Love, Lies and Spies Review: Too Much Love and Not Enough Lying and Spying

April 28, 2016 by Jenna | 3 stars, ARC Reviews, Books, Reviews

Love, Lies and Spies Review: Too Much Love and Not Enough Lying and SpyingLove, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey
Published by Swoon Reads on May 10th 2016
Source: Publisher
Genres: Historical, Romance, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson
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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 their 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.

This was one of my most anticipated releases of this year. As soon as I had heard about it, I knew I needed to get my hands on it because who doesn’t want to read a Jane Austen-inspired historical romance where the girl is a scientist and the guy is a spy? Sadly, I was a little bit underwhelmed by what I read because there wasn’t very much spying or science going on.

My problem with this book was that nothing happens besides society gossip, which I suppose is pretty representative of the time period. However, I went into this book expecting lots of mystery and intrigue, and I didn’t really get any of that. There was a little bit of spying going on but it was overshadowed by the romance and I was left a bit disappointed. What I was most disappointed by was the lack of science in this book. Considering that Juliana, our main character, loves to study ladybugs and is only going to London so that she can publish her research, the amount of science and research in this book is so small that it’s probably not even worth mentioning as an aspect of the book. Juliana never displayed any knowledge of ladybugs and it seemed like the only thing she was able to do was constantly mention the scientific name of the species, coccinellidae. We never got to see her do any research and even the publication process, when she made it to London, was so dull and uneventful that I was kind of bored to tears. I was really excited and looking forward to reading about a 19th century woman in science but it was evident from the first couple of chapters that that was not going to be featured in the novel.

What we did get was a really pleasant romance. There wasn’t really anything swoony or exceptional about it but I did enjoy the reading process and it didn’t make me want to cry from frustration. It did feel a little bit insta-lovey at times because they were so obviously attracted to each other from the beginning of the book but I wasn’t too bothered by it. I enjoyed seeing Juliana and Spencer together and thought they were well-matched and great together. However, I was missing the pretend-romance/relationship aspect that was mentioned in the blurb. In some ways, I’m glad that it wasn’t a fake-romance-turned-real kind of story but if it’s mentioned in the blurb then I expect to get it in the story.

Because there wasn’t really anything going on in this novel besides the romance, the book progressed at a pretty slow pace. There were times when it felt very long and dragged out, and this was made worse by the fact that the story never really reached a climax. The level of intensity just remained the same throughout the whole book, and even when exciting things were happening, I felt like there was no tension or sense of urgency and I just didn’t really care that these things were happening. For example, in the very first scene of the book, Juliana is hanging off the edge of a cliff but there was no feeling of danger and Juliana herself was like “oh I’m dangling off the edge of a cliff. How embarrassing. My dress is ruined and my aunt will be so angry.” There were just a lot of these moments that felt really unrealistic and cheesy, and had me a little bit disconnected from the whole story.

Her willful disobedience of the dictums of her aunt might be not a sign of frustration but a personality that saw rules as inapplicable to her person.

The characters in this book were very underdeveloped for me. I never really got a good sense of who Juliana was. She was quite a frustrating character to read about because she was the type of person who would challenge everything she was told to do regardless of whether she thought it was right or wrong. Besides that, I didn’t really know who she was as a person. I had a better sense of who Spencer was but, like I mentioned previously, I would have liked to have seen more of his work as a spy and how he even came to be one. There was just a huge gap when it came to the spying and the mystery surrounding his spy mission and I would have much preferred to have read about that instead of all the society gossip and romance that was in the book.


Overall, while I did enjoy the reading experience and the romance in this book, I thought the blurb of the book was a bit misleading. I was under the impression that there would be a lot of spying and a lot of science but those aspects were highly lacking.

Rating: 3 out of 5


Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for sending me a copy of the book.


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Jenna is an Aussie blogger and reader who loves to indulge in great books and great food. She is a doctor (of philosophy) and can usually be found fangirling about something, devouring delicious food, or taking a nap. You can find her on Twitter @readwithjenna and on Instagram @readingwithjenna.

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28 responses to “Love, Lies and Spies Review: Too Much Love and Not Enough Lying and Spying

  1. I too was hoping for more spying. At least 200% more spying. Also maybe more lady scientist-ing, because that was something that initially drew me to this novel. I still had fun reading it, but I really would have loved to see more of the other aspects of the story.
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    • Yeah, it's definitely a light read that will be good for when you're between super intense and heavy books. I'm so disappointed that the spying and science wasn't there though T_T

    • I think it'd be a good filler book if you're looking for something light and quick to read. I thought it was going to be more suspenseful and action-packed because of the whole spy thing that was mentioned, but that wasn't the case at all.

  2. I didn't know what this book was about before you mentioned it, but it's a shame because it sounded totally up your alley! It sounds like a mildly pleasant romance with not much emotion. But at least you still enjoyed it somewhat. Lovely review Jenna!

    • Haha it was what made me want to do a discussion post on fictional women in STEM because there just aren't enough lady scientists in fiction.

  3. One of my main pet peeves is when the romance takes over the plot, so I don't know how I feel about this one. It sounds like the kind of book you enjoy if you go in with the right expectations. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3

    • Yeah, I think if you're just after a good romance that isn't offensive or overly tropey then this might be an okay read. But I was hoping for a lot more and was kinda just let down by it.

    • I think I found it while scrolling through a list on Goodreads. The spying and science aspect of it caught my attention so I've been keeping an eye out for it ever since. I was so surprised when I found it on my doorstep as well! Yeah… I would probably just read some Jane Austen tbh

    • I love the cover of this one so much! I thought it was going to be super mysterious and exciting but it just wasn't anything like what I had expected.

    • The romance in this was really pleasant to read. It's the kind of romance that you've seen a billion times but doesn't have any insta-love or cheating or any other bad romance tropes. It pretty much just carried the book.

    • I'm glad I wasn't the only one who felt that way. I mean, if you're just looking for a pleasant romance to read about then this might satisfy you. But it was the science and spying aspects that drew me to the book and those were sorely lacking.

  4. lekeishathebooknerd

    Oh man, that sounds like quite a fail; to not be full of mystery and intrigue, but filled with society gossip. Maybe if the author would have balanced it all out, it probably would have been an amazing book. I love historical fiction, so this would be right up my alley. I'd also probably have the same reaction as you if I were expecting it to be more of something it's actually not. This may be one of those library books that I borrow sometime this year, or next. Great review!

    • Yeah, I was expecting so much more from this book because the premise was so interesting. It's a shame that it didn't have a good balance of all the different aspects that we were promised. I guess if you like books set in 19th century England, this might appeal to you, but I definitely recommend getting it from the library. Not really worth the money in my opinion.

  5. I don't think this romance line is going to be for me, sadly. I've tried a couple of books and they've all been so cutesy and while I enjoy cutesy, I want more than that. I want the swoons and the feels, which I haven't gotten yet.
    I was curious about this one because it's a historical book, and I love those, but I would definitely want more of a plot other than society gossip too. And I don't know, the romance doesn't really appeal to me.
    Thanks as always for the lovely detailed reviews, Jenna. You ladies are always helpful when it comes to decisions about book purchases!
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    • Yeah, I totally agree. I've read a couple of books from Swoon Reads but they've all been either terrible or extremely boring. There just hasn't been anything swoony or romantic about any of the ones that I've read so far and I'm not sure that I'll try out anything else from the line.

  6. I don’t read a lot of Historical Romance, but I’m fascinated by this idea of nineteenth-century young lady interested in researching ladybugs. I can understand your disappointment over lack of scientific background. It definitely sounds strange that Juliana never displayed any knowledge of ladybugs. Also I think I would have issues with lack of tension or sense of urgency too. At least you’ve found the romance enjoyable. Great review, Jenna!
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    • That was what interested me about this book too! The idea of a 19th century woman who's not interested in marriage but just wants to be a scientist. It was definitely disappointing that the science was such a minor aspect of the book because that was what made me want to pick it up in the first place 🙁

  7. I wasn't sure whether I was going to read this one or not, but seeing this review I think I'm gonna give it a miss because I'm not really a fan of historical or romance. It sounds kinda underwhelming, which is a shame because the spy and science aspect could have been so interesting. Thanks for the honest review!
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    • If you've read Pride and Prejudice and enjoy that kind of 19th century thing where they do nothing except go to parties and gossip, this will end up being an okay/enjoyable read. But if you're not into this kind of thing and need something with a bit more intensity, I'd definitely skip this one. It's definitely not as exciting as the blurb makes it sound.

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