Sunday, May 18, 2008

Joanna Bourne: The Spymaster's Lady

The Spymaster's Lady: A-
Annique Villiers & Richard Grey

She's never met a man she couldn't deceive...
She's braved battlefields. She's stolen dispatches from under the noses of heads of state. She's played the worldly courtesan, the naive virgin, the refined British lady, even a Gypsy boy. But Annique Villiers, the elusive spy known as the Fox Cub, has finally met the one man she can't outwit...

Until now.
British spymaster Robert Grey must enger France and bring back the brilliant, beautiful - and dangerous - Fox Cub. His duty is to capture her and her secrets for England. When the two natural enemies are thrown into prison, they forge an uneasy alliance to break free. But their pact is temporary and betrayal seems inevitable. They flee, pursued every step of the way by ruthless authorities, caught in a net of secrets and lies. As the fates of nations hang in the balance, Grey and Annique fight the passion that flares between them - forbidden, impossible, and completely irresistible...

After hearing raves and many kudos for Ms. Bourne’s debut novel, I quickly placed a hold at my library. While the novel itself was very satisfying, I’m afraid I had my hopes up just a bit too high; I guess it was my own fault that I half-expected the book to sprout arms and make me a beloved Hazelnut Latte.

Annique Villiers is a world renown French spymaster – the most devious and clever of spies, one who has been working since she was a toddler. Richard Grey, or Grey as Annique calls him, is a brilliant British spymaster. They meet in French prison, where Annique (alias: Fox Cub) has been betrayed by her French armed soldiers and they agree to work together to escape. Little does Anniqe know that Grey has been scouring the lands looking for her, and he doesn’t let her free.

Everyone in the book – the French and the British – are both looking for a secret set of plans called the Albion plans. These plans reveal the plans of Napoleon’s preeminent attack on Britain – the French need to know where the plans are to make sure that the British don’t get a hold of it, and the British need it to save their country from a massive attack. Grey is, of course, looking for the plans that Annique supposedly has.

Thus, both make their way through France and to England. Sprinkle in some verbal fights, suspicions, and death attacks (Annique attacking Grey – it really is marvelous – she is very resourceful). There are some surprising twists that caught me (and some characters) off guard.

I felt that plot-wise, this story was exploding with it. There are spies left and right, along with intrigue and fistfights. The dialogue of Annique, as many other readers have noticed, is very French. Bourne did a great job of showing that Annique is indeed a French person, and that Grey is British. However, I felt her dialogue very very mildly irritating – as with most French, she was superfluous and tended to ramble.

I enjoyed the read, but didn’t feel that romance was particularly strong. For me, it wasn’t a sigh-when-they-get-together type story, though it was a strong first for Ms. Bourne. I’d recommend this because it is an interesting read, but it wasn’t mind-blowing, orgasm-inducing fabulous.

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