TITLE: The Lady Lies, The Lady Killer, and The Lady's Code
AUTHOR: Samantha Saxon
STARTED: August 12, 2006
FINISHED: August 20, 2006
PAGES: 308, 322, and 300 (for a grand total of 930)
FIRST SENTENCE: The first thing he saw was feathers.; Nicole closed her eyes, but she could still see the image of General Capette sprawled across the mahogany desk with blood pouring from the ragged wound in the back of his head; and "Who are you?"
SUMMARY: [Taken from Barnesandnoble.com and Amazon.com] The Lady Lies - Lady Celeste Rivenhall lives a double life, a British agent posing as a French spy. Then Lord Aiden Duhearst is delivered into her hands as a prisoner of war—and she will risk anything to save him. Anything but the truth.
The Lady Killer - Nicole Beauvoire has many talents and one of those talents is being an assassin. She has just taken care of one target when a late night visitor comes bearing a note from her contact. Should she trust the hastily scrawled note or take her chances on the streets of Paris? Nicole is not a stranger to hardship and it is easy to loose her messenger...or at least she thinks it's easy until he shows up while she is busy creating her new life to take care of her last target.
Daniel McCurren finds himself in Paris trying to pull an agent to crown back to England. It is not safe for the Scorpion to be working now. The French are on to him and it's Daniel's job to get him out. Well, Daniel is about to get a shock. First he is a she, Nicole, and two, Nicole is strong willed and not willing to back down. She is also the first person to awaken his dormant feelings. He is not going to leave Paris without Nicole, and Nicole is about to find out she won't be able to do this job without the help of Daniel. Will these two wounded souls find a happy ending with each other or will an enemy finally get too close?
The Lady's Code - After her reputation is ruined by a nobleman seeking revenge on her father, Lady Juliet Pervill finds her true calling working in the Home Office. Her mathematical abilties enable her to break a code not even their master cryptologist, Seamus McCurren can crack. This is a blow to his male pride, but Juliet's charms and mind have enough appeal so that Seamus finds himself slipping into a romance even as French spies try to undermine everything he has worked towards. In the days that come, both Juliet and Seamus will face difficult, not to mention life altering choices as they face danger on many levels.
REASON FOR READING: I liked the cover of The Lady Lies the first time I saw it, I picked up the other two books after I found out that they were a part of a series.
THOUGHTS: It has been ages since I've deemed a romance novel or romance novel series worthy of being added to my keeper pile. These books were such a delight to read that some others in my keeper pile pale in comparison. Saxon has created a series that is unlike another other I have found out in the current romance novel market. While she may employ the tried and true Regency era British characters, she utilizes them in new and, for the romance genre, inventive ways.
All three novels rely upon the Napoleonic wars as a background. Instead of merely hinting at the conflict, Saxon throws her characters into it. In other romance novels, authors have the male hero flashback to his "horrid" time on the Continent. In Saxon's case, the has her female heroine be the main focal point of this plot device. Never before have I seen an author throw her female characters into such action driven plots. Saxon does it with skill. Her characters succeed supurbly in their chosen professions, without coming across as one dimensional superwomen. Saxon gives her women flaws, without making them wilting hothouse flowers. They are real, a feat which most romance authors cannot seem to achieve these days.
Lady Celeste Rivenhall is the female lead of The Lady Lies, a double agent, she is forced to walk a fine line between aiding England and sending hundreds of her British into the hands of her foes, the hated French. Along the way, she dreams of holding onto the ideal life of home and family, knowing that such an ideal is probably out of her reach. Enter the dashing (damn is he attractive), Lord Aid Duhearst. He makes her heart pitter patter. (Mine heart was doing its fair share of erratic beating as well, and it wasn't because of the panic attacks.) The zip of electricity between these two characters jumps out at you from their first meeting. A couple of inappropriate meetings later, and you've got a steamy and addictive couple. (Side note: I think I panted through the boudoir scene on pages 38 through 44.) Through a complex and wholly believable misunderstanding, Aidan is trying to uncover Celeste true self...in more ways than one. To which I say, "Victory!"
In The Lady Killer, Nicole is an assassin, and a tested one at that. She is good at her job. Very good. She is strong and stubborn, but not willfull or stupid. I've seen female assassins used before, but the seemed to lack the complexity of charater that Saxon builds in Nicole. Nicole's match is Daniel, a great heaping man of a Scot who will stop at nothing to keep Nicole out of danger. In their story, the chemistry had me getting a little warm. Throw in the assorted secondary characters, who are all complete and important in their own way, and you've got one hell of a read. Even the bad guys, namely Everiste Roussou, are likeable. It's hard to completely hate someone who is a vital, well written character. While The Lady Killer does not have as many standout scenes as The Lady Lies, the fact that it is set in the heart of Paris, makes it a memorable read.
Finally, we have mathematical geniuses Seamus McCurren and Juliet Pervill tested against one another. While The Lady's Code is the more typified Regency era romance, it has it's own nuances that are missing from the "usual" books. Juliet has spunk and she does not simper for the whole book after she's ruined. In fact, she's a stronger character because of it. Juliet views her predicament as a way to become her own woman. One who can openly admire a man for his assests. Seeing the interaction between her and Seamus, both as code breakers and characters who don't quite no what to do with each other socially, is very intriguing. In this book, Saxon's characters do the romance dance of "Do I love him/her?", "No, I don't," "Wait, do I?," "I refuse to believe it," "Maybe....," finally ending in "Dammit! I do love him/her." The do said dance, however, without being cheesy as sin. It's real, and it's fun. And it's hot.
Originally, I considered reviewing these books individually but, after some consideration, I decided that they needed to be reviewed as one piece. Why? The books are so cohesive as a series that it would be almost impossible to read them out of order or individually. While the books could stand on their own, they are much better when read as a set. The characters and plots overlap with such simple ease the even the most minor of plot incidents comes back to have consequence in future books. Once particular scene in The Lady Lies, involving a lightpost, comes back in the third book, The Lady's Code. The plot, themes, and characters string across all three books with such ease, that they coul have been one (huge) novel.
To top it all off, Saxon can write. She avoids all the terrible cliches and codified writing that typify the romance genre. She uses big words! And, she uses them correctly. She does not stray from description, but she avoids being flowery. Saxon's books are like my diet, everything in moderation (except for the chocolate.)
I can't wait to read Saxon's next book. If it's even half as good as these three, I'll have found another keeper.
MISCELLANEOUS: Publishers take note: This is how you do a sexy, but classy romance novel cover. Why can't I see more like this?
Also, all the titles have more than one meaning. I love it!
KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Keep! Keep! Keep!
RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]
CR: Joan of Arc in French Art and Culture (1700-1855): From Satire to Sanctity by Nora Heimann (one of my professors!)
RN: Hornblower and the Atropos by C.M. Forester