Reader’s Guide

The Garden Intrigue

The Garden Intrigue



In the ninth installment of Lauren Willig’s bestselling Pink Carnation series, an atrocious poet teams up with an American widow to prevent Napoleon’s invasion of England.

Secret agent Augustus Whittlesby has spent a decade undercover in France, posing as an insufferably bad poet. The French surveillance officers can’t bear to read his work closely enough to recognize the information drowned in a sea of verbiage.

New York–born Emma Morris Delagardie is a thorn in Augustus’s side. An old school friend of Napoleon’s stepdaughter, she came to France with her uncle, the American envoy; eloped with a Frenchman; and has been rattling around the salons of Paris ever since. Widowed for four years, she entertains herself by drinking too much champagne, holding a weekly salon, and loudly critiquing Augustus’s poetry.

As Napoleon pursues his plans for the invasion of England, Whittlesby hears of a top–secret device to be demonstrated at a house party at Malmaison. The catch? The only way in is with Emma, who has been asked to write a masque for the weekend’s entertainment.

Emma is at a crossroads: Should she return to the States or remain in France? She’ll do anything to postpone the decision–even if it means teaming up with that silly poet Whittlesby to write a masque for Bonaparte’s house party. But each soon learns that surface appearances are misleading. In this complicated masque within a masque, nothing goes quite as scripted– especially Augustus’s feelings for Emma.



Lauren Willig is a law student and Ph.D. candidate in history at Harvard University. She is the author of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.


  • What was your first impression of Emma Delagardie? How did your feelings toward her change throughout the story?

  • How are Emma and Eloise alike? How are they different? Do you think any of these differences arise from the social norms of their periods, and if so, which ones?

  • Discuss the differences in social etiquette in Paris and New York. Why does Emma feel more of an affinity to Paris? Why does she feel like she can’t return home?

  • How is the theme of loss addressed in The Garden Intrigue?

  • “He donned rhyme like armor, keeping her at bay. She could have told him he didn’t need to. She flirted without thinking. That was armor, too.” Discuss how various characters in The Garden Intrigue used spectacle and armor—and the forms their armor took—to conceal their true selves from society.

  • Did you know much about Napoleon’s court at Malmaison prior to reading The Garden Intrigue? What surprised you most?

  • Discuss the presence of past lovers in The Garden Intrigue. How did the characters behave themselves when they encountered one another? Would exes of today behave in a similar manner?

  • Compare Augustus Whittlesby’s relationships with Jane and Emma. What affected his choice in the end?

  • How might the course of history have changed if Napoleon had liked Robert Fulton’s invention?

  • “Women seldom fare well in printed history.” Do you feel this is true? If so (or not), who are some examples (counterexamples)?

  • Discuss the future of Colin and Eloise’s relationship. Do you think they will be able to stay together after Eloise leaves? Why or why not?

  • Is there really a Treasure of Berar? Do you think Colin and Eloise will find it before Jeremy does?
  • promo_TwitterBookClub_small

    Connect With Penguin

    Penguin Group (USA)
    Get ready to add two new thrillers to your immediate TBR -- FIND HER by Lisa Gardner is in stores now & THE STRANGER by... 3 days ago

    Penguin Group (USA)
    Shared from Me Before You! 1 week ago

    Penguin Group (USA)
    Have you seen the official movie poster for #MeBeforeYou yet?! The trailer comes out tomorrow! Shared from Jojo Moyes 1 week ago

    Follow us on Facebook

    RT @riverheadbooks: "This is an ecstatic moment" @carlorovelli, author of SEVEN BRIEF LESSONS ON PHYSICS, about... 21 hours ago

    RT @portfoliobooks: Powerful NYT excerpt from INDENTURED:The Inside Story of the Rebellion Against the NCAA by Joe Nocera &... 22 hours ago

    Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a signed copy of @AzizAnsari’s #ModernRomance! RT for a chance to win! #Sweepstakes... 1 day ago

    Penguin Books USA
    Enter for a chance to win five Hardcover Classics beautifully illustrated by Anna Bond of +RIFLE PAPER Co.!

    One Grand Prize... 4 months ago

    Penguin Books USA
    #1 +The New York Times–bestselling author Jan Karon returns—with the story readers have been waiting for!

    Enter by... 4 months ago

    Penguin Books USA
    Enter for a chance to win a copy of YOU BLEW IT! by +Josh Gondelman    ?and Joe Berkowitz!

    A hilarious examination of faux... 4 months ago

    PRH Book Clubs Survey


    Craig Johnson
    Keith McCafferty
    Michael McGarrity


    Elizabeth Gilbert
    Elizabeth Gilbert
    Elizabeth Gilbert
    Elizabeth Gilbert
    Penguin 80th Anniversary
    Penguin 80th Timeline
    Penguin 80th The Original 10
    Penguin 80th Scavenger Hunt
    Fun Fact

    Elvis Presley is born in 1935 and, a little over 20 years later, he would have his first #1 single on the US charts, forever changing the landscape of popular culture and ushering in a new age of celebrity superstardom.

    Penguin 80th Book Truck