Author: Carol K. Carr
Series: Madam of Espionage Mysteries #1
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Genre: Historical Fiction
When Sir Archibald Latham of the War Office dies from a heart attack while visiting her brothel, Madam India Black is unexpectedly thrust into a deadly game between Russian and British agents who are seeking the military secrets Latham carried. Blackmailed into recovering the missing documents by the British spy known as French, India finds herself dodging Russian agents in a mad dash that takes her not only all over the city of London, but also across the channel to France. And there's also the matter of the irritating and incapacitating attraction she starts to feel for the handsome conspirator.
I picked this book off the shelves simply because it starts with an "I" and I am frightfully behind in the alphabet challenge when it comes to "I, J, X, Y, and Z" so I went to the library and went to the shelves just to find books that fit the profile. India Black was definitely an attention grabber. The cover is beautiful and vaguely steampunky (or Victorian...whatever...I see steam everywhere these days) then the prologue and quotes on the cover are what really draw you in and make you want to read it. Seriously...a Victorian Madame who uses her powers of seduction to spy on the affairs of state and save the mother country from danger and embarrassment at the hands of those pesky Ruskies! Yay! And if that little blurb isn't enough to entice you into reading, the first chapter is seriously fabulous. The first few quotes are some of the most memorable and awesome and even the very first sentence is enough to startle you into following India on her adventures. What is the sentence do you ask? My name is India Black, and I am a whore. See...Told ya!
As straightforward as that first sentence is...that is nothing compared to India and her quick witted statements and blunt mannerisms. She is a whore...and a damned good one. She's actually been able to rise above and become a madame rather than a common tart...this is due to her brains and will power alone because there are a LOT of complications and difficulties that she has to face in order to do so. She is good at what she does and is happy in her own way just making a living and being content with her place in the world. Just when it seems like her whole life is on an excellent path...some upstart senator or another has the audacity to die while being serviced by one of her girls...(while wearing a dress and imitating Queen Victoria no less). As India subtly tries to bundle said officer away, she is caught red handed and is manipulated into working for the government in exchange for them not exposing the death at the whore-house.
Enter French...apparently an international spy and definitely a hottie who's surrounded by murder, mystery, and mayhem. He has the annoying habit of turning up just when it is inconvenient for India...such as when she is disposing an alarming number of bodies...which then in turn provides him with much material that he uses to continue to blackmail her with. At the same time, he can charm the pants off of pretty much everyone and uses his connections and debonair attitude to move in the circles of the rich and influential...French is a powerful man and not afraid to use what he's got to get things done. I am pretty intrigued that he won't give his first name...it adds to the mystery and possibility of love because you wonder if he could be someone important...and here he is consorting with a whore in more than just the usual fashion. *winks*
The plot of the book was a bit convoluted. The title of the book states that it is a mystery, but there isn't too much mystery involved. You know who took the case and papers, and all there is to do is find a way to get it back. I think it's more of an adventure and showcase of a particular historical era than a mystery. I found myself dragging at a lot of the conversational parts. Maybe it's just me, but I seriously can't handle it when someone beats around the bush for 20 pages, only to get to the point of the matter in a few paragraphs. A lot of the time that India spent at the Embassy and talking with government officials seemed to go like that and I found myself wanting to put the book down or skim ahead...and I NEVER skim ahead. Yet in the times when there was a lot of action like fight scenes, death scenes, chase scenes...and one particularly sensual seduction scene...I really loved what was going on and how everything fit together to turn out right. It left me unsure as to whether or not I was enjoying my reading experience...not something you want to feel while in the middle of reading a book.
I must say that I was upset with the ending. The epilogue gives this vague feeling of discontent. India talks about how nothing mattered and that nothing she did ever changed anything anyways, and it makes you feel like you wasted the time you spent reading the book. I mean...if the main character thinks that her life and her story was worthless, why should you want to keep reading about her? I would have really been looking forward to the next books in the series, which India herself hints at with references to future events involving French and the Embassy, but with that ending I no longer want to. I felt like it was a terrible way to end a pretty decent book. It turned me off to the future of the series and I don't know if I will even bother trying to find them when they come out.
So you guys will not be able to borrow a copy of India Black from me...I happened to be reading this darling book while enjoying a luxurious soak in the tub complete with candles, aromatherapy oils and soft music playing. I even decided to be decadent and eat a bowl of ice cream before I settled down to soak. Too bad the fabulousness didn't last long...my poor book suffered the fate of many at the hands of addicted reader who enjoys baths...the short drop and sudden bloating of a book dropped in a bubble bath *sobs* I am really sad because like I said, it is a pretty cool cover and I hate buying books for nothing. I am following the advice of a good twitter pal who said to put it in the freezer...I'm not sure how effective that will be, but we will definitely find out :) Thanks for stopping by lovlies! Make sure to check out This week's Dirty Little Secret :)