Title: The Orchid Affair
Author: Lauren Willig
Genre: historical fiction (romance and espionage abound, too 🙂 )
Length: 403 pages
Published: January 20, 2011
Source: personal collection
Challenges/Resolutions: Personal Collection Resolution; Published in 2011 Resolution
Laura Grey has had enough of governessing. After sixteen grim years spend schooling the children of England’s elite aristocracy, Laura sheds her domestic shackles and heads to the Selwick spy school, expecting an exciting new world of elaborate disguises and thrilling exploits. With the code name “the Solver Orchid,” Laura sets off for France in service of the master spy known as the Pink Carnation. There’s just one hitch. The Pink Carnation wants her to infiltrate the household of Andre jaouen, right-hand man to Bonaparte’s minister of police–as a governess.
Andre Jaouen has enough on his plate with rumors of a Royalist rising sweeping Paris, causing intrigue, unrest, and a lot of overtime at his office in the Prefecture. The arrival of his children, formerly tucked away in safety in Nantes with their grandfather, gauses a whole new level of complication, especially with his sinister colleague, Gaston Delaroche, who is determined to one-up him in whatever way he can–even if it means threats to those Andre holds dear. Hiring a governess is meant to be the solution to the problem, and Laura, with her references as impeccable as her drab gray dress, seems like the perfect candidate. But from her first day in his household, Andre finds he’s hired far more than he’s bargained for…
With political intrigue and sinister plots swirling around them, can Andre and Laura uncover the secrets of state–and of their own hearts–before it’s too late?
My Thoughts: This book is different from the first 6 books in the series. Laura Grey/Laure Griscogne is a governess who got bored. She joined the spy school run by Selwick and is on her first assignment under the direction of the Pink Carnation. The difference in this book is that Laura is a completely new and random character, at least to my recollection. She’s never been mentioned or alluded to by any of our other heroes and heroines (probably because she doesn’t hail from that aristocratic social circle. It’s odd having a heroine that is actually trained as a spy, because usually the heroines sort of fall into the situation. It’s odd being set in Paris from the get-go and not in England at all in the book (they usually start and/or end there, with Betrayal of the Blood Lily being the exception–but that’s set in British India). It’s odd that no other characters from past books–except the Pink Carnation and Richard Selwick in very small doses–are in this one.
Despite all those oddities, I LOVED this book. In spite of or possibly even because of these differences, the book was amazing. In fact I think that, because of the lack of connection to the rest of the series, this book would be an excellent stand-alone novel. Now, the “present” chapters with Eloise and Colin would have to be taken out and the Pink Carnation and the Purple Gentian would need a tiny bit of explanation. I wouldn’t necessarily want this book to be a stand-alone novel, but I think that it could have been written as one. But it was obviously easy to incorporate into the series–however little connection was there 🙂
Quotes I Like:
“If you only read the same things over and over again, how do you expect to learn? A narrow library leads to a narrow mind.” (p42)
“Talent is no prerequisite to proficiency.” (p96)
Other Posts I Have About this Book: I have a couple articles about the book cover: the first being about how romance-y the cover is; the second being about how readers petitioned for a change to that cover; and a third about the new cover (the one that it was published with). (This was obviously a big deal to me! 😀 )
Lauren Willig is one of my favorite authors. And her writing isn’t the only reason why 🙂 Lauren is wonderful at reaching out to her readers. She hosts lots of little contests and giveaways on her website, http://www.laurenwillig.com, such as the one for a Christmas ornament a few months ago that I won :D. One of the things she did recently was reach out to readers who don’t live near enough to visit her in the stores when she tours. (I do live near one of her typical stops, but it’s still about 2 hours away.) All I had to do is email her my address and she sent me a bookplate for my new copy of The Orchid Affair, since I can’t get a signature in the book 😀 Of course I still put my own bookplate in there, too (and blotted out my last name for privacy)