I don't want to do a full-out review on this book because I devoured it...which means I read it so quickly (because I was! so! excited!) that I didn't have time to fully savor it.
Anyway, here's an abbreviated summary of the book, courtesty of Willig's site:
"After 12 years in India, Robert, Duke of Dovedale, returns to his estates in England with a mission in mind-- to infiltrate the infamous Hellfire club to unmask the man who murdered his mentor at the Battle of Assaye. Intent on revenge, Robert never anticipates that an even more difficult challenge awaits him, in the person of one Lady Charlotte Lansdowne. Throughout her secluded youth, Robert was Lady Charlotte’s favorite knight in shining armor, the focus of all her adolescent daydreams. The intervening years have only served to render him more dashing. But, unbeknownst to Charlotte, Robert has an ulterior motive of his own for returning to England, a motive that has nothing to do with taking up the ducal mantle. As Charlotte returns to London to take up her post as Maid of Honor to Queen Charlotte, echoes from Robert’s past endanger not only their relationship but the very throne itself."
In some ways, I think this is Willig's most well-written book. She's definitely grown as a writer and has shifted into more of a historical writer--which I like. The sensuality in her books has decreased as well; in this one, the couple share just a few kisses. However, that suits her characters--Charlotte is certainly no Amy or Henrietta; she's a dreamer and much more reserved. Her actions suit her character.
A major theme underlying the novel was the reworking of the hero and heroine's perceptions of each other. They had to cast away their romantic ideals and see each without their own perceptions clouding their view of the other person. According to my mother, this is something I need to do...bleh.
There wasn't much (ok, any) action from the Pink Carnation but from interviews I've read with Willing, this book's plot helps set up future plots that do involve the Pink Carnation. Yay for spies.
On a last note, I really liked the French spy. I'm not sure who he is but I hope he'll show up later on! His interactions with Charlotte and Henrietta were hilarious and delightful. In my mind, he's a good mate for Jane...there's only the little issue of him serving France and her England...