Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey

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Title: Love, Lies and Spies
Author: Cindy Anstey
Release Date: April 19, 2016
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Pages: 368
Source: ARC provided by Raincoast Books
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Overall: 4 STARS

In Love, Lies and Spies, Cindy Anstey's hilarious homage to Jane Austen, a lady with a penchant for trouble finds a handsome spy much more than merely tolerable.

Juliana Telford is not your average nineteenth-century young lady. She's much more interested in researching ladybugs than marriage, fashionable dresses, or dances. So when her father sends her to London for a season, she's determined not to form any attachments. Instead, she plans to secretly publish her research.

Spencer Northam is not the average young gentleman of leisure he appears. He is actually a spy for the War Office, and is more focused on acing his first mission than meeting eligible ladies. Fortunately, Juliana feels the same, and they agree to pretend to fall for each other. Spencer can finally focus, until he is tasked with observing Juliana's traveling companions . . . and Juliana herself.

Full of humor and English Regency Period charm, and starring a whip-smart strong female heroine, this young adult novel is the perfect mix of romance, action, and adventure.

Witty banter, handsome suitors, and a dash of espionage make Cindy Anstey's Love, Lies and Spies an incredibly fun YA debut. Playful and well-researched, it's a cute historical romance that's fully aware of the tropes found in the genre and utilizes these conventions to its comedic advantage. I loved that the language stays true to a Regency romance, and how each new page was a constant source of irresistible entertainment.

Juliana Telford would happily prefer to spend her days in the country researching ladybugs with her widowed father. She's never cared for society's expectations, nor that her interest in natural sciences is unusual for a genteel lady. Juliana is proud to be a bluestocking, and secretly hopes to publish her research in London.

Thrust into the whirlwind of the Season, attending balls among the ton with her cousin Carrie, Juliana's plans to slip away to find a London publisher are derailed with her formidable Aunt Phyllis chaperoning her every move. Fashionable dresses and husband hunting hold no interest to Juliana... at least, that's what she keeps telling herself. If only a certain young gentleman with blue eyes and a friendly smile would stop entering her every thought.

Spencer Northam is on his first mission for the War Office, investigating a smuggling operation that has placed England's security at risk. He suspects the Pyebald family, neighbours to Juliana's relatives who are accompanying them in London, are secretly helping Napoleon. A fake courtship with Juliana could allow him to carefully observe the Pyebalds for evidence they're traitors to the Crown. Spencer's focus should only be on his work, yet why can't he stop thinking about a certain clever lady with a penchant for trouble?

I kind of wish the book delved deeper into Spencer's work as spy instead of being mentioned in passing most often. Love, Lies and Spies didn't quite give the thrilling climax I'd hoped to see happen as the traitors were inevitably caught, but I was still very much satisfied with the ending. Juliana and Spencer have such perfectly complementing personalities, and I adored watching their relationship shift from deceptions and infatuation into mutual respect and love. I never doubted for a moment they wouldn't find their happily ever after!

Cindy Anstey's Love, Lies and Spies is truly a delightful homage to Jane Austen and the romance stories she continues to inspire today. I'd absolutely recommend the book to fans of historical romance in a heartbeat. And seriously, wouldn't you buy Love, Lies and Spies for its gorgeous cover alone?!

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