Pink VIII Week 1 in Review

Happy Friday, one and all!  Before I turn this post over to Miss Eliza for our recap, let’s congratulate the winner of the signed copy of The Orchid Affair: Daniele K! Daniele, if you will send your address to, I will get your prize in the mail to you ASAP.  Now over to Miss Eliza!


Prologue and Chapters 1-7: “There was no such thing as a silver orchid”

Paris, 2004: You would think Eloise and Colin would be excited to get away to Paris for a long weekend; but sadly that long weekend is being organized by Colin’s step-father, and estranged cousin, Jeremy, as a birthday celebration for Colin’s mother. Yes, family gatherings with the Selwick family tend to run to the awkward, but as Colin says, it saves on Christmas cards when your cousin runs off with you mother on your father’s deathbed and eventually marries her. In an attempt to not let Jeremy micromanage every second they are in Paris, Colin and Eloise have cancelled their reservations at the George V, like they could afford that, and checked into the Minerve, which is certainly cute, and pink, and very very tiny.

The ostensible reason for their hotel change is that Eloise wants to get some research done on her dissertation while in Paris and the George V is too far away. What better place to research “Aristocratic Espionage during the Wars with France, 1792-1815” then the very hotbed of espionage, circa 1804? Colin wasn’t sure if this was a ruse for Jeremy’s benefit or not. But when a rather irate Eloise storms off to the Musée de la Préfecture de Police to look into their papers to corroborate information she found in Colin’s family’s archive, and in particular the spy the Silver Orchid, one of the first graduates from the Selwick Spy School, Colin isn’t left in any doubt. As to why Colin is still at the hotel and not walking arm and arm with Eloise down the Seine eating marzipan pigs? When Colin added his sister Serena to their hotel, he might have added them to their room, not to her own room.

Paris, 1804: Laura Grey has been a governess for half her life, sixteen long years. After seeing her latest charge married off she is given an interesting opportunity. She is invited to train at the Selwick’s Spy School by none other than that most famous of spies, the Pink Carnation herself! Laura has an innate ability to blend into her surroundings, coupled with the fact she was born and raised in France, she would be the perfect undercover operative. André Jaouen is the assistant to the Prefect of Police. All information about suspected spies and royalists, people the Pink Carnation hopes to save, flows through Jaouen’s papers as he works indirectly for the chief of police, Fouché, who happens to be his relative through marriage. Unfortunately Jaouen often has to work with the detestable Delaroche as well, who is none too happy with Jaouen, and in particular his connection to Fouché. With men like Delaroche circling, Jaouen knows that Paris isn’t safe with all his dreams of a republic dashed. It’s the last place that children should be, but what was Jaouen to do? His beloved father-in-law died and his children had nowhere else to go.

Seizing the opportunity of the arrival of Jaouen’s two children , Gabrielle and Pierre-André, Jane takes full advantage of this opening to place a spy in Jaouen’s house. Dubbed the Silver Orchid, this is the perfect job for Laura Grey, or Laure Griscogne as she is now known. Who better to pretend to be a governess then Laura with her sixteen years of experience? Surly she can suffer through the ignominy of being a governess one more time if it means that she never has to be a governess again; slowly hardening into the role and losing more and more of herself as each day passes. Hired after the most perfunctory of interviews, Laura leaves the crumbling Hôtel de Bac to collect her possessions while Jaouen, unaware of what he has done in hiring Laura, heads to the Abbaye Prison to draw out of an inmate a kidnapping plot against the First Consul, Napoleon, with Delaroche circling.

The next day Laura isn’t greeted by her charges with open arms. Well, Pierre-André did have open arms, but they were only open in an attempt to find candy about her person. Gabrielle, like the nursery maid Jeanette and the surly man of all work Jean, is almost openly hostile to Laura’s presence. Laura decides she must just get on with her work and to this end she takes the children out to a bookshop. To any outsider, taking her charges to a bookshop looks unsuspicious, little do they know that the bookshop is also her point of contact with the Pink Carnation. She feels invigorated that she makes first contact and gets the code word and knows to look for her message in a Latin copy of Aesop’s Fables she will receive later in the week and then everything goes pear shaped.

Laura isn’t caught, but into the bookshop walks the Pink Carnation herself with Miss Gwen and A BONAPARTE! They are loud and command attention, especially as Augustus Whittlesby, that most atrocious of poets, is there declaiming to the world about his Muse, Jane! Laura doesn’t know why they are there. Did she do something wrong? Why is Jane so friendly with a Bonaparte? But in amongst the conversation she notices there are certain words Jane is emphasizing to Laura, all without even looking at her. The Pink Carnation needs to know what Jaouen learned at the Abbaye Prison the night before as soon as possible, this message couldn’t wait to be encrypted and handed off, hence the break in protocol. More disturbing than the risk of searching Jaouen’s study is the mysterious man who solicitously offers them a ride back to the Hôtel de Bac, who turns out to be none other than Jaouen’s openly contentious co-worker Delaroche!

The night isn’t done with mysterious men though. After getting a drubbing down from Jaouen about taking the children outside the house, Laura solicitously makes a cup of coffee, sleeping draft included, for Jaouen. At this juncture a mysterious stranger arrives at the study door as Laura is attempting to leave, disgruntled by the coffee going cold and the wasted sleeping draft. It happens to be Jaouen’s handsy cousin Philippe that she was previously warned of. The two men go off into the house and Laura takes the opportunity to find out the information that Jane so desperately needed from the interrogation at the prison the night previously. Could the conspiracy against Napoleon be royalist in nature? Well Jane will never get Laura’s message if she is trapped in the house at all times, because who could rely on Jean to get a message out, though she gamely tried.

Girding her loins, Laura decides to just be the governess she is supposed to be until such a time that she sees fit to temporarily flee her prison and make contact with the Pink Carnation. In order to entertain the children she decides they should explore the massive and extremely empty house they live in. It will appeal to any child with the least bit of imagination and will hopefully win some points with Gabrielle, whose love of dreadful novels will easily find something of interest looking for hidden chambers in the monstrous mansion. What the children finally stumble on in one of the rooms is all their possessions from Nantes, still boxed up. And in one of the boxes Laura finds something from her own past, a book her mother had written back when Laura was a child and her home was made up of the fashionable salons of authors and artists. But in the margins she finds drawings that at first she finds as a desecration, but soon realizes are just another artistic expression of the longing of the poems. Laura comes to the startling realization that the children’s mother and Jaouen’s dead wife is the famous artist Julie Beniet. Artists aside, she has spycraft to worry about. Laura has a rendezvous with an agent of the Pink Carnation on Sunday! Surprisingly Jean can deliver messages, he’ll just get them to you days late and read by everyone in the household.

15 thoughts on “Pink VIII Week 1 in Review

  1. Great recap of a really great story! I am finding that with this re-read I love the books even more, and I did not think that was even possible.

    ******Spoiler Alert*******I want to mention something ahead of our reading schedule and don’t want to ruin anything for anyone who has not already read chapter 31. Please forgive me for jumping ahead. I am recovering from some dental surgeries and I couldn’t switch to other books once I got into this story. I just read a scene in chapter 31 that hit me so hard that I want to process and share it with my tribe, so to speak, but I know no others that understand besides my friends and Pink fans here. 🙂 (I have a melodramatic tendency, perhaps, or a tender heart, but tears are actually running down my cheeks) Sir Richard is just being introduced to Andre and I realize how much I love Richard and these characters. This is really going to be time to say goodbye to them. Lauren never gratuitously throws previous charcters in later books, but being able to see them again is golden, and this scene is perfect. I am going to miss this series, but I celebrate the gift that it is.

    Thank you again, so much, for the effort that goes into this year long read along. I appreciate it, and I know that so many others do as well.

  2. I love how Lauren can create amazing prose for two different eras, both brilliantly witty and a pleasure to read, but completely different and each appropriate for its own period. I do so love Eloise’s discussion of dashing men in tights!

  3. Am really enjoying this reread as well as all of the others. I may have to revise my favorites’ list and move this one to #1. Funny how that happens when reading them one right after the other.

    What a fantastic creation of mood, Lauren created as she describes Laura Grey’s arrival at the Hotel de Bac! I could feel the rain drizzling down and the coldness seeping in. The dreary atmosphere continued with entry into the estate and introduction to all who lived within. This is not a happy place. I must admit that I felt drawn to Andre from the very beginning, even with the first read. I knew there had to be more to his story. Laura comes across as very brave and gutsy, a heroine to really root for in such a dark, desperate time. I had not remembered in my first read that she was mentioned in Black Tulip as attending the spy school – so much fun to see all of the connections when reading the books together.

    Totally agree with Dara about Lauren’s prose and connection of the two stories – rain in modern Paris, rain in 1804. Chapter 7 ends with Laura cursing “Blast, blast, blast.” And chapter 8 begins with Eloise saying. “Blast. In multiples.” Everything fits together so effortlessly.

    I also really enjoyed the bookshop scene with the spy gang all there, and the explanation of the code. It’s hard to hold myself back, but I will try.

    • The bookshop scene has to be one of the funniest. And I agree, totally almost number one, if it wasn’t for my adoration of Turnip, well, this would be number one then…

  4. I think that it is in this book that one really finds out how nasty De La Roche really is…We see bits of it in Pink #1 and his special room, but being willing to use a man’s children against him is a special low. I think we also see the disillusionment of the revolution through Andre’s eyes. I remember reading this book the first time and comparing the French Revolution to the Revolution in the United States…How did we not go off the deep end?

    I remember in Black Tulip, the mention of Laura Grey is that she was passionless about everything…she played the piano forte at Hen’s and Miles’s wedding, but it was “adequate”. I love how Lauren shows Laura and her foil in Gabrielle to a special light…both daughters of very talented women who aren’t living up to their mother’s reputations and neither being allowed to grow into their own…both almost stifled by their mother’s shadows.

    • Very Interesting comments, Patricia. I felt the same way about Delaroche. His meaness really comes to light again after first glimpses in Pink #1. Not to get ahead, but the treatment of Daubier later on shows more of the cruelty of this revolution. And to think that the French were supposed to have modeled their revolution after ours! Perhaps one reason for the differences was that the king/royalty was not here in America, but at a distance in England – not so easy to take revenge on. Wanting independence from tyrannical rule was different from changing a system that had been around for a thousand years.

      Enjoyed the parallels you drew between Laura and Gabrielle – very hard living up to expectations sometimes.

      • We could also say it was the newness of the US the made our revolution not descend to the state the French one did. The grudges and hatred of centuries, building against each other, where you’d turn on your friends…

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