(Originally posted on my blog, That Artsy Reader Girl. I received an eARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)
I love spy stuff and England and France and deception! I was expecting to really enjoy this. Sadly, it fell short for me. And with that, here are my thoughts (I've bolded the most important points, just in case you're a skimmer!):
1. The romance took a back seat to the extremely political discussions and explanations in this book. At 30% of the way through, I knew very little about the characters, but had received a very thorough history lesson on the French Revolution, the Tories, the Jacobins... the battles... the sympathizers and the different thought processes from everyone involved. I started to space and skim through large chunks. I love history, but not this much! I wanted a romance, and there were parts that felt like I was reading a textbook rather than a novel. I felt like the framework of the story took forever to be put into place. It really took away from the romance, which felt like an afterthought. Historical fiction? Yes. Historical romance? Not really.
2. With all that being said, her story was very well researched. I understand that the author wanted her readers to receive all the background information to really understand the story. However, the reader is bombarded with so much! Too much to be enjoyable.
3. I didn't connect with/like any of the characters. Julianne made the stupidest decisions, and was unbelievably naive and spineless. I like romance novels that have strong women. Yes, she had strong opinions, but she was so naive and clammy that I had a hard time believing they were her own thoughts, and not something she had read in a pamphlet. And she kept getting into trouble! Dom was just annoying. He spent so much time with his nose in the air that he didn't even see what was going on. He totally lacked common sense. The supporting characters aren't really worth mentioning. Julianne had two brothers, but they were so similar and hardly ever spoken of, that I had a hard time differentiating between the two of them. Julianne had a maid/servant while staying at Dom's house that I liked, but I think it was only because she didn't bug me.
4. Too. Much. Drama. Everyone threw tantrums. Dom deceived Julianne, and she was so mad that she pouted forever! Julianne deceived Dom, and he got so mad he refused to look at her. Can't we be more adult here, and talk about this? They were on opposing sides of a war. Feelings are bound to be hurt. All of this pouting and cold shoulder business caused pointless misunderstandings. Julianne ends up getting into trouble because of her radical ways, and spends less than 24 hours in a jail cell. She won't eat. When she gets out, she's so weak and traumatized that she has to spend a week in bed. Seriously? That's a pretty wimpy reaction. I kept wishing she'd suck it up.
5. About 3/4 of the way through, things pick up a little. At this point we've been given all the info on the French Revolution, so the focus settles on Dom and Julianne and deception. It was a bit more enjoyable, but I felt it was too little too late. There was not enough time to recover, which was disappointing. So much time was spent on historic details and politics that time ran out before I could connect enough with the characters or the story to care how things ended.
6. For so much frustration and confusion, the ending gets wrapped up in a perfect little bow way too quickly to be believable. I was actually worried that things would be continued in the next book (which I won't be reading), we had so little time left. After all this time of being mad and annoyed and hurt and brooding and pouty, everyone just falls into place and life is perfect. This doesn't happen! People go from hate to love in the blink of an eye! I'm really glad their story ended with this book, because I would have been frustrated if I had plowed through this one, only to still not be finished.
I've read a lot of historical romance. Like I said, it has always been one of my favorite genres. I would not classify this as a romance, though. Julianne and Dominic's story was so weak, that it just annoyed me. Honestly, I didn't care if they sorted out their battles. I didn't like either of them, or their families. Everything took a backseat to the history lesson, which was really pretty boring. I skipped entire pages of history with no dialogue or happenings. It was just history. Now, I have nothing against history. It's just not what I wanted to be reading when I picked up a romance. I will applaud Ms. Joyce for her impeccable research. It was obvious that she spent a ton of time reading up on the French Revolution and the spymasters. If you like historical fiction, I can see that you might like this. It just wasn't my cup of tea.