Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Duo Review

The Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne

Kristie's Thoughts:

First of all I’ll have to get past the WOW part of this book. Barely into the New Year and already I’ve read my first 5 out of 5 book.

I think I first became aware of this one because of Jayne and Jane’s reviews at Dear Author. I was intrigued enough to know that I was going to have to read this one myself.

The story starts out with a bang and never stops.

Annique is a young French spy who’s gotten caught in the clutches of a fellow, very evil French spy. He thinks she has information he wants and is willing to do anything to get it out of her. But Annique is a very resourceful young woman and manages to escape and also to help two other men being held prisoner. The other two are English spies and when they hear what it is that Annique is supposed to have, they kidnap her and journey back to England.

Grey is the commander of the English spy department and while at first he thinks Annique is the one responsible for the death of some of his men, he soon realizes what a compassionate young woman she really is.

It’s not often that one comes across a heroine as vivid and well-written as Annique. While a poorly written heroine can ruin a book for me, I still focus more on the hero. But in this case Annique lept off the pages. She’s inventive, she’s kindhearted, she’s oddly naive, she’s intelligent. She’s simply wonderful. I told Katie that I had to find enough superlatives to describe this book and I’m probably going to go overboard with them – but I can’t help it.

And Grey is an equal match for her. He realizes very quickly how good she is in her profession and he treats her with respect. Very early on he becomes quite protective of her while still recognizing her intelligence and what a contribution she can make. One scene in particular exemplifies this for me. The third member of their quartet, Adrian, has been shot. It’s Grey’s job to try and remove the bullet and he is quite reluctant, thinking he will kill Adrian. When Annique volunteers and tells him she has experience in this kind of thing, he doesn’t doubt her for a moment. He trusts her with the life of one of his men.

There are a lot of twists and turns in this book and I don’t want to say too much for fear of giving it away to anyone who hasn’t read it yet but is planning to.

One of the things that a number of people have commented on is the wonderful dialogue she writes. Here is an interesting post on how she came up with it.

I’ve gone on record about my ‘I’m over it’ thing with hero spies. Well, now I’m going to have to eat my words – except I don’t have a kitchen. I loved this one and there’s not a shadow of a doubt I’ll be reading her next one!!

And oddly enough, is the fact that I even like the cover. I’ve heard complaints about it, but I like it, I really do.

Do Not Miss this book. All the buzz is right – it’s a good one.

Katie's Thoughts:

I feel that historical romances get such a bad “rap”. From cliché plots to major heaving bosoms and naked men chests on these covers, (well I really don’t mind the naked men part!) I wasn’t too sure what to think when I saw the cover for The Spymaster’s Lady. I groaned because quite honestly, that cover is bad! It screams of that old fashioned Fabio type romance where the hero forces the heroine to do his bidding. I also felt like he is trying to be Superman by ripping off his shirt and is ready to fly away at a moment’s notice.

But then I started hearing wonderful things about this book and that of first time author, Joanna Bourne. When was the last time the consensus about one book is so good that you can not pass it up? So, I quickly got myself a copy of The Spymaster’s Lady and was blown away. If you think the hero forces the heroine to do anything in this one, watch out because Annique is unlike any heroine I had read since Eve from the JD Robb In Death series or Anita Blake from Laurel K. Hamilton’s vampire slayer series. The thing these three characters have in common is their overall tenacious attitude and their will to survive. They will do anything to come out on top and won’t go down without a fight. They would seriously fight very dirty to win aka kick a guy where it hurts. A perfect example in this book is when Annique takes her sash from her nightgown and tries to strangle Robert with it.

From that point on I became all Ricki Lake and said “You go on girl with your bad self!”

Joanna Bourne has taken a typical spy story and made it so much more. Her words come off the pages and it is so rich, especially with the dialogue. Annique reminded me so much of Maddie from The Winter Garden by Adele Ashworth. And we know how much we all love Maddie. Annique is a French spy and when she speaks, she sounds so perfectly French to my ears. She is strong, intelligent and very sly. She will lie, cheat and play any part to perfection. But a strong woman needs a strong man and that is where our British “spy master” comes into the picture. Robert Grey is England’s ultimate spy. I adored Robert because he is such a good guy. He protects his friends and associates and when he meets Annique, he is thrown for a loop.

Their attraction for each other is instant because they have a battle of wills and the foreplay between them is the words they use. Every ling spoken out of their mouths is a journey that will lead them into the bedroom. And when they get there… well their minds and hearts merge and those scene are heavy in passion but so very much more.

The plot seems so simple and should be that typical historical spy drama that is found so readily in romances today. But Joanna Bourne has done something incredibly. She has taken a cliché story and made it shine.

It all really comes down to the character of Annique. She comes alive and is not just a one-dimensional character you will read about and soon forget. But there is one thing that Kristie(J) and I have a difference of opinion on that makes my grade a bit lower. Annique has a big secret you come to realize very soon. This secret perhaps makes the relationship between Robert and Annique even more incredible, but it grated on my nerves a bit, especially when Annique’s secret is fixed suddenly. Perhaps I am just nitpicking because this truly is a wonderfully written book, but that small thing took a little bit away from making this a true masterpiece of romantic literature.

Never the less I give The Spymaster’s Lady 4 out of 5 stars. I probably would have given it a 4.5 if not for that secret that Robert can see in Annique’s eyes.


Ana said...

Great reviews girls! I will be reading my tomorrow, can't wait. I have to say I agree with Katie on the cover . *g*

You know the best thing? It will be my FIRST spy story!


Kris said...

I just bought this one the other day because of everything I had been hearing about it. I cannot wait to start it, but it is a couple down the tbr list.

Kristie (J) said...

Ana: *chuckle* I know most people aren't that fond of the cover and I don't know why it is that I like it. I think it's because I'm shallow and think the model is cute.

Kris: It's been getting a lot of good buzz - and deservedly so says I!

The Bonz said...

Typically I spend my xmas gift cards from Chapters on books that I've already read from the library and have been waiting to be able to afford for my keeper shelf ... but I used some of my xmas g/c's to pick this one up, after I read the review over at Dear Author.

I'm about 2 chapters away from the end right now, and DON'T WANT TO READ ANYMORE! Because then it will be OVER, and I've been enjoying it SO. VERY. MUCH.

I agree with what has been said already about the dialogue, and the characters of Annique and Grey (swoon!) ... There *are* a few (shall I say) contrived story threads but I put that down to a novice author still learning her craft and finding her voice, but D*MN for a first-time author, she did pretty good.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a clever, well-written, and satisfying story. With all the buzz on the 'net right now about The Author Who Shall Not Be Named and Her Shame, isn't it wonderful to read something that actually brings pride to Romancelandia's reputation once more?!

— Bonz

Kristie (J) said...

Bonz: I know the feeling!! One Doesn't want to come to the end of a real good book does one? That's why I'm a rereader. I get to visit them again *g*.
And hey you!! You're a Crusader and you didn't let us know!! The word is out now though.
Haaa Haaa Haaa!

Stacy~ said...

Great reviews ladies. LOVED the book. Joanna is up at Lifetimetv I think today:

sula said...

I have been lusting after this book ever since reading about the authentic French-sounding dialogue. Must get my butt to Borders very soon.

MaryKate said...

I was completely blown away by this book. I loved it and have been pimping it all over the place. I just think that Jo's sense of place and use of language is brilliant.

I hope ALL the books I read in 2008 are this great!

Ana said...

I finished it last night. I found it so brilliant! The writing is almost as good as Loretta Chase's who is my Goddess of Writing. I am in love with Anique, I think I have a girl crush LOL.