Thursday, November 6, 2014

My Passionate Love for Joanna Bourne

Since I went on at some length about why I couldn't get past page 2 of a historical fiction romance the other day, I thought I'd show the flip side (that's this week's theme) by going on at length about some historical fiction romances I love.

Anything and everything written by Joanna Bourne.

Her books have the cheesiest covers and the tackiest titles--well, not all, but really? My Lord and Spymaster? Blech. The Forbidden Rose? Okay, after that they're not so bad. The Spymaster's Lady. The Black Hawk. And, released on Tuesday, Rogue Spy.

I was so impatient for the release of Rogue Spy that not only did I buy it on Kindle (so I could get it immediately upon release day, and not have to wait for pesky mail delivery) but I was tempted to set my alarm for midnight just to read the first few pages. I didn't, because I know myself: I would have kept reading, straight through, and been a wreck the whole day. (Ask me about Harry Potter #7.) Then I had to drive to Knoxville on Tuesday with the horse--it took the whole day, my Kindle sitting in my purse just waiting for a moment when I had nothing to do--alas. In the evening, though, I dove into that book like you'd dive into a swimming pool on a sultry August day, with a run and a jump, deep and clean.

All of her books are set during the Napoleonic Wars, featuring at their core a group of British spies. The five books so far are not sequential--they weave in and out of the same time period so that the main character in one shows up as a side character in another. They're romances in that they feature adults in relationships, but they're character-driven with wildly intricate plots, crisp writing, and very solid history. (Not only can I not find mistakes, I usually learn something.)

It's not just me that thinks so. The Black Hawk won a passel of awards, and Rogue Spy has a star from Kirkus and a spot of the 2014 BBoTY list.

Here's just a bit. It's a senior spy talking to the two elderly aunts, themselves codebreakers, of our heroine, Cami, who's actually an imposter possibly working for the French:

Galba set his hands on the desk, making two temples of them. "Vi, much as I might like to hand her over to you and return to the status quo, you can't simply take her back to Brodemere in a handbasket. There are serious matters at stake. And a major complication."

"Which is?" Lily raised eyebrows.
"She has attacked and seduced one of my agents."
"Has she?" Lily said.
"It can't be much of an attack if he was in any state to be seduced afterward," Violet observed.
Lily murmured, "It seems so unlike her."
"The attacking or the seducing?" Violet asked.

"Neither." Lily frowned. "But doing it to an agent. So odd of her to become involved with a Service agent while she's fleeing...whatever it is she's fleeing. One does not seduce agents in the middle of a desperate enterprise. I don't understand at all." She turned to Galba. "Which agent? Not Hawker, surely. I would regret doing something violent to Hawker."

Galba said, "Paxton."
Lily exchanged glances with Violet. "Matters are a bit more serious,then."