Monday, May 25, 2009
A DARING BEAUTY, SHE WAS INFAMOUS FOR TAKING CHANCES...
Raised as a poor but cunning pickpocket, Jess Whitby may have grown into a wealthy young woman, but now she must once again rely on her guile. Her father's been wrongly accused of selling secrets to Napoleon, and he's going to hang--unless Jess finds the real traitor in the London underworld. She never dreamed her search would begin by waking up naked in a rude captain's bed. Or how little she'd mind...
NOW SHE'LL RISK EVERYTHING FOR LOVE...
When Captain Sebastian Kennett prevents a kidnapping on the London docks, he takes the headstrong would-be victim home. He's infatuated with her courageous spirit. She's enthralled by his commanding strength and the sexy spark in his eyes. Then she discovers something else about the spellbinding seaman: He could be the traitor she's hunting, the man whose next move could determine her father's fate--and her future as well.
My first official summer read in the sun to launch Memorial Day Weekend and the beginning of summer!
I really loved Ms. Bourne's first book in her Spymaster Series, The Spymaster's Lady, and have been looking forward to reading this next one ever since. This was a quick read for me, I can't say it was as good as her first, but it involved another feisty, resourceful, strong heroine, Jess and another dashing, clever and not so perfect hero, Sebastian who at times are adversaries, but also can't resist each other as well. I loved Sebastian: handsome, strong, virile - he was great in everything he does, but again, as was the case with Ms. Bourne's last hero, he has two sides to him. When he is Sebastian Kennett, he is known as the owner of a fleet of trade ships, a wealthy and well known merchant recognized by many. But, when he's Bastard Kennett, he's a dangerous, not to be meddled with ruthless cut-throat who knows how to kill when needed and is not someone to cross around the dockyards. Still, in either persona, he is a noble and honorable man. He is someone that is accustomed to getting his own way and is respected by all, from the the great spymasters at British Intelligence all the way down to the notorious and dangerous leader of London's underworld, Lazarus. Let's just say, he's the ideal man that fits into any kind of situation, I found him quite swoonworthy, frankly.
Sebastian and Jess aren't exactly spies, but they interact with them - or are accused as such. Our lovely heroine, Jess Whitby is convinced that Sebastian is the Cinq, a spy that is selling British naval secrets to Napoleon's supporters. Her father has been framed as Cinq and is awaiting his trial and supposed hanging. Jess is determined to find the real Cinq and clear her father's name and save him from the noose.
I liked Jess because she's complicated. Smart and resourceful, she can handle herself in any kind of scenario, yet she's vulnerable when it comes to dealing with her past life in the face of her present life and the thought of losing her father again. She learned how to be a pickpocket as a child, virtually raised by underworld leader, Lazarus when her father disappeared when she was eight years old. In a way, she was brainwashed by Lazarus to be subservient, convinced he "owned" her. He taught her the ways of thievery and at the time, she grew to like it until she was twelve years old and her father returned from a French prison to reclaim her. She left the life of the underworld and traveled the world with her father who amassed a fortune in smuggling and raised her to be a proper young lady. Like Sebastian, Jess has two different personas. She can still be the Cockney guttersnipe from Whitechapel who can easily pick a pocket or jump from roof to roof burgling with her back of tricks and pet ferret, or she can be the proper Miss Whitby, daughter of the wealthy and powerful Josiah Whitby, who can appreciate the finer things in life that her father's money can buy, living in luxury, wearing beautiful French silks and priceless jewelry (all smuggled, of course.) In addition, she is an expert in accounting, with a mind and memory like a trap, handling the books for her father's successful business. Yet, she'll never be able to lose the memories and nightmares of her past life as a pickpocket under Lazarus, with the scars to go with them.
Jess and Sebastian meet as she tries to pick his pocket looking for secrets in a dark alleyway - and the sparks fly, but she unexpectedly gets hurt in an accident and he has no choice but to take her back to his ship and nurse her for that evening. He plies her with brandy and medicinal herbs, strips her bare of her wet clothing and puts her to bed - his bed. But, that's as far as it goes, though he doesn't hesitate in appreciating her womanly assets, but as he says himself, he's not the sort of man to take advantage of an unconscious woman or force himself on someone who is unwilling - even though his nether regions might be telling him otherwise! I quite liked the fact that he wasn't exactly the 'master of his domain' when it came to Jess - he had to put "jack" back in the box a couple of times when dealing with the beautiful Miss Whitby!
Sebastian quickly learns about and understands Jess' weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Having grown up as an orphan in the streets of London until his aunt found him when he was seven, he can sympathize with her - he's been there himself. I loved the way he could be gentle with her, yet he also has the style and virility of a man who wants her, yet his honor and good sense rules his mind and he doesn't just take advantage of her on his ship. He realizes soon enough that she is the daughter of the man he thinks is a traitor and she thinks he's the man that has set her father up. There soon becomes a cat and mouse game played out between them in which he is the cat and she is the mouse. They're both attracted to each other and he tells her more than once he's going to bed her (and just how he'll do it) and she can't help but like the idea, but keeps telling herself it's never going to happen as long as she thinks he's the one that has set up her father. I loved the sexual tension build up which was drawn out for most of the book.
This game goes on for a while and sometimes, I sort of lost track of what was going on in the somewhat complicated espionage plotline, but it was fun to read - I guessed who the real villain was - or at least partly, but it was all well done and thought out and it had an exciting finish. I did get a little tired of Sebastian always worrying so much about Jess, though he did save her neck a few times. She has a tendency of going off and doing dangerous things that don't always end well. If you're looking for a real steamy romance, this isn't it, but the sexual tension and build up between the two was well done as well as the interesting London locales and people associated with them, whether it's the Historical Society in Mayfair or the seamy underside of London's world of crime.
I was also happy to see some brief glimpses of familiar faces from the last book in the series who are spies with British Intelligence, such as Adrian and Doyle. One last thing, I luuurved the inside cover of this book - yummy. Sebastian is depicted just as I imagined - instead of the ubiquitous Nathan Camp model that shows up everywhere (as mentioned recently in a post at Racy Romance Reviews).
I recommend this book for historical spy romance lovers, the research is tops and it features a strong heroine who's had a hard life, but can take care of herself when need be, and a tall, dark and handsome hero who loves her all the more for it, but who intends to take care of her for the rest of her life in any case.