The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig

>Madame Emma Delagardie has become a poetry heckler.  Augustus Whittlesby thought that he had created the perfect cover when he started using ridiculously effusive poetry to send coded messages back to England from Napoleonic France, until he began experiencing heckling in the form of Emma.  He’s tired of outrageous clothes and being thought of as an idiot.

Emma, an American emigre,  lost her husband four years earlier and has done her best to earn the label of “merry widow.”  But her parties, paste jewels, and ever-flowing champagne are her attempt to cover the grief for a husband that she only came to appreciate when it was too late.

Fate forces Whittlesby to deal with the biggest annoyance in his life when he needs to find a way to get an invitation to Napoleon’s house party and Emma’s commission to write a masque for the occasion is the only possibility.  Spending hours together, writing and laughing, makes both of them wonder if appearances aren’t always what they seem.  Augustus has a difficult time focusing on the mission and begins to question if it is worth the sacrifices he’s made for the good of his country.

The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig is another outstanding installment in The Pink Carnation Series, but works on its own just as well.  Rollicking dialogue, humorous espionage, and a delightful romance make for a great read.

  

An Ordinary Spy by Joseph Weisberg

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Written like a CIA report, An Ordinary Spy tells the story of new spy Mark Ruttenberg as he learns the ropes and reality of life undercover.  Alternating between researching dusty documents and cultivating relationships with possible informants, Ruttenberg longs for the big break that will raise his status in the organization.  When one of his informants starts to share quality information as he is falling in love with her, he begins to wonder if any information is worth the methods used in gathering it. 

Weisberg uses a device that some will find amusing and some annoying.  Some of the text of the book is blacked out, supposedly by the censors, so we miss out on some details.  Even with some of the context missing, he has created a gripping tale that serves up plenty of intrigue and action while examining the conflicts of living life as someone else.

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

>“Dear You,
The body you are wearing used to be mine.”
So begins the wonderfully imaginative debut novel The Rook by Daniel O’Malley. Myfanwy (pronounced like “Tiffany”) Thomas opens her eyes to find herself standing in a park in the rain surrounded by bodies wearing latex gloves. She finds two letters addressed to herself in her coat pockets containing instructions for how to either slide herself into the life of the old Myfanwy Thomas, the previous owner of the body, or how to run and begin a new life for herself with a new name. Myfanwy obviously chooses to stay and take up the responsibilities and life of Thomas (as she calls the old owner of the body), which turn out to be complicated and very surprising. Thomas was a “Rook,” one of eight heads of the organization known as the Checquy that protects the United Kingdom from supernatural threats. Someone was obviously trying to remove Thomas from the picture and Myfanwy is saddled not only with the challenge of quickly learning how to run a secret organization and control the supernatural powers she inherited along with her body but also with the task of sussing out the conspiracy behind her memory loss and how the increasing number of supernatural attacks since she woke up in the park is related to her existance.

This is a totally enthralling, complex, and darkly humorous debut that should appeal to readers who enjoy Jim Butcher or Neil Gaiman.

Shining Through

>Susan Isaacs is usually an author of womens fiction and mysteries but she has written two spy novels.  Shining Through is her fourth novel,  a World War II spy thriller.  It was made into a movie with celebrities Michael Douglas, Melanie Griffith and Liam Neeson.
Linda Voss is a secretary in love with her boss. As common place as that theme is, Linda’s dream comes true when the wife of her boss, John Berringer, leaves him for another man and circumstances allow for their marriage.  John is a high profile lawyer doing work for European countries in the late 1930′s.  Both he and Linda speak German which is essential for handling the business transactions frantically happening on the continent.  They are drawn into espionage through their law firm,  and Linda volunteers for a spy mission when their marriage begins falling apart.  This gripping novel with its romance and twisting plot kept me hooked.  All of Susan Isaac’s books have been New York Times best sellers!

Adrenaline by Jeff Abbot

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CIA Agent Sam Capra is in the middle of a meeting in London when he receives a call from his wife, urgently asking him to meet her outside—NOW. As he exits the building, an explosion rocks the area he just left, killing all of his coworkers, and he sees his wife Lucy speeding away in a car driven by a strange man. This begins the fast-paced thriller Adrenaline by Jeff Abbott. No one in the CIA believes that Lucy has been kidnapped; instead insisting she is a traitor and set up the bombing. They also believe Sam must have known of her plans—why else is he the only survivor? Sam begins a harrowing journey to outsmart the CIA and use his training to track down his wife and find clues to the puzzle of the bombing. This story is filled with non-stop action and violence. Sam is a man on a mission—resourceful, intelligent and committed to finding his family—a memorable character. Abbot weaves a complicated story that is hard to put down—a terrific beginning to what appears to be a new series.

The Forbidden Rose by Joanna Bourne

>William Doyle, an English spy stationed in revolutionary France, finds Marguerite de Fleurignac hiding in the remnants of her burned out chateau. She is the key to completing his mission of finding her father and a list of names of English military men he put together. Marguerite is determined to find her father and reunite with her family after the burning of the chateau, which fits right into William’s plans, so he maneuvers himself into escorting her to Paris. Along the way, Marguerite and William meet with other members of Marguerite’s network, La Fleche, that spirits people condemned to the guillotine out of the country. The two also come to admire each others’ intelligence and cunning in navigating the dangerous world of revolutionary France. Their attraction grows as they near Paris and the increased danger therein during the height of Robespierre’s Great Terror.

Bourne has created a wonderful romance between two strong, charismatic characters in The Forbidden Rose. The backdrop of revolutionary France and the Great Terror adds a sense of urgency and suspense to an already strong plot. The depth and relationships with the secondary characters also increases the appeal of this sensual love story.