Joanna Bourne was one of the first authors I ever wrote fan mail to and one of the first authors I dared to approach at my first RWA. (I was so shy and thought authors didn’t want to be bothered. Silly me!) After reading The Spymaster’s Lady, I was completely blown away by her portrayal of the heroine, Annique, the lushness of her setting, and the tension and twists and turns of the adventure. These were the types of stories I wanted to read! (and of course write!)
I was unpublished then and reading The Spymaster’s Lady really inspired me. At that point, I had polished the beginning of Butterfly Swords so many times that I had bled it anemically dry of any life. Reading Bourne made me realize what made a book special was not polished perfection, but really letting go and taking chances with prose. It was about getting inside characters’ heads and finding what’s unique about their thoughts and fears and hopes. Anyone who’s attended any of my workshops know I frequently refer to The Spymaster’s Lady.
See, I’m already gushing and I haven’t even gotten to The Black Hawk yet.
I had been following Adrian Hawkhurst’s, aka Hawker’s, adventures through all of the Spymaster books. I do think he completely stole the show in My Lord and Spymaster as well as The Forbidden Rose, where he appears as a young, already deadly, boy training to be a spy. When Joanna was offering ARCs for The Black Hawk, I couldn’t resist and had to stalk her blog to try and get one. Usually I don’t try to win ARCs because I figured they should go to reviewers and rabid readers who can properly build buzz for the author. But in this case, I thought I qualified as a rabid reader.
When I received the ARC with its yellow cardboard, I pretty much phoned it in at work for the rest of the afternoon to read the entire thing. Thirty pages in and all I could think was, “this is SO good.”
It is so good. Adrian and Justine have dark, gritty pasts and Joanna Bourne recreates them in a way that I truly believe. Her characters are smart, they think strategically. When they make tough decisions, their thinking makes sense. The dark and dangerous streets of post-Revolution Paris are rendered so vividly. It’s definitely a romance, but Adrian doesn’t fall in love with Justine because of her creamy skin and feminine curves — he falls in love with her because he understands where she comes from and respects her past which is as dark and twisted as his.
And while we’re on the romance aspects — something I felt about the previous books was that though I loved the characterizations, plot, setting, writing…everything really…I wasn’t always swept away by the romance. In The Black Hawk, I was most definitely swept away. The first love scene between them had me weeping, it was so beautiful and sexy, and I just keep replaying it over and over in my head.
Signing a copy of Butterfly Swords for Joanna’s daughter.
One of the highlights of my writerly career!
I simply cannot describe this book adequately. When I finished, I wrote Joanna again and told her I couldn’t wait for November when everyone would be talking about it. And judging from the awesome reviews, I think many, many, many people feel the same way. It’s the sort of book that you not only love, but you want to share the joy and the experience with everyone else.
Which gets me to my last bit. I have the beloved ARC which no one can have because it’s mine, MINE! But I did order two copies of The Black Hawk which I so enthusiastically want to give away. So if you love historical detail, complex characters, intrigue, adventure…all those great things I’m a sucker for, all you need to do is comment here. I’ll draw the winners next Monday.
If you’ve already read The Black Hawk or Joanna’s other books, feel free just to kibitz. I do so love talking about her books.
Nov 08, 2011 @ 12:25:19
I’ve never read Joanna Bourne but now I’m definitely going to check her out. Thanks for the recommendation!
Nov 08, 2011 @ 12:32:54
I highly recommend starting with The Spymaster’s Lady if you’re trying Bourne out for the first time. A great heroine!
Nov 08, 2011 @ 16:39:35
I’m also guilty of not having read Joanna Bourne…yet! 😡 But this post certainly makes me want to run out and grab a copy right this moment.
Nov 09, 2011 @ 03:17:06
I’ve read all the books in this series and loved them. I’m dying to get my hands on Black Hawk but it’s not available here til January.
Pax is up next, happy days.
Nov 09, 2011 @ 07:29:17
The Spymaster’s Lady was the book that brought me back to historical romance after a 25-year hiatus. I dream these books. And I couldn’t agree more about Adrian stealing scenes in the earlier novels — well, he did start life as a pickpocket, after all.
Joanne sent me an ARC, and I feel incredibly sheepish about it. I’m not an author or a reviewer — I’m just a gushing fan who has stalked her for the past few years. Someone needs to tell Jo that you don’t get rid of stray cats by feeding them. *g*
I’ve cried twice while reading a romance novel — at the last scene in The Forbidden Rose and the first love scene between Adrian and Hawker.
After reading your interview on Jo’s blog, I ran right out and bought Butterfly Swords and The Dragon and the Pearl. You’re now on my run-to-the-bookstore on release day list. It’s a short list.
Nov 09, 2011 @ 10:29:24
@Julie – There’s so much to love in her books. You won’t be disappointed!
@Beebs – January!?! I couldn’t even wait for November. Pax is also intriguing me. Joanna creates such a well-rounded cast of characters. It’s so much richer than the usual “sequel bait” you see in books.
@Annie – I cried several times in The Black Hawk. I’m fixing to read it again just to experience that high all over again. I read a good deal of historical romance, but it seemed that “back in the day”, ten or twenty years ago, there may have been some issues with historical accuracy and what not, but stories just took more chances and swept you away. I just can’t feel that way in one Regency salon after another, as much as I enjoy the romances.
And I’m so happy to hear you read Butterfly Swords & The Dragon and the Pearl. Joanna was such a sweetheart to do an interview and I felt completely starstruck. (BTW, I am so not good at playing it cool, if you haven’t noticed)
Meg @ A Bookish Affair
Nov 09, 2011 @ 15:25:32
That’s so cool that you got to meet one of your writer idols! I have yet to have the opportunity to meet any of mine but I geek out everytime I get a ‘tweet’ or a comment on my blog from some of the authors of the books that I’ve reviewed! It’s way awesome!
Nov 09, 2011 @ 18:34:12
I’ve read the series and can’t wait to read The Black Hawk. I’ve told Ms. Bourne on another blog that I’ve wanted to reader Hawker’s story ever since he was lying wounded in his cell in The Spymaster’s Lady. now we get to see the woman who wounded him.
At some point, I have to read the series again. Except this time, I’ll read it in chronological order instead of the order they were written in.
Nov 10, 2011 @ 03:58:02
Loved Annique and Grey and look forward to reading Adrian and Justine’s story. Thank you Joanna for all the extra excerpts. I’m hoping we will get an update on Annique and Grey in Adrian’s story.
Nov 12, 2011 @ 08:27:21
See, this is what I get for not reading romance. I miss out. I’ll definitely have to try her. Thanks for the tip! It sounds awesome.
Nov 12, 2011 @ 11:58:29
@Meg – It’s amazing how close-knit the author community–especially the romance community is.
@Kim – Isn’t it great how that little tidbit was planted way back when? Adrian already had a lot of depth behind him, even when appearing as a secondary character.
@Carol – Mums the word…you’ll have to read to see.
@Victoria – Joanna Bourne is an author I’d recommend to anyone who loves historical fiction and especially intrigue and adventure
Nov 12, 2011 @ 17:19:20
I would love to win a copy of the BlackHawk!
Nov 20, 2011 @ 00:30:09
Lord, yes, Jeannie, Joanna Bourne is so good! SOOOOOO GOOD!!!
I’ve love all her books so far, but Black Hawk is in strong contention to be my favorite favorite. That first love scene had me crying too!!!!
I still have the last 15% to go and DON’T WANT IT TO END!!!!!!