Mr. Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh is a man in possession of good fortune. Ergo, he must be in want of a wife. It is, after all, a truth universally acknowledged. So saith Jane Austen. </geek> If you’ve read the previous Pink Carnation books, you’ll remember Turnip as a flashy, bumbling side character who occasionally serves as a distraction to the dastardly French while the Pink Carnation and her League do the serious spy work. Since he can come across as a bit of a blithering idiot (remember when he tried to pour coffee out of a pot that was used to smuggle in a pistol? facepalm), I was concerned about him having a starring role in The Mischief of the Mistletoe (Dutton 2010). I shouldn’t have worried, though. Turns out that he is pretty endearing when he gets his moment in the spotlight. You’ll also be relieved to know that he’s not as dimwitted as you may have feared. When he’s trying to impress Miss Arabella Dempsey, he reads up on the history of Farley Castle and is able to discuss it like an intelligent person. Okay, maybe “intelligent” is too strong a word. Let’s go with me no longer worrying that he’s dumber than a box of rocks after this little convo with Arabella. I actually breathed a sigh of relief at this point – this is what convinced me that he wasn’t a complete buffoon and that there was hope for him to be an interesting character.
The newcomer and Turnip’s costar in this Pink Carnation adventure is Arabella Dempsey. Until recently, Arabella was companion to her Aunt Osborne in London where she propped up many a ballroom wall during her seasons there. Aunt Osborne has recently married a much younger man (SCANDALOUS), and Arabella has taken her leave of the newlyweds to become a school teacher at Miss Climpson’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies to make her own way in the world. She sums up her situation pretty succinctly: “I am a woman, and I am poor” (I feel you there, Arabella), and she needs to work so that she does not become a burden on her ailing father, who has three other unmarried daughters at home to support. Turnip literally runs into her one day after visiting his sister at Miss Climpson’s. Though they’ve met before, this is the first time Turnip ever notices Miss Dempsey, who has perfected the art of being completely unnoticeable. Once he’s noticed her, though, Turnip makes a point to remember her, and once he suspects that she is in danger, protecting her. He’s quite the knight in shining armor, sitting outside her window for several nights in a row to be sure that nothing untoward happens. Nothing like hunkering down in the garden on a bracing English December night to suggest more than just a passing interest. Unfortunately, Arabella suffers from an inferiority complex and doesn’t see it. In the face of a hot, rich, nice guy, she assumes that he’s uninterested in plain, poor, boring her. Not so, Arabella! He’s definitely into you. Don’t worry, though, guys. They work it out. In fact, you can read the continuation of the story here. NSFW. Consider yourself warned.
This is another fun romp in Pink Carnation land with the added bonus of a cameo from Jane Austen herself. I could have done with more facetime for the delightfully condescending Vaughns myself, but a girl can’t have everything she wants. If it was up to me Lord and Lady Vaughn would upstage everyone all the time, so it’s probably best that I’m not in charge of these things. I also missed the serious spying that some of the other books include, but it was probably wise not to leave Turnip in charge of any explosives. He does take out the villain with a Christmas pudding, though, which was pretty ingenious. Put his lady love in danger and Turnip is quite inventive. Also a wee bit violent. It’s pretty satisfying to see the bad guys take a beating, though, so I’m not complaining.
I considered making a traditional Christmas pudding as described in the back of the book so that I could tell you about it, perhaps even with some step-by-step photos if I was feeling particularly motivated. You know I’m very devoted to you all. Then I noticed that it takes a very long time and requires constant attention. It is also made with something called suet, which I have discovered is shredded animal fat. That description made me feel ill, so I’ve taken to my couch with a healing wedge of red velvet cake that we’ll pretend is Christmas pudding. It has a festive hue that I suspect a gelatinous blob of dried fruit held together by shredded animal fat lacks, so I’m declaring it the winner in this battle of Christmas desserts (sidebar – how long do you think it will be until the Iron Chefs compete in Battle Suet?)
This concludes our message of holiday cheer. Merry Christmas, y’all.
This is my favorite pop Christmas song. I like to think that Turnip would appreciate Elton’s sense of style.