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Joanna Bourne - The Spymaster's Lady
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desiderata



Joined: 23 Oct 2007
Posts: 226

PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2008 7:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As others have said, the plot twist at the end had nothing to do with French = bad, English = good. In fact, at the very, very, end Annique makes it clear to Grey that she retains some loyalty to France and that she will never reveal any more of her French secrets to him. He responds that he would never ask that of her -- and points out that many of the English spies have French family or loved ones and he doesn't expect them to betray them.

No, it's not realistic, but it's no more unrealistic than most of the romances I've read. To each his own, but I guess I am a little sensitive to critisism accusing an author of feeding national prejudices when it's not true and the person hasn't even read the book.
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Robin L.



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 158

PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2008 8:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
As others have said, the plot twist at the end had nothing to do with French = bad, English = good. In fact, at the very, very, end Annique makes it clear to Grey that she retains some loyalty to France and that she will never reveal any more of her French secrets to him. He responds that he would never ask that of her -- and points out that many of the English spies have French family or loved ones and he doesn't expect them to betray them.


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ITA with you and MMcA on this point; in fact, I think the twist itself shows how Bourne did not vilify the French and ennoble the English. I really felt that she showed both sides as equally ruthless (although they might have different tactics) and equally ambiguous in their virtues. Ultimately it was Napoleon and not the French or English that persuaded Annique, IMO -- it was her belief that Napoleon was driven by his own ambition and not because he had the best interests of the French people at heart.

Clearly I loved this novel and IMO Bourne subverted many Romance standards, even while using them in a superficially recognizable way. As for the novel's "realism," I felt the novel was much more realistic in terms of the small details Bourne includes, the scents and sounds and details of the French countryside, the ways of travel, and the details of speech and character. The scene when Adrian and Annique are having breakfast at the inn was absolutely masterful, IMO, and I could practically smell the coffee and hear the sounds of the birds and the conversations. Was some of it a stretch of "reality" -- of course. But as others have pointed out, so is a lot of Romance.

Ultimately, I think it's those novels that speak to us for which we are willing to suspend that sense of disbelief, and it's novels that don't where we find the most fault. To me, even if TSL was more dramatic, it had a central coherence that worked for me, that held the book together, a thoughtfulness in characterization and plotting and a keen attention to detail. So for me the world of the novel had more realism than more 'realistic' Romances because of the way IMO Bourne kept it all together, even with the changes that the English landscape brings to the characters and the direction of the plot.
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tetua5617



Joined: 21 Jan 2008
Posts: 58

PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 12:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="Robin L."]
Quote:
.........As for the novel's "realism," I felt the novel was much more realistic in terms of the small details Bourne includes, the scents and sounds and details of the French countryside, the ways of travel, and the details of speech and character......


I wholeheartedly agree with Robin L.. One of my pet peeves (in another forum) is the butchering of foreign languages, particularly french. Ms. Bourne totally mastered the french language, feel, landscape, etc. Brava ! I also enjoyed the tone of the language, totally in sync with the time period. Actually, when I started the book, I was puzzled by the dialogue, until I realized that it was because it felt so authentic for that time period. The turn of the phrases, the vocabulary, all of that gave it an exquisite "authenticity".

I liked the book, but I cannot rave about it like some other readers Confused . I (respectfully) disagree with the TSTL comments of some posters. However I agree that, however much you can suspend your disbelief (and believe me, I CAN Razz ) Annique being blind, and yet being able to fight, walk for hundreds of miles, interact with everyone around her without anybody noticing anything amiss, in 6 months !!!!!, well my suspension crashed ignominously, so to speak Wink

Still a very good book, that I would recommend if only for the language and feel of the period.

T
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Robin L.



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 158

PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 3:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks to KristieJ, I came upon an interesting interview with Joanna Bourne here: http://thebooksmugglers.blogspot.com/2008/02/chat-with-joanna-bourne.html

She addresses the French - English question, among other things. Very interesting, IMO.
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Lindareads



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 93
Location: Pennsylvania, USA

PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2008 2:10 pm    Post subject: The Spymaster's Lady Reply with quote

As usual, I'm late to the party. After reading the messages here when there were only a page or two, I ordered TSL. It arrived and I was already reading one of Kressley Cole's vampire books A Hunger Like No Other, which I have enjoyed but not loved. I picked up TSL and the Kressley Cole when climbing into bed, and meant to just continue on with the Cole book until I finished it. While looking at The Spymaster's Lady and reading the back cover, I decided to read a page or two before going back to the vampires. One page turned into 5 which turned into 30 before I knew it! The pages just flew by. All I could think of was wow, what excellent dialogue! This book is going to be such a pleasure.

And now I've finally finished A Hunger Like No Other while still fitting in a few extra pages of TSL, so that I have 60 pages read now that I can read it exclusively. Every time I pick it up, there is something there that puts a smile on my face. The dialogue between the characters is exactly what I read books for. I'm not looking for exact historical accuracy. For that, I could buy a history textbook. And it is a "story" after all. A fairytail made up by a very talented author.

I'm going slow and forcing myself to savor the passages, even rereading ones that I find particularly good. I've even read some aloud to my DH, bringing a chuckle or two from the other side of the bed.

The Spymaster's Lady is smart, meaty, and just what I have been looking for in a book for quite some time. Thank you all for posting your thoughts here which helped me find this wonderful treasure.

Linda
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Sandlynn



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 1771
Location: Washington, D.C.

PostPosted: Sun Jul 13, 2008 10:34 am    Post subject: Re: just don't get historicals Reply with quote

I just got around to reading this book. (You know, how I've been reading my books alphabetically by the author's last name in order to get though a huge TBR pile.) Well I'm back to the beginning of the alphabet again and decided to pick up "B"ourne's book from the pile.

Anyway, I generally liked it. It reminded me very much of "Daughter of the Game," with maybe a younger, more "idealized" Melanie. That being said, I did want to address some issues Leigh brought up and others that popped into my head that -- if you thought too hard about it -- might take you out of the story or make you wonder about the morals of some of the characters.

Okay, most of the rest of this is going to be in white to protect spoilers for those who come to this book later than I have.

Leigh wrote:
I had a difficult time suspending belief on many things. One that being blind she could lead them out of prison, two, that she learned to hide her blindness after only being blind for less than six months. That this horrible french spys always backed off after being hit in the arm with a knife. That she always knew exactly where to hit the person in the head to knock him out (most head injuries just don't go down immediately)and on and on. That the spy head let his daughter prostitute herself and didn't have a problem with it, and that he left his granddaughter in the spy business, knowing what she was seeing. So he doesn't want to torture her, etc, but he didn't have a problem with a child seeing what she did.


First in addressing the blindness, 1) we were told that Annique had relied on her fellow french spy friends and contacts to lead her from Marseille to Paris. She was passed from one person to the next. In fact, that's how she got caught by Henri because one of them betrayed her. She really wasn't moving across France all alone. And 2) we were also told numerous times that she had a photographic memory and had been in that "prison" (Leblanc's house/office) before. So, she knew how to get out. If she could retain an invasion map in her memory by just glancing at it, then I had no problem believing that she could find her way out of a house with which she had some familiarity, even blind.

As to Annique's loyalties, to the very end she showed compassion and loyalty to both sides. And, as others have pointed out, was really anti-Napolean rather than anti-French. The very fact that she lies to Soulier and tells him that she has given the British Napolean's invasion plans -- but actually does not do so or ever intends to -- showed that. The book makes the point that she didn't want to see the British people and villages destroyed but neither did she want to see the French people suffer the same fate and so this is how she ensures that. By neither helping nor hurting either of the them.

As Leigh did, I also had some real issues with Annique's mother. I couldn't understand how she could let her young child run around on battlefields and amongst such dangerous people -- no matter how talented she was. I think it was Robert (or someone in England) who made the point that if Annique's father had lived, he would've shipped Annique back to England to school rather than have her remain in revolutionary France working for spies. So why wouldn't her mother do the same? Why would her grandfather allow it to continue? (The grandfather and mother argued over lying to the girl about her background, not over taking her out of France.)

Furthermore, I too have a problem with how the grandfather didn't pull Lucille -- his daughter -- back in from the cold, so to speak, instead of allowing her to end up in situations where she had to basically prostitute herself.

Later, when Annique is brought to her grandfather's safe house -- or was it Robert's? -- I found it a little off putting that Robert was basically sleeping with her right under her grandfather's nose. I would've thought her grandfather would've shown even the slightest bit of pique over it.

On a completely different topic, another thing that puzzled me was that little mission Robert, Adrian, Doyle, and Doyle's wife went on involving the underground criminal Lazarus, while Annique and her grandfather remained behind playing chess. It went totally unexplained and seemed beside the point. Did I miss something there that tied it into the main story?

And speaking of non-sequitors, that's what I enjoyed most about Annique. Her thought processes could be really amusing trying to cram all that she observed into her head and leading her to say two totally unrelated things, which made some of her comments a bit comical.


ETA: One more thing I forgot to mention. I thought it was odd, that Leblanc's men could get so close to the British spies' safe house in London in order to attack it. Wouldn't that whole street be better guarded and the people inside given advanced warning. I couldn't believe someone could just drive up and start shooting and lobbing artillery at such a highly sensitive place.
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MMcA



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 659

PostPosted: Sun Jul 13, 2008 4:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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On a completely different topic, another thing that puzzled me was that little mission Robert, Adrian, Doyle, and Doyle's wife went on involving the underground criminal Lazarus, while Annique and her grandfather remained behind playing chess. It went totally unexplained and seemed beside the point. Did I miss something there that tied it into the main story?




msaggie mentions this on the thread about Bourne's latest book. It ties into the story of that book.
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