The Forbidden Rose
Joanna Bourne’s knowledge of the characters and events of the French Revolution are well-grounded, making The Forbidden Rose nicely authentic. The story is set a few years before the Spymaster’s Lady and My Lord and Spymaster. Not unlike the Scarlet Pimpernel, Marguerite de Fleurignac has been running a secret network helping endangered aristocrats escape to Britain. With Robespierre at the height of his power and her organization suddenly compromised, she is now in real danger. As the story opens, Marguerite’s country home has been set ablaze deliberately and she barely escapes unharmed.
Fans of the author already know William Doyle, but here we meet the English spy in the role of an itinerant book peddler. He has crossed the Channel to find Marguerite de Fleurignac’s father and, finding her instead, offers to help her reach Paris. There are multiple plot lines to follow, and the identity of story’s villain is no surprise to the reader.
Ms. Bourke uses the well-worn device of false identities to frame her story, which allows the aristocratic Marguerite some license in her behavior as the English governess Maggie Duncan. In his disguise as Guillaume LeBreton, Doyle’s false identity provides him little true protection heightening the story’s tension. The plot has a sufficient amount of twisting and turning and this being a prequel, we already know how it all ends.