Genre: historical romance
Sex scenes: mild
The Heart of Blade: (prequel) The Hidden Blade, (1) My Beautiful Enemy
Romance RBC 2014: A non-Regency historical
The beautiful and deadly Catherine Blade has arrived in London with a mission to complete. The illegitimate daughter of a Chinese courtesan and English adventurer who died before she was born, there had been a tub of water ready to drown her at birth if she were a girl. When it came down to it, neither her mother or her amah could go through with it and it was the latter who was responsible for her secret training in the martial arts. Her task in London is to retrieve a pair of jade tablets for Da-ren, the man who has been more like a father figure to Catherine than any man has ever been. What Catherine doesn’t expect is to bump straight into the man she loved and thought she left for dead eight years ago …
Captain Leighton Atwood has long given up his career of espionage, but he has never been able to forget the girl who concealed her identity, stole his heart and almost killed him. Back in Chinese Turkestan, they had been a pair of travellers on the road, weary of their own company yet willing to drop the other like a hot rock if it came down to it. As they travel together, they plan of the life they could have together, free of their familial obligations, until circumstances force them apart.
It is now 1891 and fate has dictated that Leighton and Catherine meet once more. Catherine’s deadliest foe has followed her to England and she will have revenge for past wrongs, even if that means she dies in the process. Leighton is determined to discover Catherine’s plans as the pair are forced to keep up a friendly façade in public whilst sparring in private. It is only when they begin to trust each other and finally learn the whole truth of their parting that they are able to forgive and open up their hearts once more …
This is my second Sherry Thomas book (review for the first forthcoming) and she’s already well on her way to becoming a firm favourite. I’m very tempted to just bulk-buy her entire backlist and frontlist: currently just trying to figure out why I shouldn’t. She’s the type of author I can glom on for days (weeks if I managed to stretch it out that far, but probably not) yet still thirst more for when I’ve run out of reading material. I’ve wanted to read her work for a while since she started appearing on AAR’s Top 100 lists, plus, she’s a Chinese romance writer in a predominantly white genre – why wouldn’t I want to?
My Beautiful Enemy was just as beautiful as the title claims. I’ve found historical romance to have become rather staid lately, but this was a true breath of fresh air. Admittedly, I don’t actively go and search out ‘non-conforming’ or just non-European historical romances, however much I enjoy them. My Beautiful Enemy is set half in England, 1891, with regular flashbacks to Chinese Turkestan, 1883 where Catherine and Leighton met. Ms Thomas really does create two separate worlds so well that it’s sometimes like reading two completely second books. Catherine Blade in England behaves nothing like the girl-masquerading-as-a-boy in 1883 Chinese Turkestan, but simultaneously, the same ruthlessness and drive pushes her on. She’s a fabulous heroine.
I wasn’t as keen on Leighton, but that’s fine. If I think about, I preferred the younger Leighton to the older, more hardened hero we’re given, but it’s Catherine who really shines in this book and so I’m not fussed. I wasn’t sure if they’d actually end up together in the end, but despite my reservations about our hero, I found myself rooting desperately for true love conquer and the white knights to save the day. All the glimpses of other reviews I’ve seen so far for this title have been just as positive about Ms Thomas’ latest work and so I have no doubt that we’ll be seeing a further string of various nominations and accolades to come.
Image courtesy of Book Depository