Napoleonic Era Spymaster – A review of “Once a Spy” by Mary Jo Putney

It’s often said that truth is stranger than fiction, the thinking being that if the same information was presented as facts it would somehow be less believable than a fictionalized version. However, in Mary Jo Putney’s “Once a Spy” Simon Duval has resigned his army commission and is ready to retire to his country home and start a family. But he’ll need a wife to accomplish that so when he renews his acquaintance with Suzanne, they are now both free to pursue the mutual attraction that has long laid dormant. Suzanne was married to Simon’s now deceased cousin, then taken prisoner by pirates and forced into harem life. Once freed, she’d vowed to never again be at a man’s mercy so she wasn’t overjoyed when Simon proposed a marriage of convenience. Could they be content in such an arrangement? Before they have the chance to explore the possibilities, Napoleon escapes from Elba and Simon is called upon by Wellington to help prevent another war. More doors are open to Simon as a civilian spy but the risk is greater if caught spying when not in uniform. Simon’s cover story is enhanced with Suzanne at his side and she is a definite asset. Although neither expected anything more than a comfortable companionship, their closeness soon evolves into intimacy. Could their new closeness survive the realities of another major conflict?

Putney’s skill in weaving facts into compelling fiction is evident in this fourth book in the Rogues Redeemed series. The history of the Napoleonic era is rich with material but author Putney knows how to enhance the facts of a particular point in time and hold her reader’s attention from cover to cover. Filling in the blanks with suspense, action, romance, military tactics and even harem life takes writing skill that few can replicate.

This fourth book is my introduction to the Rogues Redeemed series and I enjoyed it enough to try others in the series. Four stars.

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Rich with historical detail.

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