When browsing for the perfect book, many favour a specific genre. Some like mysteries, while others prefer romance novels or biographies and, once in a blue moon, someone will get their kicks cracking open a history textbook.
Kit Brennan’s Whip Smart: Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards, encompasses a little bit of everything. The novel recounts the many adventures of a passionate, sometimes reckless 22-year-old named Lola Montez as she travels throughout England, France and Spain during the year 1842.
The book combines the perfect amount of fiction and reality, telling the story of what could have happened during a trip the real-life Montez made to Spain that summer. Montez was a dancer in the 19th century, and travelled everywhere from the United States to Australia. To this day, no one knows what really happened during her voyage.
The journey starts off in England, in 1843, where Lola is being interrogated about her true identity. She then shares memories of the past year, inviting the reader into her captivating tale of adventure and romance. It’s impossible not to be intrigued as she relates how it is she became a spy for the exiled Queen of Spain and planned to seduce the repugnant man tutoring the two Spanish princesses. While on her mission, she meets the captivating General Diego de Léon, also working for the Queen. Lola rapidly and dangerously falls in love with him. Her mission soon takes a drastic turn, and she and her team decide to plan a kidnapping. Things take a turn for the worst, when Diego is captured and Lola is chased across Spain by an unknown enemy.
This novel is the perfect blend of history, romance, action and mystery. The intriguing characters, many of which really existed, like Alexandre Dumas, for example, add even more life to the book. The story is written from Lola’s point of view, but her thoughts are written in a very modern fashion. This makes the text, written in a more time-appropriate way, easier to read. The dialogue is also full of expressions in different languages, including French, English and, of course, Spanish.
All of the characters are seen through Lola’s passionate and witty eyes, which makes the descriptions sensational. The tutor she must seduce, for example, is described as having “fur which extended all the way up the backs of his hands, fluffing out around his cuffs, and no doubt getting thicker and hairier all the way up (and down, ¡mierda!).”
Unlike most romance novels, the characters in this book are not perfect. Lola, for example, is rather vain, impulsive and has a weakness for men. Diego is not the classic love interest either, for he is actually shorter than Lola, and has a small, lithe build. This makes the story more believable, and the characters that much more endearing.
Brennan’s novel shows a woman’s transformation from the lost and regretful Eliza Rosanna Gilbert to the courageous and reckless Lola Montez. This page-turner, full of mysterious attacks and assassinations, will keep you guessing until the very end.
The author, Kit Brennan, currently teaches writing and storytelling at Concordia and is a nationally produced, award-winning playwright. Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards, which was released on Feb. 1, is her first novel, but there will soon be a second book in the Whip Smart series entitled Lola Montez and the Poisoned Nom de Plume.