***Warning: Possible spoilers for previous books in the series!***
This last installment of the Pink Carnation series finally tells the story of the Pink Carnation herself, Miss Jane Wooliston. It’s 1807, and Napoleon’s armies have invaded Portugal. Officially, the Portuguese royal family have departed for South America; unofficially, the mad Queen Maria is still in the country, providing a focal point for the Portuguese resistance. If the French capture Queen Maria, it will be a decisive victory for Napoleon, so Jane is determined to prevent it by finding her first. But since she is ignorant of both the Portuguese language and the country’s terrain, she’ll need the help of Jack Reid, otherwise known as the Moonflower. Jack, the black sheep of the Reid family, has spied for many nations other than his own, including France. Can Jane trust him not to betray her? And when Jack meets Jane, he’s astonished to discover that the Pink Carnation is a demure young Englishwoman. Can he trust her to maintain her composure — especially when her former lover, a French spy known as the Gardener, is also on Queen Maria’s trail?
I’ve been a fan of the Pink Carnation series ever since the first book, so of course I was eagerly anticipating the final installment. I was especially excited to see that Jane was paired with Jack Reid: they have good chemistry and a believable conflict, as they are both accomplished spies who have trouble trusting each other and showing any hint of vulnerability. Their romance is the main focus of the book, with the spy plot largely being an excuse to get them together — which is fine by me, since I just wanted to see a satisfying ending for these characters whom I’ve grown to love over the course of the series. I do have some complaints, however, mostly because of the stories left untold. For example, we get a little bit of Jane’s romance with the Gardener, but that really should have been its own book. There are also a few minor characters from the series that I wish had gotten more closure. But Willig does include an afterword where she explains her decision to end the series here and gives a little “Where are they now?” update on all her recurring characters. So overall, I think this was a worthy ending to a delightful series, and I look forward to re-reading all the books one of these days!