Goodreads: Love, Lies and Spies
Published: April 19, 2016
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.
Love, Lies and Spies is a cute and fun Regency-inspired romance that adds just a dash of danger to the plot by adding some war-time intrigue. Protagonist Juliana Telford is insistent she is only interested in attending the London Season in order to sneak away and find a publisher for her and her father’s research on the lady beetle, but a dashing young gentleman might have other plans for her.
The “spies” part of the title could certainly have been played up more. Northam, to be sure, is working on an important case involving treason for the War Office, but the author took the route of constantly mentioning small details about the case without actually giving an overview of the thing until about page 230. (Seriously, I looked at the page number to confirm exactly how long it took me to figure out what Northam was trying to do because I spent most of the book confused.) And in the end, I didn’t find it that interesting. It seemed like a small case and lots of watching and waiting. I’m sure a lot of cases are like that, but it doesn’t necessarily make for exciting writing.
The focus of the novel is primarily on the romance, and I think that if you go in with that expectation, you’ll enjoy the book. It’s very episodic with lots of wondering of “When shall the protagonist ‘casually’ run into the love interest next?” Lots of scenes of small talk and subtle flirtations, lots of looking forward to and planning the next meeting. Northam is, indeed, quite romantic and gallant, so watching the romance unfold is likely to be as fun for the readers as it is for Juliana. There’s some social mingling and commentary as well, but don’t hope for it to be quite on the level of the Jane Austen novels that inspired the story.
The prose is inconsistent and alternately struck me as a good imitation of the Regency period and just off. When Anstey nails it, she nails it, but Juliana frequently comes across as a simpering little fool based on her awkward dialogue, muttering things like “Oh dear! Oh dear!” and things that sound too stilted for anyone to actually think or say. The opening chapter may be one of the best examples of this, as it’s amusing and engaging while just seeming wrong. I laughed while also thinking Juliana absolutely ridiculous and just a little bit…not bright. She shows her intelligence later in the story, particularly in the area of careful observation, but the things she says often made me question her.
I enjoyed Love, Lies and Spies. It’s light and entertaining and frequently made me smile. It’s certainly not the best book of intrigue I’ve read, but it’s a cute romance. Readers who like Regency-era romances will probably want to pick it up.
Note: There is a glossary in the back to help clarify some of the Regency-era expressions. I found most of them self-evident through context clues, but it drives me nuts to struggle through a whole book and only learn there’s a glossary after I’ve finished reading the entire thing, so I thought I’d point it out to other readers. So few books have glossaries that it never occurs to me to check for them before I begin reading, so they tend to be wasted on me.