Monday, November 3, 2014

ARC Review: Rogue Spy by Joanna Bourne

Click here to pre-order the book on Amazon, Release Date: November 4, 2014
Click here to pre-order the paperback at The Book Depository, Release Date: November 4, 2014

What to expect when you read Rogue Spy by Joanna Bourne:

1. Expect an unconventional love story told through an unconventional plot structure.

What is amazing about Joanna Bourne is how well she mixes the spy/intrigue element with the romance element in her stories. In Rogue Spy, the first 7 chapters has Pax pursuing Cami. There's very little interaction between the two, but Bourne establishes the connection between our hero and heroine through flashbacks of the time when Pax was Devoir and Cami was Verite of the Coach House in France.

There's such a rich and tragic backstory in our hero and heroine's childhood -- both of them orphaned by the French Revolution and then trained to be deadly and ruthless spies.

Now Pax knows he must finally face his past as a Cache and member of The Coach House and accept the consequences of his "treachery" from British intelligence. Cami has lived a quiet, and peaceful life with the Leyland sisters -- her "Fluffy Aunts" who happen to be England's greatest code breakers. Now a letter threatens to expose her for the impostor that she is, and Cami is caught in a deadly web of international conspiracy.

2. Expect a fast-paced and well-plotted spy story.

Rogue Spy is book 5 in Joanna Bourne's Spymaster series and this might be her most action-packed story ever written.

I want to know how Bourne does it and what sort of research she does for this series ... Because it is so well-executed. The writing is impeccable and precise. The action sequences are so well-choreographed and planned out. I also love how the author reveals the inner workings of the world of espionage. It was fascinating reading how Cami and Pax did reconnaissance on Semple Street and how agents were positioned like chess pieces, covering all possible escape routes (Chapter 30).

The central questions that Bourne poses are:
1. Who is The Merchant?
2. What does The Merchant truly want from Cami?
3. Is Pax really a traitor?
4. Is Cami really a traitor?

The last two questions are crucial if our hero and heroine are to have a future together. In other romances, this lack of time with translate into an emotional urgency -- hero and heroine must act NOW because there might not be a tomorrow. Pax and Cami, on the other hand, refuse to act, and refuse to burden the other with the unnecessary pain of heartbreak and possible loss. It is a noble sacrifice to contain their love, desire, emotions, fears. It's actually part of their tragedy that their lives as spies only affords them the present. There is no guarantee of the future: there is only the success of the current mission to contend with.

... He turned her hand over and touched the centre of her palm, holding all her thought, all her intention and awareness, right there, in that spot.

She closed her hand around the sensitivity, around the little fireball of excitement. Her voice was rock steady. "I don't have time to want you."
- lox 1990

3. Expect to fall in love with Pax and Cami.

I honestly thought Justine and Adrian had a really amazing love story and it's difficult to match the passion, and conflicting emotions that those two went through -- but, I have to say, Pax and Cami are a strong contender as my favorite Joanna Bourne characters. Like Justine and Adrian, there's an adversarial aspect to Pax and Cami's relationship, but there's also the childhood friends-to-lovers side to their story (one of my favourite tropes). There's a fluidity and vagueness to their current situation: are they enemies? Do they have the same goals?

"The problem is, we're both lying about some things. We're lies within lies within lies, you and me, like Chinese puzzle boxes. Boxes within boxes." She shifted from one foot to the other. "You're loyal to somebody. That's your nature. Loyalty. I just wish I could figure out which side you're on."
- loc 1257

And it's wonderful and incredibly sad how love develops amidst the doubts -- it's very clear that their love is a choice ... a conscious decision that both Cami and Pax make. Despite all the questions and uncertainty, they have chosen to love and to feel right now. I also loved how very single-minded and determined Pax and Cami were to keep each other alive. As agents and as survivors of the French Revolution, their lives have been surrounded by death -- both necessary and unnecessary.

Let Pax live through this. If you'll just let Pax live ... She caught herself bargaining with God, promising to light a hundred candles in gratitude. She knew better than to haggle with God like a fruit seller in the market. God expected her to pay attention to the business at hand.

But she'd light flocks of candles if Pax lived.
- loc 3511

4. Expect to get excited for more.

Joanna Bourne has a wonderful way of writing interesting characters, and she introduces a few of them in Rogue Spy. I've become intrigued by the children of the Coach House and am very curious about the names they were given when they were there: Pax was Devoir (duty) and Cami was Verite (truth). I am still reflecting on this and on why Bourne has presented these two concepts in "opposition" or in "sameness" -- and I'm certain there's a reason (and a story) for it. ^_^

I also loved, loved, loved the Fluffy Aunts and would love to read more about them and, maybe about their previous dealings with Galba, head of the British Service. (I am crossing my fingers and hoping they get a book or a novella, or something. Joanna Bourne's stories aren't written chronologically and Pax's story actually happens before Hawker's story, so I am very, very hopeful about this.)

The whole game of counter-intelligence (and intelligence) was so, so engrossing that I actually forgot to make a lot of notes about this book (for this review) -- but, this book is that memorable and leaves that kind of infinitely deep (and positive) impression on me. After I read this book, I felt a rush of inspiration and was able to work out an outline for this review and write it on the 35-minute plane ride home from my family's holiday.

Disclosure: I received this review copy via Netgalley. Thank you to Joanna Bourne and Berkley for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.

Rogue Spy is Book 5 in Joanna Bourne's Spymaster series and will be released on November 4, 2014. To find out more about Joanna Bourne and her books, click below:



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