The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne
November 1, 2011
Reviewed by Mandi
Finally we get Hawker’s book and it has been a long time in the making. Adrian Hawker, former thief, now mastermind spy, having trained under William Doyle. At the start of The Black Hawk, we see Adrian in his mid-30’s, and Head of the British Intelligence Service. And as goes his life, he gets drama on his doorstep. His former lover, (always his love) Justine, shows up stabbed and bleeding. Justine is a french spy, and although meeting when they were very young and cementing their union, they have found themselves as enemy spies, serving on opposite sides of the war. When they first meet, Justine is already in the Police Secrete, possibly hoping to one day recruit Hawker. But his mentor, Doyle has other plans, shaping Hawker into the brilliant spy he is today. Dragging her into his house and spy headquarters, the staff furiously works to save her. Realizing the knife has been poisoned, and that it is one of Hawker’s knives, he knows this isn’t some random stabbing. As a matter of fact, several Frenchmen in London have been dying by Hawker’s famous knives, yet he is not the one doing the stabbing. He is being set up and Justine is in the middle of it. He hasn’t seen Justine for many years – why, you ask? Well, that is something you will have to find out.
As I just mentioned, The Black Hawk starts with Adrian as the Head of the British Intelligence Service, but it quickly flashes back to when Adrian and Justine are about 13 years old. I have to admit that at first I was disappointed. For fans of this series, we spent the entire previous book, The Forbidden Rose with a teenaged Hawker. So I was done with him at that age. But, the story there is integral to the overall story arc, and looking back, I’m glad we saw him at that age with Justine. We learn of their involvement with Caches – French children brainwashed at a very young age to become spies. They are brutally treated, stripped of everything they know, groomed to be sent to England to one day integrate as spies into higher circles. I’m not going to go into too much here, but these children play an integral role in this story. It is here we also learn of Justine’s devastating past, that she had to work as a prostitute. Her time spent in that brothel crippled her and she has not let that pain go.
We don’t stay there that long, and we soon move to when Hawker and Justine are in their 20’s. Although each a spy for opposing countries, they find themselves always drawn back to the other. No matter if years have gone by or only days. They become lovers, yet always torn apart by duty. They are honorable spies – killing, and bleeding for their countries, but the precious time they have together, however sparse through the years, is so dear to them. And Hawker, ever the steadfast man, helps Justine see that she is so much more than a whore.
He knew what she was. Knew what she had done. There was no condemnation in him. He had done terrible things, himself.
He kissed her eyelids, closing her in the darkness with him. He was there with her. In the heat and solidity of his body.
In his breath on her face. In kisses on the corners of her eyes, that did not hurry. He went deep into her mouth. When men kissed her that way, she must –
“Stay with me, Owl.” His finger closed tight around her face. “Me. Not the damned ghosts.”
He tangled his fingers into her hair and held her while his mouth took hers. This time, he was not careful and gentle.
So while they have these passionate moments together, they are far and few between. Justine fears throughout that she lets her emotions best her, when it comes to Adrian (instead of keeping her head in the game), but Adrian is just as bad. He may play total nonchalance, and be the expert at fitting in in any situation, but he can’t quit her either. And at the end of it all, there is much hurt on both sides. How can these two spies that have given everything for their countries, find happiness? It’s a long, long road, and Joanna Bourne makes them work oh so very hard for it, but it is a beautiful tale. Her style of writing is so unique. Besides the great descriptive detail of the time period, as the reader you actually feel like you could be a spy right along with Hawker and Justine. She aslo slyly includes these witty remarks, that just burst a smile onto your face as you catch them.
There is also a supporting story with Hawker’s fellow spy, Pax that became so engrossing, I caught myself gasping at a few twists and turns with his plot and I believe his book is next.
What else can I say? Joanna Bourne is a favorite author of mine. I find her books exquisite and so very romantic. Her characters and storylines are complex yet warm and witty. Although this can be read as a stand alone, Hawker plays a pretty big role in the previous book, The Forbidden Rose. I also really enjoyed, The Spy Master’s Lady. I don’t think you can go wrong with this author.