Somehow, unbelievably, it is already time for Abby’s last Pink VII post. Before I hand her the reins, I know you will all join me in saying a big “THANK YOU” to Abby for leading us through our reread of The Betrayal of the Blood Lily. I appreciate all the time and thought she has put into this project! And now, over to Abby…
And here we are with the last recap for The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, which opens with Eloise waiting for Colin to arrive so they can attend a Valentine’s day event at the art gallery where Serena works and wondering what he will say. He arrives with a rose and a kiss and they head off together. Shortly after arriving at the gallery, Eloise notices Serena talking to a man whom Colin identifies as “my mother’s husband” and Eloise swiftly realizes that Colin’s mother’s husband is also Mrs. Selwick-Alderly’s grandson, Jeremy.
Both this book and Night Jasmine have always struck me as the growing pains books for Eloise and Colin’s relationship. Everything was new in Crimson Rose and now they are trying to identify whether or not their disparate lives, and sometimes disparate, personalities can be woven together into a longer term relationship. The most important line in this book for Eloise and Colin is Eloise’s firmly stated “I like you” to Colin, a remark demonstrating that she likes Colin himself, not his archives and not despite his family, both of which are clearly concerns for Colin. Why do you think Colin is so concerned about both these things? And what does anyone think of the character of Jeremy? Did any of you see him coming as Colin and Serena’s stepfather?
Back in 1804, Penelope is faced with being suddenly widowed by snake bite. She feels compelled to take responsibility for Freddy’s death, saying to Alex that “I made him come out here and it bloody killed him. I killed him. I killed Freddy . . . I’ve been a disaster since the day I was born. Just ask my mother; she’ll tell you.” Similar to her response to Freddy’s earlier infidelity, her response is to be ever more self-destructive as she careens through an evening of reminiscing with Leamington Fiske and the rest of Freddy’s friends, which culminates in Alex’s challenging Fiske to a duel over Penelope’s honor. What do you think of Penelope’s sense of responsibility for Freddy’s death, a sense of responsibility highlighted even further if you’ve ever read the Blood Lily outtake on Lauren’s website? And why do you think her response to challenging situations is, so often, to drag herself even further down?
The wagon train finally makes it back to the Residency where Penelope is greeted by Charlotte who is on an extended wedding tour with Robert so he “can show me where he lived . . . and aren’t the elephants wonderful? I hadn’t thought they could be nearly so big.” Both this chapter and future chapters demonstrate that while Charlotte still sees the world through the pages of her books, she has become far more comfortable with the world than the last time we saw her. This book, however, has a few more plot turns to go.
Fiske’s unconscious body is found near the Residency with the handkerchief Kat embroidered for Alex with her hair next to it. Jasper Pinchindale (interestingly, given his past history, the spellchecker on my computer wants to spell his name as panhandler) accuses Alex of bludgeoning Fiske and points out that Alex was scheduled to duel Fiske the next morning.
In the meantime, Alex talks with Tajalli and heads out to Raymond’s tomb to do some more investigating on the doings of the Marigold. Penelope stops him and tells him about Fiske; he tells her that the Marigold is headed for Raymond’s tomb and Penelope insists on accompanying Alex there. Once there, they meet Daniel Cleave and it swiftly becomes apparent that Cleave has an assignation with Guignon, the French pastry chef. Under pressure, Cleave admits that he had attacked Fiske, framed Alex for doing so, arranged for the cobra to be planted in Freddy and Penelope’s chamber, arranged for Freddy to be killed and been selling English state secrets to the highest bidder, all for his own gain in the form of some portion of the lost treasure of Behar. Jack Reid arrives on the scene and the revelations grow ever more complicated. As Jack explains, there is a difference between his actions and Cleave’s actions, namely that “I am not being paid for the same people who are paying you.” Jack is a double agent, appearing to work for the French but really working for the English, which raises the question of just who is taking advantage of his strained loyalties.
Alex resolves the situation, saying that they will say the dead Guignon is the Marigold, Cleave will go home England and keep his mouth shut, Jack will carry on with what he is doing. Alex and Penelope’s futures, by contrast, remain unresolved until the final chapter when Charlotte backs Penelope into acknowledging that she loves Alex in his hearing. In turn, he acknowledges that he has been made a District Commissioner for an outlying group of territories and that he has a “severe case of being-in-love with you” if she is willing to join him in the middle of nowhere. The nature of Alex and Penelope headed off to a future of “isolation, outlawry, and lack of prospects” has meant that we have had no updates on how they are but I speculate about this sometimes. Lauren has said she hopes to write a short story for each Pink Carnation heroine and hero. What do any of you think might happen in Penelope and Alex’s story? What sort of relationship do they now have with each other? And with the people around them?
And thank you to everyone who has taken part and I look forward to getting started with The Orchid Affair next week!