(Mis)Identity in the Pink Carnation Series

This post was written by Abby.

red lily2

The Pink Carnation series is a series about spies. Series about spies feature people with multiple identities. They wouldn’t be series about spies without them. For much of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, we pondered the identity of the Pink Carnation, while the question of just who was the Black Tulip occupied us for multiple books, with multiple theories. There is now a Marigold on the loose and there has been a Purple Gentian and a Scarlet Pimpernel, all experts at appearing other than what they are. Hovering over the entire series are Jane and Miss Gwen who shift identifies more often than some inhabitants of the nineteenth-century changed their stockings (I feel like this is a quotation from somewhere in a Pink Carnation book. If it isn’t, it would fit right in).

Blood Lily introduces us to another variation on this theme, and then doubles right back around. Alex and James Kirkpatrick both struggle with the question of where their identities and personal geographies lie. As Alex observes, he is “more comfortable with curry than claret, more at home at a nautch than a ball” and neither see a future for themselves in England. Even now, we are beginning to have hints that Alex’s brothers George and Jack, with an English father and Indian mothers, have even more tangled identities and loyalties. And yet for all of that, the thing that strikes me most about both Alex and Penelope is that, at heart, they are both “exactly what I seem,” as Penelope will tell Alex in Chapter Nineteen. And, in this shifting and complex world, this may be what truly draws them to each other. What have any of you thought of all the characters who rarely seem what they are in the Pink Carnation series? And is there anyone I am missing here?

5 thoughts on “(Mis)Identity in the Pink Carnation Series

  1. Agree with Sheila about Mary and Lord Vaughn. Just when you think you have them figured out, they change on you. I also thought St. George in Crimson Rose was a perfect example of not what he seemed.

    • I agree with both Sheila and Betty. I remember Lauren saying that she had briefly considered pairing Jane with Lord Vaughn and I wonder if that was a consideration. I’ve thought about Penelope and Mary in consideration with each other this month since they are both characters who are harder to like in their initial appearances in earlier books whom we then see more sympathetic sides to in their own books, though Mary seems back to her usual coolness in Mistletoe. The biggest difference between them to me seems to be that Mary cares very much about playing by 19th century societal rules, while Penelope does not.

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