Desert Isle Keeper
What could be better than a historical romance with a good dose of spying thrown in? If the book in question is written by Joanna Bourne, the answer is a resounding “nothing at all”! I’ve fallen in love with many of Bourne’s characters, and was beyond pleased to see that this fifth installment of the immensely popular Spymasters series featured Thomas Paxton. Accomplished narrator Kirsten Potter once again delivered a spellbinding performance, making Rogue Spy one of my top listens of 2014.
Ten years ago, fourteen-year-old Thomas Paxton was sent by French Revolutionaries to infiltrate the British Intelligence Service. Trained to be adept at all things related to spying, Pax fulfilled his duties beautifully. However, he’s never been able to shake the guilt he feels for deceiving the people he has come to think of as family. Now, he’s returning to London to confess his crimes. He is certain he’ll be executed, and has made peace with this as best he can. He’s sure it’s what he deserves.
Camille Leyland lives in the country with two old women she claims are her aunts. Like Thomas, Cammie received top training as a child, and she is the best codebreaker known to both French and English. She’s lived with the Leyland sisters for the past decade. Her life is comfortable, but she realizes this won’t last forever. Too, Cammie knows better than to set down permanent roots and that she must be ready to run at only a moment’s notice. Despite all this knowledge, Cammie is surprised to receive a letter from someone who claims to know her secrets. She must go to London and meet her blackmailer if she hopes to protect the women she’s come to care for.
Pax and Cammie have known each other since they were teenagers when both were trained with other children by the French to infiltrate various parts of British Intelligence. Pax was once the leader of these lost children, doing his best to give them strength and hope during what must have been a very bleak time. Cammie has fond memories of her childhood friend, but, when he begins to interfere with her plans, she knows these feelings must be put on the back burner. She can’t afford to view Pax as anything but an enemy. So much time has passed since they were on the same side, and Cammie isn’t sure trusting him would be wise.
For his part, Pax knows better than to underestimate Cammie. He is well aware of her many strengths. He doesn’t count on the feelings of desire that creep up on him when he and Cammie are reunited. She is part of one last assignment he has been given by his superiors, his last chance to prove his loyalty to the English crown. But can he really sacrifice Cammie, especially when he learns what is behind her return to London?
As always, Kirsten Potter’s performance was spectacular. Her low, husky tone is very pleasing to the ear. Her character differentiation is excellent. She is able to suggest the masculinity of Pax and the other male characters without lowering her pitch too much. Likewise, female characters are not made to sound simpering or shrill.
My one complaint has to do with accents. Rogue Spy has quite the cast of characters, and I felt a little cheated when I didn’t hear any regional accents used to make one stand out from the others. Ms. Bourne’s characters come from England, France, and Italy, but they all speak in cultured tones, with no accent at all. Servants and gentry sound almost interchangeable, something that wouldn’t have happened if Ms. Potter would have made use of even a few accents.
I was very pleased with the way Ms. Potter chose to differentiate characters who are not of similar ages. We are able to sense Adrian’s youth by the light, teasing tone Ms. Potter gives him. Cammie’s surrogate aunts sound like kindly, if eccentric, old ladies. I was able to intuit quite a lot about the various characters, based on Ms. Potter’s depiction, something that definitely came in handy.
Rogue Spy isn’t crammed full of sex. However, there is a fair amount of sexual tension between Pax and Cammie. Ms. Potter is quite adept at portraying this. I could hear their longing when they spoke to each other. It made their eventual coming together very sweet and fulfilling.
Cammie and Pax were incredibly well-matched. One did not constantly outshine the other. Pax wasn’t constantly coming to Cammie’s rescue. I enjoyed the equality of this hero and heroine. Often, historical romances feature overpowering heroes, who are unwilling to recognize the strength and independence of their women. I was very pleased that Cammie and Pax respected each other, and that Ms. Bourne gave each time to shine.
Rogue Spy had a plot that kept me engrossed from beginning to end. It didn’t drag, and, in fact, I would have been pleased to listen for at least a few more hours. This is a book I hated to finish. It’s a fabulous love story, and the intrigue worked very well. I was left guessing how certain aspects of the story would turn out until the very end. Ms. Bourne definitely did not take the easy way out with any part of the plot.
Breakdown of Grade – Narration: A- and Book Content: A
Unabridged. Length – 10 hours 26 minutes