Friday, November 16, 2018

Emma Jensen’s Wonderful Trilogy of Spy Romances

ENTWINED: Wonderful 1st in Regency Spy Series!

This is the first in a trilogy of Regency romances that involves spies for England during the wars with France. There were 10 spies to begin with (“the Ten”). Some were nobility.

ENTWINED begins in 1810 in Lisbon, as Nathan Paget, Viscount Oriel, and one of the Ten, is discussing the situation in Europe with his close friend Gabriel Loudon, Lord Rievaulx, also a member of the Ten. Nathan is preparing to return to England the next day to wed a woman they both wanted. But the next morning, they are attacked and Nathan returns alone to his country home in Hertfordshire, his fiancé having changed her mind. A year later, he is still suffering from a sword wound to his thigh and attempting to live a normal, if secluded, life. Then Gerard, his former superior, arrives to tell him some of the Ten have been killed; he believes someone is killing the Ten one by one. He asks for Nathan’s help, urging him to return to London.

Meanwhile, a family of Scots from the Isle of Skye has moved into Nathan’s lands. He hires the father, James MacLeod, to be his secretary. Over the next 6 months, Nathan learns all about MacLeod’s five children, including the oldest, 25-year-old intelligent, plain Isobel, who keeps the family together. When James MacLeod steals a bag of gold coins from Nathan and Isobel tries to return it, Nathan meets the honest, candid and observant young woman. She realizes what no one else has—he is blind. (It wasn’t only his leg that was injured; he took a hit to the head.) Nathan decides he will trade Isobel’s father’s freedom and her family’s security for her. He wants her for more than his secretary, however.

The hero is a wonderful combination of warrior gentleman and brooding, wounded aristocrat. Noble and kind of heart, you can’t help but love him for loving Isobel’s character, which is honest and giving. There is something wildly attractive about a man who wants a woman from the first and never leaves off his pursuit of her. Isn’t that what we all want? The heroine, Isobel, is the caretaker for her family, dragging them out of one predicament or another. There isn’t anything she won’t do for them. And Nathan knows it. When offered the choice between continued poverty for them and perhaps jail for her father, and serving the strange Viscount Oriel, she chooses the latter.

Jensen writes very well and this fascinating story moves along at a good clip. I wasn’t half way through it when I was looking online for the rest in what I was sure had to be a series. I could only find two more of Jensen’s books that seemed to be related: FALLEN and MOONLIT, both written years after ENTWINED. (I have ordered them and will review them, too. If I find more in the series, I’ll amend this review to include them.)

I can recommend this book without reservation. I think you’ll like is as much as I did.

FALLEN: 2nd in the Regency Spy Series, a Scottish love story, does not disappoint!

As ENTWINED begins in 1810, Nathan and his close friend Gabriel Loudon, Earl of Rievaulx, both members of the Ten, are in Lisbon, discussing the situation in Europe as Nathan was preparing to leave for England. The next morning they are attacked; Nathan is severely wounded and Gabriel is believed killed. But Gabriel didn’t die, though he suffered a saber wound to his chest. Now it’s 1812, two years later, and Gabriel (nicknamed the Archangel by his peers) is back in London, a drunken wastrel at 32. But all is not lost. His friend, Nathan, has an assignment for him…to capture the leader of a ring of French spies, L’Ecossais, The Scot.

Gabriel travels to the Isle of Skye, looking for the French spy. There, he looks up Isobel’s family, the MacLeod’s, and meets Maggie, Isobel’s beautiful younger sister. Maggie is recovering from a broken heart…a love affair with an Englishman that did not end well.
In Isobel’s absence, Maggie has become the caretaker of her family, the father who drinks too much, the younger sister just coming into womanhood. Jensen portrays Maggie as a complex woman who, despite having loved and lost, gives of herself freely to all in need with her herbs and tisanes and salves. Like his friend, Nathan, Gabriel bears wounds from the war that aren’t visible. He seeks redemption for his failures that led to the death of others. I loved the dialog between them. It isn’t that usual lighthearted banter found in many Regency romances. It’s more meaningful.

Jensen weaves beautiful Scottish poetry, particularly the ballad “Scarbro Fair,” into the story and paints vivid pictures of the land of Skye…the heather covered mountainsides, the cliffs above the crashing sea…beautiful. It is not hard to imagine it. Her descriptions of the beautiful land of Scotland and the people of Skye set this Regency apart from so many others. Then, too, there is the deep emotion of two people who didn’t expect to find love and fear they will lose it. When they come together, it is heartrending and special.

Loved the book; loved the characters; love the series. Highly recommended.

MOONLIT, book 3, presents an amazing finish to an amazing trilogy. It’s the story of Viscount Trevor St. Wulfstan (another member of the Ten) and Nell Nolan.

Once, when she was a young girl in Ireland, Nell wished on the moon and looked into a mirror hoping to see a picture of the man who would one day be her lover. And she saw him. As a young man, his father beat Trevor so badly he remains scarred, both inside and out. Years later, both have grown up. Trevor is an impoverished Irish lord, who lives by his gambling and his work for the Crown. A member of the Ten, Trevor gets the assignments the others don’t want, the assassinations, for example. Now, someone is trying to kill him. Nell, now a widow named Mrs. Nolan, is staying in London only long enough to tie up a loose end: a British lord cheated her out of her husband’s pay owed him when he was killed in the war years ago. Because she cared for a Duke who was sick during his last years, everyone in the Ton assumes Nell was his mistress and she a courtesan. She won’t correct the impression, though false, because it serves her purpose. The Duke left her a wealthy woman but she wants her husband’s money for the principle, for his honor. Knowing nothing of this, Trevor decides he must have the notorious Mrs. Nolan. Neither shares the pain they carry nor the story of their past.

As with the two others in this trilogy, Jensen weaves a beautiful story with very real passions and hurts, in this case, children hurt by the sins of others. Her writing is wonderfully descriptive with no overly long introspection passages as some writers of romance engage in. It’s a well-told story. Her dialog is not mere banter, either, but meaningful conversations that bring you into the heart of the characters’ longings and fears. The love scenes are well placed and fit perfectly. Highly recommended.

My only regret is that Jensen stopped at three stories. The tales are so good, one could have hoped for a dozen. They are all related so read them in order—and don’t miss them!

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