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Book Review: The Blonde Identity by Ally Carter

Book Review: The Blonde Identity by Ally Carter

Some books are written with the intention of making readers think differently about the world around us, to make us interrogate long-held beliefs or ponder questions about our existence. Then there are the books that feel written for pure entertainment; those underrated stories that are the bookish equivalent of settling down with a jumbo box of popcorn and your favourite comfort movie. Ally Carter’s The Blonde Identity is very much the latter kind – a fun, fast-moving, romantic and adventure-filled book that provides a much-needed escape from reality. That’s not to say it doesn’t have heart – it wouldn’t be able to win readers over if it didn’t – but the best thing about Carter’s story is just how unapologetically tongue-in-cheek it is.

A woman wakes up on a snowy Paris street one night with no memory of how she got there. Worse still, she has no memory of anything at all. Not her name or where she lives or whether anyone is worried about her whereabouts. The only thing she knows is that people are trying to kill her. In a plot that rewrites The Bourne Identity for the rom-com generation, our mystery protagonist finds herself on the run from a host of bad guys and international intelligence services who think she’s a spy in possession of a top-secret flash drive. Enter a grouchy but very gorgeous actual secret agent called Sawyer, who informs her that she’s categorically not a spy. She is, however, the identical twin sister of his partner, a super spy gone rogue.

With Sawyer’s reluctant but very competent help, our amnesiac lead must evade the men trying to kill and capture her, whilst at the same time trying to unravel the deadly conspiracy that her sister is embroiled in. Luckily, no one is looking for a pair of moony-eyed newlyweds on their honeymoon (a stolen identity that provides the perfect covert cover) and soon the unlikely duo are lying their way across Europe, dodging bullets and faking a romance that very quickly blurs into something real. But when you enter the world of criminals and spies, you can never quite know who to trust. Because even the good guys can be bad…

The asshole was going to make her a widow before she’d ever been married, and that alone made her want to kill him.

With the witty rom-com spirit of The Lost City and the satirical spy shenanigans of Knight and Day, The Blonde Identity opens with an action-packed escape through the wintry streets of Paris and doesn’t let up from there. The story zips along at a lively pace, moving from the shadowy cityscape to a luxury river cruise to a derelict castle to the close confines of a train to the picturesque mountains of Zurich. All the while, our undercover couple are bantering and bickering and discovering that they might make a better team than either of them anticipated. She’s optimistic and he’s cynical; she’s sweet and he’s lethal. She can’t remember a damn thing about her past, whilst he’s desperate to forget his. They’re total opposites, so naturally readers will be rooting for them all the way.

Leaning into all the classic espionage tropes, Ally Carter balances bullet-flying action with simmering will-they-won’t-they romance, emotionally wounded heroes and a hint of family drama. It has a distinctly light-hearted, noughties-era rom-com feel, complete with some of the best loved tropes: grumpy / sunshine, only one bed and, of course, amnesia. With such a swift pace, there is an inevitable downside, and that’s just how quick the characters fall for each other. But whilst the insta-love plot is likely to give some readers whiplash, the tender dynamic between the grumpy spy and the cheerful fake-spy is endearing enough to make it forgivable.

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If you love your rom-coms with a heavy dose of action and a ‘touch-her-and-I’ll-kill-you’ vibe, The Blonde Identity is exactly the book for you. It also ends with the promise of an enemies-to-lovers second book from Carter, so expect more from ‘Mr and Mrs Michaelson’ and the rogue spy sister who unwittingly threw them together.


The Blonde Identity was published in paperback by Pan on 14 March 2024

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