Monday, November 5, 2012

THOUGHTS on "The Masque of the Black Tulip" by Lauren Willig

The Masque of the Black Tulip (Pink Carnation, #2)The Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don't mind historical wallpapers, where the historical circumstances don't have much impact on the character's choices and actions. But if the social circumstances of the historical period are just wallpaper for a romance novel, then I expect either the plot, or complex aspects of the hero/heroine's character (or some combination of those) to drive/constrain the hero and heroine in a similar way. I didn't feel like "The Masque of the Black Tulip" succeeded at this.

Plot-wise, I felt like it takes too long for the stakes to raise. For the majority of the book, the external "conflict" is a vague threat of the french spy, the Black Tulip, being in London. It isn't until the last ten percent of the book that the threat becomes better-defined. There is also a lack of internal conflict driving their choices/actions. Henrietta's background is pretty nondramatic. Miles' background is slightly more interesting in that he was for the most part, abandoned by his family. But even given this, there aren't situations where it seems like Miles' background is clearly driving his decisions.

So, because the external conflict is so vaguely-defined for so long, and there isn't really any motivating internal conflict, I often had trouble understanding why Miles and Henrietta behave in the ways that they do. Consequently, many of Miles and Henrietta's interactions seemed contrived and random to me, and I didn't really feel compelled to keep reading (until I hit that last 10%). I do always like the "friends-fall-in-love" trope, though, and I do think that Willig does do a good job showing how close Miles and Henrietta are. I just would have liked the book better if there was something compelling the progression of the book's build-up to its climax.

If you liked this book, I'd read: I prefer Joanna Bourne's "Spymaster" Series - more complexity, more gravity, and more heartstring-tugging. Or, if you liked how light this was, and you liked Miles and Henrietta's random conversations, I'd try Julia Quinn's "Just Like Heaven." (...although there are no spies)

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