Beyond the Sunrise by Mary Balogh
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I should really know better than to read/listen to a romance novel written before the mid-to-late 1990s at the VERY earliest (aside from Jane Austen's novels, of course). Balogh is one of my favorite historical romance novelists, but this early work of hers is awful. It's kind of interesting as a historical spy novel set in Portugal & Spain during the Napoleonic Wars, but as a romance it fails miserably. The heroine does nothing but humiliate, emasculate, and lie to the hero, even when her mission no longer requires secrecy, and yet the reader is supposed to believe he would STILL fall in love with her?! Um, no, that's not how that works. Men respond to authenticity, not the contempt Joana demonstrates for all men as she manipulates, flirts with, and controls them like puppets on a string.
The book perpetuates the myth that if you have sex with a man who lusts after you, that means he'll automatically fall in love with you. Um, no, also not how that works! A man has to care about and respect a woman in order to fall in love with her. Lust is just lust.
The story could have wrapped up in half the time if only Joana had told the truth as convincingly as she continued to tell lies; had explained why she wanted the French colonel to follow her; had been honest, genuine, and/or kind; and had enlisted Robert's help instead of deliberately making him think she was a French spy. There were flashes of excellence in this novel, where you could glimpse the writer Balogh would become, but there were also plot holes and faulty premises enough to have me ranting at my car stereo for hours (see above about the unnecessary length of the book).
I strongly do not recommend this one. The narrator does her best, but she can't make up for a terrible story.
For readers' advisors: setting doorway is primary. Story is secondary, I guess. There is some swearing and a lot of sex. Seriously, no one could have energy for that much sex while trudging around the hills/mountains of Spain & Portugal in wartime with no shelter, no trust, no safety, & not much food. No one.
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