Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Enticing the Spymaster by Julie Rowe

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Read: October 24, 2013

German-occupied Brussels, Belgium, April 1915. Judith Goddard is hiding in plain sight. A dual citizen with family ties to Belgian royalty and the British military, she works as a Red Cross nurse in a German hospital, learning what she can, ever fearful her true allegiance will be discovered. British Expeditionary Force Captain Michael Lawrence is on a mission to rescue the daughter of his mentor. He doesn't expect to find a strong beautiful woman in place of the naïve girl whose love he rejected years earlier. Jude is shocked when Michael turns up in her hospital, wounded and in German uniform. Though he broke her heart, she agrees to flee Belgium with him—she has information about an imminent attack that she must deliver to the British War Office, before it's too late. Posing as a married couple, Jude and Michael journey to the border, in constant danger of discovery—and of giving in to their mutual passion…

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Tyne Cot Cemetery Sculpture
In case you missed my review of Saving the Rifleman, know that I am not much of a romance reader. Not that I don't read it, I just don't read enough to be considered proficient in the genre. My stomping ground is usually historic fiction and it was the fact based material that led me to Julie Rowe's Enticing the Spymaster.

Again, I liked the setting. Belgium during WWI, very cool, but this is book two. Rowe presented this same material in book one and while I still think it makes an interesting backdrop, she doesn't score new points offering me something I've seen and applauded her for in the past. 

The obvious question now is what's new? Well, I liked the relationship a lot more this go round. Jude and Michael share a past and though we don't get it first hand, the fact that it exists makes their romance significantly more believable than that of their predecessors. Ideally, yes, I would have liked to witness those events as they played out, but the reality is this is a novella and Rowe's treatment of the material is quite an innovative means of mirroring the depth that is usually limited to full length narratives.

Another thing that worked, poison gas. One of the most recognized weapons of the conflict, I liked seeing this material raise its ugly head in the middle of a war time romance. Maybe it is just me, but the fact that Rowe pushed something as horrid as chemical weaponry into a genre that is characterized by optimism and passion blew my mind. The inherent contrast in that really appealed to me.

The downside here was Jude's background. She is a beautiful, intelligent, brave, competent nurse who just happens to be the daughter of one of King George’s closest advisers and a blood relation of the Belgian nobility. Am I on a limb by myself or does that sound just a bit too cliché? Two books in, I know Rowe is more creative than this, I've seen it and I still feel she overdid it here, forcing too much situational drama into a character that didn't need it.

I don't know what was going on with Rowe's leading lady, but in general I like what Rowe is doing with this series. The material she is utilizing commands a large degree of interest and the books it is inspiring her to write can be enjoyed by a much wider base of readers than that of traditional and classic romance alone.

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She was of the opinion that generals, no matter which side they were on, needed to see the human cost of their wars. Perhaps if they had the stench of rotting flesh constantly assaulting their noses, they’d make peace instead.
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