December 12, 2014
Too bad Romanceland has been inundated with spies.
As I've said before, I try to stay away from Spy stories, mainly because at one time everybody and their brother was a spy; we were swamped with them. Besides that, some of them were just downright silly. I know I'm not the only reader who tries to navigate around the profusion of secret agents. However, as I am finding out, I almost missed out on some wonderful storytelling in the form of Joanna Bourne's Spymaster series.
The Spymaster's Lady is the third book in the series I've read and the second book in the series' timeline. Even reading them one right after another, and I've not grown tired of them. A lot of that is due to the dark secret gritty world Ms. Bourne has created. This book is an adventure to read, exciting to follow all the twists and turns down the paths that we are led. Yes, sometimes we get lost and confused, but it's all great fun.
Even though this has some vividly drawn background and an extraordinary sense of place, it is mainly a character-driven story. And, not just the main characters of Annique and Grey but the secondary ones as well. In fact, alllllll the supporting characters in this book are colorful, well-developed inhabitants of the pages. It was wonderful being immersed for just a few hours in the many-faceted universe of Annique and Grey.
Since I'm glomming Ms. Bourne's work, I have become aware of a pattern. It seems to me that most of her characters have been in the underworld/spy/secret business since they were young. And, that is the case with Annique. Her parents were spies, and she was trained as a young child to follow in their footsteps. As a child, she had no idea the extent to which she was used by those around her or even what she was actually involved in. She was an innocent in the world of spies, at least when she was young. This also leads to some pretty poignant revelations later in the book when she finds out the depth of her parents' exploitation. Annique's age in this book is 19; however, she has the feel of someone who is more mature - she is a very old 19. She's devious, smart and pretty stubborn, which comes in handy when dealing with Grey.
Grey is quite a lot older than Annique (another pattern in Ms. Bourne's work) and he falls in love almost instantly. However, because he and Annique are playing cat and mouse, this isn't a normal romance. There is an abundance of tension, all kinds of tension - tension caused by secret plans, invasions, other spies, hiding, running, hiding, running and lust. Yes there is lust; however we do not have scene after scene of bedroom antics. What we have are two people who want each other very much and they talk about that desire. That desire is always simmering right below the surface. So, yes there are all kinds of wonderful tensions bombarding us from all sides, until the end when all that tension comes together in one big explosion.
I have noticed another pattern in Ms. Bourne's heroes: they all seem to know right away that the heroine is the woman for them and they don't seem to fight that knowledge. They are what I would call stealth seducers. They won't let up until they have the heroine enthralled - which might be really close to being possessive. Now, if I hadn't been glomming these books I may not have noticed these silent possessive seducers, but I have. However, at this point that doesn't bother me. I think that may be due to the fact that just when the hero becomes too quietly domineering, he backs off and allows breathing space for our heroine.
Overall, The Spymaster's Lady is another rip-roaring thrilling, story. I really don't like to gush - I'm really not the type of person who gushes, but I'm really enjoying these books.
Time/Place: England/France 1802