Friday, August 8, 2014

Love and Let Spy by Shana Galen

The Basics:
Love and Let Spy by Shana Galen
Sourcebooks Casablanca
Book Four in the Lord and Lady Spy series
Historical Romance
Published August 5, 2014
Source: Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Why I picked up this book:

Come on, read that blurb. I had to.


Her name is Bonde, Jane Bonde... 
A beautiful and eligible member of the ton, Jane has more than a few secrets: she's one of the Crown's most elite agents. She may be deadly, but she doesn't know a thing about fashion, flirtation, or love...until Dominic Griffyn shakes up her carefully stirred world and asks her to be his bride. He's exactly the kind of man she's not looking for. And he's dangerous, because falling into his arms is so much more satisfying than saving England from her enemies.

He's an improper gentleman who needs a wife...
Tall, dark, and tortured, Dominic Griffyn is haunted by demons from his past. When his stepfather insists that he marry, Dominic allows himself to hope that the beautiful but mysterious Miss Bonde might help him forget his troubles. As they grow closer, it's clear that there's more to Jane than danger. She might be just what his neglected heart needs.

My thoughts:

Love and Let Spy is an action-packed historical romance. I've read a few books in this genre that blend romance and spies and I really enjoy it.

This book focuses more on the romance, as well as on plotting and such more so than on specific missions. I think it does shine when Jane and Dominic are out in the field together, emphasizing her skill set and his protectiveness and curiosity. There's a heavy lean on the James Bond connection. I didn't know whether I found all of these references amusing or distracting, to be honest, though I did love the idea of 'the Dungeon' - the records room for the group, and Q, in particular, amused me. I kind of wished she had her own full novel romance, to be honest. She seems like the kind of heroine I'd really enjoy.

The start of this book made me uncomfortable because it relies on the 'forced marriage' trope. For reasons that are exposed later in the book, Jane's aunt and uncle (who are her guardians) insist that she marry Dominic, while his mother and stepfather are insisting the same. I hate it when characters are backed into corners over this kind of issue. It's rarely clear to me *why* marriage is a requirement, and I hate it when loved ones do the forcing. Amusingly, I'm far happier when the main characters analyse their circumstances and decide marriage, however much they don't want it, is their only option.

Fortunately, Jane and Dominic have some fantastic chemistry and quickly become rather intrigued by each other and the forced component of their relationship became less significant for me.

Now, Dominic has some really dark moments in his past that made me want to reach into the book and hug him. I found him a very endearing hero, and I appreciated that he was a strong character without taking away from Jane's strength. And as for Jane, she's pretty kick-butt. I appreciated that she knew what she was doing, she knew she knew what she was doing and there was no sudden damsel in distress moments for the sake of making the hero seem more 'manly.'

There are some sex scenes in this one. It occurs to me that I should probably have some kind of scale for these, at this point.  Or rather, a recognition system. Though historical romance tends to be more fade to black than contemporary romance, this has shifted in recent years. I do expect semi-explicit scenes from a Sourcebooks Casablanca book, and this one delivers. I think it also provides one of the most realistic 'first-time' experiences that I've read in a historical romance novel. I approve!

In terms of plot, we've got a bad guy that probably would have made a stronger impression on me if I'd read earlier books in the series. But the threat felt real. There's also a side bit about why Dominic's horses are suffering from bouts of colic and then Dominic's mysterious past as well. All in all, there was plenty to me engaged and entertained. I had a hard time putting this one down.

Bottom line:

A successful meld of spy-thriller and historical romance, Love and Let Spy is an entertaining read with some really emotional moments in it. I recommend it and will definitely read more from Shana Galen.

4 stars
For fans of historical romance, historical spy-action-adventures, kick butt heroines, emotionally damaged heroes.

** See my review of Shana Galen's Sapphires are an Earl's Best Friend here.

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