Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Advanced Review: A Lady's Revenge by Tracey Devlyn (4 stars, historical)
Full Description: Amazon
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thoughts After Reading:
As I started to give an introduction to the plot in this review, I realized I had one immediate concern: there are a number of unanswered questions I have about the backstory in A Lady's Revenge. The storyline that actually happens during the book is excellent, making it hard to believe that this is a debut novel. The writing and pacing is well done, crafting a romance immersed in suspense, intrigue, and action. When combined with a dark plot, these elements lead to an emotional tension that is constantly present throughout the story and concluded nicely at the end. But the external conflict is heavily dependent on what happens before the book begins, and I'm not sure everything about the history of the characters makes sense. My own enjoyment of the book was also limited by how dark the plot was, but that was more of a personal preference than anything else.
As best I can figure it: The hero, heroine, and heroine's brother all grew up together as close friends. When the heroine's parents are murdered, they are taken care of by a guardian who appears to have a high ranking in the Foreign Office. He trains the children, and in their youthful energy they become proficient at skills useful for spies such lockpicking and throwing knives. I don't think it was ever explained clearly, but the implication seems to be that the heroine's brother and the hero start working in the field as spies years before the book begins. When the hero returns about three years before the start of the novel, the hero and heroine begin to become aware of each other in a way that extends beyond their close friendship. They never get a chance to explore their feelings, however, because it is that same summer that the guardian believes the heroine is ready to start spying in France. She realizes the opportunities she is giving up by seducing secrets out of the enemy, but is willing to sacrifice almost anything to find who killed her parents. Unbeknownst to the heroine's brother and the hero, the heroine goes to France and becomes a famous spy "The Raven". A short time before the book begins, the heroine's main target - Valere - figures out her identity and starts torturing her. The book opens with the hero and the heroine's brother rescuing "The Raven," initially not realizing they are really rescuing the heroine. The storyline then proceeds as the protagonists try to keep the heroine safe from Valere. At the same time, the heroine must heal (especially emotionally) from her involvement with the man. The camaraderie starts up again easily between the hero and heroine (although there are rough patches in the relationship) and their romantic feelings are never far from their minds. As a result, the love scenes between them start fairly early in the book. However, the heroine can't believe the hero would want to marry a fallen woman like herself. She reasons that even if he were willing to propose marriage, he deserves better than to be scorned by the ton once stories of his wife's activities in France make their way into the English ballrooms. The hero, meanwhile, is one of those guys who refuses to give up. His actions make it clear that there are two things he cares about more than anything: that the heroine is safe and that she remains at his side. He has a secret guilt because he helped decode the message that led to the heroine getting involved with Valere (and consequently led to her being tortured), but even the heroine seems to feel he's being unreasonable when he finally confesses.
It's rather hard to explain, but basically: the story that happens in real-time is close to being flawless. Both the intrigue and romance plots are very engaging, and have satisfying conclusions. What stops this book from being a 5-star read, more than anything else, is that the reader has to work a little too hard to put together the characters' pasts and even then it seems that some of the explanations or the characters' decisions just don't quite add up. Whether or not the discrepancies/mysteries are a deal-breaker to an otherwise outstanding novel is up to you.