Monday, August 8, 2016

Review - A Spy's Devotion

Original Title: A Spy's Devotion
Series: The Regency Spies of London, #1
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Published: February 9th, 2016

Publisher: Waterfall Press

*THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*

First of all, I need to say something. This is my second book by Melanie Dickerson, and as I didn’t like the first one I read, I had very low expectations with this one. However, I decided to give her another chance, as this novel came out sorted [twice] from my to-read jar. And I’m glad I did it. It is such a beautiful book!

In A Spy’s Devotion, we find ourselves in Regency England, and meet headfirst the lovely Julia Grey, our heroine. She’s an unloved orphan, ward to her aunt and uncle, the Wilherns, who took her in when her parents died, leaving her homeless and penniless, so she grew up alongside her cousin Phoebe, who is, by the way, the only person in the family who actually cares for her. Upon first meeting Julia, I thought I wouldn’t like her, as she was so innocent and sweet, and had one or two moments that kept me rolling my eyes, like when she feels guilty because she only smiled to Nicholas Langdon –our hero–, when her cousin Phoebe is so hopelessly “in love” with him, determined to marry him, and Julia has agreed to say everything in her power for Nicholas to pay attention to her, fall in love, and hence, propose. She actually feels guilty way too much, and there were some moments in which I felt a bit tired of her saying so over and over again. But there’s some things I really loved about her. Julia Grey is everything a lady should be during the era. She’s beautiful but modest, unaware of her own charms and beauty, and although she often ends up relegated in favor of her cousin –given her wealth, her social standing, and her many more chances of making a good marriage–, that doesn’t mean the world doesn’t see her blue eyes, her dark hair, and her wonderful talents. I truly loved the fact that Julia definitely has bigger dreams than those of getting engaged to a rich, titled man; she’s romantic in her own way, as she has an amazing talent for music. But as we know, women’s art was to keep them entertained rather than having the chance of turning into their livelihood, and though Julia would have a rightful place as a performer and composer, playing for kings and queens in the courts of Europe, the fact of being a woman has closed all the doors for her, limiting her talents to a few pleasantries when she plays for others to dance, or for herself.

However, she doesn’t go completely unnoticed, and of course, the one who sees all her virtues is Nicholas Langdon, the man Phoebe Wilhern wants to marry desperately. I loved him, utterly and completely, since his first page. He’s kind, loving, honest, and brave, a good man in every possible way. He falls in love with Julia since the first moment he sees her (and she, with him), in a ball, in despite that he notices her efforts to turn his attention to her cousin Phoebe, but he’s unable to marry her; he has no fortune, and neither she does. He’s just a soldier, convalescent after a war injury, in possession of a diary containing coded information about General Wellington, something he must keep away from the traitors’ hands. But he’s assaulted in the street, and the diary is stolen by two men sent by Julia’s uncle. And so begins her brief involvement in espionage, secretly gathering information to pass to Nicholas, to prevent the general’s assassination. I admit I was terrified when her uncle found out about her (though it wasn’t so difficult to connect the dots and discover who was passing his information to the War Office), and when he told her he wanted to marry her off to Edgerton to shut her up, or he would kill her himself, he was truly scary. I hated him, and Edgerton, and I loved Nicholas when he rescued her from him at the ball, without thinking twice that it was the second time he was asking her to dance, and without noticing that he was going to be the talk of the ball. He just thought of her, and the situation she was in, and I did what he had to do. He is a true gentleman.

By the way, I also loved his sister, Leorah Langdon, as a character, and I really hope the next book on this series is about her. She’s definitely an amazing young woman, with the best attitude towards the world she lives in and its rules, always honest, and always true to herself. She’s a great friend to Julia, as she is her polar opposite, and proved to be the best of friends.

There were a few things in this book that I want to mention. First of all, Sarah Peck’s story. Her introduction is too brief as to feel something as a reader when she leaves to become a governess, and although, in the next chapters, Julia warns her about her master’s son’s intentions, she still falls for his charms, and ends up pregnant. Upon knowing that, I knew exactly how her story would continue, and in fact, that’s what happened, actually; there wasn’t much of a surprise for me there. I knew she would go to the Children’s Aid Mission, and eventually, would marry John Wilson. It wasn’t so difficult to guess. But I was happy for her, anyway. And on the other hand, I wish we had known more about Edgerton and Henrietta’s ending. They stubbornly wanted to marry Julia and Nicholas, respectively, and all the sudden they eloped, out of nowhere, and there was no more information about it, even after all he did to have Julia’s hand, and how hateful he was. I thought at least, he would end up arrested. Plus, Henrietta’s appearance is a bit sudden, all we know is that she was Nicholas’ first love, and I think it was silly of Julia to think he could possibly marry her, after everything she and Nicholas went through; not just the espionage, but all those dances they shared, his help and loving care when she was ill with pleurisy, and when she was shot trying to save his life, not to mention all of those lingering looks and brief kisses he managed to sneak onto her hand. After all those moments, in which he proved how much he cared, it truly bothered me that she still thought him capable of doing such a wretched thing, when he told her to meet him in the garden, and she saw him with Henrietta. After all they went through, she really thought he did that on purpose, and I couldn’t believe her. Come on, Julia, you are innocent but not stupid, you can’t think that way at this stage of the game!

He even tells her so: “I would have married you even though I didn’t have a fortune to offer you.”. He truly loved her, we knew that already, and Julia could have guessed it, but she didn’t. She never had the hope that Nicholas loved her back. But I liked her because of her evolution as a character and as a person. She starts the book being a sweet, almost naive girl, but she’s no fool. And along the way, she grows into a more determined woman, knowing that the rules of society don’t always match the ones in her heart, and that she needs to be honest with him about her feelings, finally giving him the letter she had poured her heart into.

She marveled at what she had done. The old Julia would have been lightheaded and faint at the thought of writing such a letter, of flouting society’s rules and laying bare her heart. And though he may reject her love, she still did not regret that she had told him. He was a respectable man who would not take advantage of her, and she saw nothing wrong with him being so straightforward, even if society strictly forbade such declarations from a woman.

She evolves as a human being, knowing that she needs to break society’s rules to stay true to herself. Nicholas and Julia love each other mostly because they’ve seen each other at their worst, and they still want to be together. Maybe they are a bit too flawless as characters, almost with no faults, but that doesn’t take away the beauty of their story. They faced losing each other to marriage to someone else, and even to death (Julia twice, no less), and it was enough to see there was no way they could be happy without each other.

The ending was beautiful, and it left me with a big smile on my face. It wasn’t like I doubted they would end up together, but it was utterly beautiful the way he ran after her when she left the house where she worked as a governess, and saved no kisses, when they finally acknowledged their feelings. Something I truly value is the fact that it wasn’t a happy ending for everyone; not everything ended up perfectly. Julia’s relationship with Phoebe ends up in suspense, as it cannot be what it was again, not after she worked against her father, and he’s a fugitive, wanted for treason. Phoebe never heard Julia’s advices about the open display of her feelings, and she didn’t change in that aspect, but in the end, she was cured of her obsession with Nicholas, and married Daniel Dinklage instead. Their relationship ends up broken, but Julia doesn’t regret she helped her country, if briefly. But, among all the nonsense Phoebe talks, I agree with her when she tells Julia she needs to stop being so cautious and let herself flirt a bit, without feeling so guilty about it. She means no harm, after all, but she mistakes being nice with being flirtatious, and that kept me rolling my eyes from time to time. Come on, Julia!

Still, I’m definitely going to read the rest of the books in this series, it was a nice surprise from this author. I can’t wait for the next one!
 

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