Monday, September 8, 2008

Review: Surrender to a Wicked Spy by Celeste Bradley

Title: Surrender to a Wicked Spy
Series: Royal Four
Author: Celeste Bradley
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: October 4, 2005
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
ISBN: 0312931271
ISBN-13: 9780312931278

They are known simply as The Royal Four—but there’s nothing simple about the elite band of spies who serve the King in secrecy. Their missions are dangerous, their love lives are scandalous…and each man in the Royal Four has his own secrets. This is the story of the spy known as The Lion…

Olivia Calwell’s new husband, Dane, is everything she could have ever hoped for in a man. The handsome Lord Greenleigh is charming, debonair, even a bit mysterious…and just thinking of their wedding night makes Olivia blush with pleasure. Yet she can’t help but wonder what exactly Dane does all day. His hushed meetings with strangers, his odd comings and goings—it is all enough to drive Olivia mad! Could her beloved husband be involved in something dangerous? Could he even be spying for France?

Spy Dane Calwell knows the new Lady Greenleigh is poised, well educated, and utterly captivating. But he’s just discovered that Olivia is also the most curious creature he has ever met! Most wives don’t give a whit what their husbands do all day. Why must Olivia ask so many questions—and meddle in matters that do not concern her? Truth be told, Dane finds Olivia’s amateur sleuthing enchanting…even a little sexy. But when Olivia gets too close to the mission at hand, Dane must try to stop her before it’s too late—or risk losing his beautiful wife forever…

My rating:

After ending up in the Thames, thanks to her meddling mother, Olivia is rescued by a Viking god a.k.a. Dane Calwell, Lord Greenleigh... Well, in the end she is the one doing the rescue.

Two weeks later, the two are wed.

Olivia, despite the fact she knows absolutely nothing about her husband, ends up falling head over heels in love. But it will take much more for her husband to follow her lead. Much, much more.

Dane Calwell, known to his fellow spies as The Lion, is quite content with his choice for a wife. Olivia is, according to her mother, the epitome of sophistication, meek, poised, a perfect hostess... everything a man of Dane's position dreams of. Unfortunately, he's in for quite a surprise when he discovers Olivia's mother has vastly exaggerated.

Now, the newlyweds have to get to surpass the initial obstacles of marriage between virtual strangers, get to really know each other, and stay alive when a blood-thirsty enemy conspires against them... And the very Crown.

Whomever wrote the blurb should be sacked on the spot. They didn't even see the cover of this book, least of all read it through.

Despite being the a sequel to To Wed A Scandalous Spy, this book pales in comparison. There is not much of a plot to be found, except for the main Chimera thread which began with the Liar's Club series.

I got the impression of reading a manual on "virgin initiation", complete with Rods of the Rajah (read: dildos).
In short, this is a sex-driven book, instead of a plot- or character-driven book.

I didn't like the two leads, Dane and Olivia, although if I had to choose, I'd choose her over him any day.

She was sweet and caring, though a little stupid at times. Sorry, but rushing to a courtesan's door for help of preparing a ball, without even knowing who you're meeting, just doesn't strike me as incredibly bright. Yes, I know her mother embellished her to Dane, but couldn't she just tell him the truth? They were married, he wouldn't divorce her just because she had no idea how to host a ball.

Dane was just an ass. A huge (all over), overbearing, egotistical, overly proud, blond, Viking-ish ass. And though the author offers an apology for his behavior - his father sending a bullet into his brain over a woman - it just didn't ring true for me. He was hard and he was harsh, and his actions spoke strongly against him. So much in fact, I was aghast as to how Olivia could forgive him in the end. I know redemption is an integral part of a HR template, but some of the things he said to her were beyond contempt-worthy.

The romance between them didn't click for me. It just seemed empty and cold. They seemed more a going-through-the-motions couple than a man and a woman gradually developing tender feelings for each other. Maybe it was also due to the fact that Olivia falls for him almost instantly, while his feeling (or their development) are never revealed fully - he was more in lust than in love with her.

There were plenty of eye-roll inducing parts. The most memorable being Dane's "anatomical problem". I was fine with it for a while, it explained some of his reservations of giving in fully, but after a while the constant reminding of his impediment grew tiresome and boring.

Ms. Bradley failed to exploit the little things she created. The refreshing twist of having the leading couple married from the beginning provided ample opportunities for excellent characterization, yet she left the character development drop in lieu of bedroom scenes.

Also, her trademark humor seemed to disappear entirely, except in the scenes with George IV. It's evident the author uses him as a comedic interlude, which is also a pity, since he's such a rich, layered character.

The only thing I really appreciated, was the return of the Reardons, Nate and Willa from the previous book. Luckily, Willa retained her characteristics and had no qualms giving Dane a hefty piece of her mind on how a wife should be treated. I wouldn't have minded - and it wouldn't be a grand surprise - if she took a well-aimed knee into the region of his "anatomical problem".

As I said before, Surrender To A Wicked Spy had too much sex and too little story, and even what smidgen on plot that survived the bedroom scenes, seems flat, missing the usual Bradley spark.

Not extremely disappointing, but not a keeper either.


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