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The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig

Lauren Willig has joined the ranks of those writers presenting a Christmas tale depicting characters from their series. The Mischief of the Mistletoe: A Pink Carnation Christmas is from Willig’s highly successful Pink Carnation series and begins after The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, but before The Temptation of the Night Jasmine. Willig notes at the beginning of the novel that it’s “for all of you who asked for a book about Turnip.” Those of us who didn’t ask should be thankful for those who did because this is a rollicking good Christmas mystery. Unladylike snorts kept emitting from me as I read it.

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?

From the time the first Christmas pudding with a secret message is discovered until the last one is found, the fun never stops. Arabella is a delightful character who is intent on finding her way in the world without any appreciable means to do so—other than teach or be a governess. She’s quick of mind and tongue and doesn’t seem to know how to stay out of trouble. Turnip is handsome as all get out but is as clumsy as he is good looking. His ability to ferret out information proves more than adequate for several good laughs. Willig, who is handy with mysteries, doesn’t disappoint with this one. It’ll keep you guessing as to who the real spies and culprits are.

An excerpt can be found at http://www.laurenwillig.com.

If you’ve never read Willig and like mysteries set in early 1800 England, this is a good one to start with. If you’ve read and enjoyed her before, by all means read this one.

~Ginny

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