Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Friday, October 14, 2011

Guest Author Tara Kingston: Cloak and Dagger...those fabulous British Spies!

Welcome back to History Undressed, author of sizzling hot historical romance, Tara Kingston! 

Cloak and Dagger...those fabulous British Spies!
by Tara Kingston
I have a confession...this blog will not deal with spies who made any impact on the events of nations...nope, these spies weren't even real. My blog this month is a tribute to spies in literature and film. I've always been a fan of spies in literature, movies and television shows. Even now, I do a little glee-filled dance each time a disc with old episodes of the Avengers arrives in the mail. I love the characters of Emma Peel and John Steed, and must admit that I am among those in the world who loved the Avengers movie with Uma Thurman and Ralph Fiennes, regardless of the critics' opinions. Intrigue, sophistication, and secrecy...delightful!

Nothing against Americans in espionage...Jack Ryan and Jason Bourne can certainly speed my pulse...but my favorite cloak and dagger characters are Brits through and through. The combination of a suave demeanor, English accent, and daring exploits is utterly irresistible.

Of course, the most well-known pop culture spy is Bond, James Bond. Created by Ian Fleming, James Bond remains the gold standard in fictional espionage. Despite his many film incarnations with actors who don't even resemble each other (of course, one could say the same of Batman), one thing stays the same: he's the alpha male's alpha male. Daring, smart, and never in need of a nap, he's virility and daring personified. Many think Sean Connery's portrayal of Sir Ian Fleming's daring hero is the superlative incarnation, but I think Daniel Craig has made the character his own. Gritty and real, he brings a human quality to the Bond character that I feel Connery lacked. I also liked Roger Moore's twinkle in the eye...a totally different take on the character, but very much in keeping with the irreverence of the seventies.

Emma Peel is my idol. Nearly fifty years after the Avengers first aired, Diana Rigg's portrayal of the sleek agent remains the epitome of a female spy. Witty, sophisticated, and the intellectual superior of the men who were foolish enough to confront her, she set the bar high. Ah, to slink along in a cat suit and disarm men with a well-placed kick...such is the fodder of my dreams. Her partner in espionage, John Steed, was immaculately attired and painstakingly well-mannered, yet he could kill a man with his hat and his umbrella without breaking a sweat. Impressive, indeed!

And then, you have Austin...Austin Powers, that is. Yeah, Baby! This character blends the suave, lady-killer spies of the sixties and seventies into one "hairy-like-animal" creation who's bold, a bit obtuse, and ultimately quite a sympathetic character. As a fan of sixties spy flicks, Mike Myers' homage to slick spies like In Like Flint's Derek Flint, James Bond and Michael Caine's Harry Palmer with a touch of Dr. Strangelove mixed in for good measure was a perfect guilty pleasure. I admit to feeling a surge of excitement each time there's a mention of Austin Powers 4 in the works...oh, if only my dreams would come true...

My recent Ellora's Cave release, Claimed by the Spymaster, was inspired by my longstanding fascination with spies. If I had to say which pop culture spy I had in mind, it would be Ralph Fiennes' portrayal of John Steed. British spy Alec Jameson is sophisticated, cultured, and lethal, and he'll stop at nothing to capture a traitor to Queen Victoria's empire. 

Here's a little about the story:

Russian actress Valentina Baranova travels to England to marry, but the arrangement is definitely not a love match. Betrothed to a cunning and ruthless English lord, she’s the sweetener in a deal that will put stolen British documents in Russian hands and curry the Czar’s favor for her father. Determined to escape her loathsome intended, she flees him—and promptly falls into the hands of his most bitter enemy. An enemy who stirs her like no other.

Spy for the crown Alec Jameson, Lord Carrington, is on a mission—unmask the traitor responsible for his brother’s death before the blackguard can further betray Queen Victoria’s empire. Capturing Valentina to use as bait, he spirits her away from London. Despite his efforts to resist the alluring captive he’s snatched from his enemy’s grasp, Alec claims Valentina in the most carnal way possible. Once the beauty has been in his bed, he wants her for his own. But she must lay siege to a long-untouched part of Alec’s existence—his heart.

Claimed by the Spymaster is available from Ellora's Cave, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and All Romance E-Books


Which fictional spy is your favorite? Share your top cloak-and-dagger heroes and heroines...one commenter will be selected to receive an e-book of Claimed by the Spymaster.

I'd love to hear from you. Friend me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.


Tara said...

So happy to be here, Eliza! Thanks for having me.


krazymama_98 said...

I dont normally watch too many spy movies. But I love reading spy books, stories, fiction and non fiction! But if I were too pick ones I like to look at from the movies, it would be daniel craig, jason statham. Does jason qualify as a spy? Hmm, yes, in my list, he does! Yummy!! I have a picture of myself taken at the Madame Tuseau museum in nyc. I think it is spelled right. Anyway, it was with Dear Daniel! My husband chuckled as he took a few pictures of me caressing his cheek, sighing up at his face as I rest my head on his shoulder.....haha He is not very tall! LOL It was fun.

Tara said...

yes, I've noticed Daniel Craig is not towering...bet it was fun, though :)


SwedishTara said...

The Scarlet Pimpernel must be considered a spy, right? It's the cape, the rapier and the wit that does it for me. Oh, and his yacht. Not to mention the fancy dress his heroine must wear :)

Tara Cohen

Tara said...

Abolutely! Love that persona, especially the wit...great quality in a man :)

derekd said...

Love the spy genre also. Especially the European versions. I am shocked my favorite didn't get mentioned. Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau never failed to get his man, nor leave the ladies wanting.

What is it with Mr.Craig? I always thought Connery and Brosnan made the best Bonds. Your book sounds great Tara. I wish you luck with it.

Ashley said...

I think Connery was the best Bond. Craig is uber sexy though. Also love Austin Powers. He made spying hilarious.

Tara-Looking forward to reading your book. It is on my TBR list.

Ella Quinn said...


That was a great post. My favorites were Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan. I like Connery better when he got older.


Tara said...

I loved Roger Moore as Bond...really enjoyed his wit :)

Inspector Clouseau is one of my favorites...amazing that I left him out...I have the entire series of Pink Panther movies on DVD...I adored Peter Sellers. He was not a conventionally handsome man, but there was something about him ;)

Lil said...

Jason Bourne is my favorite spy. I fell in love with the movie version.

Tara said...

Matt Damon was amazing in those films!

Eliza Knight said...

And the winner is.... Swedish Tara! Congrats!

whodunitrdr AKA Deanna said...

One of my favorites is Dirk Pitt. While not technically a spy (he is a marine engineer working for NUMA in Clive Cussler's books), he does tend to get into all kinds of situations that would challenge Bond, Steele and the rest and manage to triumph every time. He has only been filmed twice, once in Raise the Titanic with David Selby and then in Sahara with Matthew McConaughey. Matthew got the attitude right but the look was all wrong - where was the dark hair and piercing, opaline green eyes? Oh well, at least he looked great with no shirt.


Tara said...

Oh, I love Dirk Pitt, too. I actually liked Sahara and fully agree that Matthew McConaughey looks oh so good without a shirt :)