Why I read it: I’m a fan. Adrian = Rowr.
What it’s about: Fans of the series will know that this is Adrian and Justine’s story. If you haven’t read the other books, I’d recommend doing so as it will make this read a richer experience. So, get thee to a bookshop stat and come back once you’ve read the others.
It doesn’t really tell you much, but here’s the blurb from Goodreads – Attacked on a rainy London street, veteran spy Justine DeCabrillan knows only one man can help her: Hawker, who also happens to be the enemy. With London crawling with hidden assassins and someone out to frame Hawker for the assault, the two spies must work together to find who’s out to destroy them…
What I thought (aka What worked for me and what didn’t): I’ve been sitting on this review for a few weeks now, letting things percolate in my head. In my desire to savour the joy that is the lyricism of Joanna Bourne’s prose and to soak up all the lovely goodness, I think I did this book a disservice. The further away from it I get, the more disconnected I feel. Yet, when I refresh myself with some quotes from the book, I’m immediately sucked back into the vortex (in a good way!). I think I took too long to read it. I think maybe I should have allowed myself to glom and then savoured on a re-read. Or, maybe, now that I have savoured, I need to re-read and glom to properly appreciate this book. I’m convinced it is all me in any event. The book is wonderful, Adrian is a glorious hero and Justine is pretty darn special too. It’s just that for some reason when I finished, I felt disconnected; like I’d missed something somehow.
There are so many scenes in this book which, when I remind myself of them, I sigh over. The first love scene is just beautiful. Justine had been sold to a brothel as a child and she has a very understandable fear/disdain of physical intimacy. However, she loves Adrian and feels passion for him. Adrian is fully aware of Justine’s past and his constant (but not in an annoying way) – “look at me, it’s me, Adrian” (that’s not a direct quote by the way) just showed how well he knew her. He knew what she needed to be able to have a happy sexual experience with him. I love the way Adrian knows her completely and loves her, not in spite of it and not quite because of it but rather, in everything and without any kind of judgement. Oh, he says it better really:
“I liked you as a pretty young girl.” He let men and women brush past on either side of him and only looked at her. “I like the woman you became better than the girl you were. I like the story you’ve written on your face.”(my emphasis)
And yet, he’s not so sensitive that he won’t take his chances when he can get them:
“Wait a minute. I’m still back thinking about you opening the window and letting me in. What were you wearing?”
Adrian has a cutting sense of humour and he’s not afraid to use it, even just in his own head.
Reams looked particularly self-satisfied this morning. Possibly he felt he’d done something clever. He was probably wrong.
I found the flashbacks, not disorienting, but in some way a little frustrating. I think it’s that I wanted the WHOLE story – I would have been happy to read everything and not just the ‘excerpts’ of their lives that made it into the book – does that make sense.
What else? The cover is something of a disappointment to me. At the same time as I feel I’m being unnecessarily picky, I’m still going to say that the cover model doesn’t look anything like Adrian and the step back had a really boring picture of the Eiffel Tower and no picture of Justine. Just as well I don’t buy books because of their covers.
I think this whole series will be a re-read for me at some point (I’ve already read The Spymaster’s Lady twice and listened to it on audio) and I suspect I will find more hidden gems and nuance in the books as I do so.
Pax has an important part to play in this book and his book is next. As much as I had been looking forward to Adrian’s book, I’m kind of surprised that my level of anticipation for Pax’s book is nearly as high.
I still think my favourite book of the series so far is The Forbidden Rose but the whole series is sitting on my keeper shelf.