by Samantha Saxon, historical (2006)
Berkley, $6.99, ISBN 0-425-21107-X
A part of me is really scared to even open Samantha Saxon's The Lady's Code after my traumatic experience with the author's previous mother of all train wrecks of a "spy story". In fact, while The Lady's Code is ten times better than the author's previous two books, it is still damning evidence that this author can write but she sure cannot write anything related to spies to save her rear end. The only saving grace of this book is that, for once, the heroine is as smart as the author claims. Unfortunately, the hero is dumber than dirt and the poor heroine is stuck in an espionage plot that is just as dumb.
Lady Juliet Pervill finds herself a victim of her father's nonsense when his enemy deliberately compromises and ruins her just to get back at her father. Never mind, she decides that she may as well do something useful while she's ruined so she applies to be an unpaid staff member at the Foreign Office. She is very good at calculus, you see. Falcon, the boss who in previous books has demonstrated an astoundingly boundless capacity for stupidity, accepts her claims at face value and elevates her straight to a post equal to our hero Seamus McCurren. This may be believable if Seamus is, say, the coffee-maker in the office but Seamus is supposed to be a good decoder. I tell you, in Ms Saxon's amazing world of English espionage, the only way I can believe that England manage to trounce Napoleon is because Napoleon's people are blind, deaf, crippled, and even more imbecilic than the people populating Ms Saxon's thankfully imaginary Foreign Office.
An English fellow - or maybe fellows - working for the French is involved in using newspapers to include code meant for French sympathizers. Seamus and the entire Office are stumped until Juliet walks in and makes more progress in that time than any of the others in discovering a pattern that should have been discovered by anyone who is into such decoding fun stuff. Fortunately, for the rest of the story Juliet is pretty smart when it comes to her actions and thoughts. She's no wilting lily of a victim and she can do her job well. I like her.
What I cannot believe is Seamus. This man is 100% moron and then some. This is a man who insists on being an ass and driving Juliet away even when she makes far more progress for the greater good of the English motherland than he can in an entire month. Why? Because he gets distracted by her beautiful lips and heaving bosoms! Because every time Juliet tries to discuss the code with him, he ends up blanking out her words to stare at her breasts until he can't help himself and just have to paw at them! And therefore, it makes sense that a man who claims to be interested in serving England wants to see the woman who is doing a good job in decoding the things he can't figure out to get the heave-ho. Who cares about France bombing English ships? Seamus has an erection and he hates it, oh the agony!
If this is a story about Seamus being a, say, nobleman who gets flummoxed by a heroine who keeps outwitting him in, say, a game of cards, this story will be more than acceptable despite the hero coming off as thick as lead too often. But because we are supposed to be talking about the Greater Good, Seamus' rampant stupidity goes from harmless to "insult my intelligence" territory. Ms Saxon really should get someone to pour cold water over her head or something every time she starts talking about writing a spy story so that she gets a Pavlovian aversion to the letters S, P, and Y in her writing because she just cannot pull off one even halfway successfully. Just like how Seamus fails at life, The Lady's Code unfortunately fails to find a reason to justify its existence.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
Search for more reviews of works by this author: