Friday, February 24, 2017

Audiobook Review: Highland Spy by Madeline Martin

Series:     Mercenary Maidens #1
Pub. Date:Jan. 10, 2017
Publisher:Tantor Audio
Narrators:David Gillies
Length:11 hrs 11 min
Source:Publisher

I was very intrigued by this series and the thought of Mercenary Maidens... ruined and fallen women forced into the life of a spy for the crown and king. As I listened to the story, the team of spies was definitely the most intriguing aspect. These women were trained in combat, interrogation (sort of), disguise/acting, seduction, and how to get out of sticky situations using their wits and, at times, drugs.

Connor Grant was conscripted as a spy and assassin for the king after a tragedy occurred in his life. Not only does he carry out the king's shadow activities, but he also must find vulnerable females on the cusp of ruin and recruit them to the espionage network. Connor was an honorable man and it was obvious he did not care for the tasks his king forced on him. He genuinely cared for the women under his tutelage and tried to protect them from the darker aspects of his profession. I wouldn't call Connor a tortured hero, but he did have somewhat of a sad tale dealing with the loss of his father and betrayal by a friend. 

Ariana Fitzroy is a young woman on her own after the death of her family left her impoverished and fending for herself. In an effort to feed herself and pay the servants, Ariana becomes a not very good card sharp, hoping that no one will notice her pulling cards from her sleeve. When she is caught by Connor and offered the choice of ruin or espionage, it wasn't hard to see what choice she would make. I was surprised and impressed that she took to her new life and training with vigor, pushing herself harder than was expected. However, while she tried very hard, she was also a bit foolhardy and not the most competent spy. She was reckless at times and didn't always think her actions through, nor what consequences those actions could bring. 

The romance between Ariana and Connor was a slow burn. Connor didn't feel like he had anything to offer a woman, and he really took his duty to care for these women seriously. Ariana seems to misread and misunderstand most situations, but especially those dealing with Connor and their relationship. She is one of those heroines with a tendency to run - and that goes back to the foolhardy aspect of her character. I don't favor those characteristics so she wasn't my favorite person.

The story was somewhat slow-paced as well until the last 20% when the action really ramped up. There was a lot crammed into that last part, including big reveals re: Connor's past and betrayal, his monarch and his family. I thought the conflict resolution was well done and interesting, particularly the parts that Ariana and the other Mercenary Maidens played. I am looking forward to the trouble that finds these maidens in the future installments of the series.

The narrator, David Gillies, did a good job with Connor's character and accent. His affectation and Scottish brogue for the male characters was perfect. I'm not crazy about male narrators attempting female personas as I never find them to be believable, but Gillies did an acceptable job.

I voluntarily reviewed an advanced copy of this audiobook that I received from the publisher, Tantor Audio.