Joanna Bourne has released a book. Her last one was My Lord and Spymaster, the 2009 RITA winner for Best Regency Historical Romance. Not many authors of historical romance can write spies so well as Joanna does. And I'm not talking about these gentlemen spies who go to their clubs, smoke a few cigars, drink some brandy and end up under the sewers of London to join in on their weekly Order of the Whatnot Rogues, etc… Joanna's spies are willing to get down and dirty and do whatever they have to in order to get the job done. The Forbidden Rose is where she continues to amaze with her thought out, somewhat complex plots and characters who will take a beating and even after all the danger and life threatening action that comes their way, they refuse to be down for the count and live to fight another day. If there is such a thing as swashbuckling spies, I would say Joanna has placed her claim on it.
Marguerite de Fleurignac has been hiding in the French countryside where her family's chateau has burned to the ground. As a noblewoman, she must be careful because she is being hunted by those who want to kill her. These are important members responsible for the revolution who arrest anyone for any reason and send to the guillotine to die. Marguerite has just cause for concern, because she and her ex-lover, Jean-Paul, who is the son of the botanist of the Royal Gardens, are part of an underground network called la Fleche, where they help smuggle émigrés across the channel and into England. Marguerite's father is a mad genius hiding in Paris and is also being hunted by a select group of individuals because he maybe responsible for a group of assassinations in England.
Guillaume LeBreton, and his twelve-year old servant boy Adrian Hawker, come across Marguerite and basically hold her hostage for her own safe keeping. She lies and tells them she is Maggie Duran, a former governess. Guillaume is actually an English spy by the name of William Doyle who works for the British Service and has been sent on a mission to find Maggie's father. He knows who Maggie is as soon as they meet and will gain her trust and protect her from the men who work for her cousin Victor de Fleurignac, a very high ranking official and a close friend of the bloodthirsty and righteous Robespierre. Maggie is wary of this LeBreton, who is very large, hulking, and has a long wicked scar on his cheek. But in order to arrive safely in Paris, she needs the protection and looks to Guillaume to help her, although she acts as if she doesn't need his aid. He is more than willing to help because this way Maggie will lead him to her father.
As Maggie, Doyle and Hawker travel the dangerous roads to Paris, and then enter the city where one wrong move can get them kill, they are unaware that there are others watching them closely who may or may not want them dead. Maggie can't help but succumb to her passions for Gillaume, who is definitely not what he seems. They try their best to find a small piece of happiness in one another arms, but the horrors of the revolution may keep them apart forever.
Joanna Bourne has such an amazing skill at writing strong characters, descriptive settings, including a mature and passionate love story. She uses a great amount of historical research to have penned an amazing book such as The Forbidden Rose. Readers of Ms. Bourne's past books have met Maggie and Doyle before in The Spymaster's Lady. The Forbidden Rose is a prequel and the story of how Maggie and Doyle first met met. Not only do we see how France was full of unrest during the time of the revolution, but how no one can trust anyone, not even the children. This is especially shown with Doyle's young charge, Adrian Hawkins, who also has made quiet an impression in the two books that were released prior to The Forbidden Rose. As an adult first showcased in The Spymaster's Lady and briefly in My Lord and Spymaster, he made a big impression and does even more so in The Forbidden Rose. He is one such character that you can't help but be in awe of at such a young age, including his adversary, Justine, a young girl close to his age, who lives in a brothel and works in some capacity to lend aid to Maggie's cause.
Ms. Bourne's way with words, dialogue and deep devotion and love Maggie and Doyle have for one another will blow you away. Maggie and Doyle's passion for one another at times is rushed, but that doesn't take away from the bond and attachment they build, where they would die for one another if that ever came to pass.
The Forbidden Rose is a fiery and near all consuming tale filled with suspense and wonderful insights on the human psyche. This is one historical romance that is a must read and proves yet again how masterful of a writer Joanna Bourne has become. (Berkley)
Final Grade: A