I received a copy of this story through Netgalley, and this is my unsolicited review.
'Wed to a Spy' by Sharon Cullen is book One in the New series "An All the Queen's Spies". This is the story of Aimee de Verris and Simon Marcheford.
Aimee is from France and is in love with a man her Aunt Catherine de Medici does not like. So when she is caught in a compromising position with him, her Aunt sends her to Scotland to spy on Queen Mary. Catherine has promised Aimee if she does this she will agree to her marriage to this man. But Aimee isn't spy material and hates it.
Simon is a spy for Queen Elizabeth and had hoped to retire but the Queen asked that him and his friends help her with one more mission. Simon is sent to Scotland to spy on Queen Marry.
Queen Mary has ordered Simon to marry Aimee...of which neither has a choice.
Simon and Aimee soon find themselves having to depend on each other and possibly fallen in love.
"My honest review is for a special copy I voluntarily read."
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Simon has served Queen Elizabeth faithfully for many years but now he is ready to retire back to his manor. However, Elizabeth wants one more assignment out of him, to find out if Mary of Scotland and Philip of Spain are conspiring.
Aimee wants to marry the love of her life, Pierre, but her aunt Catherine wants her to spy on Mary before she will consent to the marriage. Aimee is no spy and instead finds herself married to an Englishman.
Simon and Aimee have found themselves pawns in a larger game but their hearts won't be controlled.
He'd been sent to Spain and ended up in Scotland, married to a French woman.
With a stunningly gorgeous cover, Wed to a Spy is book one in All the Queen's Spies series. We are introduced to Simon, Will, and Tristan as Elizabeth of England sends them off to gather information about Mary of Scotland. This first book focuses on Simon and even though he is sent to Spain, through what seemed an unnecessarily tangled way, he winds up in Scotland and Mary's court. Simon seems nice with his desire to get to know his younger sister and retire to home. He's twenty-five and claims to be world weary from working for Elizabeth but we don't get any solid information or stories of his background for us, as the reader, to really sympathize for him.
Our heroine, who for most of the book I assumed was sixteen or seventeen, is twenty-one and a very immature one at that. The vast majority of the story she languishes for her lost love Pierre, which we see through very southern belle hand on forehead and clutched to chest letters written by her. I just could not connect with this heroine, she wasn't given much substance. She mopes about a lot about her circumstances and lacks the backbone I personally like seeing in my heroines. I felt the longing for Pierre went on for far too long, especially when we never get to meet the guy and then she decides being turned on by Simon disrobing means she is in love with him; sex with Simon seemed to cure her longing for Pierre.
As I mentioned, Elizabeth and Mary make appearances in this story, along with other real historical figures and the murder of Mary's private secretary Rizzio, plays a main part. Even though this was set during a tense political time, I felt like the story was slow moving. The suspense of the time is touched on but more of a little sprinkling than intricate weaving and our couple lacked the chemistry and emotional relationship that keeps me locked into stories. Having Aimee pining for Pierre didn't so much as create angst but acted more as a wall between the romance and Simon and Aimee. The latter second half felt like sex scenes suddenly thrown in for stimulation but I found them lacking because of the dearth of emotion. This story kind of boiled down to people in fancy clothes banging for me, which for the less historically inclined, may just hit the spot.
The first book in a new series by Sharon Cullen takes us into the Scottish court of Queen Mary. Queen Elizabeth has sent three of her spies to Mary's court in order to keep tabs on her. One such spy is Simon, a man who dedicated his life to Queen Elizabeth and now just wants to retire to his country estate with his younger sister. But Elizabeth forces him into yet another mission. While in Queen May's court, he meets Aimee, a French woman who was sent to spy on Mary for her Aunt in France. She hates that she is forced to leave her home and the man she loves but she does it with the hope of returning to France to marry her love. What she wasn't expecting was for another meddling monarch, Queen Mary, to force her and Simon into a marriage, one that neither wants. Once married their adventure truly begins and it takes them into hiding during a coup, on the run to England from an angry Queen Mary, and then into Queen Elizabeth's court to fight for the right to their happy ending. Their story was enjoyable, passionate, exciting, and emotionally stimulating. I liked it a lot and enjoyed watching them grow to first trust then love each other deeply. They were well matched and I look forward to seeing what the series has in store for the other two English spies. This was a Netgalley read.
The Spy, Paulo Coelho, author; Zoe Perry, translator; Hillary Huber, Paul Boehmer, narrators This novel based on Mata Hari, is creative and captivating, as the real Mata Hari, executed as a spy on October 15th, 1917, most certainly was as well. Margaretha Geertruida Zelle was born on August 7, 1876, at a time when women had little freedom or independence. They were dependent upon their family or husband for their livelihood and, indeed, their lives. After being raped by the principal of her boarding school at age 16, Mata Hari no longer believed that sex was an act of love between two people, as her mother had told her. In order to escape her life, she became the wife of a Dutch army officer, Rudolof Campbell MacLoed, an older man who drank too much, engaged in unsafe sex and physically abused her. She went from the frying pan into the fire. When she left MacLoed, she reinvented herself as Mata Hari, an Oriental dancer. In truth, she was a stripper, but she performed the striptease with class. She did the Dance of the Seven Veils which brought her fame and fortune. Men were enchanted by her, and she survived using her feminine wiles. When World War I broke out, she was at loose ends. Her career short-circuited, and she was in desperate need of money. When the German government approached her to spy on France, she accepted, although she insisted that she did not intend to pass any worthwhile information to them and had informed the French government immediately so that she could work for France. Still, she was arrested and, accused of being a double agent for Germany. She was found guilty of espionage and sentenced to death. Making use of supposed letters that Mata Hari is said to have written shortly before her death, to her lawyer and her daughter, Coehlo has reimagined the end of her life. As Mata Hari reads her letters, the reader learns the story of her life. It is in this way that plausible doubts are cast about her being guilty of espionage, as charged. The author has done an excellent job of suggesting that she was innocent and was merely a victim of herself and her era, in much the same way as Alfred Dreyfus became a victim of his times. In this novel, Mata Hari’s lawyer, Maitre Clunet, believed in her innocence. He believed she was convicted even though the accusations were unproven and there was little evidence of her being a double agent. Her accuser, Captain Georges Ladoux, was actually himself accused of being a German spy, a few days after her execution, but he was cleared of any wrongdoing. Although it may not have been widely known, Margaretha Zelle was Jewish at a time when anti-Semitism was widespread. The mark of a good book is that it makes you think, and this one will surely encourage the reader to find out more about this woman who has either been maligned by history or has been justly convicted and punished. The book made me wonder if she was another victim of her own or other’s stupidity, or of petty vengeance, or possibly, even anti-Semitism? Was she condemned for her erotic and alluring talents, were women’s jealousy of her a factor, was she abandoned by those men who had curried favor with her because they feared the discovery of their own indiscretions, or was she truly a spy? She lived in the time of the Paris World’s Fair, Pablo Picasso and Emile Zola, and she knew and had had relationships with many people in high places. She did not expect to be forsaken by all who knew her, many of whom she could bring down with the mere hint of gossip. She admitted that she was a prostitute because she provided affection for gifts. She admitted that she was a liar because she said what was necessary to support herself. However, she never admitted that she was a spy and protested her innocence until the end, when legend has it that she died with dignity. Through her supposed words and the words of her lawyer, a new light is shone upon the life of Mata Hari that bears little resemblance to the one most people have come to believe and have witnessed in film and books. When she left home, her mother gave her tulip seeds, to prove to her that life goes on, that there is rebirth even after death. When she died, were the seeds really still in her possession? In a sense, Coelho has brought her back to life with a bit of honor rather than ignominy. The narrators of this book did an incredible job reading it. Their tone of voice, accent and emotional interpretation were spot-on. The translator did an excellent job, as well, making the words flow easily and even giving it a spiritual undertone, at times. With the combined effort of the author, narrators and translator, the reader is taken into the world of Mata Hari’s life and last days and will view her calm persona and her legendary poise, even in the face of her violent end in front of a firing squad. Marguerite Gertrude Zeller died at the age of 41. Was she framed? The author has presented an alternate verdict on Mata Hari’s life which seems quite credible. The reader is left to make the final judgment.