My Beautiful Enemy (Heart of Blade Duology #2)
By: Sherry Thomas
Publication Date: August 5th, 2014
Format: Kindle E-Book
In this spellbinding romance by the acclaimed author of The Luckiest Lady in London, a beautiful and cunning woman meets her match in a man just as dangerous and seductive as she is, putting both her heart and her future at risk…
Hidden beneath Catherine Blade’s uncommon beauty is a daring that matches any man’s. Although this has taken her far in the world, she still doesn’t have the one thing she craves: the freedom to live life as she chooses. Finally given the chance to earn her independence, who should be standing in her way but the only man she’s ever loved, the only person to ever betray her.
Despite the scars Catherine left him, Captain Leighton Atwood has never been able to forget the mysterious girl who once so thoroughly captivated him. When she unexpectedly reappears in his life, he refuses to get close to her. But he cannot deny the yearning she reignites in his heart.
Their reunion, however, plunges them into a web of espionage, treachery, and deadly foes. With everything at stake, Leighton and Catherine are forced to work together to find a way out. If they are ever to find safety and happiness, they must first forgive and learn to trust each other again…
It kind of blew my mind when I started looking up Sherry Thomas, author of the Elemental Trilogy, that she was much more well-known as a romance author. While I normally am not a huge fan of romances, and was almost turned off by the lingerie-cover and the über-generic synopsis, I wanted to see what was similar between a romance novel and a YA series. And, as it turns out, there’s more than meets the eye.
There needs to be a note here, that My Beautiful Enemy is technically a duet with another book, The Hidden Blade, which is a Juvenile/YA read. It basically sets up a long, involved backstory that entwines the two main characters before they even meet. The book begins with Ying-Ying and Leighton, half a world away from each other, discovering the thing that will change their lives: For Ying-Ying, her half-caste heritage (part Chinese, part English), and Leighton, his father’s secret relationship with another man. The book then follows them on separate, but connected journeys–their negligent guardians, their interactions with Herb, who acts as a mentor to them both, and the jade tablets that are keys to a secret treasure, which both of them have. The book culminates with a brief accidental almost-meeting by Leighton and Ying-Ying, which sets the scene for My Beautiful Enemy.
My Beautiful Enemy is set years later, with Ying-Ying’s arrival to England under her English name Catherine Blade and her sudden meeting of Leighton Ashton. It turns out, this is their third meeting–once as children, in The Hidden Blade, and once with them both undercover, somewhere in a remote desert in Western China. Catherine’s goal is to obtain the three jade tablets that tell where the treasure is and evade a horrifying killer, while Leighton’s goal is his impending marriage and the protection of England. The book is further punctuated with flashbacks to their second meeting, mostly to highlight their connection even when they’re fighting and arguing with each other. Of course, their objectives collide, as Leighton’s family is connected to the jade tablets, with one of them being in his personal possession, and Catherine is England’s only hope against a poisoner known as the Centipede.
There are things I wish Sherry Thomas had done better in this series–mostly, the characterisation of the bad guy(s). While the main characters were all wonderfully three-dimensional, the bad guy was just unrealistic–we see the point at which he tearfully vows to get revenge, but probably at some point in the next 10 years of his killing spree he would stop and say ‘OK, that’s enough now’, or even make some attempt to actually take out the main character, which he doesn’t. And (SPOILER) the way in which the Centipede is connected to Leighton and the Chances is also absolutely not mentioned. There had to be SOME way, but it seems the only real reason why they are connected is because the plot needed them to be. But despite that, Ying-Ying and Leighton are both magnificent characters–Leighton principled, practical, and caring, Ying-Ying mysterious, capable and proud. They both face horrific people, and survive terrifying things, and come out stronger for it. When the two of them finally end up together you can’t help but cheer, because they’re absolutely perfect for each other.
What I also love is that this is not a stereotypical love story.
Leighton and Ying-Ying take care of each other. They both take the role of protector, nurse and cook as they are called on to do so. There are areas in which Ying-Ying takes point (ie, martial arts), and there are times when Leighton does (dealing with the authorities). In many ways, it’s Leighton who takes the lesser role–he’s the one who is easier with showing his affection, for instance. And in the climax scene (SPOILERS), when Leighton has a gun trained on the big bad that Ying-Ying’s been fighting, he ensures that the final act of revenge belongs not simply to him, but to both of them. This could have been the time when Leighton takes charge, commandingly blows the guy’s head off, and swoops Ying-Ying off her feet. Instead, he acknowledges that she deserves revenge a lot more than he does and that she’s just as capable as he is. I love this scene for everything it stands for, a total defiance of the usual romance ending.
Also when Ying-Ying is dressed as a guy and keeps joking to Leighton that she has bigger balls and has slept with more hos and can pee further and he’s like ‘yeah, probably’. That part is great.
I picked this up because, as mentioned before, I loved the Elemental Trilogy and wanted to see Sherry Thomas’ other chops as a writer. And, turns out, she does a lot of similar stuff, with the only difference seeming to be that the world of My Beautiful Enemy is at least technically plausible. While the beautifully done setting of The Burning Sky earned my adoration, the characterisation and romance is just as strong here as it was in her YA novels.
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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.