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Review of The First Three Books in the Blue Raven Series by Kate Noble

I've been on a bit of a reading binge--so much so that I actually procured a 3rd library card--my Queens Library card still lets me borrow e-books, despite no longer living there.  I also have a Sunnyvale Library card that I applied for almost immediately after moving to California last year.  Now, I am the proud owner of a Mountain View Library card.  I have to say that both the Sunnyvale and Mountain View libraries are nice, welcoming places.  Both are modern (meaning built sometime during the 20th Century instead of in the 19th or possibly late 18th Centuries--I never checked to see when the NYC or Boston Libraries were built), so they have none of those gorgeous design elements present in older libraries (when I briefly lived in Boston, I, like a tourist, went to the main branch of the library and took pictures of the inside of the library).  What they do have are large computer rooms and big, comfy chairs that would make anyone in Starbucks jealous.

That said, I have about 10 books (of the spine and paper variety) sitting on my dresser, most read and waiting to be taken back to the Sunnyvale Library, and about 8 e-books sitting on my Kindle--2 of which I have read (one was yesterday's No Proper Lady).  The other books, borrowed from the Queens e-Library, was Revealed by Kate Noble.  I'd heard a lot of really good things about Ms. Noble's books, so of course I was skeptical (I tend not to like books that everyone else loves).  I was also a little worried about reading a series about Napoleonic spies so soon after re-reading the entire Pink Carnation series.  Obviously, based on the title of this post, I decided to give it a try.  I'm glad I did.

revealedRevealed is the first book in the Blue Raven series, only the first two of which actually involved the Blue Raven--the others feature interconnected characters.  (I honestly wonder if this was meant to be a duo, but because of the of the success of the first two it was turned into a series.)

The main characters are Marcus Worth and Mrs. Philippa Benning, a leading lady of the Ton.  Philippa is a widow, having lost her husband a scant five days after they were married.  Now that she is out of mourning, she wants to have some fun and experience all the things she hadn't been able to as an unmarried lady.  As for Marcus, we find out pretty quickly that during the Napoleonic Wars he acted as the spy, the Blue Raven.  Having realized that the dreaded, French spy, Laurent, is not as dead as everyone believes, he has set up a meeting with the head of the War Department, but before the meeting could start, he finds himself hiding in a cramped sarcophagus, not wanting to be discovered by Philippa and Broughton, who decided to have an assignation of a different kind in the very place Marcus's meeting was to be.  Very quickly, he finds himself joined by Philippa (hiding from the ball's host when she realized someone was entering the room).  Unfortunately, she was not able to escape the room after the host escorted Broughton out of his library because he wasn't out of the room long enough for her to leave.  This meant that she overheard Marcus's entire conversation and the revelation of his secret identity.  This, ends up being the best thing that could happen to Marcus, as it becomes evident that in order to stop Laurent he would need Philippa's help, something she is more than happy to provide.

This book reminded me a lot of Scarecrow and Mrs. King, which if unlike me you are not a fan of cheesy 80's television, is about a divorced housewife who unwittingly gets involved with a handsome spy and who eventually becomes a spy too (and secretly married to said spy).   But that's not what I really I liked about it, which was the chemistry between Marcus and Philippa.  They were so cute together.  I also liked the blend of espionage and romance.

There were, however, a couple things that I did not like.  At first, Philippa is a real uppity bitch.  She was mean to people she deemed below her or people who wore the wrong color clothes for their complexion.  It wasn't until she starts working with Marcus that she begins to change.  I also hated whoever edited this book because the typos were many.  These were minor annoyances, so I can still give this 4 stars.

the summer of youThe second book in the series is The Summer of You, which focuses on Byrne Worth (Marcus's brother) and Jane Cummings (an old school friend of Philippa), both of whom have shown up in the small Northern England town of Reston--Byrne because he inherited a small house from an aunt, Jane because her father's health is declining and her brother doesn't want anyone in London to see the Duke like that (from what is described, it sounds like he is in the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease, which wasn't officially discovered until 1906, almost 100 years after this book takes place).  Neither knows that the other is there until Byrne allows Jane's brother, Jason, to stay on his couch and sleep off his drunk.  It doesn't take long for the two of them to start spending a lot of time together, especially after Jane finds out that the townspeople believe that Byrne is the highwayman that has plagued the town for the last year.  Since she knows this couldn't possibly be true, having met him in London just the month prior and knowing what he did to help Philippa and Marcus, she decides that they must unmask the real culprit.  Byrne was reluctant at first, but soon realizes that having a purpose again would help him move on from what happened to him during the war.  What follows is a true slow burn romance.

This book is the best of the three and I couldn't find anything wrong with it at all.  I loved the interactions between Jane and Byrne and their journey from friends to lovers (and eventually to husband and wife) was beautiful.  This one wasn't as action packed as the first one and at times I had to wonder if the characters had forgotten all about trying to find out who the highwayman is.

As with the first book, this one also took me back to the 80's with certain scenes reminding me of Dirty Dancing, except in this I truly believe that Jane and Byrne would live happily ever after, unlike Baby and Johnny, who probably either stayed together with Baby resenting Johnny, or broke up shortly after the end of the movie. 5 Stars

follow my leadThe third book is Follow My Lead, focusing on Jason Cummings, Duke of Rayne, and Miss Winn Crane, the daughter of an Oxford professor bent on making her own way in the world.  This involved a convoluted cross-continent trek to track down fictitious letters written between a nun and Albrect Durur during the Renaissance.  Winn needs these letters in order to gain admittance to an equally fictitious academic society (to which Jason is a member) and to get her independence from her psychotic cousin, George, who only agrees to help her as a way to sabotage her hunt.

You're probably asking yourself how Jason becomes involved in all this.  Well, the head of the society, whose daughter Jason wants to marry, asks him to accompany Winn to Dover because he is aware of some of the enmity between Winn and George.  Jason agrees only because he wants the man's permission to marry his daughter.  Instead of leaving Winn on a boat to Calais, Jason finds himself on a boat to Nuremberg, mistakenly thinking that Winn was on the wrong boat somehow (of course, she wasn't on the wrong boat and was just trying to escape from George). Thus begins the European Vacation that puts the Griswolds to shame.

I didn't particularly like this book--the characters were likable enough and the same wit from the other two books were there (this time alluding to Feris Bueller's Day Off), but I just didn't buy some of the things that actually happened to Jason and Winn.  I definitely do not buy a Duke traipsing through the German countryside and sleeping in fields with an unmarried, English woman.  I also don't buy Winn being stupid enough to believe that she could make that trip by herself, especially since she doesn't speak a word of German or Austrian.  The biggest thing that bothered me was the way George reacted to Winn's subterfuge.  I get him being angry, but what he actually did and the choices he made just don't fit with what we saw of him earlier in the book.  Sure, he was always controlling and ambitious as hell, but I just don't see him becoming what he did in the end.  2.5 Stars

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