(by guest blogger and dear friend K/V)
The signs were all there: anticipation and the thrill of the hunt (just imagine my increasing anxiety until I was able to locate a B&N bookshop in Manhattan – too few bookshops left there, IMHO!); the awareness of being hooked from the very beginning – “The end of her own particular world arrived early on a Tuesday morning, wrapped in brown paper and twine, sealed with a blob of red wax”; the unusual desire to lengthen the pleasure of reading by stopping before I really wanted to; the frequent re-reading of entire pages; the feeling of emptiness when the book was over; the lingering sense of bliss even days after I finished reading; the compelling need to tell someone about it...
And what’s more, it happened AGAIN within a matter of months! I already felt that way last spring, when I devoured Joanna Bourne’s Spymasters series all in one swallow, ending with The Black Hawk. At the time, I resisted the impulse, but this time I simply couldn’t. Also because the authors I usually feel inspired to congratulate happen to be dead for a long time, centuries sometimes, and it is a privilege to be able to do so with someone who’s not only very much alive, but also friendly available to readers through her own website and even a Twitter account! What a temptation!
I have always liked Spy stories and historical novels: the addition of a bit of romance is very welcome, but not necessary. The mixture can be (it usually is) very dangerous for a writer to handle, and the models are quite hard to compare with. I’m thinking of classics like Dumas’s Opera omnia, Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel, Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles and such. That’s why I admired Ms Bourne’s ability to blend the ingredients together creating her personal mix, with the addition of witty dialogue and insightful presentation of the characters’ psychology which I have seldom (if ever) happened upon. The characters, the main ones as well as the minor, are so cleverly portrayed and expanded, that they immediately start to grow on the reader: you can’t help actually caring for them. That’s because you can follow their thoughts, not being just a witness of their actions. Ms Bourne handles their background stories very cleverly, moving to and fro along the whole series – this is the 6th book of the series (including Her Ladyship’s Companion, because of Hawker’s ‘cameo’). Ah, Adrian: how couldn’t we love him? Looks like the Author herself can’t let him off: even if other (major) characters don’t appear in every novel, Adrian “Hawker” Hawkhurst is always there - at various stages of his interesting and complicated life – and smart, witty, lethal and good-looking as always. Not flawless, mind you: but that’s another reason why we like him.