I savored Kirsten Potter’s narration of Joanna Bourne’s The Forbidden Rose. It has all the elements of a fantastic romance: compelling characters, engrossing plot, well-researched historical setting interwoven seamlessly.
Set years before The Spymaster’s Lady during the Terror, The Forbidden Rose is Maggie and Doyle’s story. As the book opens, we meet Marguerite de Fleurignac, a French aristocrat who’s just escaped arrest and barely survived the burning of her home in Normandy. British spy William Doyle—in the guise of bookseller Guillaume LeBreton—stumbles into Marguerite’s hiding spot. Doyle immediately recognizes her as the daughter of the French Marquis he is to neutralize. Marguerite herself is suspicious of Guillaume and his servant (a young Hawker), and introduces herself as Scottish governess Maggie Duncan. Subsequent events lead Marguerite to ask for Doyle’s aid in getting her to Paris and to her father—right where Doyle wants her. On the road they learn more about each other—the truth that can be learned while keeping secrets—and fall in love.
Joanna Bourne is an efficient storyteller. Her prose is economical. She never gives us more information about the characters and their story than we need at that moment. It’s just like that ball of twine let out later in the story. The slow unraveling maintains the sexual tension and heightens the spy thriller element. It is so very satisfying when we finally get to the ball’s core: a beautiful love story out of grim times.
Indeed Ms. Bourne is a master at the craft of writing “show, not tell.” Maggie and Doyle slowly fall in love in their words and actions, not in prolonged introspections.
Kirsten Potter is also a master at her craft. You can actually hear Maggie and Doyle fall in love. Ms. Potter’s pace, cadence, and changes in tone convey the sweetness of that inevitable fall and the pull of their sexual attraction.
As she did in her narration of The Spymaster’s Lady, Ms. Potter’s performance is perfectly nuanced. She understands these complex characters. As Doyle, Ms. Potter sounds gruff, big, earthy, yet so clever. Without having to tell us in words, Ms. Potter conveys Doyle as a warrior-scholar, a gentler version of an alpha hero.
Even though Marguerite was raised in privilege and the glittering French Court, she is principled, generous, and resourceful. Ms. Potter uses a mature—as opposed to girly—woman’s voice for Marguerite, perfectly conveying her independence and the times she’s lived through. When Marguerite is being pragmatic, you can quite hear that Gallic shrug.
I do wonder if Ms. Potter is a lover of languages. One of my favorite moments is when Hawker and a Frenchman named Le Brochet meet. Ms Potter’s pronunciation of Hawker by Le Brochet as ‘awkerrr was just golden.
So, yes, this audiobook is a definite keeper!
Book Content: A
Steam Factor: Glad I had my ear buds in, some burning in ears
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Tantor Audio
The Forbidden Rose was provided to AudioGals for review by Tantor Audio.