The Black Hawk (*****)
(The Spymaster's Lady #4 or #5 - there's some confusion in the numbering system)
by Joanna Bourne
The Black Hawk is one book in a series that takes place during the French Revolution and Napoleonic War. The series features characters who are spies for both the British and the French. There are a few characters that carry throughout the series, but for the most part, you can read these as stand alones. This book features Adrian, master spy, one-time thief, and now head of the British Service. When he was a boy (though old beyond his years), he meets Justine (code name Owl, also old beyond her years), who is a girl of about his age and a spy for France. Though enemies, they create a bond then that carries through the years. When the The Black Hawk opens, Justine is in grave danger and goes to Adrian, the only person she can trust. The book then flashes back through the years to times when Justine and Adrian interacted, filling in life events while providing clues the current cause of danger.
Ok, so a few things about this book. Seriously, don't judge it by it's cover. Never does Adrian stand open-shirted in front of an English manor, nor does he wear a cape. The typical romance-y cover makes you think that this is a typical romance-y book, not that there's anything wrong with that. The thing is, Joanna Bourne's books are so much more. The stories in this series are a deep look into a historical period, with political intrigue, gritty spy drama, and a side of romance. The focus is more on the complex relationship between spies of opposing sides who care about each other, and the problems that creates. It's an incredibly well written and engaging read, with smart and savvy characters and a glimpse into an era of history that doesn't get as much focus in romance novels. I highly recommend this series. And if you're turned off by the cover, well, that's what e-readers are for!