Thursday, February 24, 2011

Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover - My Love, My Enemy by Jan Cox Speas

Are you a fan of Georgette Heyer? Are you looking for another author that writes a great romantic novel set during the regency era, (but in an American setting)? Jan Cox Speas is the author for you!

Don’t judge a book by its cover is the theme of this post. When I received my copy of My Love, My Enemy, I took one look at the cover and decided it was a bodice-ripping romance. I’ll admit, I also thought that Jan Cox Speas was a non de plume with the middle name specifically targeted to the romance reader.

I was pleasantly surprised as I started reading My Love, My Enemy, to find a great historical fiction adventure story set during the War of 1812. There is no bodice ripping at all and instead a sweet, chaste romance. I loved it!

Catherine “Page” Bradley is a young 18-year old girl from a family of seven daughters. One inauspicious day in 1813, she sneaks on to the family slope the “Catherine” for a ride through the Chesapeake Bay in order to purchase a new frock in Annapolis. While in town, Page accidently rescues Lord Hazard from a mob who is convinced he is a British spy. Duncan McDougall, the family servant who had manned the slope, sets sail for back home with Page, Lord Hazard, and Farley (Lord Hazard’s servant). Unfortunately, they are captured by a British frigate, and so begins Page’s epic journey. The four end up being captured and recaptured numerous times by numerous governments and sail halfway around the world and back again. It leads for quite an adventure and quite an interesting history lesson at the British battle both Napoleon and James Madison, and Page witnesses the burning of Washington, D.C. first hand. There is also a sweet romance between Page and Hazard. Can Page learn to love the enemy?

Jan Cox Speas originally published this novel in 1961, which is probably part of the reason that it reminds me of a Heyer novel as it was written during the same time period and set during the regency era, although in America rather than England. Speas unfortunately passed away in 1971 while still in her forties. She left behind a few novels that were very popular in the 1970’s. Sourcebooks is bringing back beloved romance novels and reprinting them as a part of Casablanca Classics.

Sourcebooks usually does a fantastic job with book covers, but this book cover is terrible. Readers who pick it up looking for a bodice ripper will be disappointed and probably give this novel bad reviews for not meeting expectations. Other readers, who do not like bodice ripper novels, will miss the sweet historical fiction romantic adventure that it is. I hope that this review will help to sway some people to give it a chance and to convince Sourcebooks to put a different cover on it and future Speas publications.

Overall, look past the cover and read a great historical fiction romance with great characters set during the War of 1812!

Have you ever read a book with a cover that was totally inappropriate for the type of novel that it really was? Share your stories!

This is my third selection for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

Book Source: Advance Review Copy from Sourcebooks. Thank-you!


  1. Hmm. Cover doesn't seem to fit the story at all. Might have to look out for this one.

  2. One of my friends at Goodreads just read one of her books and loved it. She was also booing and hissing at the new covers coming out. That said, there are covers from the 70's and 80's that scream bodice ripper that are more historical as well.

  3. I'm really surprised by how misleading this cover is. You're certainly right, I would skip right over this just because of the cover and it sounds like I'd be missing out. I guess that is partially the fault of the reader for not exploring but also the fault of publisher for not putting the right cover on the book.

  4. This is an excelent author -- I read and reviewed The Bride of MacHugh and it was a very enjoyable historical fiction selection with subtle romance. I think anyone who enjoys Susanna Kearsley will enjoy Jan Cox Speas.