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.



Sunday, September 7, 2008

Review: The Rogue by Celeste Bradley

Title: The Rogue
Series: Liar's Club
Author: Celeste Bradley
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: October 5, 2004
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
ISBN: 0312931158
ISBN-13: 9780312931155

Collis Tremayne could make any female swoon; yet no one would guess the hidden desperation that drove him to become the most skilled spy in service to the Crown. All that stands in his way...is Rose Lacey, a confounding chit who manages to outsmart him with cunning and courage. She is the only woman he cannot melt with his smile. With every breath, he wishes he never laid eyes on her. And with every flash of her green eyes, he craves to possess her...

Rose Lacey fought hard to meet the challenge of becoming a spy for the infamous Liars Club. And if it weren't for Collis Tremayne, who manages to make her blood boil with his arrogance, and leave her breathless with white hot longing, she'd achieve her dream. Now, they must work together on a secret mission to uncover a dangerous plot-one in which the very safety of England hangs in the balance. Armed with wit and wiles, they must face deadly intrigue, clever enemies, and-if they can manage not to murder one another-the intoxicating lure of
unbidden passion...


My rating:

Ethan Damont is a gambler, constantly living on the fringe of Society - dangling between worlds - not quite an outsider, but not belonging either. This trait of his has brought him to the attention of the Liar's Club, and he finds himself the newest, and not so willing, recruit to the strange band of thieves, gentlemen, and spies.

His first mission is to "infiltrate" the household of Lord Maywell, a suspected traitor to the Crown, where he meets Maywell's niece, Lady Jane Pennington, hanging upside down from a tree branch.

Neither suspect, that his gallant rescue is just the beginning of a whirlwind that might save or destroy them both.



Finally! Ms. Bradley has finally succeeded in pulling me in fully, without having to bring in the Regent. ;)

Though the mystery and intrigue is still there, it has been succesfully pushed into a subplot, while the main plot, and its intricate twists and turns, revolve around Ethan Damont, oh so conveniently introduced in The Charmer when we ran out of drool-worthy and eligible spies.

Ethan truly has it all. He's handsome, sexy, charming when he needs to be, yet upon closer inspection, his easy-going nature is but a mask. A mask behind which he hides his insecurities and his fears. This is a man I wouldn't mind falling in love with and it's obvious why Jane did.

His gradual growth from drunken gambler and rake extraordinaire to a trustworthy and love-worthy man, not only in the eyes of those around him, but most importantly in his own eyes, is endearing and pulling from beginning to end.

Jane, his heroine, literally disappeared when Ethan strolled onto the scene. IMHO, she served no higher purpose than help him redeem himself and see himself for the man he truly was.

The "attraction" and romance between them seemed a bit strained, though the one full love-scene was quite daring and much hotter than the previous books in the series.

The ending was quite nicely concocted if you ask me. Although the Liar's series might have come to an end, the ongoing spy theme is far from finished. The revelation of the Chimera's identity and the cameo of the Falcon carry us onward into The Royal Four series.
A really nice move, that.


P.S. This book also put in stark evidence that whoever writes the blurbs, evidently doesn't bother with reading the book first.



Saturday, September 6, 2008

Review: The Charmer by Celeste Bradley

Title: The Charmer
Series: Liar's Club
Author: Celeste Bradley
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: October 5, 2004
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
ISBN: 0312999712
ISBN-13: 9780312999711

Collis Tremayne could make any female swoon; yet no one would guess the hidden desperation that drove him to become the most skilled spy in service to the Crown. All that stands in his way...is Rose Lacey, a confounding chit who manages to outsmart him with cunning and courage. She is the only woman he cannot melt with his smile. With every breath, he wishes he never laid eyes on her. And with every flash of her green eyes, he craves to possess her...

Rose Lacey fought hard to meet the challenge of becoming a spy for the infamous Liars Club. And if it weren't for Collis Tremayne, who manages to make her blood boil with his arrogance, and leave her breathless with white hot longing, she'd achieve her dream. Now, they must work together on a secret mission to uncover a dangerous plot-one in which the very safety of England hangs in the balance. Armed with wit and wiles, they must face deadly intrigue, clever enemies, and-if they can manage not to murder one another-the intoxicating lure of
unbidden passion...


My rating:

Rose Lacey and Collis Tremayne are fellow trainees for the Liar's Club. The two are at the top of their "class" and are expected to "graduate" shortly.

The rivalry that's brought them so far, is now the only thing keeping them from achieving the goal. The two just can't seem to be able to work together. And they profoundly dislike each other to boot.

To smooth things over, and as punishment for their latest mess, the pair is sent on a test mission. They have to infiltrate a house, find the proof against the owner, and get out... Together.

Thanks to a clumsy case of fallen case files, Rose and Collis end up staking out the wrong house. As they uncover the true, nefarious plot against the English soldiers, the Prime Minister, and the Prince Regent himself, can they manage to work together without going for each other's throats? And is their animosity toward one another real, or just a cover for something much more powerful?



The Charmer is the first book in the Liar's Club series I truly enjoyed from cover to cover.

The interaction between the two leads was so real, the book could easily pass as "UST for Dummies". The tension was palpable and at times so thick you could hack it with a chainsaw.

But what truly drives the story in the middle and keeps the plot from slowing (yet again!) is the funny, yet bitter-sweet presence of George IV, the Prince Regent.
He's the comedic character, driving instrument, and sage older adviser combined into one.
Once he enters the scene, you won't be able to put the book down. And lucky, he's in there almost from the beginning. His pudgy self keeps the plot going, when it tethers precariously on the edge of the precipice to pace-Hell.

This is truly a little gem, maybe in need of some soft mop to polish it into shining, but still a highly-recommended read.



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

RULE #3: NEVER SURRENDER YOUR WILL ...

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.