Eloise Kelly is an American history student trying to find material for her dissertation in England. Enamoured with the dashing gentleman spies of the late 18th and early 19th Century, like the Scarlet Pimpernel and his successor the Purple Gentian, what Eloise really wants to do is unmask the identity of the most elusive spy of all, the Pink Carnation, who is rumoured to have stopped Napoleon’s invasion of England in 1803.
When Eloise is allowed to browse through a cache of letters and diaries belonging to a descendant of the Purple Gentian himself, a Mrs. Selwick-Alderly, she’s pretty sure she’s hit the jackpot. The documents tell the story of Miss Amy Balcourt, half French and determined to join the league of the Purple Gentian. When her brother, a member of Napoleon’s court, invites her back to Paris, Amy is sure that she will finally get her chance to be a spy and help the dashing Gentian foil Napoleon and restore the French monarchy. She travels to France with her brilliant cousin Jane and the formidable Miss Gwen, their chaperone.
On the boat to Calais, she meets Lord Richard Selwick, who the reader already knows is the Purple Gentian. Having grown up on a neighbouring estate to Sir Percy Blakeney, Selwick succeeded the Scarlet Pimpernel as England’s most famous spy when Blakeney’s true identity was revealed. His cover is that of an expert in antiquities, curating Egyptian treasures for Napoleon, usually boring anyone suspicious of his activities to tears with his dry and long winded lectures. Amy, very well versed in the classics and history herself, is fascinated with Selwick’s stories at first, but becomes appalled when she realises he works for Napoleon. She considers him a traitor, and vows to avoid him as much as possible. More on my blog.