Review: Whip Smart: Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards by Kit Brennan

Format read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: Trade Paperback, ebook
Genre: Historical fiction
Length: 274 pages
Publisher: Astor + Blue Editions
Date Released: October 24, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

A wild and sexy romp through history based on the real-life adventures of the audacious, Lola Montez. It is 1842, London, and the gorgeous, ever-capricious 22-year-old Eliza Gilbert, (aka Lola Montez) is in deep trouble and seeks escape from a divorce trial. Desperate to be free, Lola accepts an alluring offer of a paid trip to Spain, if she will only fulfill a few tasks for Juan de Grimaldi—a Spanish theatre impresario who is also a government agent and spy for the exiled Spanish queen, Maria Cristina. Lola soon finds herself in Madrid, undercover as a performer in a musical play. But when she falls dangerously in love with the target, General Diego de Léon, Lola becomes a double agent and the two hatch a plot of their own. Disaster strikes when the plot is exposed, Diego is captured, and Lola is forced to flee on horseback to France, with a dangerous group of Loyalists in hot pursuit.

Lola Montez could be the real-life model for “The Perils of Pauline”, except that Lola’s perils had much more dire, and more far-reaching, consequences–and not just for Lola.

Lola Montez, nee Eliza Gilbert, may be the originator of the phrase, “feel the fear and do it anyway”. Or possibly “fools rush in where angels fear to tread”. She certainly doesn’t seem to have done much looking before she leapt.

It makes for a wild life. And a wild, adventurous story.

Stories told in flashback, like Whip Smart, do remove one element of surprise. The reader knows that the teller of the tale has survived every single hair-raising adventure. It doesn’t matter in Lola’s tale of self-invention. The whole thing is one grand death-defying romp through the back stages and bedrooms of Spain’s very real civil unrest in 1841.

But Lola became a spy because she wanted to escape England while her divorce was taking place. Then she got blackmailed by the Spanish spymaster. The sheer amount of foolish skullduggery on the part of the ringleaders would have been laughable, if it wasn’t so inept as spycraft. And it made Lola the perfect “patsy” when the plot failed. Which, of course, it did.

But, rather like another historic character that Lola resembles, the “unsinkable” Molly Brown, Lola escapes from the tragic death of her lover, the insane plotting of a double-agent, and finishes the story running off to another adventure, never looking back.

Escape Rating B+: Whip Smart reads like the best kind of melodrama, which in some ways, it is. There is never a dull moment in Lola’s life, because that’s the way she wants it to be. She invents herself, and she always looks ahead. It’s a life without much introspection, but she was running too fast for that.

Lola outruns the consequences of her actions. It’s the only way she stays alive. Of course, as the narrator of her own story, she may not be strictly reliable, but that’s what makes things interesting. She was a spy, albeit an unwitting one. She was also a courtesan, and an adventuress. And she loved being the center of attention. Of course she tells the story in such a way as to put herself in the best light.

Whether Lola’s part in the history of Spain in 1841 really happened, is not clear, but Lola Montez certainly did exist. It is certainly reminiscent of things that she did, and fits with her established biography. Lola may even have been the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes’ Irene Adler and the incidents in A Scandal in Bohemia.

Guessing where the fiction and the history blends just makes the story that much more fascinating. Lola would have loved it.

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The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 11-18-12

It’s Sunday, do you know where your post is?

The way things are going right now, it’s more a question of whether I know where anything is. I would probably kill for Hermione’s time-turner from Harry Potter. I don’t think I could actually get less sleep than I am right now, but I might have a chance at getting stuff done. It’s amazing how HUGE a block of time 2 days seems when you’re looking at it from a month in advance, and how tiny it actually is when it rolls around.

We’re home again, for slightly less than 48 hours. My life is again being choreographed by Willie Nelson, and I don’t even like country music.

The fun, and crazy-making thing about perpetual connectedness is that the blog goes on, wherever the blogger happens to be. This week I’ve been sleeping in Seattle (I still haven’t see Sleepless in Seattle, must fix that) Atlanta, and Cincinnati. Next week, Atlanta and Little Rock.

Since the blog never sleeps, what did happen?

The winner of the Autumn’s Harvest Blog Hop was Tina. And the winner of the NetGalley copy of Samantha Kane’s The Devil’s Thief was Gaby. Congratulations to the winners!

Remembrance Day –Veterans’ Day 2012
B- Review: Ice Cold by Cherry Adair
Interview with Cherry Adair + Giveaway (there’s still time to enter!)
Guest Post: Marie Treanor on Writing Unreality + Giveaway
B- Review: Tudor Rose and Tudor Rubato by Jamie Salisbury (giveaway in the comments!)
B Review: Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure by Sophie Barnes
B+ Review: There’s Something About Lady Mary by Sophie Barnes
Interview with Sophie Barnes + Giveaway (still time to enter this one too!)
On My Wishlist-Waiting on Wednesday-Desperately Wanting Wednesday-On the Weekend

This coming week is going to go by in a blur! For those of us in the U.S., this week is Thanksgiving. It seems kind of early this year, but it’s the fourth Thursday in November, whether we’re ready for it or not.

On Tuesday, I’ll have a guest post from Tara Fox Hall, and I’ll also be reviewing two of her books, Promise Me and Broken Promise. Just before the Thanksgiving feast, we’re going to be talking about vampires and werecreatures. Should be fun.

On Wednesday, I’ll have a review of a fascinating historical spy novel by Kit Brennan. I couldn’t resist this one, just from the title alone. The full title is: Whip Smart, Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards. But so far in my reading, I don’t think Lola Montez is really Lola Montez. That’s part of the fun! The story is set in 1842, so this Lola Montez was Mata Hari way before Mata Hari–if she did half what she’s accused of.


On Thursday, Reading Reality will be one of the stops on the Fall in Love Giveaway Hop, hosted by Reading Romances. This blog hop runs from November 22 through November 29, so there will be plenty of time to stop at all of the hop sites.

And that’s important, because on November 23, one day only, I’ll also be a stop on the Black Friday Blog Hop. Just because Black Friday is only one day. Thank goodness!

Tune in next week for another chapter in the Perils of Marlene, or, as the move turns!