Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Review: The Spy by Celeste Bradley

Title: The Spy
Series: Liar's Club
Author: Celeste Bradley
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: February 16, 2004
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
ISBN: 0312987846
ISBN-13: 9780312987848


By day, he is a gentleman with a notorious fondness for games of seduction. By night, he is one of the most skilled saboteurs in the Liar's Club—a secret group of renegades dedicated to serving the Crow. And while he is willing to risks his life for the good of England, he vows never to put his heart in harm's way ...

James Cunnington has a pressing mission at hand: He must find the daughter of a missing code breaker for the Liar's Club, a man suspected of turning traitor for Napoleon. Time is of the utmost concern. While it is evident that his ward's new tutor has something to hide, James is unaware that the woman he seeks now resides under his very roof ...

Desperate and near destitute, Phillipa Atwater must don gentlemen's clothing to pass herself off as a scholarly young tutor. Her clever—if itchy—disguise allows her time to pursue her quest to find her father, ruthlessly abducted by French spies. Closely guarding the cryptic notebook he entrusted to her care, she senses danger all around her—even in the home of her roguishly handsome new employer, James Cunnington. Now Phillipa is about to discover that desire can be as lethal as a well-aimed bullet ...

My rating:

Fleeing Napoleon's spies that kidnapped, and possibly murdered, her father, Phillipa Atwater doesn't know where to turn. Almost destitute and with nowhere to go, she finally gets a break when she spots an add for a tutor.

The only problem is, the tutor is supposed to be a man.

So she cuts and dies her hair, "borrow" some man's clothing and presents herself as Phillip A. Walters in the house of Mr. James Cunnington, the man whose name is scrawled in the margin of her father's mysterious notebook.

James Cunnington is a man with three missions: find proof to condemn his ex-lover and French spy Lavinia Winchell, find a tutor for his adopted son Robbie, and find the daughter of a missing code-breaker that's suddenly working for Napoleon.

Little does he know that the pale, almost starved-to-death boy applying for the tutoring job will help him solve all three. And free his soul from the dark hell of guilt and remorse.

As is customary in the Liar's Club series, this book looked quite promising at the beginning. I was intrigued with the notion of a politely-bred Regency woman posing as a man. And I was looking forward to the knots the chit would tie herself - and the hero - in.

But, as is also customary in the Liar's Club series, the plot soon pulled the breaks to the point where everything almost came to a standstill.

Of course, toward the end - and after the big revelation - the story picked up pace once more, leading to a pretty satisfying end, but it would have been really nice if the plot flowed effortlessly throughout the book.

I liked Phillipa. She had spunk. For someone who shuddered at the thought of spitting, she quickly accustomed herself to her new "circumstances", taking up boxing and cursing a blue streak in her native tongue and not just Russian.

Robbie was a real gem, a scarred, old soul in a young boys body. But despite the hardships he's obviously been through, he could still be a child.

The nag this time is with the hero. Sure, James is what we'd all want in a man. Strong, handsome, explosively sexy, with a protective streak a mile wide, but some aspects of his personality put me off.
While his need for vengeance was quite understandable, the means he was prepared to take and what it made him do, how it made him act with those around him, sure didn't warm me up to the man. And his obstinate pursuit of someone he perceived as traitor (despite no obvious proof) was quite hypocritical since he's been in that same exact position not long before the events of the book (read: The Pretender). Lucky for him he had people around him that had no qualms in putting him in his place.
Also, for a spy, he was incredibly unobservant, both Robbie and Button immediately knew the tutor was a woman, while the "experienced womanizer" that was James was completely blind.

And as in all romances worth their salt, it took love and more than 300 pages for the hero to realize just how wrong he's been and live happily-ever-after with his heroine.

Despite it's slowness, though, this is still a charming read, once you get stubborn and decide not to put the book down until you finish it. ;)

P.S. And finally we've banished the saccharine, flowery nicknames.


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