In Bed With a Spy
I haven’t (yet) got around to reading Alyssa Alexander’s début novel, The Smuggler Wore Silk, but having heard good things about it from friends whose opinions I trust, I was keen to read her latest book, In Bed With a Spy. I was very impressed with the author’s ability to create a fast-paced story and compelling, rounded characters, and at the same time to develop a romance with a very “adult” feel to it (in the sense that the characters act their ages rather than their shoe sizes!) with enough sexual chemistry between the leads to set the book alight.
Crazed with grief and bent on revenge upon learning of her husband’s death on the battlefield at Waterloo, Lilias Fairchild took up his sabre and rode into battle herself, killing many enemy soldiers and earning herself the nickname The Angel of Vengeance.
Alastair Whitmore, Marquess of Angelstone is a British spy who has spent years tracking down a group of assassins known as the Death Adders. It’s become rather an obsession with him ever since they murdered his lover four years before, and he has diligently collected evidence from every assassination the group has claimed. Tasked with carrying a message to Wellington at Waterloo, he briefly fought at Lilias’ side, and has never forgotten the sight of the lone woman, riding hell-for-leather, wielding her sabre inexpertly but with deadly intent. When, two years later, he sees her in a crowded ballroom, he is immediately captivated and determined to have her.
The couple trade witticisms and thinly veiled double-entendres that immediately communicate to the reader the fact that here are two people who aren’t afraid to acknowledge the attraction between them and are prepared to go after what they want. Lilias hasn’t felt even the tiniest stirring of attraction for any man since Waterloo, and certainly nothing like the heat of the desire the handsome marquess evokes in her. Yet she’s wary – Angelstone is a notorious rake and she senses something dark and hidden in him which should repel her, but which only draws her toward him even more.
Not long after her first encounter with Angel, Lilias makes the devastating discovery that her late husband – a man she’d loved deeply and lived with for six years – was not the person she had believed him to be. It’s a crushing blow, and yet Lilias is not defeated; instead, she’s furious at the deception, and perhaps angry with herself for never suspecting – and steels herself to find out the truth, no matter how dangerous the search or how distasteful the that truth turns out to be.
In Bed With a Spy is a thoroughly entertaining and well-balanced blend of thriller and romance. The thriller element of the story is well-plotted, and the various twists and turns kept me firmly hooked as Angel and Lilias’ search for the leader of the Death Adders brings them closer to danger and to each other.
The romance is tender and sexy and every bit as well-written as the mystery plot and the chemistry between the central couple is scorching. Both are emotionally bruised and never expected to discover such a strong bond with another person, so they have to work at allowing themselves to trust and love again. But what makes their relationship stand out from so many others in the genre is the fact that they talk to each other and act like adults; they have fights, they make up. Lilias wants to help with Angel’s search for the assassins, and while he wants to keep her out of it to protect her, he also recognises what an asset she could be working alongside him.
Lilias is independent, intelligent, and above all, sensible. Heroines of her ilk are often prone to doing stupid things that put them in danger, but not Lilias, which is one of the things I really liked about her. And Angel is a wonderful hero – clever and ruthless when he has to be, but also a man devoted to his family and who wants the best for his family. There’s some lovely familial interplay in the story between Angel and his mother and sisters, a gentle teasing which is both poignant and funny. He’s also a hugely talented violinist, which, as far as I’m concerned, makes him practically the perfect romantic hero!
In Bed With a Spy is well written, the story is gripping and well-told, the central characters act like grown-ups, and the sex scenes, while not overly explicit are hot and sensual. Another big plus is the fact that Angel and Lilias don’t have to trawl through pages of misunderstandings in order to get their HEA; the author very wisely steers clear of attempting to create tension by throwing in silly plot-devices when there’s already enough going on in the story and in their relationship to provide it. As an example – when, late in the book, Lilias learns some important information, even though she and Angel have had a bit of a tiff, she doesn’t think to keep it to herself in a fit of the sulks; she know’s what she’s discovered is vital and goes to him straight away, regardless of the way things stand between them.
I really enjoyed the book, although I do have a couple of minor reservations. Firstly, the identity of the villain is obvious, even though Ms. Alexander does a good job throwing in a red-herring that briefly made me wonder if perhaps my initial suspicion was wrong before I decided it wasn’t. And the ending, while exciting and full of action, is just a bit the wrong side of implausible and is very rushed. I felt rather as though I’d been running down a hill as the tension ramped up – and instead of it levelling out gradually as we headed to the final page, I hit a brick wall! The story would perhaps have benefitted from one more, gentler paced chapter to level things out before it ended.
But other than that, it’s a great read and one I have no hesitation in recommending.