Is Willig’s Spy Garden Complete? THE LURE OF THE MOONFLOWER

The Lure of the Moonflower


THE LURE OF THE MOONFLOWER CoverPink Carnation series Book 12
The Lure of the Moonflower

Read by: Kate Reading
13 hours 40 minutes
August 4, 2015

Paperback/E-Book 528 Pages


Audiobook provided by publisher for review purposes. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinion presented herein is my own except as noted.


In the final Pink Carnation novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla, Napoleon has occupied Lisbon, and Jane Wooliston, aka the Pink Carnation, teams up with a rogue agent to protect the escaped Queen of Portugal.

Portugal, December 1807. Jack Reid, the British agent known as the Moonflower (formerly the French agent known as the Moonflower), has been stationed in Portugal and is awaiting his new contact. He does not expect to be paired with a woman—especially not the legendary Pink Carnation.

All of Portugal believes that the royal family departed for Brazil just before the French troops marched into Lisbon. Only the English government knows that mad seventy-three-year-old Queen Maria was spirited away by a group of loyalists determined to rally a resistance. But as the French garrison scours the countryside, it’s only a matter of time before she’s found and taken.

It’s up to Jane to find her first and ensure her safety. But she has no knowledge of Portugal or the language. Though she is loath to admit it, she needs the Moonflower. Operating alone has taught her to respect her own limitations. But she knows better than to show weakness around the Moonflower—an agent with a reputation for brilliance, a tendency toward insubordination, and a history of going rogue.


My Take Oblong


In novels, espionage is about secrets, intelligence, the ability to lie convincingly. In this series, it is partly about a floral taxonomy. Each spy has been given a floral code name. While ridiculous, it also makes gender and ethnicity less apparent, so perhaps it would be effection. After all would you think James Bond if you heard Hyacinth?  Since Jack struggles with issues of race and Jane with the limits society places on her gender, it is an important part of this novel.

This part of the story happens in 1807, on the cusp of Napoleon’s European expansion.  Having wavered on the fence, Portugal “fell” to the French.  But this is a split-time novel with half occurring in the 19th century and half somewhat more contemporary to our own real time, Eloise and Colin are about to marry, having met as she researched Colin’s quietly illustrious ancestor, The Pink Carnation aka, or not so aka Jane Wooliston.  The novel skips between their wedding and the dangerous event mentioned above during the Napoleonic wars.

But there’s no connection between the events other than there being a few items in a trunk delivered to the family estate of the eve of Eloise’s and Colin’s wedding.   I remember reading the first book when it first came out in 2005, so this last book piqued my interest.  I was a little worried it would be too dependent on backstory, but surprisingly, the vast majority stands alone.  I think a slightly richer experience may have been had if I had read the ten novels in between, but this one was quite enjoyable and included enough information to make it work.

At a few times in the listening I felt there were a couple of anachronistic word choices in the historical parts of the stories but I certainly could not fault her research otherwise.  And, since I had not read more of the previous entries in the series I could not fault her continuity.

The relationship between the two times — the two stories, is solid based on academic focus and genetics, but tenuous in the plot.  Often, in this sub-genre there is a paranormal element where the contemporary character shares memories with the historical and contemporary characters sharing memories or ectoplasm or something. But here they share a family relationship and it is Eloise’s scholarly interest that brings us to the historical story.  But, this is the case for the whole series, I gather, and though I didn’t feel a specific link between this book’s historical and contemporary story arcs, the solidity of the family and scholarly interest does make the connection relevant.

The experiences in the past feel more dangerous and real than those in the current time which feel a little mad-cap.  They reminded me of a Neil Simon movie with a wedding where the groom’s and bride’s families are undergoing weird, and often comic, revelations.

I did like Eloise and the kindness and respect she has for her groom and his great aunt. She seems to have an ambivalent relationship with her own family who, does not think she should marry and live in the UK.  His family is not much better, but the couple seems to have a genuine and loving relationship.

Another strong feature of the book is that neither the historical nor the contemporary romances rely on, or substitute sex for, the depth of feelings of friendship and admiration necessary for a real, sustained relationship. This certain truth is often missing in romance novels where sex is the reason people think their relationship is going to last. At one point Jack Reid, the Moonflower, tells Jane, aka the Pink Carnation, that her value depends on what is in her mind and not what is between her legs.   It is lovely that in both relationships the characters each find their match, their complement. Maybe that is the connection between the two periods of time: the marriages of true minds.

The audio recording is excellent with the Kate Reading putting just the right spin on the various voices and accents.

I can highly recommend this one!



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