Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey
Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Genre: Historical Fiction
Juliana Telford is not your average nineteenth-century young lady. She’s much more interested in researching ladybugs than marriage, fashionable dresses, or dances. So when her father sends her to London for a season, she’s determined not to form any attachments. Instead, she plans to secretly publish their research.
Spencer Northam is not the average young gentleman of leisure he appears. He is actually a spy for the War Office, and is more focused on acing his first mission than meeting eligible ladies. Fortunately, Juliana feels the same, and they agree to pretend to fall for each other. Spencer can finally focus, until he is tasked with observing Juliana’s traveling companions . . . and Juliana herself.
While I don’t think I liked this one as much as Duels & Deception, I still had a fun time reading it.
Anstey has a great way of bringing in the perfect amount of wit to her stories and I always appreciate the additions of her chapter headings. They are very much like a Penny Dreadful and each one brought a smile to my face.
"In which a young lady clinging to a cliff will eventually accept anyone's help." - Chapter 1
I do think, however, the title of the book is a bit misleading even if it’s very catchy. I found Spencer to be pretty green when it comes to his position at the War Office but his role is very much ‘sit and wait’ and I would have liked to get a deeper look at the 'spying' side of things. I understand that him being new to the War Office means he needs to learn and earn more responsibility but his boss already acts like he's fairly well-established. This makes his assumed skill vs his actions to be a bit disjointed.
Spencer also has a lot of inner dialog that is him jumping to rather forced conclusions that just work as a plot device to keep him hesitant/suspicious. Incidentally, his thoughts on Juliana are also fairly forced just to offer a bit of conflict. I feel like these moments within his thoughts were meant to show him as a thorough thinker but kind of did the opposite where I found him a bit thick in the skull.
Juliana on the other hand was great. I wish we got more of her and her goals of getting the research published but that felt a bit like a throwaway plot point. I found her penchant for getting into scrapes endearing and her overall outlook on things felt honest. The dynamic between Juliana and Spencer was also really fun to read with their banter and very apparent feelings and I liked it best when they were in scenes together.
There was a lot that I thought could have been more developed but what we did get was an enjoyable read that offered some action, adventure, wit, and subterfuge.