Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
What I Liked:
Can we all take a moment to admire the gorgeous cover? I have a soft spot for covers that feature a symbol of symbols (versus a person or silhouette), and I absolutely adore this cover. The ARC doesn't quite look like that, so I can't wait to see shiny paperbacks!
In this adorable historical fiction novel, we have Juliana Telford, who is sent to London with her uncle, aunt, and cousin Carrie, to experience her first Season with Carrie. The only reason why Juliana agrees to go? So she can see if her and her father's research on a lady beetle can get published, and the publishers are in London. Meanwhile, we have Spencer Northam, who is a spy working for the War Office. The Pyebalds, a family that is staying with Juliana's family in London, are a family of interest for Spencer; surely they are the culprits behind a scheme that Spencer is investigates. Spencer is determined to complete his mission, but a certain Miss Telford keeps needing to be rescued. Will Spencer risk getting attached, and putting Juliana in danger?
You all know me - I LOVE adult historical romance novels. I devour those like candy. This book is a very YA/PG-13 version of an adult historical romance novel. What I mean by that? This book has the lush historical setting, witty characters and conversation, societal judgments and rules, and all the good stuff of an adult historical romance novel - minus sex and any physical intimacy, really. Super PG-13. My point - I really like this! I love adult historical romance novels and I adore this cute YA historical romance novel.
Juliana is a walking definition of clumsy, or maybe unlucky is a better word. She keeps finding herself in awkward and potentially dangerous situations, which is hilarious. At first I was rolling my eyes, but her missteps became so endearing. It's clear that she has no intention of entrapping any young gentleman, and that all she wants to do is observe beetles and do more research. But her aunt (who is quite nefarious) has other plans.
I love Spencer! He's a spy and still learning, so he's trying really hard to do a good job and complete this assignment. Spencer is a gentleman (though not a lord), and a very attractive and well-off and eligible bachelor. It's no surprise that Lady Pyebald wants her daughter, Vivien, to catch his attention. Nevertheless, Spencer and Juliana interact in the very first scene of the book, and from then on, to each of them, there was been no one else.
I'd also like to mention Lord Bobbington, who is Spencer's peer and friend. He IS a lord, but a bit of a penniless one, at that. He seems to have his attentions set on Vivien. Bobbington is hilarious, and he's always reining in Spencer's temper (especially when it comes to Mr. Pyebald, the Pyebalds' son who has taken an interest in Juliana - or her money, for that matter).
I guess I should talk about the romance! At first I was worried, because in the first scene, Juliana is introduced, as well as two gentlemen (Spencer and Bobbinton). The author actually makes it QUITE clear which gentleman catches Juliana's fancy (the author spends more time describing him), but I was worried that a love triangle might develop.
That did NOT happen. Bobbington sees immediately that Spencer is interested in Juliana (and throughout the book too), and backs right off. Mr. Pyebald also seems to have an interest in Juliana, but he is sleazy and creepy and Juliana does not tolerate his attention AT ALL (go her!). Neither does Spencer, for that matter. *wink* As for Vivien trying to get Spencer's attention - well, her intentions are just as genuine as her brother's towards Juliana, and her attentions are just as ignored. Juliana isn't dumb, and neither is Spencer.
I LOVE that the pair only has eyes for each other, and this is a constant thing throughout the book. So cute, too! She's eighteen and I think he's in his early twenties, and the two of them are like blushing young lovers. Young love, and all that. It's cute! I love watching them interact. I wouldn't say there is insta-love, definitely not on Juliana's part. But they are interested in each other from the start, and they deny feelings as the book goes on, and soon they can't deny them any longer.
Have I mentioned how adorable the romance is? Sweet, too. I love how they get to know each other, and how much they care about each other. There is some subtle swoonage, and there is one really physical swoony scene (only one, at the end, sadly). But lots of cute moments between Spencer and Juliana, I promise!
I hated Juliana's aunt, but I really liked her uncle, and her relationship with him. I also liked Juliana's relationship with her father. Right there, you have two very strong older-man-younger-girl familial relationship, versus a negative, controlling-father-young-daughter relationship. The aunt was controlling, but the uncle was kind, and the father was kind too.
ANYWAY I could probably go on and on but I won't! I have had some success with the Swoon Reads books I've read (hit or miss), but I think this one is my favorite. And I think it's a standalone, which makes my heart melt! The ending was perfect.
What I Did Not Like:
The only thing I have to complain about is that Spencer's spy work isn't obvious in the beginning of the book, and I feel like it took forever for the author to reveal what the assignment was, and what Spencer was trying to do. We're in the dark for so long, so it was difficult to discern what Spencer was doing. Spencer's secrets were hidden from Juliana, but they were also hidden from us readers.
But all was revealed towards the climax of the book, so it wasn't the worst way to set up the plot. I may have to reread this one to fully understand (no complaints about a reread!).
Would I Recommend It:
If you like historical fiction novels, I recommend this one! The author definitely did a great job of capturing a fictional 1800s London (and I feel like I would know, given how many adult historical romance novels I read!). That being said, if you like ADULT historical romance novels but also read YA (like me!), you'll enjoy this one.
4 stars. I love this book! And it's a standalone, which I really like. No series to draw things out and mess up the lovely romance (*cough* These Vicious Masks *cough*). I'd love to see the author write a book for Lord Bobbington and, er, his lady friend!
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