You should read it as soon as possible. You should buy, not borrow, because you're going to want to re-read it. Probably as soon as you turn the last page. Whatever 1-through-n scale you use to rate books, this is an n+1. It goes to eleven.
If Sydney Bristow were dropped into 18th century Napoleonic France, she'd be Annique Villiers... or at least, her best friend. Fans of contemporary urban fantasy/romance will instantly recognize Annique's ass-kicking, never-say-die, I've-been-in-tighter-spots-than-this style. In fact, this is probably a great gateway book for you if you think you don't like historical romances--the historical period is almost irrelevant. Other than the political situation, there are virtually no historical details in this book-- and you don't miss them. In a very real way, this is a timeless story of power, ethics, loyalty, and what happens when you drop love into the mix. Annique, Grey, and the supporting cast are characters that live larger than life-- they are prominent players on the world chessboard and it's not surprising that when love takes them, it takes them in a big way.
The pacing and complex character development makes the plotting feel intricate and exciting... but in actuality, the basic plot is a very simple -- not to say easy-- moral dilemma. I don't think I've ever read anything so good that consisted so much of the heroine mostly thinking about how to do the right thing-- and about what exactly that thing is.
It's the voicing and the characters that make it a must-read and have Bourne's fans clamoring for more. Within Annique's point of view, the diction and thought processes are thoroughly French, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. A snip:
context: she regains consciousness after being knocked off a horse
It was entirely typical she should have a view of stubby pine trees to look at for her last minutes of life. Typical she should be stretched flat in soggy, cold mud. She tried to compose her mind to a nobility suitable for such a serious moment. What she thought upon, however, was her stupidity in trusting Henri's horse and how uncomfortable she was and how hungry her belly felt and how radiant were those tiny drips that quivered down the needles of the pines... the drips that slid along the pine needles and fell one by one onto her face.
She waited. Minutes passed. Nothing happened, except that she became more wet.
It came to her that she was not going to die. Or at least, not just immediately.
Another favorite snip, full of Annique's wry and fatalistic personality:
Context: she tried and failed to escape
She could feel savage satisfaction coursing through his body. He was positively gleeful to trap her like this. She became very afraid of him.
An hour ago, she had set her hand against his heart and wanted nothing more than to stay beside him. She would now do exactly that. The universe had been treating her with great sarcasm lately.
I'm an instant fan. I am clamoring for more. In particular, I can't wait to get more of the delicious Adrian (a secondary character who travels with Grey and Annique) and hopefully a few glimpses of how Annique and Grey are adjusting to their happily-ever-after.... Sadly I guess I will have to keep waiting; the next book is not about Adrian. Neither is the one after that. Bourne's blogpost on upcoming releases.
Ah well. Something to look forward to.