This post was written by Miss Eliza of Strange and Random Happenstance.
“Grey,” said Amy, herding Henrietta into a small drawing room at the front of the house. “She was a governess. “
If you look at all the Pink Carnation books you will notice a trend. The hero or the heroine, or in some cases both, have been known to us for a while. They might be bit players that slowly started to inveigle their way into the plot, or, if they were very demanding, their own book. Culled from the ton, they were all part of the existing world Lauren had built. And then came Laura Grey. Never before or since has a book hinged on an almost unknown entity. This, more than anything, is what draws me to The Orchid Affair, this departure away from English aristocrats. While being a part of the larger whole, it is also its own little microcosm within this bigger series. If not for the Eloise and Colin chapters it’s almost a fresh start for the series, and it’s all because of Laura.
So why is it that I am so drawn to a heroine who had quite literally the least amount of time previously on the page? I think it just comes down to the fact that she’s a clean slate. With series you can get bogged down in extensive character histories. There’s a reason that series like Outlander end up having companion books or need to be continually re-read, one brain can only hold so much. Also, there’s so much time recapping and going over the same ground to catch people up to speed that as a reader you’re either bored or lost. By having Jaouen and Laura both be almost completely self-contained within this one volume it creates a more individual book. Yes, the appearances of old friends and foes in cameos are nice, but the book would still work without them.
So who is Laura? To Jaouen and me, she is a fascinating subject. Her outward appearance is nothing more than a well-constructed lie that she has been forced to live for sixteen years. Laura is the perfect governess in every way, because she’s made sure that’s how she looks. She then was approached by the Pink Carnation and enrolled in the Selwick’s Spy School where she perfunctorily played the piano at Henrietta and Miles’s ad hoc wedding. But as we and Jaouen are starting to learn she has amazing hidden depths. Raised in the salons of Paris she had a famous sculpture for a father and a famous poetess for a mother, her life was free. Her life was the exact opposite of the life she has to create for herself. Her parents died in a boating accident during a squall and I imagine that they would have gotten along quite well with Byron and Shelley as they experimented artistically and sexually. Laura is so far removed from the heroines we are used to I ask you this question, is she your type of heroine or would you prefer what we’re used to?