Love, Lies and Spies
By Cindy Anstey
Published: April 19, 2016
In Love, Lies and Spies, Cindy Anstey's hilarious homage to Jane Austen, a lady with a penchant for trouble finds a handsome spy much more than merely tolerable.
Juliana Telford is not your average nineteenth-century young lady. She's much more interested in researching ladybugs than marriage, fashionable dresses, or dances. So when her father sends her to London for a season, she's determined not to form any attachments. Instead, she plans to secretly publish her research.
Spencer Northam is not the average young gentleman of leisure he appears. He is actually a spy for the War Office, and is more focused on acing his first mission than meeting eligible ladies. Fortunately, Juliana feels the same, and they agree to pretend to fall for each other. Spencer can finally focus, until he is tasked with observing Juliana's traveling companions . . . and Juliana herself.
Full of humor and English Regency Period charm, and starring a whip-smart strong female heroine, this young adult novel is the perfect mix of romance, action, and adventure.
I love Jane Austen's novels and have enjoyed other YA novels set during the Regency so I had high hopes for Love, Lies and Spies. I liked the idea of an intelligent female heroine and while I hate bugs I admired her interest in something other than ribbons and suitors. I also liked that she shared this interest with her father who encouraged her to pursue publication. I was expecting Juliana to become involved in Spencer's investigation but for the most part she is in the dark about his true motivations for much of the book. She accepts his story for why he needs to pretend to court her (his concern for his friend Lord Bobbington who is in love with Vivian Pyebald, a young lady Juliana knows). I admit I was disappointed that Juliana was not more involved in the action of the story though there is a secondary plot that affects her. I thought that at times she became a damsel in distress though to her credit she does try to get out of those situations first but ultimately must be rescued.
I did enjoy the romance between Spencer and Juliana. It was like a tamer YA version of the Regency romance novels I've read by Julia Quinn or Eloisa James. Like those novels there is also humor which I appreciated. Some of the secondary characters were caricatures and not fully developed, particularly the Pyebald family and Juliana's strict aunt Phyllis.
Overall however I thought the novel was pretty good in spite of my slight disappointment. I was expecting the book to be more like A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin but it is more like Patrice Kindl's Regency novels for teens (which I also liked). Fans of Keeping the Castle and A School for Brides by Patrice Kindl and The Season by Sarah MacLean or readers who like the time period should give this a try.