My Beautiful Enemy
So, here’s where I make my confession that this is my first book by Ms. Thomas. It’s a literary crime that it took me this long to pick up one of her spellbinding stories, but I’m paying my penance by devouring her back catalogue, I promise. Regarding this work, while I really liked a lot of parts of this story, a lot of others didn’t really work for me. I have not read the first part of this duology, but upon finishing My Beautiful Enemy and spending most of the first hundred pages super confused, I’d recommend picking that up first if you’re going to read this one.
My Beautiful Enemy is the story of Leighton and Catherine/Ying-Ying. They meet several years before the main plot of this story, in Chinese Turkestan where she is masquerading as a boy. Leighton, who is undercover as a British spy, sees through her ruse almost instantly, but plays along until one fateful night in a cave. They pledge forever to each other, but that forever is snatched from them.
Fast forward about eight years later. Leighton is back in England to fulfill his duty of marriage and producing an heir, but has never stopped loving the woman whose name he never knew. Imagine his shock to find her in England and being called ‘Catherine Blade’. She’s there to steal back some jade tablets of her stepfather’s and to return home as soon as possible.
Besides being a touch confused at the back-and-forth nature of the first part of the narrative, as we catapult from ballrooms back to the cave to drawing rooms back to the cave, etc., I was pretty taken by Catherine as a narrator. Ms. Thomas’ prose is haunting and beautiful, and I look forward to encountering her style again. However, this one took me too long to figure out what was happening and while the suspense/martial arts/romance combo didn’t really work for me fully, neither did it leave me completely wanting.
I would recommend this one to any historical suspense fans, anyone looking for historical romances that take place outside of England (about half of this one does), and anyone who is into strong heroines. Leighton’s almost a non-starter here, so anyone reading this is really reading it for Ying Ying.