Book Review

Review: Love, Lies, and Spies by Cindy Anstey

love lies and spiesPublished: April 19 2016

Number of pages: 340

Format: paperback

Publisher: Swoon Reads

Genre: romance, historical fiction, mystery, Victorian

Audience: YA

Rating: 2/5 owl hoots

Find it on Goodreads | Chapters Indigo




Juliana Telford isn’t your ordinary 19th century lady. She’s more interested in publishing her research about the ladybug rather than shopping for new dresses or marriage. Spencer Northam isn’t your ordinary gentleman either. He’s a spy for the War Office but when his first assignment involves keeping an eye on the lovely Juliana and her friends, their plans for a season unspoiled by romance are foiled.


My Review: 

If I were to summarize my thoughts about the story in one sentence it would be more love, lots of lies, but not so many spies. You can definitely tell by the writing that the story is homage to Jane Austin but with a female lead that has a penchant for trouble and an English gentleman who is a handsome spy with a mission. I found the characters to be entertaining but not as much as the story after finding a couple of plot holes.

If you are expecting an adventurous story of espionage, treachery, and British spies undergoing a dangerous mission then this book probably isn’t for you as the story focuses more on the romance between two unlikely suitors and how their plans for the season are spoiled. There was some espionage involved but I felt like it was written as the backdrop of the story. First we meet our leading characters in the most unlikely way; Juliana is a privileged young lady but is more interested in studying Coccinellidae, the habits of the lady beetle than fashion and to her family’s dismay, marriage.

Why Juliana is interested in researching the ladybug is beyond me as there is no explanation as to how she became obsessed with this tiny insect. As a matter of fact, she has already thought of a title for her new book: A Thorough Study of the Habits and Habitat of the Lady Beetle as Observed in the Village of Compton Green – Book One. Seriously? Book One?? How many pages does it take to describe the habits and habitat of a tiny four-legged insect??? Was she planning to publish several volumes? I mean they must somehow be interesting but to publish a series based on research about one insect species is a bit much. At least that’s what I think anyways, although I’m still skeptical as to why a quirky young English lady finds ladybugs so fascinating.

Then we’re introduced to Spencer Northam, a young English gent with a secret job that involves uncovering a traitor going against the British Empire. But even with his witty banter and tolerable behavior, Spencer remains the most uninteresting male character. He’s way too two-dimensional and his character hardly develops, in the end Spencer remains the same old Mr. Northam even after rescuing the lady in distress. She was able to make do without him after outsmarting her captor, so I give Juliana triple points for her courage instead of playing the damsel in distress in need of her knight in shining armor.

If I had to choose between Juliana and Spencer I would definitely pick Juliana as my favorite despite her weird obsession of ladybugs. She is clever, intelligent, independent, witty, and even proved that she is capable of taking care of her own even in the most dangerous situations. Juliana really shone through as a leading character compared to Spencer, but don’t get me wrong I like him too as Spencer can be quite funny at times I just wished he didn’t have a boring and flat personality.

I personally enjoy the romance when we see the pair meet in the most unbelievable way you can imagine, and after some awkward pleasantries the chemistry slowly builds as the two find their attractions for each other. The romance isn’t fluffy or too cute but more of homage to Pride and Prejudice where we see another tale of opposites attract, except this version includes a lady with a penchant for insects and a gentlemen who works for the War Office with a mission that remains unclear for the most half of the story. I also mentioned earlier that there were a couple problems I had with the plot, which involve Spencer standing idly by as a big fight ensues and doesn’t bother helping or completely forgets that one of the traitors was missing. But the real unanswered mystery would be how Juliana managed to figure out about Spencer, I mean how did she deduce who he was? Was it a lucky guess? Was she spying on him? I need an explanation and I was surprised that Spencer didn’t even ask for one.

I would recommend this book for anyone interested in romance and historical fiction. But don’t be fooled by the synopsis like I was, because this story was more romance and lies, than there were any spies. So if you’re a fan of Jane Austin and in a mood for a light read and romance, then you might enjoy this story more than I have.


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