Review: Beauty Like the Night by Joanna Bourne

Spymaster series by Joanna BourneBeauty Like the Night
Author: Joanna Bourne
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical Romance
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Synopsis: Sèverine de Cabrillac, orphan of the French revolution and sometime British intelligence agent, has tried to leave spying behind her. Now she devotes herself to investigating crimes in London and finding justice for the wrongly accused.
 Raoul Deverney, an enigmatic half-Spaniard with enough secrets to earn even a spy's respect, is at her door demanding help. She's the only one who can find the killer of his long-estranged wife and rescue her missing fourteen-year-old daughter. Sèverine reluctantly agrees to aid him, even though she knows the growing attraction between them makes it more than unwise. Their desperate search for the girl ​unleashes treason and murder. . . and offers a last chance for two strong, wounded people to find love.

When I first read Joanna' Bourne's The Spymaster's Lady many years ago, I had no idea that lumbering giant William Doyle would feature so prominently in the series to such a degree that we've now been able to meet a large portion of his children. And yet here we are, in Beauty Like the Night, meeting four of his children, with his eldest Severine serving as the novel's heroine. As with many of Bourne's novels, this book moves fast and serves up her distinct writing style. 

I was surprised but intrigued by the idea of Severine working for Military Intelligence instead the British Service -  I was disappointed at first, thinking that would mean little interaction with the usual characters from throughout the series. But in the end, Doyle and Hawker figured quite prominently - quite honestly, they seemed more prominent in this book than they have in others where they were supposed to be supporting. 

I adored Severine - she's incredibly intelligent and a little bit damaged after years of spying and discerning military secrets in France and Spain for years on end. She can make investigative deductions from the trails of dust, but it never comes across as over-the-top or as a bid to make her the best detective this side of Sherlock. I particularly loved the passages in which she lovingly describes Meeks Street and its occupants - as if it were truly home. Likewise, I loved Pilar - she's a little bit ruthless and hurting a lot, but much like Justine and Hawker before her, she's a character that is a little bit older beyond her years and worth seeing more of in the future. 

Raoul de Verney, though, was another matter. French aristocrat, jewel thief extraordinaire and all-around mysterious man - he felt more like Bourne was attaching things to him in order to make him worthy of Severine. A task that was, in my eyes, never quite accomplished. The chemistry between the two never really came across on the page, either. On top of that, I found myself completely unimpressed and a little put-off by the way Raoul continuously insisted that Pilar was not his daughter. I understand his thought process, but this isn't something I enjoy reading from a hero in a novel written in 2017. Despite his apology in the end, my attachment to Pilar made me feel like he wasn't worthy of such a quick acceptance. 

Hero aside, the plot was fast-paced and kept me guessing until the end. I read this novel in a little over 24 hours and it was certainly worth the few years' wait. Though I'd put Beauty Like the Night in the second tier of Bourne novels below Forbidden Rose and The Black Hawk, this was still a solid title in the series and keeps me eagerly anticipating the next one. In terms of rating, I have been hovering back and forth between 3 and 4 stars - I adored Severine, the peek in at Doyle and Hawker as well as the introduction of Pilar and Bart; the plot, though a little weak, moved quick, and had a satisfying ending. That's all worthy of 4 stars. But ooooh, Raoul. His character, I think, was enough for me to bump this down to a 3. Perhaps on future re-read I will view him in a better light.

A copy of this title was provided via Net Galley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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