Somehow, incredibly, we have reached out last recap post for The Lure of the Moonflower. Buckle up, y’all. Miss Eliza has a lot of ground to cover.
The Bien-Aimée, Fort of Peniche, and Berlengas São João Batista Fort, 1807: Jack arrives at the Bien-Aimée, which is a bit of a surprise. It’s appears to be a rich man’s pleasure yacht peopled by aristocratic lunatics. He has a bad feeling about this. If this is Jane’s rescue party he would have been better off storming the fortress with the damn donkey. Besides the indignant brunette and the ginger giant, he finally meets whom Jane sent him to, Lord Richard Selwick, who doesn’t seem to be in charge. The one in charge is Miss Gwen, who has so much purple on it is like being assaulted by an aubergine, and she takes control of the situation. Jack is shocked to learn that his “retrieval” was apparently part of Jane’s mission. He can mull that over later, firstly Jane is in danger from the Gardener. At least at the mention of that deadly spy he has their attention. Jane has until sundown to bring the Queen to the São João Batista Fort, but after that it’s up to them if she misses the rendezvous. But at that moment he is ambushed by kith and kin, and the way his father is looking at the lady in purple doesn’t bode well for Jack. Could that woman be his father’s new wife? But his father seems settled, happy. The restlessness is gone. When Lizzy rockets out of the hold with a crossbow Jack is convinced that this has to be some elaborate and fantastical dream, now where are the dancing aardvarks? Jane couldn’t have held this big a secret from him, could she? Luckily it turns out she was as ignorant as he of the welcoming party, at least according to his father. Jack wasn’t prepared for any of this. He starts to question everything Jane has told him. Is the Queen really at large or was that just a ruse and she was just to retrieve him like luggage? As for their part of the rescue plan, everyone seems to take it on faith that Jane will succeed and they won’t be needed. Even if she deceived Jack she’s still human and she is not invincible despite what everyone else might think. If her plan fails Jack and Lord Richard are to go in and rescue her. Miss Gwen obviously replaces Lord Richard with herself and considers it a fine plan, if they could add some repelling.
Jane has “prepared” herself for her meeting with Nicolas. She is now bathed, perfumed, and beribboned like a china doll. She tries to stay in the moment, but is fervently hoping that Jack is boarding the Bien-Aimée as she awaits Nicolas. Given Nicolas’s slow seductions, she’s calculated that she has about two hours to incapacitate Nicolas, forge the orders, and see the Queen to the boat. Nicolas is his usual charming self but she can tell that he is hurt by her recent actions. It might be easy to despise him in absentia, but it is hard, in person, not to feel a little fond of Nicolas. While she is plotting on how to get Nicolas to ingest the sleep draft she realizes that things have changed between them. It’s not that she loves Jack, it’s that Nicolas isn’t abiding by their agreement. He views Portugal no longer as neutral territory and therefore all bets are off. Yes, Jane wants the Queen. But perhaps the reason he has the Queen isn’t to help Bonaparte but to help himself. He may have gotten his title back, but what about the land, the house, the works of art? And what about Jane. He wants Jane. But she doesn’t want to be tethered, and a golden chain is still a chain. Nicolas is switching allegiances again, back to Louis XVIII. As she looks at Nicolas, Jane realizes that it’s him, not Jack, who is the real opportunist, for sale to the highest bidder. But perhaps this time it means that they have the same goal? She goes all in and tells Nicolas of her plans and the Bien-Aimée and her reinforcements on Berlengas. But Nicolas is well informed. The Bien-Aimée is Lord Richard’s ship, and she wasn’t with him at the abbey, so who was? So Mr. Samson it is. He was the spy all along. Though he is really Rene Desgoules and he isn’t Nicolas’s man. At that moment Mr. Samson appears in a miasma of rage, he is Fouché’s man and demands Jane be placed in chains, and definitely not golden ones. Desgoules threatens Jane but she quickly has Nicolas’s sword-cane at his throat. But Nicolas has a gun aimed at the pair. Who will he shoot? It would clearly define his intentions. Or at least his intentions of the moment. He pulls the trigger.
Nicolas has killed Desgoules, after all, he wasn’t his man, not that that would stop him. Jane realizes it was also a test. He hoped her to kill Desgoules as a way to finalize their courtship, making her just a little less virtuous. How had she ever fancied herself in love with him? He uses the incident to their advantage, saying that Desgoules was a spy in their midst trying to kill his fiancée, to precipitate his and Jane’s departure with the Queen to Berlengas. But are Nicolas’s motives for her or just for what he views as rightfully his? Why should she trust him? It wasn’t his heart at her feet but a murdered operative. For now that would have to do. On the island Jack and Gwen wait. They form a tentative bond over their love for Jane, Gwen has always cared for this maddeningly omniscient girl. When the boat finally arrives there is something wrong. They are unnerved, to say the least, when she arrives on the arm of the Gardener. The Jane that arrives and has changed the plans, yet again, seems more Nicolas’s creature than ever, with the French perfume wafting on the breeze. At least Jack can shake up the Gardener in return, announcing himself as the Moonflower, Nicolas’s agent who was supposed to be dead back in India, not alive and standing in front of him. But Nicolas has brought the Queen, so there has to be a trick. Reinforcements, something. Nicolas jokes that Jack could shoot him before that happens, the first idea of Nicholas’s that Jack likes, as he cocks his pistol.
And Jane won’t let him kill Nicolas, which puts out Miss Gwen most of all, it was just starting to get interesting! Jane worries that it’s not just Nicolas angering Jack but the fact that she changed the plans again; and that she looks and smells like a French brothel. At least Jack isn’t the only one whose hackles are raised by Nicolas’s arrival. In fact, the rest of the group, minus Jane, would be happy to see a bullet in him. Lizzy would opt for a crossbow bolt, but Nicolas did rather like her outré ensemble. Yet he did bring them the Queen as the first token of his good intentions; that must stand for something. Then why does Jane feel bewildered and hurt. Nicolas isn’t going to make this any easier as the situation descends into French farce. Nicolas believes that completing this quest, no matter how ignoble, is worthy of the hand of fair maiden, to seal their alliance. He makes quite a display of proposing to Jane, yet again. Did he really think that making a public spectacle would change her answer? It is still a no, not a “perhaps later.” Before she can reject him for approximately the 38th time Jack storms off. Jane finds him sulking and tries to get it through Jack’s thick skull that she does not want what Nicolas has to offer. She is not a prize to be won or a parcel to be handed back and forth, they both have pasts and Nicolas is her past, not her future, there needs to be no duel. Everything that was clear is murky. She doesn’t want a pedestal or to be an ornament. And once again, no duels! Jack isn’t being noble, he’s wrong. It’s Jane’s turn to storm off and Jack gets some advice on woman from the last place he expected, his father. Happiness isn’t a gift, it’s a task that you work on, together. Perhaps the easiest answer is to just tell Jane the truth. That he loves her. Damn, when did his father get insightful?
Jane didn’t realize how uncomfortable sitting on a cannon was. It’s even more uncomfortable contemplating her murky future. Tomorrow the sun would rise, she would return to England, and embark on a new mission. She thought she knew all there was to know about Jack before she met him, but she didn’t know anything; the kindness, the fundamental decency, everything good about him. When she was with him she didn’t feel the weight of being the Pink Carnation. But she was the Pink Carnation, she should go and make sure everything was seen too and that Henrietta hadn’t killed Nicolas. But then Jack joined her. His opening gambit made time tilt backward: “I hear that the eagle nests only once.” Jack asks Jane what her next move is, she says perhaps Russia. Jack says that sounds lonely and had she ever thought of taking a husband along? The suggestion hurts too much, if he isn’t volunteering for the position she can’t bear to hear it. But he wants to go where she is. To work together. No ornamentation, no pedestal, no lutes. He’s found his nest. The proposal has a full audience, but that seems to be the case with family. What matters is that they love each other, the messy, muddy, totality of it. The eagle had found its nest.
Constantinople, 1808: Jack and Jane are now married and they have infiltrated the Ottoman Court so that a new sultan who is not beholden to Napoleon could be crowned. Napoleon has always dreamed of an alliance with the Ottoman Empire, but the new ruler is beholden to the Pink Carnation, so that put paid to Napoleon’s ambitions. Mahmud II, the new ruler, has been secreted away by his mother, Naksidil Sultan. Jane delayed the assassins sent by Mahmud’s half-brother and predecessor Mustafa IV by throwing ashes in their face. She has been posing as a slave girl while Jack was a Janissary. That Janissary now has that slave girl thrown over his shoulder. They are finally leaving after completing a mission weeks in the making. They also herded the leader of the rebel forces, Alemdar Mustafa Pasha, who as they escape is proclaimed Mahmud II the new sultan. Mustafa IV didn’t count on Mahmud’s secret allies, who are sailing off into the sunset.
Sussex, Selwick Hall, 2005: Aunt Arabella is looking none the worse for wear after their late night escapades and waiting for her “contact” to come and deal with Nigel Dempster, while Eloise is obviously sleep deprived. Eloise is grateful to the magic of make-up, seeing as she didn’t see her bed till 4 AM. But it’s her wedding day and the sun is shining, something that isn’t to be taken for granted in England in the summer. As Aunt Arabella helps Eloise with the finishing touches of her ensemble, including a modern and not Regency inspired Vera Wang wedding gown, she fills in the details of Jane and Jake’s married life together, they were also married from Selwick Hall. They also happened to receive a very hefty tea service for their wedding, one that might have been re-gifted to Colin and Eloise. Aunt Arabella always suspected that they were involved in putting Mahmud the Second on the throne of the Ottoman Empire in 1808, but there was no way to prove it. From there they went to Russia, and that didn’t help Napoleon one little bit. They settled in Brazil, as the Portuguese owed them a debt, but it didn’t go the way the Portuguese hoped, Jack and Jane were instrumental in Brazil’s War of Independence. Jane did eventually learn Portuguese. As Eloise says, there’s a book there, Aunt Arabella counters that there is more than one. But the Pink Carnation’s love story would have to wait; it was time for Eloise to get her happily ever after. There were no doubts about Colin; he was her focus in a room full of happy and blurred faces. That is until Pammy’s phone went off. At least the call was about Eloise’s book deal, so kind of about the bride. Once they wrested that phone from Pammy it was only a matter of time till one of her backup phones went off so while the ceremony might have been a farce on the scale of The Princess Bride, the future was so bright they’d have to wear shades, the Vicar for an entirely other reason. Eloise’s life had been coffee soaked, rain-grey, and with Colin the future lay ahead, uncharted and full of possibilities. As for the book, Colin wonders if perhaps The Secret History of the Pink Carnation isn’t just the perfect title. Eloise thinks he has something there, besides her that is. They were brought together by the Pink Carnation and now telling her story is their future.