Review: Love Letters to a Victorian Spy by Patricia Catacalos

Publication Date: December 3, 2013
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC


England – 1865…Colin Layton, Viscount Evanston, is the spy, ‘Fox’, who reports to the spymaster, ‘Raven’, and must ferret out a double-agent working covertly with the Prussians searching for a ledger, containing the names of British operatives, which has gone missing. And while searching for the ledger and for the murdering traitor, Colin must also determine who is writing ‘love letters’ to him. Are the letters taunts suggesting that someone knows he is a spy or were they written by the alluring widow, Lady Eliza, signing herself as ‘A Secret Admirer’?


Under what circumstances can espionage be boring? And how much more exciting is it when there’s a handsome spy working with a beautiful partner?

Colin needs to find that book. Not a signed copy of some original Shakespeare work, or a rare copy of Emerson’s poems. He needs to get a book that holds the identities and pay of Britain spies. A book the Prussians will stop at nothing to secure.

Colin is immediately attracted to Lady Eliza. With undeniable beauty, grace, and intelligence, Eliza has Colin thinking things he never thought before. But he’s on a mission, and he doesn’t need the distraction.

One thing I find myself worrying about when reading romantic suspense novels (which are tied for my top favorite, along with historical romances, so imagine my giddiness to learn I was getting two for one in this work) is the suspense overshadowing the romance. It can be a tricky thing to keep the romance front and center while solving what issue is at hand and not ultimately ending up with a suspense with romantic elements instead. And believe me, there is a difference.

I don’t want to provide any spoilers here, so I’m afraid my limited explanation of what’s going on in the book may be a little frustrating, but it is best for those of you who plan to read it – and you should – for me to hold back. Although little is known about their backgrounds and past family connections, I connected with Colin and Eliza on some level. I got to know them as individuals, and I did wish for them to be together. I must admit, I did long for a little more relationship development outside of the main plot – which some of you may find is a weird sentiment since the relationship is the main plot of a romance. I would’ve liked some more interaction between them that was purely them just getting to know each other – share their likes and dislikes and histories. Perhaps a nice meal, a walk in the park, a carriage ride, etc. There’s a lot going on – a big case for Colin to handle, so little time for romance is understandable, although making time would’ve solidified the work as a romance.

Don’t misunderstand. There’s a lot of suspense, mystery, and espionage. I enjoyed every bit of it. I figured out one thing, but not the others, which is always welcomed when I read a suspense. The fun is in trying to figure things out. However, I give even more praise to the writer and their skill when I can’t. So Kudos to Catacalos for the twists, turns, and surprises. Nicely done!

I think this is a really great story, but one more classified as a thriller with romantic elements, than a romance. Normally, I’d drink a couple of extra cups of coffees (figuratively, that is), but the suspense is strong in this one, so I’m going to not judge to harshly on the thinness of the romance itself.

Rating system: Cups of Coffee (the less the better)

0: You won’t need any coffee to stay up for this one. It’s intriguing enough all on its own.
1: You’ll stay up late, but not all night. Brew one cup.
2: You’ll read as long as you’re not tired. If you are, two cups should do the trick.
3: I hope you got plenty of rest; you’ll need it, or at least 3 cups.
4: If the cable goes out, read the book. It’s better than nothing, I guess. Oh, don’t forget your brew!
5: Find anything else to do- it doesn’t matter what it is. Don’t waste your coffee. Too much caffeine is bad for you.

My rating: 1 cup of coffee

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