Despite her dear friend Jane Austen’s warning against teaching, Arabella Dempsey accepts a position at a girls’ school in Bath, just before Christmas. 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. When Turnip and Arabella find their Christmas pudding yielding a cryptic message, they are launched on a Yuletide adventure. Will they find poinsettias-or peril?
Publisher and Release Date: Dutton, October 2010
Time and Setting: England, 1803
Genre: Mystery, Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 5 Stars
Review by Natalie
Arabella is in that difficult situation faced by so many of our Regency era heroines. She is financially strapped and, with very little social standing in the world, decides to throw herself head first into teaching. While many of her friends and family members are unsure of Arabella’s decision, no one is more wary than Arabella herself. She doesn’t exactly long for adventure and intrigue but she at least thought her life would contain a little more excitement than teaching young ladies. Add to that the fact that she isn’t even very sure that she will be a good teacher, and you have a young lady who is very worried about everything her future holds.
Enter Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh. Turnip isn’t your average hero. He is a bit clumsy, can be a little bit thick-headed at times and tends to blunder in to and out of adventure rather than face it head on. He has been mistaken for a great spy on more than one occasion, mostly because those around him cannot believe that his personality is real and imagine that it simply must be a cover. Turnip manages to knock Arabella over when he visits his sister at her boarding school and after picking her up off her backside the unlikely pair accidentally un-cover a secret message meant for the eyes of another. They assume that they have accidentally come upon the secret correspondence of two love-sick teenagers but as they investigate, it becomes clear that there is more here than meets the eye.
The Mischief of the Mistletoe is the seventh book in the Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig. This fun series follows the mysterious lives of English spies in England and France in the early 1800s, calling to mind the Scarlet Pimpernel. Turnip is a character who has appeared in several of the books and is often mistaken for the Pink Carnation himself – but Turnip was always a supporting character until The Mischief of the Mistletoe.
Instead of suddenly changing the foundation of Turnip’s character to make him a little more of a mainstream hero, Ms Willig allows him to stay true to himself. He has a tendency to be a little absent-minded and isn’t exactly the sharpest Turnip in the turnip patch, but that’s okay. Our Heroine – Arabella – is exactly the opposite; she is smart, wry and maybe a little off from what English society would expect of a young lady in her particular situation. She finds that she admires Turnip’s sense of adventure and his ability to not take himself too seriously.
Mischief is a seriously sweet book and adds a great story to the overall canon of the Pink Carnation. Some of the other books in the series have a little more spice and heat in them but what book seven lacks in passionate scenes it makes up for in a charming love story. And if it happens to leave you wishing for a little more, you can always find the bonus chapter Ms Willig published on her website, Away in a Manger.
This story has characters that are immensely likeable, well written, fun to read and believable. They have foibles and follies and when reading about Arabella and Turnip you can almost imagine that they are real people bumbling around an international spy ring. If you are looking for a delightful tale of intrigue and Christmas romance to help you relax this season, then look no further than The Mischief of the Mistletoe!