Before I hand this post over to Miss Eliza of Strange and Random Happenstance, I hope you will all join me in saying a big MERCI to her for hosting our April reread of The Orchid Affair. Miss Eliza, thank you for being our tour guide through Paris in the springtime! And now, on to the last recap for Pink VIII.
Chapters 27-35 “They’re not the sort of characters who get happy endings.”
French Countryside, Beauvais, and Dieppe 1804: Laura is nearly frantic, why is acting so hard? If everything fell apart because of her she could never forgive herself. It’s infuriating how much a better actor André is then her. As he justly points out, he has had a lot of practice hiding his true self for the last few years, otherwise he wouldn’t still be alive. Seeing Laura’s vulnerability and trusting her despite knowing she isn’t fully honest with him, he opens up about his involvement with the Bourbon plot. The destruction of the revolution’s ideals proved to him that a stable government, even a monarchy, was better than living in a state of fear where allegiances shifted daily and your friends could be your enemies or your downfall the next minute, something his wife Julie could never see. André had forgotten how liberating it is to have someone to confide in, someone to share his burdens. They curl up for the long days ahead that will bring them to Beauvais and their first performance on stage.
Laura’s acting skills still haven’t improved and she is desperate. Laura and André are putting playbills up around Beauvais as she becomes more and more rattled. Finding Jaouen and Daubier’s wanted posters is almost the last straw. Her emotions, trapped for so many years behind practical gray wool, are resurging. André uses the simple expedient of covering the wanted posters with their playbill, but emotions between them are high, as is the danger of appearing in public. So high that Laura is threatening leaving the troupe to protect everyone, even against the Pink Carnation’s orders she can’t even dare to mention to André. The tension and emotion breaks in a revelatory kiss between the two. Breaking apart Laura realizes her folly and how their forced intimacy might just ruin everything. Rushing back to the inn the troupe has commandeered she slinks off to her room, hoping that André might just pass the night below stairs drinking with Leandro and Pantaloon. Once in bed she starts to parse out her emotions and realizes that she has been constrained for far too long and wants to be free again. André’s arrival in the room allows her to put action to thought and they fall on each other in faux connubial bliss. The only problem they now face is continuing to play a loving couple to the troupe, without hinting to their own smaller group that their relationship is far closer to the lie they are playing at.
Over the weeks that follow Laura and André become closer, and she even starts to become a competent actress. But the night has come to give up the stage. This night in Dieppe will be their last performance and then they shall sail for England. What happens next does have Laura worried. There is so much she has kept from André and she only knows that she wants to be with him, though she knows that is the true farce. Laura thinks she sees Delaroche in the audience but convinces herself that she is seeing things. Once onstage she realizes that she was horribly mistaken, it is Delaroche and he is making his way to Gabrielle! This can’t be happening. They are mere hours away from escape and the net is closing. Fearing Gabrielle’s capture when the little girl appears backstage they are relieved beyond measure, until she delivers Delaroche’s note; he has taken Pierre-André and his nurse Jeanette! André is willing to accept Delaroche’s offer of himself and the Duc du Berry for the two prisoners. Laura finds this unacceptable and says that at the boat they are to depart on that night, the Bien-Aimée, they shall find reinforcements.
Aboard the Bien-Aimée Laura’s world comes crashing down. They are greeted by non-other than the Purple Gentian, Lord Richard Selwick, who not only knows Jaouen, but congratulates Laura, Miss Grey, on a successful first mission. Laura knows that she has probably lost Jaouen, it’s never good to tell someone in a crisis that “I can explain.” It just doesn’t seem adequate enough. But explanations can wait for when everyone is safe. They devise a plan. Pierre-André and Jeanette are being held on the Cauchemar, two of Richard’s agents will cut the boat loose from the dock, then Lord Richard, Daubier, Jaouen, and two of Richard’s crew will use a dinghy, create a distraction, and rescue the captives, all while Gabrielle, Laura, and the Duc du Berry, stay safely on the Bien-Aimée. The rescue of Pierre-André and Jeanette goes too smoothly and they realize too late that Delaroche has truly lost his mind and created this elaborate distraction with prisoners tied to the main sail to get the Duc du Berry on his own. Rushing back to the Bien-Aimée they see through the windows of the cabin that they might be too late.
Though inside the cabin things aren’t as dire as they look to outsiders. Laura has decided to one up Delaroche and tries to convince him that she is also an agent working for Fouché and that he has now ruined months of work and he will be in for a drubbing. This distraction gives Richard and his men time enough to get into position and attack. Delaroche is captured and everyone is safe! Miss Grey has excelled at her first mission, though she feels it a pyrrhic victory. Laura retires to solitude on the back deck of the ship, which is where Jaouen finds her. She bares her soul saying that he did know the real her. Luckily he understands that life is made up of shades of gray and that “there’s honesty and there’s honesty” and as they embrace André asks for her hand in marriage, Laura agrees if the children will have her. They will no longer be alone.
Paris 2004: Jeremy’s announcement about the upcoming film shoot at Selwick Hall feels like a grenade has been launched at Colin and Eloise. It’s incomprehensible, Selwick Hall isn’t Jeremy’s family place, no matter how much he dreams it is and how many times he has offered to buy it. He has no right to be conferring access, only Colin, Serena, and Caroline have the right. Ah, but Jeremy is cunning. He obviously has Caro’s vote, she couldn’t care less, and he has bought Serena’s vote with the paycheck from the film company that will allow her to buy into the gallery she works at becoming a junior partner. Serena’s nerves are now explained as the betrayal dawns on Colin and Eloise. After all Colin has done for his sister, to do this! They exit the party, taking their leave of no one. Retracing their steps back to the hotel Colin is bottling up his feelings with regard to his family; his feelings to Eloise though are quite amorous. He might be trying to escape the reality of the situation in Eloise’s embrace, but she’s there for him, however he needs her.
The next morning Eloise is up bright and early, ready to head out to the Musée de la Préfecture de Police while Colin is at loose ends. His plans with his family while Eloise did her research must assuredly be cancelled… surely. Eloise decides that discretion is the better part of valor and Colin will talk when he feels like talking, and right now she has research to corroborate. Colin wasn’t kidding when he said the museum was in the police station. The displays are what she expected, the setting is not, but she at least found the place, after a few wrong turns. There in a far corner are the artifacts of the plot to restore the Bourbon monarchy, Jaouen’s wanted poster, Cadoudal’s arrest record. Digging into the archives Eloise finds all Jaouen’s paperwork and she has a secret smile for the only reference to the Silver Orchid as a governess who might be questioned with regard to Jaouen’s disappearance. Little did they know she was the mastermind. Colin reunites with Eloise after a long day of research, with the promise of coffee and a romantic time in Paris, with no family entanglements. During their time apart he went back to the museum he found Eloise at the day before and bought her the exhibition book for Artistes en 1789: Marguerite Gérard et Julie Beniet because he is such a wonderful boyfriend. In the glossy pages of the book Eloise learns that Jaouen and Laura married and moved to New Orleans, where Jaouen established a law practice, going on to become a state court judge. Pierre-André became a celebrated naturalist, while Gabrielle became quite the hoyden with a predilection for writing memoirs and discarding husbands. Knowing the fate of her research subjects, Eloise is ready to face the future with Colin. They will be there to monitor the interloping filmmakers and thwart any of Jeremy’s plans, just after this cup of coffee and a marzipan pig.