We’ve described Tasha Alexander‘s protagonist, Lady Emily Ashton, as “an irresistible Victorian iconoclast”; from the series debut, And Only to Deceive (2005), to the most recent installment, Dangerous to Know (2010), our reviewers have consistently complimented Alexander’s engaging blend of mystery, romance, and humor. But what does Alexander read for fun—does she like to take a break from the past and read dishy memoirs or dystopian novels? Well, if you guessed “more historical fiction,” you guessed correctly. I asked the author to share her favorite recent read and she was happy to oblige.
Browsing in a bookstore one day, I stumbled upon The Secret History of the Pink Carnation soon after it was released in paperback and immediately fell in love with the cover. (What historical reader hasn’t fallen prey to a beautiful painting of a beautiful gown?) As for the book, it surpassed all my expectations. It’s rare to find an author who can consistently balance wit and action as deftly as Lauren Willig, and I knew at once that she would forever be on my Must-Be-Read List.
This year’s installment in the series is The Orchid Affair, which takes readers to Napoleonic France, where the Silver Orchid, code name for Laura Grey, governess-turned-spy, is sent to keep an eye on the dashing deputy minister of police and his slightly-more-unruly children. Framing this story are the continuing adventures of American Eloise Kelly, who balances romancing a suave Englishman with trying to finish her Ph.D. Dissertation research in Paris doesn’t turn out quite the way she’d anticipated and hilarity ensues. With nods to The Scarlet Pimpernel and Pride and Prejudice, The Orchid Affair perfectly combines mystery, historical detail, and romance. I devoured it before the first meal on a flight to London—it’s a rare and beautiful thing to find a novel that can make you forget how uncomfortable the seats are in coach—and I can’t wait to get my hands on Willig’s next.