Title: The Masque of the Black Tulip
Author: Lauren Willig
Genre: historical fiction
Length: ~350 pages
Where Word Nerd's copy came from: Purchased, Borders Clearance
Plot Basics: Henrietta Selwick has long lived in the shadow of her older brother, Richard, and his escapades as the Purple Gentian. But no one knows that Hen is a primary contact of the Pink Carnation, actively receiving correspondence about France's treacherous plans and relaying that information to the English War Office. When the Pink Carnation warns Hen of the arrival of the Black Tulip -- a dangerous French spy back in England -- Hen decides that capturing the spy herself is a good plan. But Miles Dorrington has been charged by Richard to look out for his younger sister. As Miles tries to keep Hen safe, they are both infuriated with the other's meddling... and realize that may just lead to love.
Banter Points: Word Nerd picked up this book because she wanted to read something nice. In the run-up to Bouchercon, she read lots of mysteries, lots of things with serial killers and cops and scary guys and lots of violence. Word Nerd enjoyed Willig's first book ("The Secret History of the Pink Carnation") and was ready for another light, highly entertaining read. And Willig delivered a second time in a row. Willig manages to capture the time period without being overly stuffy in her writing. In fact, her books read like chick-lit, with the same breezy modern style but set in Napoleonic times.
Bummer Points: There is not enough of the Eloise/Colin story! Willig frames the historical fiction as Eloise's graduate school research, but the chapters of modern day action with Eloise and the reluctant Colin were far to few. Understandably, Willig is stretching that part of the story out across her series, but dang. Word Nerd wants more of that now.
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you often feel like historical fiction is inaccessible, this series is for you! Willig's light tone keeps the action moving and the story doesn't get weighed down by damask and claw-footed chairs.