I finally got around to reading more Julie Anne Long books while I was on vacation, MrsJulien and Malin having strongly recommended her, and since they’re from a trilogy, I’ll review them together here. I mindlessly browsed in the library the other week, without my handy Goodreads app (I’d left the cell on my coffee table), so I was not aware that the two books I chose, Beauty and the Spy and Ways to Be Wicked were from a series. Due to this, I read them out of order. But no matter, they were enjoyable all the same, and I’ll definitely check out the third and final chapter of the Holt Sisters Trilogy when I’m next at the library. I’ll also take my phone with me so I can remember I’ve been meaning to read What I Did for a Duke for ages now.
Ways to Be Wicked is the story of Sylvie Lamoureux, a prima ballerina with the Paris ballet, and Tom Shaughnessy, a bawdy theater owner slash Adonis. Sylvie has learned that she may have a sister living in London and so she flees from her comfortable life and domineering lover (a Bourbon prince, seriously. I need to refresh myself on my French history as I’m not sure how that worked out post-revolution. I used to know but I don’t now, it’s been 17 years). In a bit of a contrivance, she lands at Dover and immediately has to hide from said lover (Etienne, one of my favorite French names) and throws herself into the coach for hire (or whatever that’s called), and lap, of Tom Shaughnessy. Of course he’s intrigued by this spritely vixen and of COURSE she ends up needing his assistance later. At first they spar mentally, and he strives to remain free of entanglements with her; Tom makes it a point NEVER to get involved with his dancers so he hires her as one. Eventually, of course, they develop feelings for each other and sexy time and romance happen and the end.
There are more aspects of the story but the sideplots aren’t too heavy. I expect that is because most of the history of this family of women was laid out in book one and I started in the middle. In any case you get a taste of Sylvie’s back story as well as Tom’s, and some entertaining supporting cast. Strippers (or their predecessors, really) often make interesting characters. I like Sylvie because she isn’t innocent, she has a temper, and seems generally capable of getting shit done. Tom is a decent hero. He’s handsome, came from nothing, and seems fairly straight forward. It’s been a few days since I finished this one so I’m having trouble recalling any real stakes here, so I guess that’s my only quibble with this particular entry. Beauty and the Spy is the first of the Holt Sisters trilogy and I enjoyed this story a bit more than the second. Susannah Makepeace’s father has just been murdered in an apparent robbery gone wrong and moves to live with a cousin-aunt figure she didn’t know she had in the sleepy village of Barnstable. Her father had apparently been living well beyond their means and so the penniless orphan has now found herself friendless, fiancé-less and homeless, at least until the intervention of Aunt Frances. Though she is bored she entertains herself as best she can. This includes daybreak walks in the woods and sketching the incredibly handsome nude figure of the young gentleman she comes across skinny dipping in a nearby pond. This is Kit Whitelaw, a rakish aristocrat with a terrible reputation.
In truth, Kit is a spy for the crown and has been sent to Barnstable for a list of infractions his father deems too great to manage. Either finish a folio on local flora and fauna, or, pack it off to Egypt or something. Naturally Kit chooses England and despite his father’s admonition that he stay away from women, he is drawn to Susannah’s charms and artistic talents. Then accidents start happening a little too often around her, and Kit’s spidey sense begins to tingle. Someone is trying to off her, and he is determined to get to the bottom of it. I really liked Kit. I seem to have a penchant for the rake, which isn’t surprising if you’ve read previous romance novel reviews I’ve posted. He’s funny, charming and strikingly handsome if not conventionally good looking. He toys with Susannah but more in an effort to shake her up a little. She seems quite sheltered and shy, definitely more of a wallflower type. I do like Susannah, but Kit’s the star of this show for me.
I suppose since Susannah’s back story is more of a focus, and affects the rest of the trilogy, I should mention it, but I am not sure how to do so without a long explanation. These books are super easy reads so just check them out yourself instead. They’re fun to dig into on a cold winter’s night.