REVIEW: I Wanna Be Loved by You by Heather Hiestand
For a young woman swept into international adventure, romance can’t be far behind…
The 1920s are in full swing when Sadie Loudon leaves her grandfather’s stodgy vicarage, and she dreams of the glamour and excitement she’s seen on the silver screen. But before she even begins work at the storied Grand Russe Hotel, she is ushered into London’s glittering nightlife by a handsome young businessman intent on introducing her to the pleasures available to a Bright Young Thing. Is it a fleeting romance…or something even more intriguing?
Les Drake is on the lookout for Bolsheviks when he encounters sweet, sexy Sadie. A British Secret Intelligence agent, Les has more experience with the seedy underside of the city than with innocent chambermaids, but he can’t deny that Sadie tempts him. Using her as part of his cover seems like a brilliant plan until the danger of his assignment threatens what has suddenly become a love he can’t bear to lose…
Dear Ms. Hiestand,
The blurb for this one looked like it had the conventional romance wrapped in 1920s spy packaging. What I got was a little different. Yes, there are spies out to protect England from Bolshies but the romance wasn’t quite as easy or paint-by-the-numbers as it sounds.
Sadie’s a go-getter. Rather than molder at the vicarage or marry the boring curate, she ran – to London and hopefully a new life. She’s young but observant and can pick up on things quickly, ready to roll with the flow and instantly improvise. She notices immediately that Les – or Valentin as the Russians call him – isn’t quite what he seems even beyond him asking her to pretend to be his wife. She knows by the way that he acts that he didn’t fight in the war – he’s neither solemn or frenetic as the other returning veterans are. He also gives her Hermes gloves for her birthday, after knowing her for one day, and has a car. In a world with fewer marriageable age men due to the war casualties, he’s one to hang onto – at least for now.
Les, meanwhile, thinks Sadie is attractive and kissing her is certainly pleasurable but he’s not immediately in lurve. Instead he views her dispassionately for the work he has to get done. His initial impression is that she isn’t very experienced in relationships and that, if he puts a little effort into it, she could be or would persuade herself that she loves him. She might be able to jump into a role he needs played but letting her in on his identities – ones he’s taken lots of time and effort to build – is risky and he’s not sure it’s worth it.
Sadie might not like some of the places Les takes her to or the way he wants her to play along but she does sense that she can trust him or least trust him more than the Russians he knows. She also has the period attitude that her life will be taken care of if she chooses her husband wisely. Then something happens that sucks her totally into Les’s world and she wonders exactly who is this man she knows so little about.
Sadie’s supervisor is one of a new breed – the displaced Russian trying to forge a new life far different from one they had known before 1917. She gives Sadie some advice on hard won lessons in planning for the unexpected and also senses something “off” about Les and might be a complication he never considered. Olga is a survivor. Sadie also encounters some of the Bright Young Things at the hotel who live the high life Sadie yearns for.
Les does feel a twinge of guilt about his deception of Sadie as far as their marriage goes. He’s fine with using her other than that to achieve his aims but his own parents’ marriage was based on government espionage so the reality behind his own bites. He likes Sadie and as far as sexual relations tries to act honorably. Vicar’s granddaughter that she is, Sadie has no idea about what to expect on her wedding night. The thought of her being ruined for any future permanent relationship – this is the mid 1920s – unsettles him. Not his boss though who is quite willing to make use of Sadie in any way required and practice any deception to get what is needed from the situation. The spy business is no longer the purview of gentlemen.
Sadie is a little naïve but given her upbringing and the times, I’m not surprised. She wants to trust Les and to love him – he’s her husband, it’s what she ought to do, right? Les though is writing a lot of checks on Sadie’s willingness to believe him and in him. When the inevitable truth comes out, will he be able, or even want, to cash them or will Sadie close down his account?
When Sadie finally realizes exactly what Les is up to and why he cultivated their relationship, she’s hurt and angry but she also thinks that by this time, she does love him. I wasn’t quite as sure and wondered if she was just persuading herself as Les had initially thought she might. He seems to have come around in his feelings but in my opinion they have a lot of work to do if their marriage is going to be a happy one. The espionage aspect has some threads wrapped up but clearly there must be at least one more book as some things are left unsolved and there are secondary characters with unfinished stories. I enjoyed the historical aspects of the book and felt it actually seemed period but the romance wasn’t as satisfying – though due to Les’s spy work it might be more accurate – as I was hoping for. B-