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I was unpublished then and reading The Spymaster’s Lady really inspired me.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.