Severine de Cabrillac is a "retired" spy, cultivating a reputation as untouchable spinster who uses her clandestine skills as private inquiry agent. Although surrounded by family and loyal retainers she is haunted by the dark choices she made in the service of Military Intelligence during the wars in Spain.
Like Severine, Raoul Deverney bears the scars of his years in Spain and the consequences of the risky and youthful choices he made there during the wars. He needs Severine's help to find his late wife's child, Pilar, missing since her mother's murder. However he does not approach Severine as a client would instead confronting her in the dark of her bedroom, because he knows exactly how dangerous she is, she nearly cost him his life in a incident she claims to not remember.
Severine becomes intrigued by the case, determined to find Sanchia's killer and the missing child but she is also frustratingly captivated by the mysterious Raoul. Their courtship is all biting mistrustful flirtations, and unspoken feelings. They spar and get more and more entangled in each other as they grudgingly work to unravel why his estranged wife was killed and why Pilar would carve Severine's name before disappearing.
"She used light words that didn't say what she was thinking. He was doing the same. They leaned on each other and everything important between them went unsaid."
Raoul like her Papa Doyle and her brother-in-law Adrian Hawkhurst, respects her skills and talents. He is dangerous and skilled himself and able to taunt her in ways few others can, but he recognizes and values her sharp mind and the connections she can make and never attempts to diminish her.
"One did not, he suspected, write poems to Severine's eyebrows. One slew dragons for her, or stood slightly to the left, holding her spare lance and buckler, while she did they slaying."
I adore the slightly off-kilter dynamics of the Bourne's families. Although Severine has been cultivating a deliberately "sensible, useful, careful life" since her return from Spain, and her family knows that everything is far from right with her. they trust her to heal and give the time to do so. They all know she is made for more and they trust that she will want to live fully again someday. So while Doyle and Hawker might want to shelter, protect her and even fuss over her they know better than to try. They just love her in wordless but powerful ways.
"At least she's armed,"
"A cogent summation of the women of my family."
I loved Pilar, yet another in a long line of children who find unlikely refuge and champions in these novels. So many people hate children in romance novels but Bourne excels at creating sharply-smart vulnerable children surviving in dangerous situations. Severine was such a child before Doyle and Marguerite made room for her in their family. Bourne never forgets that however remarkable they are, they are children.
Spymaster Series by Joanna Bourne is one of romance's modern classics and one of my all-time favorite series. The series is beautifully written, darkly suspenseful and incredibly romantic, and this highly anticipated installment does not disappoint.
While Bourne's novels benefit from re-reading, you don't need to re-read or even read any of the previous novels in order to love Sevie and Raoul's story. Everything you need to follow their courtship and become fascinated with the mystery of Pilar's disappearance and the missing Deverney locket is in this novel. But I guarantee that you will want to find all the previous novels when you are done, especially Doyle, Hawker and Pax's stories. I suggest when you do go looking, you start with The Forbidden Rose, which I consider the narrative heart of the series.
I received an ARC for review consideration from Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley.
Expected date of Publication is Aug 1, 2017 and it will be available at all the usual places in audio, print and ebook.