London, 1854 ~ Robert, Earl of Wentworth, isn’t a spy, and he never wants to be one, but when his brother is injured and needs his help stealing an important book from the Russian embassy, he can’t refuse.
Antonia has lost everything. If she wants her life back, she needs that book. The problem is, Lord Wentworth just stole it from the Russian Ambassador.
It is unusual for me to give a historical romance five stars, only because I don’t tend to reread them. However, there is something about Jeane’s characters and the stories she weaves that give them that extra something that leave me wanting to reread the book, and Once Upon a Spy was no exception. Chock full of espionage, adventure, secrets, romance, and love, I could not read this book fast enough to find out what Robert and Antonia’s happy ending would look like.
When a mishap at a party renders Robert’s brother unable to steal a church registry from the Russian Embassy at the behest of the Queen of England, Robert is forced to step in and complete the task for him. While we don’t learn all of the details until we are well into the book, Robert avoids engaging in deceptive practices like they’re the plague and it is only his love for his brother that has him willing to take part in the book’s retrieval. Thanks to some questionable activities during his youth, Robert is able to break into the office and locked desk and retrieve the registry. However, keeping the registry in his possession proves to be the tricky party – and that holds true for almost everyone who manages to get his or her hands on it. We soon learn that while the powers that be in England, Russia, and France all have designs on the registry, the biggest threat for Robert comes in the form of Antonia, an actress who needs the book to prove that she and her sisters were not born outside of wedlock and are indeed the legitimate children of her father, thereby securing their inheritance. What follows is an action-packed intrigue in which Robert and Antonia end up joining forces to insure that the book is seen by the right people in order to restore Antonia’s name AND avert a war, all while avoiding forces that come at them from all sides, insistent on obtaining the book and wielding it for their own benefit. If, along the way, Robert finds that his resolve to live his life alone and without the risk of heartbreak weakens, well that just ups the reader’s entertainment.
While I feel quite daft admitting it, I was much farther into than the novel than I should have been before it fully struck me who Robert, Daniel, and Catherine were. I blame this on the fact that the author does such a good job of writing the novels in this series as stand-alone books, that it didn’t dawn on me that I had “met them” in the previous installment, Lady Catherine’s Secret. When it did finally click, it made a book I was already loving, that much more enjoyable because I was catching up with characters I already knew. It also left me kicking myself for not having backtracked to read book one yet; but with Devin playing a much larger role in this book than I recall him doing in book two, I suspect that will be rectified sooner rather than later – especially as I managed to snag book one on sale. Perhaps a binge read before the next installment is released? As it is, Once Upon a Spy was an extremely entertaining, if sometimes frustrating, book that I cannot wait to read again. I look forward to more of Jeane’s writing.