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29 July 2008 @ 03:50 am
My Lord and Spymaster by Joanna Bourne  
Publisher: Berkley, 2008
Genre: Romance
Sub-genre: Historical
Rating: 5 pints of blood

What is with the seafoam green dress? Who outside of the 1970s wears seafoam green? Although I suppose she's not really wearing it, since the instant she takes a breath, that thing is going to fall right down. I'd also like to point out the big, creepy hand in the middle of her back. That is downright creepy. Actually, the cover says "horror" more than "romance" to me, but I suppose some people are into disembodied hand love. Kinky.

Incidently, why is it called seafoam green? Sea foam is not that colour. Seriously.

And while I'm being picky, Jess has blonde hair and is described as golden, not a rosy brunette. Pah.

The British have a traitor in their midst, someone selling deadly secrets to Napoleon. Convicted on a wealth of evidence, Josiah Whitby has been arrested, imprisoned, and is now sentenced to be hanged. His daughter, Jess, a skilled thief turned respectable merchant, is convinced he's innocent and will stop at nothing to find the evidence that will convict the real traitor. Her first suspect is Captain Sebastian Kennet, the man responsible for some of the evidence that put her father in jail and a wealthy merchant in his own right, a man well within the means to have committed the crimes.

In desperation, Jess works out a plan to pick Sebastian's pockets in an attempt to find evidence against him. The two of them are ambushed halfway through her exploration in his jacket pockets, though, and Sebastian is forced to fight and kill most of their attackers. In the tussle, Jess is injured and loses consciousness. Sebastian, not knowing who she is and feeling responsible for her injuries, takes her home to his philanthropic aunt and uncle, and struck by her beauty and courage, considers keeping her. When she comes to, Jess and Kennet each figure out who the other is, and are appalled at the physical attraction between them.

Both determined to catch the real traitor, they take turns ransacking each others' offices and personal effects for evidence, although soon they each find their motivation is to prove each others' innocence instead of guilt. With the help of various spies and underground information, Jess and Sebastian slowly bring together the pieces to catch the traitor, but each step closer puts them in more and more danger, and may wind up providing answers they don't want to know.

Fear the power of this book's awesomeness. It will kick you in the head with its greatness, and you will be grateful it did.

Jess is exactly the kind of heroine I like best. She's strong-willed with a sense of humour, clever and resourceful. While other heroines sit and smile prettily at the men who describe them as feisty, Jess is busy climbing on roofs and defying authority figures. She never counts on having someone rescue her, instead relying on her own wits to come up with a solution to her problems. She's a colourful character with a chameleon-like ability to fit in with both high and low class society, thanks to her unique background. Both the street urchin she once was and the wealthy member of the gentry she's become are evident in her speech and thoughts, making Jess a terrifically fun character to read about.

I think I may have a fictional character crush on Sebastian. He's strong without being flashy, protective without growing overbearing. He thinks Jess is pretty, but it's her inner strength, her courage and wit that really draw him to her. Every bit as clever as Jess, but with a better understanding of people and how they work, Sebastian is the perfect counterpoint to Jess's antics. He's also not the dashing rogue I expected when I cracked the book open; Sebastian has morals and standards, some of which he may be willing to bend for a good enough reason but he won't break them. As someone who's tired of the "bad boy" always getting the girl (I have no patience for them in real life, and not much more in fiction), this was a welcome change for me.

What shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's read this far into the review is that I looooved the interaction between Jess and Sebastian. I just could not get enough of it. Nearly every conversation is a power struggle, and with the two of them fairly evenly matched, it's just too much fun to witness. They tease, they argue, they push each others' buttons, and I found myself going back to favourite passages just to re-read a particular conversation between the two of them.

The secondary characters are just as well-drawn as Jess and Sebastian, in particular Sebastian's aunt Eunice, whose doors are always open to young women in unfortunate circumstances, and Adrian, Sebastian's friend and a spy of many secrets. I also fell madly in love with Kedger, Jess's larcenous pet ferret who seems to hate everyone except her, but has a particular avarice for Sebastian.

My plot summary above? Does not do justice. There are twists and turns galore, and anyone who is into spy novels or mysteries will find this a fully satisfying read, regardless of whether or not they're fond of romance novels. By the end of the story, I only had the mystery half solved, which makes me ridiculously happy. I always love it when an author can keep a surprise for me at the end of the story, because it so rarely happens.

Something else worth mentioning is Bourne's prose. It's beautiful, with a touch of poetry. The woman knows how to turn a phrase, and not a word is wasted. If more romance novels were written like this, people would stop thinking of them as trashy.

So yes, I think it's fair to say I loved My Lord and Spymaster and highly recommend it to anyone who likes spies or mysteries or romance. Or ferrets. Or, y'know, just anyone who can read. If you'll excuse me, now, I have to go accost some random strangers and force them to read this book.
Julia: Oh shit!fallenidol_453 on July 29th, 2008 12:59 pm (UTC)
Heh, I agree with you on the better bookcover aspect! I now want to read this, but my local library doesn't have it. >.
meopta on July 29th, 2008 01:06 pm (UTC)
See, just last night I was expounding on the awesomeness of this book. EVERYONE here needs to go read it so we can rave over it and I can unleash my tiny rant about one teeny tiny part of it. But it's all spoilery and junk, so I can't yet.

Because this is a book, like you say, that twists perfectly and often. Better than last summer.
talyssa on July 29th, 2008 03:40 pm (UTC)
I am totally going to go get this and read it JUST so you can rant. So if anyone asks, thats my excuse okay?
Michelle: Undressing Hermichelle62998 on July 29th, 2008 07:09 pm (UTC)
I loved this book! I read it about a week or so ago and just adored it.

And I also agree about the book cover. It always annoys me when the heroin on the cover looks nothing like the character in the book. Hair colors, etc.
The one and only!elissa_kay on July 30th, 2008 08:36 am (UTC)
um, do you notice the size of homie's hand? its bigger than her head. Andre the Giant didn't even have a hand that big. also, i am betting they chose that obnoxious seafoam green color because it looks good with the ocean. what i want to know is if this book even takes place near an ocean or if a ship has anything to do with it. otherwise, wtf? oh, and yeah, seafoam...usually a nasty off-whitey brownish color. unpleasant, really.

on the other hand though, you have definitely sparked my interest in this book and i will probably be buying it tomorrow. :)
x__wicked__xx__wicked__x on August 11th, 2008 04:52 am (UTC)
I emjoyed this book as well!

And you pointed out the one thing that bothered me.... his hand is about the same size as her head! Um... wtf?