Series: Nexus, Book 1
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Length: 448 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Sourcebooks Casablanca publisher Sourcebooks via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
Luck Be a Lady...Spy
His assignment was simple: slip into the dungeon of a chateau in France where the female spy known only as the Raven was being held and liberate her, then bring her home. The Earl of Helsford and noted secret service cryptographer Guy Trevelyan didn't know the Raven had been brutalized for days after her cover was blown. He wasn't expecting - couldn't have conceived - what he and his best friend and partner Danforth find in that dank nightmare of a dungeon.
Tortured beyond recognition, the person could hardly be considered human, let alone female.
When Guy finally recognizes the shattered face of the person chained, suffering, on a butcher's bloody table, his whole world explodes. His life will never be the same. She is Cora deBeau, childhood friend and younger sister of the very man watching his back in that hellhole. The one woman he can never have, yet can't help but want.
So close to being compromised after days of unrelenting torture, Cora struggled to hang on, her keen mind comforting her with the knowledge that rescue was on its way. That it came in the form of Guy Trevelyn was more than a surprise, as she had thought he was nothing but an administrator for Nexus, the group of international spies she had been a part of for the past three years.
She would happily table the surprise if it spelled her freedom, ignore for now the thought that Guy seeing her broken and abused tore something inside her. He is the one man she can't forget, the one who sees her as nothing more than the precocious child she used to be. And he will always be the one she wants to view her as all woman.
Even as he rescues her from hell, reunites her with her brother and brings her home, she knows he can never be hers. Three years have changed her. Sacrifices were made for her country. And she knows one of those sacrifices won't stop hunting her just because she was rescued. Valère is a power-hungry monster who will want to make her pay. He'll be coming for her and Guy both. The Raven knows.
If you're looking for a historical romance outside the norm, look no further than this series debut by Tracey Devlyn. The book is historical romantic suspense, which is new to me, and both the male and female lead characters are spies. No shrinking violet virgins and swaggering peacocks here. Except maybe as cover stories. And the book opens with Guy rescuing Cora from some fairly heinous torture. Now that's one way to hit the ground running on an emotionally charged read.
I liked the opening and I enjoyed the plot of the book, as well as the concept for the series. Set in the early 1800's, Nexus is working to contain Napoleon as he tries to gobble up all of Europe. The spy angle, as well as the action, gave the historical a fascinating framework that I can't recall reading before. Throw in a traitor and a psychopath and the book did not lack for a meaty storyline.
As a huge fan of strong, independent female characters, I loved the idea of Cora's character, woman spy. Her response to her torture brought to mind the effects of PTSD, which I thought was a nice, realistic touch. I would have loved more of a glimpse of her life in France, even in flashbacks (which I don't usually favor), to have a better grasp of how her life as a spy worked.
I did have some issues when it came to her choices in her relationship with Guy. She was fairly intent on pushing him away because she couldn't handle him being shunned by society because of her time in France. Without any input from him on the matter. It smacked of needless self-sacrifice and that always annoys me.
Guy, on the other hand, was great. I loved that he's a cryptographer, more on the brainy end than the brawny, a trait sorely overlooked in heroes, I think. I love that he had such a strong history with Cora and couldn't fight himself when he woke up to the fact she was no longer a child. All of that, everything that was Guy, appealed to me.
There were a few things about the storyline that weren't as much fun. I didn't think the big shocker was all that shocking when it was revealed. It seemed to me just something that made sense for wily and evil men to try to do, but everyone was so shaken by it that I felt I missed something.
It wasn't the only time I felt that way, either. I was also a little confused by Valère's characterization. He kept referring to a desire for sexual dominance and referencing a sexual past with Cora that indicated she satisfied that need...but that didn't quite jive with his dialogue and actions whenever they shared a scene. It gave me a fairly muddled picture of him as the villain and made me question what his sexual proclivities had to do with him being the bad guy. It just seemed unnecessary, and as it was only sketchily defined, suspect for its inclusion.
The pacing throughout the story felt a little inconsistent to me, and there seemed to be an inordinate amount of travelling done by the characters, a lot of back and forth and back again. There were also a couple of moments in which highly intelligent spies didn't make the brightest decisions. That always bugs me.
Overall, the romance worked better for me than the suspense elements. I enjoyed Guy and Cora together very much. They just fit well, made sense as a couple, and oddly enough that's not always the case. The story could have been a little more streamlined, but I did like the plot threads that were left dangling. There are mysteries yet to be discovered in this series, danger to be had, and espionage to be done.