27 November 2010

28 Days Until Christmas

The Mischief of the Mistletoe, Lauren Willig
While this is the seventh of Willig's "Pink Carnation" novels, it actually takes place concurrently with part of the fifth book, Temptation of the Night Jasmine. Poor but proud Arabella Dempsey (childhood friends with the great Jane Austen), the daughter of an impoverished vicar, takes a position as a junior instructor at a school for wealthy girls. She hasn't been there long before she bumps (literally) into lovable but clumsy Reginald "Turnip" Fitzhugh, personal friend of English spies "the Purple Gentian" and "the Pink Carnation," who's delivering a hamper to his sister. When Arabella tries to return a Christmas pudding to Fitzhugh, she is accosted by a man who wishes to take it from her and is rescued by Turnip.

It turns out the pudding is wrapped in a message, but even though the practical Arabella pooh-poohs the notion of spies, odd things just keep happening to her—things that keep tossing her in the path of the hapless but gallant Turnip.

This is the usual "Pink Carnation" mix of romance, Napoleonic England, and mild adventure, with more than its share of humor and Christmas cheer. Fans of the Carnation will certainly enjoy—but fair warning: Willig just introduced three new characters!

(Incidentally, there's a delicious inside joke as Turnip visits his sister Sally's school, Miss Climpson's Select Seminary for Young Ladies; Sally and her friends are all talking at once with great emphasis, and Turnip wonders why they must constantly use italics. If you've read Dorothy Sayers, it's a true laugh-aloud moment.)

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