Title: My Beautiful Enemy
Author: Sherry Thomas
Publication Info: Berkley (August 5, 2014)
Genre: Historical Romance
The Flavor: Hero meets Laura Kinsale
The Short Version: I can’t rave enough about this book. Read it. Please. Go read it. Now. I mean it. Okay, look at the rest of my review first and then go read it.
In this spellbinding romance by the acclaimed author of The Luckiest Lady in London, a beautiful and cunning woman meets her match in a man just as dangerous and seductive as she is, putting both her heart and her future at risk…
Hidden beneath Catherine Blade’s uncommon beauty is a daring that matches any man’s. Although this has taken her far in the world, she still doesn’t have the one thing she craves: the freedom to live life as she chooses. Finally given the chance to earn her independence, who should be standing in her way but the only man she’s ever loved, the only person to ever betray her.
Despite the scars Catherine left him, Captain Leighton Atwood has never been able to forget the mysterious girl who once so thoroughly captivated him. When she unexpectedly reappears in his life, he refuses to get close to her. But he cannot deny the yearning she reignites in his heart.
Their reunion, however, plunges them into a web of espionage, treachery, and deadly foes. With everything at stake, Leighton and Catherine are forced to work together to find a way out. If they are ever to find safety and happiness, they must first forgive and learn to trust each other again…
The Characters: My Beautiful Enemy is an ambitious project: it’s a blending of the historical romance with the Chinese genre wuxia. This is a really awesome ambition, because it means that we get to have the baddest ass bad ass heroine that’s ever walked the pages of historical romance (and probably most of paranormal too—in a cage-match between Kate Daniels and Catherine Blade (aka Ying-Ying), the odds would be at least 50-50).
Born to a Chinese mother and an English father, Catherine/Ying-Ying was raised in China and trained from childhood in martial arts. She’s the kind of lethal that can kill a man at ten paces simply by twitching her fingers. In the opening scene she knocks an assassin overboard by throwing a door at him. She knows her way around a good poison. She regularly performs feats of physicality that are 100% forbidden by the laws of physics.
And Captain Leighton Atwood, our hero, is no less intimidating (well, maybe a little—I don’t know if he can kill people just by twitching his fingers—but he makes up for it in other ways). He’s a spy. He’s really smart. And he’s just completely and totally still in love with our heroine.
The real delight of My Beautiful Enemy is the way Thomas goes underneath the surface with her characters. It’s a rare accomplishment: a deeply emotional book that can also be, at times, hilarious. Both main characters are seriously damaged people—they’ve been through tragedies that boggle the mind. Beneath Catherine/Ying-Ying’s physical prowess lies a whole lot of pain and uncertainty. Beneath Leighton’s careful control lies someone who is crying out to love and be loved. And when they start to heal together…well. I was quite moved.
The Dialogue: Wonderful. By turns funny, beautiful, and tragic, the dialogue is absolutely a highlight of the book. Thomas is a fantastic writer.
The Setting: The book is split, settings-wise, between London and Chinese Turkestan, and it definitely gets bonus points for this. The Chinese Turkestan setting was extremely enjoyable (well, both of them were, but obviously I’ve read books set in London before. I’ve never read a book set in Chinese Turkestan before). I loved reading about it.
Extra Credit: I’m not sure if I can give extra credit for a book that’s already scoring 100%.
Parting thoughts: My Beautiful Enemy is a deeply moving, extremely fun read. I read it several weeks ago now and I’m still thinking it. I wish that I hadn’t read it yet, so that I could discover it all over again.