Published by Swoon Reads on May 10th 2016
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.