Here’s a treat that won’t break the bank. Julie Garwood’s entire Crown’s Spies series is available at OpenLibrary. Julie Garwood has always been a reliably entertaining historical romance writer, for me, and this series is one of my favorites. These books were published from 1988 to 1993, so you can expect the usual purple prose during intimate moments, when it is not fade to black. This seems especially timely because as I was working on this review, up popped a post about when classics don’t remain relevant. It may be the nostalgia talking, but these still work for me. What keeps Garwood relevant for me is the humor, engaging and quirky heroines, and alpha heroes who aren’t alpha holes. Yes, they are still dictatorial in acting the heroine’s best interest, but they tend to be sweeter than most heroes (especially the old school ones), and as often as not realize their love for the heroine sooner than she does. These 4 are only loosely connected, and really only by shared characters rather than overarching plot lines, so theoretically they could be read as standalones, but since they are all available, there’s no reason not to read the whole set. Plus, take a look at those fabulous retro covers, her publisher really picked a theme and went with it. They’ve all been updated many times, but I still really love those old covers. These books have been around a long time, so there are blurbs and reviews of these out the whazoo, so I am just going to post a bit about what I enjoy with each of them.
This book is unusual in that each chapter starts out with a passage from the heroine’s mother’s journal. They give the reader background and a sense of how Christina ended up in her unusual predicament. You see, she was raised by the Dakota tribe after her mother’s death, and due to a promise made to her mother she has now been returned to England. Due to her upbringing there was plenty of room for cultural and linguistic confusion, It probably isn’t politically correct, but I found it humorous. While Christina definitely has some issues fitting in, she was a very bold heroine, and Lyon was so sweetly befuddled by her. And there is one scene where she “divorces” him that is an absolute must read. I adore this story every time I read it.
This one starts out with a beautiful, but injured and terrified ingénue. She walks up to the notorious Robinhood like pirate, Pagan, and requests he shoot her right in the heart. Only problem? He’s not Pagan, and Jade’s no ingénue. She’s way more…entrepreneurial than that. (That’s makes her sound like she’s a pro, which isn’t the case, but you’ll see what I mean if you read it.) She’s funny, and savvy, and smart, and she can spin a heck of a yarn all while playing out the most outrageous understatements. There’s also a nice convoluted mystery, a dictatorial butler, and a blind pirate. It is a fun story.
The courtship started with a kidnapping, but that was perfectly fine because the kidnapper was her husband. Granted, she’d not seen him since she was 4, and she was running away to find him anyway, it was still a rather dramatic beginning. Sara is an intriguing blend of intrepid and Pollyanna. But she was almost ridiculously naive too, so setting her on a ship resulted in a litany of pratfalls.
This book has the most mystery and intrigue out of the series. Alesandra and Colin are the most combustible of the 4 couple, and Alesandra is something of a genius. I really enjoy reading about smart heroines, who aren’t afraid to work a system to their advantage, even if it requires deviousness. Colin on the other hand is somewhat oblivious, but he isn’t by any means portrayed as a buffoon as a foil for Alesandra’s intelligence, so it works for me. Plus, they have their own dictatorial butler, which is always a plus. This might be my favorite book out of the series.
Having reread the entire series all in one go, I will suggest not glomming them all in one weekend. But, they are fun stories with satisfying happily ever afters. 4 stars and highly recommended to anyone who likes classic historical romance.