Violet’s gaze was frank and open, with a hint of interest. It was similar to the penetrating look often seen in Sir Percy’s eyes. This was no simpering miss; this was a woman-in-waiting, mature and intelligent beyond her years. Her full lips smiled in honest approval — approval of him.
A strong stirring filled Frederick’s being. It was more than simple desire. He needed this girl to think well of him.
(from The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel)
Jack Caldwell’s latest novel, The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel, is inspired by both The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. It also is a companion novel to Caldwell’s The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men, but it is a standalone novel. In fact, I’ve never read The Scarlet Pimpernel — just searched for a detailed summary online — and I had no trouble following the story.
The novel opens with a bang: Captain Frederick Tilney, the heir of Northanger Abbey, is challenged to a duel over Isabella Thorpe, and then his close friend, Colonel Sir John Buford, cut ties with him until he sees the error of his ways, takes responsibility for his shortcomings, and essentially grows up. Frederick is not a scoundrel like Wickham, but he needs to sever ties with some unsavory people of his acquaintance.
When he is reacquainted with Violet Blakeney, the sister of his longtime friend, George, Frederick realizes he wants to be a better man. However, he has a lot to live up to in the eyes of her father, Sir Percy Blakeney — the retired Scarlet Pimpernel — and Frederick’s fumbles and missteps raise Sir Percy’s ire. While Frederick works to earn Sir Percy’s favor and become worthy of his daughter, an M. Lafarge in Paris is scheming to put an end to the Scarlet Pimpernel once and for all. When Violet encounters trouble on a holiday to Paris, will Sir Percy accept Frederick’s help to save the woman they both love?
Caldwell does a great job mixing in characters from various Austen novels — the Darcys, the Tilneys, and Colonel Brandon, among others, all make an appearance — and it was exciting to read an Austen-inspired sequel that wasn’t about Pride and Prejudice for a change. I can’t comment on Caldwell’s interpretations of the characters from The Scarlet Pimpernel, but I found them thoroughly enjoyable — from Sir Percy’s wit and his passionate relationship with his wife to the strong bonds of the Blakeney family and Lady Marguerite’s refusal to stay quiet when her husband is being stubborn and foolish.
In The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel, Caldwell seamlessly merges The Scarlet Pimpernel and Northanger Abbey into an exciting adventure novel led by an aging hero whose mind is as sharp as ever and a young man who is not inclined to sit idle. There’s plenty of action to balance out the more romantic aspects of the story, and if I had to find something I didn’t like, I would only say there are places in the story where the pace slows down just a bit, though that’s a minor quibble. Overall, I found The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel to be a delightful tale full of interesting characters, a heartwarming love story, some history, a dash of humor, and quite a bit of danger. I hope Caldwell revisits these characters again in the future.
Jack Caldwell is generously offering a copy of The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel to one lucky reader. This giveaway is open internationally. If the winner is from the U.S., there is a choice between an ebook (mobi or epub) and a paperback. If the winner is outside the U.S., he/she will receive an ebook. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address about what intrigues you most about this novel. The giveaway will close Sunday, September 4. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!
Disclosure: I received The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel from the author for review.
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