Pros: Amazing characters and story
Rating: 5 out of 5
Review copy courtesy of Penguin Group.
Visit Joanna Bourne’s blog.
Jess Whitby used to be one of the most talented young thieves and pickpockets on the streets of London. Then she was found by her father, and her unusual talent for facts and figures helped them both to build one of the most successful and lucrative smuggling… err, shipping… companies of the time. Now her papa stands accused of treason, of being the mysterious Cinq, a man who sells secrets to Napoleon. She knows it can’t possibly be him, and is determined to figure out who the real Cinq is and prove his innocence. She has her suspicions, but it means attempting a return to her old ways in order to get the proof she needs—and she’s woefully out of practice.
Jess isn’t quite as alone as she thinks. Adrian, an old family friend, is watching out for her. And when Jess’s attempt to get her information leaves her in the path of men who want to capture her for their own reasons, Adrian leaves her in the care of sea captain Sebastian Kennett—her prime suspect, and the man who amassed the very evidence that put her papa behind bars.
Jess must keep the Whitby company alive, find Cinq, prove her father isn’t a traitor, and deal with her growing feelings for Kennett. But Cinq is already looking for her, and if she returns to her old life of crime, she risks stepping back into the purview of a very dangerous man indeed—one who could help her save her father’s life, or kill her without a care.
As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, I’m not a huge fan of this variety of historical romance (Regencies, Victorians, Napoleonic era, whatever each type is called). It just isn’t my milieu, although I can understand why others enjoy it. That said, Joanna Bourne’s My Lord and Spymaster is awesome. To my mind it’s somewhat mis-marketed. By its title and cover it looks like nothing but a stereotypical ‘bodice-ripper.’ Instead, it’s a tight, fascinating, thrilling, complex mystery/ romance/ adventure with some of the best characters populating its pages.
I’ve read a lot of books. Most of the 650 reviews on this site so far are mine. Obviously I love to read, but a book that makes it tough for me to get up and eat meals, make time to play with the cats, and so on is now somewhat rare. When I was reading My Lord and Spymaster, I had to remind myself that if I waited too long for dinner I’d get hypoglycemic and really regret it. And I definitely didn’t get much sleep that night, because I stayed up late reading ‘just one more chapter’! (Several times over.)
Jess is a fantastically complex character, and I hope that she, Adrian, and criminal Lazarus make appearances in more of Joanna Bourne’s books, because I desperately want to read more about them. She masters facts and figures with a shrug, but she doesn’t understand the human heart. She’s a terrible liar, an utterly straightforward soul, and while her plan for finding out who Cinq is includes strokes of brilliance and will reveal much, it lacks one important ingredient—an understanding of the people behind the numbers. In order to break through to the truth, Jess will have to accept Adrian and Sebastian’s help, and risk absolutely everything that matters to her.
While the romance is a strong part of this book, and there is a low to moderate amount of sexual content, it has far more to it than just a romance plot. And that additional material is extremely fascinating and fun to read. You could easily read it for the spy-mystery aspects, with the romance secondary, and get just as much out of it as someone who reads it primarily for the romance.
OK I really like Joanna Bourne. for one, her books do not focus on the aristocracy blah blah duke so and so, etc. although yes it is a factor in the plots, it is back burner stuff. her writing is just so witty and interesting, and also she does not get so hung up on the oh my i’m such a virtuous virgin thing. i left that behind when i read so many bad romances as a teenager. i am much older now and most romance books i find boring or trite or same old same old. Joanna Bourne has me appreciating a good romance novel again.
I love Joanna Bourne books. I can read through one within a couple of days. It’s difficult for me to put on the bed table and go to sleep. Nice review. I see we share about the same opinions on this book 😉