THE MARK OF THE MIDNIGHT MANZANILLA – Lauren Willig
A Pink Carnation Novel
A Perfect 10
New American Library
ISBN: 978-0-698-14686-0
August 2014
Regency Romance/Mystery

Boston – Present Day and England during the Regency

Present Day Boston
Now that her dissertation, “ Aristocratic Espionage during the Wars with France: 1789-1815 ” is pretty much finished, Eloise Kelly is back in Boston. Her English boyfriend, Colin, is arriving for a short visit, and Eloise wonders how their long-distance relationship will succeed if she gets a position as a professor at an American university? But first, she must get through the meeting with her advisor, who also holds her future in his hands. Eloise hopes he appreciates all of the detailed research she has put into her dissertation. With Colin's arrival, though, she suspects something is up, and, being Eloise, expects the worst.

Regency London
The publication of the book, THE CONVENT OF ORSINO, appearing just before the Little Season has set the London scene into a tizzy. And with rumors flying about the return of Lucien, the Duke of Belliston, and the possibility that he is a vampire, Sally Fitzhugh, sister of Turnip Fitzhugh, and ripe for excitement, decides to go to the source and find out if the
ton is right. Venturing into the duke's private gardens, she is startled when he confronts her. While he does look mysterious, Sally doesn't see any fangs or other distinguishing vampirish characteristics. The duke is, in fact, rather handsome in a stern way, and very able to return Sally's verbal frontal assault. Taken aback by his ability to make her feel silly, she is, nevertheless, intrigued enough to seek him out at Lady Clarissa Caldicott's ball.

Lady Clarissa happens to be Lucien's sister, the sister he left behind after the deaths of their parents twelve years before. Lucien has returned from New Orleans to find out who murdered his mother and father and to squash rumors that his mother poisoned her husband and then herself. His father's brother has kept the dukedom intact for him, but his uncle's wife isn't happy to have Lucien back in the picture. And his sister isn't exactly thrilled either. When Lucien is handed a note at the ball while talking to Sally, he leaves to go onto the balcony, Sally hot on his heels. What they find is startling and horrific, but Sally keeps her wits and convinces Lucien to leave quickly, which he reluctantly does. With that, the two become unwilling partners in order to discover who is trying to destroy Lucien.

Book eleven in the Pink Carnation series—though the Pink Carnation does not make an appearance—is every bit as delightful and well written as the previous ones. In fact, I found myself laughing out loud at some of the humorous dialogue, especially between the bemused duke and the outspoken, cheeky Sally. The mystery leads us through London Society and into the country, with several possible culprits cropping up throughout. The stories on both sides of the Atlantic and eras are page-turners. While Eloise is not as confident, but is determined in her studies of the Pink Carnation, Sally bowls her way through life, honest to a fault, which Lucien finds enchanting. Lucien is returning from twelve years of voluntary exile, with the deaths of his parents haunting his life and, in fact, making it difficult for him to live a normal life. And just what is Colin hiding from Eloise?

A Perfect 10 all the way, THE MARK OF THE MIDNIGHT MANZANILLA is non-stop fun, a great summer and anytime read. Do check out Lauren Willig's website for the list of the Pink Carnation books and her other fiction novels, all of which are entertaining.  http://www.laurenwillig.com/books/

Jani Brooks