Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne

The Spymaster's Lady (2008) (Berkley Sensation)
Joanna Bourne
Grade: A
Genre: historical romance
Sex scenes: mild
Source: own
Spymaster's Lady: (1) The Spymaster's Lady
Romance RBC 2014: A book with a Fabio cover 

Annique Villiers is the best that France has to offer: known as the Fox Cub, she has eluded capture for years with disguises from the tempting courtesan, innocent virgin, young Gypsy boy and educated lady. Now, she’s got France’s terrible secrets weighing on her shoulders and there’s all agencies wanting to get their hands on her to reveal – or suppress – them. Annique’s got her own troubles to deal with and when she’s captured, she meets the one man who she can’t deceive …

Finding herself prisoner alongside British Head of Section Robert Grey, they form an uneasy alliance in order to break free. Grey can’t believe his good luck: having been on the Fox Cub’s trail for a good six months, his beautiful, deadly and elusive prey is now within his grasp. Fleeing their prison, Annique finds herself prisoner once more as Grey is determined to take her to England as they find themselves entangled in a complicated web of secrets and lies. Annique’s time is running out before she is forced to decide whether she will keep France’s secrets safe and condemn thousands to their death, or betray her country to the English and pursue the forbidden yet irresistible romance with Grey …

I wish that I had i) read this book sooner and ii) that I could allocate it to multiple Romance RBC 2014 categories. I’ve put in the Fabio slot because that seems like the harder one to fill, when really, it could have done very well in 3 or 4 others. first published in 2008, The Spymaster’s Lady won outright (or Honourable Mentions) in 5 of AAR’s Annual Reader Poll 2009 (for 2008 releases). I observed this at the time, but obviously didn’t actively go and seek this out. That was remiss of me, but it does mean that I could add it to one of my RBC reads this year.

If you haven’t read this, then seriously do: spies have never been so sexy. Annique has been spying before she even realised what her mother was asking her to do. Gifted with a photographic memory, she was and still is France’s greatest asset on battlefields and in times of peace, in the remotest villages and amongst the throngs in the cities. Until now, she’s been unstoppable and for the past five months, has continued her duties with a great physical burden to bear. She’s witty and sly, shockingly innocent and a formidable woman to come head-to-head with. All her life, she’s followed orders unquestioningly and so is understandably shaken when for the first time, her loyalty and duty to her country is questioned. Though taken prisoner by the English, Annique is by no means defenceless and the men are constantly on their guard and ready for her counter-attack. Nevertheless, Annique adapts to her new role as prisoner with ease and their talent for ad-libbing and flexibility in confronting high-risk situations is phenomenal. The scene where they all have to be German will be a favourite forever.

I don’t think there was a box that The Spymaster’s Lady didn’t tick. For once, our protagonists aren’t just members of the aristocracy who don’t do anything with their lives. I’ve met my fair share of heroes who spy (or spied) for their country, but never have I come across (or at least, not that I remember) a situation like this where our hero and heroine are on such fundamentally opposed sides. There was a great chemistry between Annique and Grey and Joanna Bourne has a great way with words that translates into unique dialogue. Given the amount of drama and intrigue packed into these pages, I thought there was a fantastic consistency as I was kept hooked throughout. I knew this would be good, but I was pleasantly stunned by how much I loved this book. I’m not sure what better praise I can give.

Image courtesy of Fantastic Fiction.

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