Book Review of A Spy’s Devotion

A Spy's Devotion

Lovers of inspirational historical novels won’t want to miss Melanie Dickerson’s latest offering, A Spy’s Devotion—her first entry in the Regency genre. My middle and high school students love her previous books, clever retellings of fairy tales, but I worried that they would find a Regency novel inaccessible. Let me explain.

The Regency Era’s most famous author—Jane Austen—set the standard for a subgenre that readers either love or don’t care for. The humor and pathos of Austen’s books rely on the fact that the manners of society play the part of a silent antagonist and provide the context for the humor and angst the characters experience.

Most people don’t just pick up one of Austen’s novels (and books by Georgette Heyer—another acclaimed novelist who writes about life in 1800s England) and ‘get’ the subtle humor in the same way that watching an I Love Lucy rerun would only be half as funny to someone who had never lived in the 50s and 60s.

Dickerson flawlessly combines her master storytelling skills with the manners and sensibilities of the time period to make the Regency Era accessible and understandable to newcomers to the genre. At the same time, she entertains lovers of all things Jane Austen with a fresh storyline and well-rounded characters.

The elements of intrigue and danger keep the reader turning pages as the heroine struggles to come to terms with where her devotion should lie—with the relatives who raised her or with the God who promised to sustain her.

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Dickerson’s well-rounded characters operate within the strictures of the Regency era—when women had few legal rights and opportunities. Julia Grey, the heroine of the book, has her world shaken when she realizes that her aunt and uncle—who adopted her into their family when she became orphaned at a young age—have only tolerated her on sufferance and she is more pawn than family member. Even her best friend and cousin, Phoebe, sees Julia as a means to an end rather than a real friend.

In order to escape her worsening situation in life, Julia must learn the difference between being good by acting properly because it is expected her and doing what is right because it honors God.

My students have never read a book by Jane Austen, but they will definitely love A Spy’s Devotion. And who knows? Maybe they’ll choose an Austen book at some point in their lives and understand it better because they read A Spy’s Devotion!

What about you? Are you a Jane Austen or Melanie Dickerson fan?  

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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