Book Review: I Spy a Duke

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Rating: 2/5
Title: I Spy a Duke
Author: Erica Monroe

 

I was super excited by the premise of this book. It’s something I haven’t read before. Action. Romance. Spies. Sadly, the execution didn’t live up to the premise.

The Duke of Abermont, James, is a spymaster for the English Crown. The book opens with his sister dying after being tortured when she was caught by another spy. Gruesome opening to a romance novel. Would’ve probably been better to learn about that through the story itself so I cared more about the sister. Would’ve been easy to do as the next scene is James drinking on the anniversary of his sister’s death.

James is recently Duke as his father has just died. James is your typical brooding, powerful hero. Physically perfect and a deadly spy in his own right. Spymaster and Duke, oh my.

Vivien Loren’s brother was murdered, and the bow street runners didn’t bother with finding who killed him. She wants revenge and is willing to do anything to get it. Even bury logic and rationality.

For some reason, she believes a mysterious stranger who says he’ll tell her who murdered her brother. All she has to do is help him prove James is financing a revolution in France. She agrees. *eye roll*

Why would Sauveterre, clearly a French name, choose to appear French? Especially when he really is. Why would Vivien go along with it? Vengeance may be a powerful motive, but it’s clearly paired with blindness and stupidity. Not the traits that make a heroine particularly appealing.

The position of governess to James’s five-year-old brother has recently opened and it’s one of the first open positions in James’ household in years. Why would Sauveterre risk this with an unknown asset? Why not a French spy? Or at least a known quantity?

Vivien takes the position as governess, and lo and behold, is unable to find anything. Shocking! You sent an untrained innocent after someone you suspected was a spymaster. *eye roll*

So after 6 months in their employ, she finds James drinking to his sister’s death. Vivien joins him and drinks to her brother’s.

And just like that, James is in love with her and suddenly does a complete character reversal. For a man who’s promised to do everything in his power to serve crown and country, he is amazingly ready to throw it all away for a woman he barely knows. Especially as he’s vowed to never lose another agent after his sister.

And he fell in love with her after knowing her all of 10 minutes.

And James still loves her even after she reveals she was working for Sauveterre when Sauveterre threatens her life after she’s been unable to find anything.

He doesn’t kill her or turn her in. Because he loves her.

There is almost no interaction between them after drinking to dead loved ones to her revelation that she’s been working for the French. But our born and raised spymaster still loves her. After one drink…

Not only does James not deal with her as you’d expect from a spymaster, but he then proposes marriage to her. What?!? A shared glass of brandy, her bandaging his hand and talking about their dead siblings for 10 minutes and he’s in love…with someone that was spying on him.?!? Albeit she was spying badly, but still she was spying for the French.

He overcomes his sisters’ reticence to this highly scandalous marriage (she’s his brother’s governess). We have some narrative filler, they get married.

Then he tells her the truth about him as they head out to a safe house so he can train her to be a spy. Except, maybe she won’t want to be…more fluff and filler. There is no real tension between them, there is no real romance, and there are no real obstacles.

She just has to wrap her brain around his being a spy. Governess to duchess and now to being a spy herself…

We see him work with her, train with her, teach her self defense.

Somehow Sauveterre finds the safe house. How is never revealed. This was supposed to be the super safest of safe houses…Never did figure out why Sauveterre knew James would take her there, either. Sauveterre makes some comments about it all being part of his plan… Apparently, he knew James was stupid enough to marry her, wait, no he didn’t, because he admits that too…

Battle scene and then happily ever after ending with Vivian becoming a spy in 3 months. Um, yeah. Sure.

 

How to make it 5 stars
The author needs to be true to James. How he can forgive the heroine and risk his entire organization for her, I don’t understand. I also don’t see him falling in love so quickly.

Might have been better to give Vivian some knowledge from her dead brother she doesn’t know she has. That’s why the French spy wants her. Except he wants her alive to torture the information from her.

Now we fall back on James wanting to protect her, keep an innocent safe (rather than a woman who ignored reason and worked for a French spy) while he tries to figure out what she knows that’s useful to the French. Gives a reason to keep the characters together and gives them time to fall in love.

We need more romantic tension. The love between them needs to grow rather than just poof into existence.

Also, the villain needs more. Why would he be so foolish one moment by bringing in an outsider to a difficult and sensitive job, then the next moment be able to find the safest of English safe houses?

Author also needs to tidy up things. Such as in one scene James telling Vivien not to leave the house for fear of Sauveterre, then the next sending her into town so James can talk to his sisters.

3 thoughts on “Book Review: I Spy a Duke

  1. This is interesting, was it a novella? It seems like it would be ok if it was a novella.

    I also sometimes wonder about some historical pieces if the author has spent a ton of time researching the period and thinks the reader should know things that would be a way bigger deal but doesn’t explain it. (Like is it a really big deal to mourn a sibling because that wasn’t normally done? I don’t know.) I came across something like this not that long ago. Clearly, I was supposed to be a reader of the genre and just supposed to know that this meant that.
    Which I get a little. I have a couple stories that if you are a regular paranormal/uf reader you’d be like oh! I know what’s happening. But the characters do discover along the way and so if you aren’t you still get to know what is happening.

    I’m not sure that made sense. Hm.

    1. I think novella might have worked, but I still think the author needed to rework the plot to make it work. I really think she was untrue to The hero’s character.

      The mourning of a sibling didn’t really bother me one way or another. I can believe he missed his sister, even more so because he felt responsible for her death because he sent her on the mission.

      But knowing that about him, I found it too hard to believe he’d then fall in love with an inept French spy (almost instantly), even if she unwittingly got involved with the French. If he did fall n love with her, I would expect it to take most of the story and for her to do some big things to prove her loyalty to the English and win his love.

      The historical timeframe in question has England and France as open enemies. While the date is never established, England and France were at war from 1803 to 1815. So anything written in the Regency period will have the British and French as deep adversaries. Or in open armed conflict.

      Like the US and Germany in WWII.

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