Format: .mobi (provided by publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review)
Release Date: January 7, 2014
After he is betrayed by one of his own, British spy Julian Travers, Earl of Langford, refuses to retire without a fight, vowing to find the traitor. But when the trail leads to his childhood home, Julian is forced to return to a place he swore he’d never see again, and meet a woman who may be his quarry—in more ways than one.
Though she may appear a poor young woman dependant on charity, Grace Hannah’s private life is far more interesting. By night, she finds friendship and freedom as a member of a smuggling ring. But when the handsome Julian arrives, she finds her façade slipping, and she is soon compromised, as well as intrigued.
As she and Julian continue the hunt, Grace finds herself falling in love with the man behind the spy. Yet Julian’s past holds a dark secret. And when he must make a choice between love and espionage, that secret may tear them apart.
As far as a historical romance goes, The Smuggler Wore Silk was written well enough and for a debut novel it worked in a lot of places. The plot was enjoyable while the characters kept things moving along. I enjoy spy romance novels, especially historical ones so I was eager to give this particular book a try.
Grace Hannah has almost everything it takes to make a great historical heroine in my opinion. As the jilted and poorly treated niece of a powerful uncle, she has the difficult life situation she must overcome. She's also quite independent for a woman of her time. She not only aides the smugglers in town, she is smuggler and she also acts as a sort of healer for the locals and as such is privy to a lot of information. She may not have directly stood up to her cruel uncle for most of the book but Grace was a lot more than just a "damsel in distress" and for that I liked her immensely. I do wish that she had a bit more of a backbone to her though. She's a smuggler and a healer yet she will allow any insult to go unmet and prefers to rush off in embarrassment rather than face the people who insult her. That got on my nerves rather quickly and was the reason that kept me from fully enjoying Grace as a heroine.
Julian Travers, the Earl of Langford has spent most of his life avoiding the responsibilities of his title, instead choosing to be a spy for the British Crown until a traitor reveals his identity and Julian is forced home. I liked that Julian was not one to take things lying down. He didn't want to feel forced into a life of domesticity (which I totally understood) and manages to get himself one more assignment in the hopes that uncovering the traitor will allow him to continue his field work. Smart guy that Julian. His a competent spy but he also knows how to have fun which was different for me. He had his dark side but he didn't let it completely overshadow his relationship with Grace. What really endeared him to me was his protective streak with Grace. He was not one to let an insult to Grace go unchallenged, even if it was a woman who dealt it. There's a scene (no spoilers) in where he not only defends Grace against a rather catty woman but proceeds to insult the woman all with polite elegance. I loved it!
The mystery of the traitor was kept such a secret that I had me suspecting every one until almost the very end... And I was still wrong! Usually the mystery is badly kept and then the suspense is over for me but not so with this book and that's what made me keep reading until the last page. I do love a romantic suspense novel that can keep me guessing.
However, as much as there is to love about The Smuggler Wore Silk there's also a few things that kept this book from being an outstanding read. It's supposed to be a spy novel yet to me there wasn't enough details or spy activities going on. It seemed like there was more time spent on the every day scenes with Julian and Grace than the conflict of the traitor. The action that should be in a spy novel was just not there for me, there was really no real look into the spy world that Julian belonged to.
Another issue I had with this book is the quick resolution to the problems between Julian and Grace. Both of them spent so much time hiding their personal secrets from each other, especially Julian yet within a matter of pages at the end, Julian finally tells Grace the dark secret he carries but there is no "work through it" process for them. It's just a quick kiss and make up and that's that. A little more heat and passion (heated looks don't count if that's all they do) between Julian and Grace would have been nice as well but that's just my preference speaking.
All in all The Smuggler Wore Silk is a good debut by Alyssa Alexander and while I had my issues with certain aspects of it, I liked it well enough to want to read the next book in the series.