Love, Lies and Spies
by Cindy Anstey
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.
Ahhhh, it’s been awhile since I’ve read a historical fiction set in the 19th century. I miss the chivalry and all the dancing – GIVE ME A 19TH CENTURY GENTLEMAN ANY DAY.
I have to say the highlight of this book was definitely the humour. There’s a lot of cheeky banter and sneaking around. It’s a light read for anyone looking for something to cheer up their day.
The main premise of the book was the two character’s disdain for marriage which was fun to read but kind of contradictory given their constant flirting. Juliana is set on finding a publisher for her and her father’s research on lady beetles and Spencer is given the task to spy on a particular family with a tendency to do some questionable things. Both these characters cross paths and from there, a hilarious and flirty relationship is formed.
Let’s talk about Juliana. We’re introduced to her character whilst she’s hanging over a cliff. It’s there that Spencer swoops in like a knight in shining armour to save her. It’s a pretty unconventional beginning but it was their banter during this scene that was the highlight.
“Please, I do not wish to be rescued by a gentleman. Could you find a farmer or a shopkeep – anyone not of the gentry – and do me the great favour of forgetting you saw me”
Straight for the beginning, we can see their chemistry. Spencer is swoon-worthy good looking and a straight out gentlemen and Juliana is as witty as Elizabeth Bennet (Good ol’ Lizzy is better though). The story very much has a Jane Austen feel. All the dancing and the dresses was very whimsical to read about.
Juliana’s aunt was freaking annoying though. She was a patronising old lady who was constantly whining about Juliana’s lack of ladylike-ness. “Do this, do that, don’t do that, don’t do this” – it was all very frustrating but it balanced out the story. Whilst the book sort of romanticised the 19th century, Aunt Phyllis’ patronising grounded the book in showing the very strict expectations of women at the time. She was that nosy women, match-making people up and making sure every single lady was on her ‘best behaviour’. Let’s just say I would not survive in this era.
In terms of plot, the romance was entertaining to read about but it overwhelmed the whole spies and lies part of the book. I would’ve like a stronger storyline that balanced out the romance. It seemed like I was reading a lot of Juliana looking forward to seeing Spencer and Spencer in awe of Juliana. I have to say they were both love-sick puppies.
All in all, a light and entertaining read about two unconventional people in the 19th century. Recommended for anyone who’s a fan of Jane Austen, history and swoon-worthy gentlemen!