Sunday, November 28, 2010
Arabella Dempsey’s dear friend Jane Austen warned her against teaching. But Miss Climpson’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies seems the perfect place for Arabella to claim her independence while keeping an eye on her younger sisters nearby. Just before Christmas, she accepts a position at the quiet girls’ school in Bath, expecting to face nothing more exciting than conducting the annual Christmas recital. She hardly imagines coming face to face with French aristocrats and international spies…
Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh - often mistaken for the elusive spy known as the Pink Carnation - has blundered into danger before. But when he blunders into Miss Arabella Dempsey, it never occurs to him that she might be trouble. When Turnip and Arabella stumble upon a beautifully wrapped Christmas pudding with a cryptic message written in French, “Meet me at Farley Castle”, the unlikely vehicle for intrigue launches the pair on a Yuletide adventure that ranges from the Austens’ modest drawing room to the awe-inspiring estate of the Dukes of Dovedale, where the Dowager Duchess is hosting the most anticipated event of the year: an elaborate 12-day Christmas celebration. Will they find poinsettias or peril, dancing or danger? And is it possible that the fate of the British Empire rests in Arabella and Turnip’s hands, in the form of a festive Christmas pudding?
When I heard that Lauren Willig was giving "Turnip" Fitzhugh his own book, I wondered. How is she going to pull this off and turn him into a lusty and dashing Regency hero? Well, now I know. I can't exactly say he's lusty, though he's looked on a lot of women with lust ;) Reginald "Turnip" Fitzhugh is a delight! Bumbling, yet full of good intentions, he meets his match in Arabella Dempsey, a well brought up young lady, who must become a schoolteacher in an exclusive girl's academy to help out her family's finances. While there, she stumbles into Turnip - literally - as well as a valuable document that French spies are willing to kill her for. Guess who comes to her rescue? I laughed aloud and loved every bit of this delightful and oftentimes hilarious Christmas themed addition to Willig's Pink Carnation series.
If you have read the previous books in the series, you are already well acquainted with Turnip, as he is affectionately known as. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, Turnip is a wealthy aristocrat with a penchant for outlandish waistcoats - the more garish the better. In the past books, he's been mistaken for the the Pink Carnation, a mysterious spy that has managed to foil many French agents under Bonaparte's regime. Of course, we all know Turnip is definitely not the Pink Carnation, although he's tall, handsome, blond and not a bad kisser when he puts his mind to it. But, a spy - no sir!
The year is 1803 and dutiful brother that he is, Turnip is visiting his younger sister at her boarding school in Bath, delivering her Christmas basket, full of assorted goodies and what not, despite the fact she'll be returning home within a week or two for the Christmas holidays anyway. The "goodies" are used mostly for trading purposes among the girls at the school. Turnip's sister Sally was a hoot, I really enjoyed her. On audio, Kate Reading did a great job of conveying just the right tone of bratty teenager. Willig is aces at describing the Regency version of sibling scorn that goes on between brothers and sisters. Blackmail, bribery, snarky remarks and the usual sniping at each other - that sort of thing. I loved it! Since I'm the youngest of six, I could totally relate! Not that Turnip isn't a gentleman, he is. He manages to rise above most of his sister's petty complaints, though he does often fall prey to her schemes and desires. The long and short of it is, he's a good brother, even if he's a soft touch. Sally's lucky to have him.
Arabella Dempsey is a brand new schoolteacher at Miss Climpson's. She bumps into Turnip and he takes to her immediately. They've met before, since Arabella was, until recently, the companion of her wealthy aunt and frequented many balls and soirees amidst the upper classes. Unfortunately, the aunt married a ne'er do well fortune hunter, a Captain Musgrave. Arabella's hopes of one day inheriting her aunt's wealth were crushed when Musgrave ensnared her aging aunt. It didn't help that the captain kissed Arabella and led her on as well - before the engagement! What a scoundrel! Now Arabella must make ends meet and her chance meeting of Turnip makes her slightly uncomfortable, for it's a reminder of what she could of had, and what her life is now. Turnip is oblivious to Arabella's life change. All he knows is he's attracted to her and wants to bloody well see her again! He invites her to join him on an excursion to Farley Castle. This will also help solve the mystery of the errant Christmas pudding with the cryptic note - "Meet me at Farley Castle" that turned up at Miss Climpson's. Turnip will be able to kill two birds with one stone. See more of Miss Dempsey and find out if he's uncovered a secret spy ring! Here we see my old favorites like Lord and Lady Vaughn. I loved their story from The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, although here they are terribly sarcastic and snobbish at Arabella and Turnip's expense. But, I think it's mostly an act, though their comments were deliciously on target - great job, Lauren!
After the excursion to the Castle, one thing leads to another and indeed the note in the pudding is related to French spies - and Arabella becomes their target. They believe she has an important list of spies and they will stop at nothing to get it. There is plenty of intrigue and as a result, a great deal of shenanigans ensue. Arabella and Turnip keep running into each other and naturally he develops a tendre for Arabella. He also sees it as his duty to protect her from said spies. After an hysterical midnight ruckus in the music room, capturing the music master sneaking into a window of Miss Climpson's, Turnip sneaks up to Arabella's bedroom at the school. Just to make sure she's safe, of course. One thing leads to another and they share a kiss - but this must stop. Arabella is a schoolteacher who cannot afford to lose her job - or her reputation. Turnip is not that easily dissuaded. He likes Arabella! He makes it a point to see her again at the hilarious Christmas Pageant put on by the school the next day. Arabella spends much of the time avoiding Turnip, but he chases her down. She doesn't realize his feelings are serious about her and she has to put an end to anything. I really felt badly for both of them. She tells him once and for all that she can no longer see him, it is folly. At first he's hurt by her rejection, believing she's putting him off because of his well known reputation for acting like an idiot, but puddings, jam, spies, danger and love all succeed in throwing these two together!
Much of the book revolves around the school and then later at the Duchess of Dovedale's Christmas House Party. Here we meet some of the characters from Willig's earlier book, Temptation of the Night Jasmine and if you're familiar with that book, you'll see how the stories run simultaneously, only we're now getting a different point of view. I'm leaving tons out, but trust me, it's jam packed with great little touches and loads of humor, I think this is by far the funniest of all the books in the series. I love humor in my romances and while listening to it on my iPod, this made peeling potatoes and emptying the dishwasher fun! I'm in awe of Willig's comic genius!
Turnip is an endearing hero and much of his dialogue is simply hilarious. The world according to Turnip can be most amusing! Who would have thought kippers could be so funny? "Rugby beating Rugby!" There were numerous crazy Turnip-isms - I wish I had the book in print to remember them exactly, there are too many to list, but they had me cracking up! Arabella's practicality and common sense counterbalances Turnip's joie de vivre! I love it how he goes to bat for her and defends and rescues her at the house party. He is honorable and gentlemanly with her - I'm so glad to see that they both find love at long last - and those lessons at Gentleman Jackson's sure did come in handy - I cheered at the results!
I highly recommend Mischief, it was a real treat and perfect for the holiday season. I especially loved the music that broke up the parts of the audiobook, it put me in a real festive holiday mood as well! This has become a new favorite in the series for me, Turnip and Arabella are adorable and refreshing. They're good for each other! I simply loved Turnip! He is a true hero in the finest sense of the word. I hope you enjoy this latest addition to the Pink Carnation Series as much as I did. As an FYI, this is a "clean" romance, no sex, so it's entirely appropriate for pre-teens. Also, there is no mention of the modern day story between Colin and Eloise that takes place in all the previous novels, so we'll just have to wait for Willig's next installment for more on that score.