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Guest blogger: Elizabeth Squire

26 March 2017

Women in the spy game

As a kid I never understood why blokes had all the fun—the best adventures, the best jobs … you get what I’m saying. That said, it’s little wonder that my own career choices have been less than conventional or that I’ve always been drawn to stories of strong women who have defied convention.

I love high concept historical romances, and I have to confess—the spy trope is one of my favourites. So it should have been no surprise, to those who know me, that I decided to set Closer to Sin in 1805 Napoliconic France. And of course, my heroine Liliane was destined to find herself masquerading as a French Agent.

History is littered with remarkable women who have spied for their country, or at least spied for a cause they felt passionately about. There is even a suggestion that Lord Horatio Nelson’s mistress, Lady Emma Hamilton, while living in Naples, leveraged off her Queen Maria Carolina to provide information to the British Government.

Perhaps some of the most notorious women spies were those of the 16th century French Queen Mother Catherine de’ Medici. Her ‘Flying Squadron’ included prominent women whose job it was to seduce the men of the French court to obtain information on behalf of the Queen Mother. You only need to watch a James Bond movie to see the ‘honey-trap’ is an age-old tactic with its roots steeped in history.

In researching Closer to Sin, I read an interesting article by Dr Nadine Akkerman of Leiden University who writes that women spies were prevalent in 17th century espionage and highly adept at sending messages written in invisible artichoke ink or hidden inside eggshells. (Note to self—must try this when I get a spare ten minutes …)

In latter years we see tales of women such as Nancy Wake who, although New Zealand born, chose to join the French Resistance while working as a reporter in WWII Europe. She is renowned for having killed an SS sentry with a karate chop to the throat.

I think the most fascinating tale to emerge from Napoleonic times is not so much a story of espionage, but the story of Sophie Blanchard, a French aeronaut. Sophie was a favourite of Napoleon and many believe she was appointed as his Chief Air Minister of Ballooning and that she may have worked on a plan for an aerial invasion of England by French soldiers.

We shouldn’t be surprised that there has been a place for women in the spy game throughout the centuries, women after all were not widely considered to be politically motivated. Perhaps because of those assumptions, women are widely accepted everywhere and potentially make the best spies.

I would love to know what you think, do you enjoy reading historical spy tropes, or do you prefer your Regencies a little more traditional?

Best wishes,
Elizabeth Squire

Elizabeth Squire’s love of writing romance couldn’t be further from the life she originally carved out for herself as naval officer and inveterate traveller.

After a nomadic lifestyle, Elizabeth has now settled into her own home with her own hero, two beautiful daughters and two delinquent miniature long-haired dachshunds. Closer to Sin, published by Escape Publishing, is Elizabeth’s debut novel.

You can find Elizabeth here: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Closer to Sin

Liliane Desailly travels to Napoleonic France after receiving a plea for help from her French cousin. She learns she is the key to fulfilling her grandfather’s legacy, but to do so she must masquerade as a spy and courier secrets on behalf of the British Admiralty.

Sinclair Charlcroft is the British Admiralty’s last hope. Napoleon’s Grande Armée is poised to invade Britain, an English spy is missing and a traitor has infiltrated the Admiralty’s intelligence network.

Pursued by Napoleon’s agents, Liliane and Sinclair cannot reveal their true identities until they unlock the secrets of the legacy — and only then can they unlock the secrets in their hearts.

One Comment
  1. 27 March 2017 2:00 pm

    I love a good regency-spy novel! Adding this book to my TBR pile. Plus it has a gorgeous cover!

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