Title: The Spymaster's Lady
Author: Joanna Bourne
Published: 2008, Berkley
Category: Historical Romance
My first read of 2008 – and it's a great one! Yippee. I hope this sets a trend for the whole year. ;) I had to run my little self out to the bookstore on Jan. 2 (the book's exact on-sale date), because I'd heard such phenomenal squeeing at SBTB and DA. Yes, when Sarah and Jane BOTH squee simultaneously, I run for the bookstore.
Annique Villiers has been spying for France about since she learned crawl. Her most recent assignment has landed her with a copy of the Albion plans, the detailed plans of Napoleon's proposed invasion of Britain. As the book opens, Annique is trapped in a French prison, being bullied into giving them up. Annique and two Englishmen also being held in the prison manage to escape and head for England. Annique is dismayed to discover that one of the men is Grey, the Head of Section of the British Service, i.e. the Spymaster for all England. Out of the griddle and into the fire. Grey also needs those Albion plans, but he has quite a time keeping Annique in his control.
That's the basic plot, but there's a ton more that I won't go into because I don't want to ruin anything for anyone. The story has several really clever twists – the kind of thing where you're reading along and go, "D'oh!!" and think back and see all the clues but you're still completely blindsided. Very exciting. Lots of fabulous historical detail, portraying the very complex political situation of post-Revolutionary, early Napoleonic France (but not BORING politics).
And as everyone else has mentioned, I too will go crazy over Bourne's use of dialog and accents. Annique's attitudes are very French, but she could be talking about doing the laundry and still sound French. Grey, on the other hand, sounds perfectly English. And when you have all this (very wonderful) dialog between these two characters, the effect is phenomenal. This is especially comment-worthy because it's something that is so often ignored (or done badly) in popular fiction, especially romance.
Definitely a book I will re-read a-plenty. I heard that the next book in the series is due out in July. I will be running to the bookstore again then. :)
But, I have to say, that cover? A crime!