Monday, July 26, 2010

My Lord and Spymaster by Joanna Bourne ***

This is the second book in what is apparently a trilogy (The Forbidden Rose being the 3rd) about spymasters. I was a little disappointed that the hero and heroine of the first book, The Spymaster's Lady, weren't even mentioned. In this one, the cohorts of the first Spymaster (Grey), Adrian and Doyle, are featured, and now Adrian is the Head of or Chief of or whatever Grey was of the British Intelligence. I guess Grey retired.

I also didn't have a good feel for how much later it was - there was still talk of Napoleon and secrets and traitors, so I figured it wasn't much later. So where were Grey and Annique??

The heroine of this one is Jess, and she, like Annique from the previous book, was raised poor and had to fend for herself. She was abandoned as a child - or else she thought she was, but her father was in prison, or... something (shaking head) - and raised by Lazarus in the worst part of London - think a mean cross between Dickens's Fagin and Bill Sikes, with the emphasis really on villainy. At about age 8, her father returns for her and spirits her off to Russia, where somehow they become rich and are now in shipping. In London. Well, smuggling, but that's nitpicking.

Her father has been thrown into - well, whatever the house on Meeks Street is, not really a jail, but the British Intelligence, by the hero of the book, Sebastian (therefore now Jess's sworn enemy). Sebastian is also in shipping and dabbles a bit in intelligence (of the spy variety) and has come up with evidence that the senior Whitby is Cinq, a notorious traitor who also sank one of Sebastian's ships. Sebastian also had a hard life as a child, the bastard of a titled person who somehow - really, you have to read it - inherits the title, the house and the various relatives who live with him. And now he, like Jess, is wealthy and hard working and all things good.

Jess and Sebastian spend a lot of time lusting after one another as well as trying to best each other on their sneaky skills - each breaks into the other's property and snoops about, each trying to prove the other is Cinq. Eventually they have to prove someone else besides Jess's father is Cinq so they can get together.

I dunno, hot on the heels of the charming Annique, I just couldn't buy into Jess's story. Another hoyden, who invented accounting (or so it seemed) at age 16, running her father's business completely by 20, yada yada yada. We learned about her thieving and pickpocket skills, and her bag of tricks. Frankly, I'm not a big fan of ferrets - they stink - and I kept thinking about how she had that one on or around her all the time. Every time the hero thought of how she smelled, I kept expecting him to hold his nose over the pervasive smell of ferrets. (He does mention it once, calling it musky.) Maybe the author has never been around ferret owners, who - really - smell like their animals pretty much all the time in my experience. And it isn't a nice smell.

So, Jess and Sebastian keep looking for Cinq, and lusting after one another, and he keeps promising her they'll end up in bed, and she keeps saying nonono, and... then when Cinq is revealed and she somehow wants to help cover for him... OK, I just found it all so-so.

3 stars - it was ok, not unlikeable but not nearly as charming and romantic as the previous book.

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