in Willig’s mystery series featuring the exploits of English spies in the Napoleonic era, The Seduction of the Crimson Rose is the darkest to date in this otherwise lighthearted series. Framed by present-day academic Eloise Kelly’s search for the elusive Pink Carnation, each tale has featured a man and woman overcoming obstacles, be it secret identities or misunderstandings, to realize their love for one another while furthering the cause of British resistance against Napoleon Bonaparte. The same cast of characters populates each tale, with a different couple taking center stage in each. The couple of the moment is Lord Sebastian Vaughn and Miss Mary Alsworthy, both more cynical and jaded than the couples of earlier books, which adds some bite and weight to their inevitable union.

Prompted by the Pink Carnation, Lord Vaughn enlists Miss Alsworthy’s aid in setting a seductive trap for the dastardly Black Tulip. Miss Alsworthy, loath to be dependent on her younger married sister, agrees—for a price. Their business arrangement soon becomes much more, yet each fears rejection and hides behind a brittle wit. That wit is all of a piece with the languid façade of such spies as the Scarlet Pimpernel, and with her quartet of books so far, Willig skillfully evokes that style of adventure novel. What will the fifth flower be?