You Were Made to Be Mine
Julie Anne Long continues to fill the guestbook of The Grand Palace on the Thames with this not-quite-secret identity historical romance.
Christian Hawkes has just survived three years’ imprisonment by the French for being Britain’s espionage emperor. Now he’s on the trail of Lady Aurelie Capet, the Earl of Brundage’s French fiancée, who’s recently fled. An added complication? Brundage may just be the man who betrayed the British to the French at a crucial (though not decisive, as this is not an alternate universe) battle – and turned in Hawkes, too. Lady Aurelie, meanwhile, is fleeing Brundage not for his political actions, but his personal ones. Will Hawkes and Aurelie find each other? Eventually, when all the storylines converge at The Grand Palace. But this is not an express coach.
The early chapters of You Were Made to Be Mine resemble an ensemble historical sitcom, with broad, slightly wearying comedy provided by The Grand Palace’s other residents and some light romantic elements provided by its owners, Delilah and Angelique, whose love stories with their husbands carry over from prior entries in the series. Hawkes and Aurelie don’t meet until a third of the way in – a meeting at which Hawkes is unconscious. Once he does manage to focus both eyes on her, however, they’re mutual goners. However, the fact that they are kept apart for so long makes the book feel – structurally at least – like it isn’t a romance.
The title tells you everything you need to know: You Were Made to Be Mine. This is a soulmates sort of book. To call it instalove or instalust would be unfairly belittling Aurelie and Hawkes’s feelings. They clearly care (quite literally) for each other, and that sincerity saves their love story from crossing over from mushy to outright silly. Much of their romance involves Hawkes rescuing Aurelie from bodily harm. He cannot, however, save her from the bodily harm she sustained prior to the start of the book, which, it becomes clear early on, was rape at the hands of Brundage. This trauma, however, does not appear to affect the relationship between Hawkes and Aurelie in any tangible way. Aurelie falls hard for Hawkes and embarks on a emotional and sexual relationship with him with gusto. There’s some suggestion that the equanimity with which she handles her traumatic experience is deep shock, and Hawkes says “I suspect that how you think and feel about it will change over time” so it’s left somewhat open-ended.
Aurelie is French in the way that she’s a brunette – she just is. There’s no real discussion about what it would mean for her to be a French woman in 1820 in England, a country that has just emerged from a pivotal war with France. She’s naïve and yet hyper observant, especially about Hawkes. It’s easy to imagine she’d be an excellent spy (though that is not a plot twist here) – perhaps even better than Hawkes, who doesn’t so much spy on as subtly pry into people. He’s a very high-yield spy though; he meets with success at almost every turn in his efforts.
The writing elevates the story and keeps it from falling off the B-grade ledge. Long never takes a breather between lines of (good) dialogue, and makes every word work hard to make the novel’s world vivid without over-describing.
In keeping with the story’s aversion to the HEA epilogue structure of many romances, You Were Made to Be Mine ends with a knock at the door. Happily, though this tale is imperfect, it’s good enough that unlocking it doesn’t seem like a terrible idea.