REVIEW: 'The Spymaster's Lady' by Joanna Bourne

spymasters-ladyThe Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne (2008) is being reviewed by fellow reader, Senetra. This book is available in paperback and ebook at your favorite retailer.


I avoid spy stories. If I pick up a book and the blurb has the words “spy” or “spying”, I stop reading and put it down, so when this book starting getting “A” and “OMG” reviews from all sides, I didn’t even bother reading them; no spy stories for me. My biggest reason is because if the couple is on opposite sides of a conflict, the constant cat-and-mouse and one-upmanship games are wearing, especially if the heroine is constantly outmaneuvered by the hero, ending with her abandoning the Dark Side to be with the hero (England if she is French or America if she is a Tory).

However, one day I was in the bookstore, saw the last copy and for whatever reason, bought it, and brought it home to languish for a year. When I found it on the shelf, a month ago, I was surprised to see that I bought it new. That is how much I don’t read spy stories.

I will say right now that this was a great book. It didn’t send me into raptures and cause me to re-read it right away like some other books, but I did re-read particular scenes. Here is the basic plot: When English spymaster Grey discovers that his fellow prisoner Annique is the Fox Cub, a French spy who may have the plans laying out Napoleon’s invasion of England, he is determined to get her to England by any means necessary. Annique was already on her way to the French spymaster in England when Leblanc, who wants to prevent her revealing secret about an event in Bruges, captured her.

Once Grey and Annique reach England, their lives settle into a strange domesticity after a slightly creepy scene in which Annique is made aware of just how valuable a catch she would be to all sides of the conflict. The revelations of the secrets held by the characters were unexpected, and left me angry for Annique, but to me, that means that I connected and sympathized with the characters, the mark of a good storyteller.

At the beginning of the story, Grey and Annique (and Doyle and Adrian) recognize that an attraction exists between them, but also realize that they are in a position to act on this, but their conversations and body language speak volumes about their growing feelings for each other. The manner in which they spoke was also very natural; their speech patterns are indicated by how they speak instead of what they say. There was nary a “Thees ees what I am saying, comprenez-vous?” to be seen. Thank you, Joanna Bourne. Thank you also for your wonderful secondary characters, Doyle and Adrian, who both engaged me enough to want to know their backstories.

The one “Are you serious?” moment for me came near the end. I found it hard to suspend my disbelief for this particular event, especially considering the time and place of it. It seemed better suited for Chicago in the 1930s than Napoleonic England.

I did enjoy this book enough to immediately request the second book in the series from my library, and I got it today! It’s not about Adrian, but I can live with that. Grade: A.

This review is apart of the TBR Challenge and please, if you haven’t already, visit with the other participants in this endeavor. Warning, the temptation to buy will be strong, so becareful.


About Keishon

Voracious reader of just about everything.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Grade A Reviews, Romance, TBR Challenge 2009 and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to REVIEW: 'The Spymaster's Lady' by Joanna Bourne

  1. Avid Reader says:

    I need to read this book. Will make the time to do so this year.

  2. Aymless says:

    Hey great review. Dunno if I’ll move it up on the TBR. Usually not a historical romance person but I did pick it up at the RWA conference last year. Glad to hear that you liked it.

  3. Marg says:

    I bought this book when it first came out. One of these days I will actually read it!

  4. Tee says:

    Interesting review, even though I do not agree with the grade. I read the book during the hype and that may have been part of the problem–too high expectations. However, as I recall while reading it, there were too many WTF moments for me in the story. I had a difficult time getting past them and thought Annique, whom I realize was quite young, was given almost super human qualities in the first part of the story, then she digressed to making super stupid decisions in the second half. I think Bourne’s second book did well among those who liked the first book. I began reading it but enjoyed it even less and consequently it became a DNF for me. Bourne has a good enough writing style; it was really all about the details and the actual story for me.

  5. Avid Reader says:

    Thanks ladies. Also –

    Tee: Interesting review, even though I do not agree with the grade. I read the book during the hype and that may have been part of the problem — too high expectations.

    I hear you. I’m usually disappointed when anything – books, movies, get high marks all over. It makes me curious as to where I will stand because Loretta Chase (her book was well loved as well) was a disappointment but then I expected that since I don’t enjoy her books anyway. Thanks for your feedback, Tee.

  6. Tee says:

    In all fairness, I forgot to mention that on another message board I inadvertently read a spoiler that was not labeled that way and it totally ruined one of the surprising twists in the first part of the book on behalf of Annique. Perhaps you can guess what I’m referring to. Well, knowing that particular outcome, when I did finally begin the book, it just messed it up for me. Oh, well. I hope you enjoy the second one. Many did.

  7. Avid Reader says:

    Tee: Oh, well. I hope you enjoy the second one. Many did.

    I didn’t read The Spymaster’s Lady, Senetra did. I still have Ms. Bourne’s book in my TBR pile here. I’ll get to it, eventually. Oh, I plan to read Genesis. Just FYI. Hopefully, we can compare notes on it. I’m not over my favorite character being missing but – Slaughter is, well, talented.

  8. RenéeW says:

    Hehe, you are just like me. I thought the exact same thing “no spy books for me” and put off reading it for months. But eventually picked it up just because so many people I trust loved it. And I loved it. Same grade too (A). Didn’t like the second one as well… “only” a B-.

  9. Jorrie Spencer says:

    I really enjoyed this book! It’s not perfect, but the opening hooked me, the rest of it swept me along and I thoroughly enjoyed the voice.

  10. Tee says:

    Keishon wrote: Oh, I plan to read Genesis. Hopefully, we can compare notes on it. I’m not over my favorite character being missing but – Slaughter is, well, talented.

    Not wanting to get way OT here, Keishon, but totally agreeing with you that Slaughter is too talented to waste not reading.

  11. Ladytink_534 says:

    Sounds like a good one! Romances, even spy romances have too many “Are you serious?” moments for me lately so I’ve been avoiding the genre (except when it comes to paranormal’s of course!).

  12. Lisa says:

    Nice review. I have this on the TBR too, hopefully I’ll find time for it this year. I’m not a huge fan of spy books either, but everyone loved this one.

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