My Rating: I’d go there again (4/5)
I’ve never read a historical by Shana Galen before, and after finishing Love and Let Spy I feel that I’ve been missing out on some great reads. This was delightful and campy without going too far into the ridiculous. It’s a play on the spy thriller and it’s awesome. One thing to be aware of is that this is the third book in a series. While I don’t feel that it lessened my enjoyment or understanding of this one, I definitely feel that I need to read the two previous books.
The premise of this series from Galen has been spy movies. The parallels are obvious. Love and Let Spy features James Bond a.k.a. Jane Bonde (if Bond ever actually settled down with a gal). The two previous books took on Mr. and Mrs. Smith and True Lies. This obvious comparison shouldn’t work, and it just does. I love the sense of fun and humour these types of books demonstrate. Katherine Ashe did it in My Lady, My Lord, and Shana Galen excels at it in Love and Let Spy. I certainly wont turn down more books in this vein.
Jane Bonde is on the verge of being on the shelf. Unlike other young women, she’s not a wallflower, Jane has a very good reason for being unmarried at her advanced age of twenty-four: she’s a spy. While her contemporaries were dancing, flirting and courting, Jane was foiling dangerous plots and saving the fate of a nation.
She was the best. She’d never yet failed a mission. She was the operative sent in when other agents could not complete missions. (p. 81)
That’s all come to an end. Jane can no longer pretend that she’s off “at school” and the potential for unfounded and salacious rumours is ripe; hence, her uncle (and boss) decrees that Jane marry post haste. Uncle M has even picked the groom.
Dominic Griffyn is the illegitimate son of an actress turned Countess. Before his mother married the Earl, Dominic was dragged along through his mother’s less than desirable lifestyle. As a result, Dominic’s has a past that he’d rather forget. Unfortunately, his mother feels extremely guilty for putting Dominic in harm’s way as a child and is determined to him wed to the best. Dominic’s mother and stepfather insist that he wed Jane Bonde. Alas, their first meeting is not love at first sight; neither want to marry and both are fiercely guarding their own secrets. Dominic in particular has some difficult issues to deal with. He’s not a spy, but his past has scarred him none the less, and marriage is not going to “cure” him:
He didn’t want a wife who was unconventional. He didn’t want a wife at all – not from the beau monde at any rate – another prim and proper miss who would look down on him because he was the bastard son of an actress. He’d lived all his life with the taunts and jibes of others because of his mother’s career. If he ever were to marry, he wanted a wife who stayed home and…did whatever it was women did. They did not carry pistols and suffer knife wounds. (p. 128)
The decision of both to remain unmarried is rather complicated when Dominic stumbles upon Jane when she’s on mission. Intrigued despite his better judgement, Dominic soon finds out that his betrothed is much more than meets the eye. Dominic suddenly realizes that perhaps the conventional wife is not exactly what he wanted.
What I loved about Love and Let Spy was the fact that Galen made Bond a woman. This is especially intriguing given the historical setting. Jane Bonde kicks butt and saves England all while falling in love. I thought the author did a great job playing around with this spy concept. It was Jane that was saving the day and out running Dominic. It’s not often that you see this and I appreciate that the author changed the genders up in her re-imagining of James Bond. While there were times that I logically considered that Jane was not a realistic character, I was happy to suspend belief and go with in the case of this novel.
While I did enjoy the spy elements and how Galen plays with the genre, the romance in Love and Let Spy was solid. Both Jane and Dominic had their hang-ups leading them to avoid marriage. There was more here than a spy adventure, there was also a romance between two people that have to come to terms with the impending changes in their life. Jane had to recognize that she could have more than a career and Dominic especially had to deal with his past and recognize that he didn’t need a conventional wife and that his past was not one that he had to live with, continuing to feel ashamed. This romantic aspect is what made me enjoy Love and Let Spy so much. It was more than an obvious comparison, it was it’s own story as well, with unique characters.
If you’re looking for historical accuracy, you wont find it here, but you will find an adventurous and fast-paced book. Don’t take yourself too seriously with this one, expect to have fun and enjoy! I’m looking forward to checking out the previous books in the series, in fact, they’re already sitting on my book shelf, and I can’t wait to see what the other does with the spy genre.
*Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
Clearly I liked the mash-up quality of Love and Let Spy and it’s a trend that I could see myself really getting into, at least, when I’m looking for a light read. Another similar book is My Lady, My Lord. If you’ve ever seen It’s a Boy Girl Thing, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. My Lady, My Lord is exactly like that in a historical setting and I loved it!
For a series comparable to Shana Galen’s, give Tracey Devlyn’s Nexus series a try. It doesn’t play on the obvious humour of Galen, but A Lady’s Secret (book 3) is a dynamite read.
If you liked humour of Love and Let Spy you absolutely need to try Lauren Willig’s The League of the Pink Carnation series. You should start from book one, but I think The Deception of the Emerald Ring is the one most similar to Love and Let Spy. Letty accidently finds herself married to Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe; things become much more complicated when Letty learns she’s married to a spy.