Truth is, life has been crazy on the other side of the screen over here at That’s What She Read. Can’t really get into it, but I haven’t had a lot of time off from work due to shorthandedness, so I’m really trying to work through some things and come out on the other side without having to resort to a tequila & Sunset Boulevard-fest. So right now, the way I’m handling it is to use my insomnia to its best advantage. So I’m avoiding Buzzfeed, I’m getting through old episodes of Conan on the TiVo for background noise, and let’s get all the blog posts caught up so I can move on to the other four books I’ve been reading.
So without further ado, I give you: My Wicked Little Lies.
This was another stupid little romance novel I picked up on a late-night Wal-Mart run. I picked it up because this is what the back cover said it was about:
Evelyn Hadley-Attwater has it all — a genteel Victorian life replete with loving husband, ball gowns and elegant parties. No one, including the man she married, suspects that she was once “Eve,” a spy for England’s most enigmatic intelligence agency. Summoned for one final assignment, the excitement of her former life and memories of her mysterious, flirtations boss “Sir” prove too tempting…
So let’s break this down. This is the first historical romance I’ve ever read where the heroine and the hero are already married. I was intrigued; isn’t that the point of a romance novel? To show the journey between two individuals over obstacles to true love? In this one, ostensibly, the journey was over. How … how does that even work, then?
Secondly, she’s a secret spy! So there will be espionage-ey shenanigans! And also, her husband doesn’t know! He thinks she’s just a normal wife! DUDES. This is going to be good!
I settled into the story: Evelyn is contacted by her former employer, and is asked to return to the life o’ espionage. She has to find a file or something — it’s not important whatsoever. In fact, it has been a very long time since I’ve seen a romance novel utilize a MacGuffin so blatantly. Anyway, she starts sneaking around ballrooms under the nose of her husband, Adrian, trying to find this MacGuffin. Meanwhile, it’s important to point out that the aforementioned “Sir” is a person that Evelyn only corresponded with; she has never met him in person.
Once I got a couple of chapters in, we see Adrian meeting up with … Evelyn’s contact at the espionage? But — how does — OOHH. Adrian was also a spy! For the same agency! And Evelyn doesn’t know! And what she also doesn’t know? That Adrian was “Sir.”
So now I’m SUPER excited. Because all I wanted was for Adrian to have no knowledge that Evelyn was “Eve,” the agency’s best female spy — their Sydney Bristow, par exemple. And I could see how the plot would run in my head: they’d both be at some place or building, spying and trying to find the MacGuffin, and then they literally bump into each other. “Adrian, what are you doing here?” “My job — what are you doing here?” “Oh honey, I forgot to mention, those years before we met? I was a spy.” “YOU were a spy? But — I was a spy, too! In fact, I’m Sir!” “SHUT UP YOU ARE NOT” etc.
And I was excited! Because that would be awesome!
Except that’s totally not how it happened. At all. Because almost right after we learn that Adrian was Sir, we also learn that he knew Evelyn was a spy all along.
In fact, as “Sir,” he encouraged the flirtation between them in their letters. When “Eve” decided to retire, that’s when he decided to introduce himself to her as Adrian (which is his real name) in hopes that she’d love him as well. When they did fall in love and they married, they both agreed to not tell each other about the past; Evelyn because she didn’t want to admit that she didn’t have the most genteel background, and Adrian because he didn’t want to find out what Evelyn would do if she knew that he was Sir.
And that is the point where I nearly lost interest. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there aren’t too many reasons why I read romance novels. I’ve actually talked about a few of them, and made a handy short list here. And one of the things I don’t like to see is a true imbalance of power in a relationship. And I don’t discriminate between physical and emotional power, either; an imbalance is an imbalance, and I don’t like it to be in the male’s favor.
Oh god, that sounds entirely too … what’s the opposite of misogynistic? I don’t want to come across as completely anti-male and womyn power and uber-feministic. I like men. Some of my best friends are men. But in those relationships with men, I am on equal footing. I am a very open person and will tell almost everyone almost everything, and while there may be some secrets that my male friends have from me, the having of secrets do not affect my relationship with those men.
*sigh* I’m not explaining myself at all. Hm. And really, I don’t have anything to compare it to, because my male friends are just that — friends.
Ooo! I know! Let’s say I happen to meet Daniel Craig, and he’s divorced Rachel Weisz so it’s not creepy, and in this fantasy, Daniel happens to fall in love with me — me! — because I am charming and delightful, and maybe he actually has a thing for slightly Rubenesque girls. This is my fantasy, I can do what I want. Anyway, we fall in love, we get married, and then, two years into the marriage, he learns that actually, I was his crazed online stalker and he had no idea. He feels violated, and the trust completely evaporates in this completely fictitious scenario, which is truly fictitious because not only have I moved on (slightly) to Captain Hook from Once Upon a Time, I feel it’s also important to state that I have never stalked a celebrity online. Live and let live, I always say.
ANYWAY. Do you see? (“See? See?“) (Sorry. Hannibal reference.) I don’t think it’s cool that Adrian knew that Evelyn was Eve and that Eve didn’t know Adrian was Sir. And I would still think it uncool if the reverse were true. Having said that, I got over it and finished reading.
Obviously, the truth does come out, and I’m also shocked that Evelyn agreed to forgive Adrian so quickly. But I’m not a very forgiving person, so maybe that’s just my personal bias.
Overall, the mystery is subpar, the power imbalance ruins a lot of it, but when they’re not mad at each other, Evelyn and Adrian are very banter-ey, and I think if the action was stronger and Adrian didn’t know Evelyn was a spy, I would have liked it much more.
Grade for My Wicked Little Lies: 1 star