Monday, June 09, 2008

My Lord and Spymaster *Exclusive Review*

One of the best authors to come out of 2008 and the publishing world, especially the historical romance genre is Joanna Bourne. Joanna’s first novel, The Spymaster’s Lady was one of the best historicals I have read in almost five years. Her writing is lush and so very intelligently written. When Ana from The Book Smugglers told me she was a huge fan of Joanna, I realized we have so much in common. She was also very lucky to get an advanced copy of Joanna’s July release, My Lord and Spymaster. And since she was posting her review, she asked if I was going to post my own since I too was able to get a copy. So, today we are both linking our reviews and we welcome you to read both our thoughts and comment on them.

The heroine of My Lord and Spymaster is Jess Whitby. Jess may seem like a respectable lady with a fortune and a successful business, but Jess has an unfortunate past as being a former thief who lived in the underbelly of Katherine Lane in London. Her father, who I really thought of as a total jackass, left Jess to fend for herself because he was never around. Without a mother to care for her, Jess had to survive anyway she knew how, so the streets became her home and thus her career as a thief, all before the age of ten. Jess has come back to her old haunts looking for the man responsible for framing her father for crimes against the crown. Because Jess is so independent and a bit plucky, she will go deep into the dark streets, where danger is thick, searching for a way to find the villain who has the power to send her father to the gallows. This is where she meets Sea Captain Sebastian Kennett.

Sebastian and an associate, Adrian, (Adrian was a big secondary character in The Spymaster’s Lady) are walking back from a celebration of sorts when a young woman comes rushing towards Sebastian and begs for his help. He knows something is off because he feels her trying to pick his pockets. Before he can get to the bottom of Miss Sticky Fingers, they are attacked. Sebastian and Adrian are able to hold their attackers off, but Sebastian’s lovely pickpocket is bashed in the head and falls unconscious. Sebastian takes her back to his ship and waits till she comes to. From that moment on Sebastian feels Jess is his. In between the fighting and the time it takes for him to bring her to his ship and wait for her to awaken, Sebastian wants to claim this unknown lady as his own. These few pages where we see Sebastian’s thoughts and sudden feelings for Jess are so telling. It sets in motion the dance or rather the foreplay these two will engage in before they become lovers.

Jess does not trust Sebastian at all. She believes he is someone called the Cinq, and the one responsible for imprisoning her father. Jess may be very attracted to Sebastian, but she really does think he is the dastardly Cinq.

**Side note- for the life of me I couldn’t tell you what “Cinq” means. Why do these villains in such spy stories have such strange names? What if his name was Bill or Harry? I personally like the name of Fred. But then again have you ever heard of a villain with the name of Fred?**

You have to feel for Sebastian because he makes it his mission to protect and help Jess in any way. Jess is an ungrateful wench and makes sure to give Sebastian the run around. He just doesn’t know how to handle her. She is one slippery woman who can escape from his guards who are suppose to keep tabs on her. Jess is quite skillful and she climbs various rooftops and drops into rooms without being noticed. Jess reminded me a bit of Anne Wilder from the Connie Brockway classic, All Through the Night. And I would love to know if Joanna was paying homage to Connie because at certain points, Jess was very much like Anne. Sebastian is not at all like Jack Seward, but he is there to help Jess out of her scrapes. There is one such scrape where Jess decides to go back into the "belly of the beast" and see the man who turned her into a thief and may just kill her because she left him, even though she was just a child. Sebastian is the only one who can rescue her. Surprisingly in this scene, you would think Sebastian would lay claim to Jess himself, much like he told himself he would when he first met her. Rather, Sebastian makes Jess realize she belongs to no one, not her father and not even himself.

I found My Lord and Spymaster to be a tensioned filled novel, especially between Jess and Sebastian. These two do not fall into bed right away and then spend the rest of the story running around London. The loving comes much later. Sebastian can’t stand dear old dad because of what Jess had to go through as a young girl. Jess can hardly trust Sebastian, which became a bit tedious because Sebastian has done everything in his power to make Jess want to put her trust in him. I felt that Jess had such issues because of her past and it should fit, but sometimes too much denial and angst between the two main characters can be a bit too much.

Again Joanna has written another wonderful heroine in that of Jess, who really makes this story shine. Sebastian was a pleasing in his own way, but I was so involved with Jess that Sebastian is more of a sidekick to Jess if anything else. I was even surprised by who Fred…er…the Cinq was. For a sophomore effort, I think those who enjoyed The Spymaster’s Lady will feel the same about My Lord and Spymaster.

Joanna simply breathes life into a genre that needs more stories like her own.

4 out of 5 stars

Katiebabs (KB)


Ana said...

Hey, awesome review Katie (as usual).

You touched a point that escaped me - how Bastian didn't like her father because of what he put her through. It didn't occur to me to feel anger towards the father but you are absolutely right: he let her down. Indeed.

Katie(babs) said...

I thought her father was a jackass. Poor Jess.
And I loved how she slipped through Sebastian's fingers. LOL

MaryKate said...

*MK turns green with envy*

I really can't wait to read this book! Great review, Katie, now I'm off to read Ana's.

Sarai said...

Yeah so I still need to read the first.

nath said...

Cinq in french means 5. I don't know if it clears up some things about his name... but yeah, 5 is still a weird name.

Kristie (J) said...

I was going to say what Nath said - so I don't know if 5 means anything or not. I have this one on order from Chapters and I hope it doesn't take to long to come in! I loved her first one and sounds like this one is a good one too. Now I'm over to check out Ana's review

Thea said...

Great review Katie--looks like you and Ana came to a consensus on this one!

Jess' father sounds like a complete tool. Hmph.

Oh and one more thing--why is the book called My Lord and Spymaster if Sebastian is a sailor? Unless this refers to...Adrian?

Katie(babs) said...

Thea: Ana and I talk about the title, because Sebastian is no really spy, but kind of works for the the British Crown. Or maybe with the word spy in the title, it catches the reader's eye?

Christine said...

Awesome review, Kate. Between your review and Ana's, I'm really itching for this one now. As in let's meet for iced coffee, my treat and you can lend me yours! LOL J/K.

Tracy said...

Oh I soooo want to read this!

Great review Kate!

Hey! No fair Christine! lol

Brie said...

I don't know, Jess sounds a little annoying and a tad unbelievable. I mean, slimbing foor tops and escaping gurads...

Brie said...

Dang, I pressed enter too fast. And that should be "climbing rooftops" not "slimbing foor tops."

What the heck was I typing? ):

Anyway, I'm still looking forward to this book. Great review!

Katie(babs) said...

Jess becomes slime and drips over the roof. LOL that's ok Brie, sometimes I am like WTF when I post.
Jess is a bit of a superheroine, much like Ann in Bourne's first book. But I love how Jess leads Sebastian around by his nose and says "no, no, no not having this! Untill I decide!" LMAO.

sula said...

I want this book!

Cinq means five (already been explained). What a name. hrm. Maybe there is some deep significance to be explained later? lol.

I love stories on boats. Which is weird because i get bad motionsickness. lol.

Aymless said...

Great review. *checks wallet* But it will have to wait. Already out of book money for the month. *pout*

Anonymous said...

So. Very. Jealous.
Joanna Bourne has donated both autograph books AND a 50 page critique at Eloisa James and Julia Quinn's auction! Sigh. I LURVE Spymasters Lady. I really really really hope Joanna is going to RWA national in July. I want to grovel.

sybil said...

I didn't read the review (have had the book for months and do plan to read it). But I do have a question about something I am posting on soon.

How is a review an 'exclusive'? Since it is your review... are you saying you are exclusively posting it here? It isn't the only review on the book so it can't mean that. Or is it a 'keyword' google thing?

I have always been careful to only use the word if in fact what I was posting was something 'exclusive' to me or my blog (along with permission from the author and/or publisher that it was in fact exclusive so I don't look like a dumbass later).

Have I just totally missed the boat on the meaning of the word changing?

Christine said...

Aw. I wouldn't worry, Sybil. Kate could never look like a dumbass. Everyone knows she's way too sweet and adorable for that! ;)

Maybe its exclusive because it is meant for special people. Like ME! :D LOL No?

sybil said...

I wasn't saying Katie(babs) looked like a dumbass. If I was I would have just stated that. Nor am I worried about her, she is a big girl.

Just trying trying to understand... on one hand I have someone who seems to treat 'EXCLUSIVE' as a to the death match and then katie on the other who uses 'exclusive' all the time (well I don't make the blog rounds often and the last three or so times I have been here there has been an exclusive something or other that wasn't - if I am understanding what 'exclusive' is). I seem to fall in the middle of both.

Christine said...

That's cool. :)

Since you are faced with two extreme uses of 'exclusive' on blogs you visit, maybe you could come up with your own definition on TGTBTU ... hmm.. maybe post it in the same place that you explain your grading system? That way visitors to your blog understand what you mean when you use the term 'exclusive.' At least it will clarify things on your own site.

Kate, I have a question for you regarding Adrian. Does the Frenchwoman from his past make an appearance in this novel?

Ana said...

Christine, she doesn't show up. We learn about mystery French woman because Adrian has a conversation with Jess where he tells her that he has loved only one woman and that only three people know of it: I am assuming himself, the woman and now Jess.

It may be that the French woman is his heroine. He doesn't say what has become of her. But I loved that bit of information about him.

Christine said...

Thanks, Ana! Do we know if his story is up next? LOL Look at me ... already vying for the next book when this one isn't even on the shelves yet!

Ana said...

Nope, the next book is Doyle and Maggie's story. She says she will write Adrian but she is not sure when.

Doyle appears in MY Lord and Spymaster as well.

It is amazing how Joanna is all about the heroine. If you go to her blog, she is talking about her current writing and she talks about "Maggie". I can't wait.

Katie(babs) said...

Aymless and Ciaralira: My goal is to make you all go broke! LMAO!

Sybil: I usually use the word "exclusive" on reviews for which I've been fortunate to receive an ARC and for some I know are considered "hot" reads. So basically, the review is exclusive since the book hasn't hit the shelves yet. I am just one of the early bloggers spreading the word.

Christine: Ana beat me to it! But I do know in Doyle and Maggie's book a young Adrian makes his appearance.

sybil said...

faced with two extreme uses of 'exclusive' on blogs you visit, maybe you could come up with your own definition on TGTBTU

oh no I don't at all visit the first site... her issues came to me. I thought about what you said cuz we do have labels and such for features but we do try and stick to what the words mean when it is such a used word in the publishing industry.

In this case it just seems misleading or a random reader would think it was something it isn't but I am all for intentional misuse of words. And either way to each their own blog ;). Thanks for answering though helps to show both extremes.

Robin said...

Exclusive has a number of meanings, from excluding others to fashionable, stylish, and singular, as in having a singular focus on (i.e. today we will be exclusively focused on this topic).

Maybe it's because I don't really care about "exclusive" blog content in the first sense (the 'you'll only find it here' sense), but I don't put much emphasis on that word when it comes to reviews, because, I mean, reviews can't really be exclusive in that sense, can they? So I tend to see it more in line with the "fashionable" definition, since the reviews are so often on hotly anticipated books (i.e. those that are currently in fashion among readers).

Beyond that, count me in as someone who loved Spymaster's Lady and who is both excited and nervous about reading this one!

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