Whip Smart: Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards transports us into Spain through the eyes of Lola Montez, the courtesan whose life was lived as much a lie as it was truth.
Lola Montez, if that’s her real name, has made a place for herself in the annals of Spanish history. Through deception, bravery and her naturally black hair and blue eyes she was able to Spider Dance her way through the political hierarchy of Spain, post-Spanish Civil War. Along the way, she meets some awfully aristocratic spies and fanatical mystics who only want to slit her throat.
In Kit Brennan’s debut novel Whip Smart, Lola Montez takes us on her twisted journey into womanhood and international fame. There is much missing from this courtesan’s life, and Brennan eloquently delivers unto us a reimagining of what Lola’s life could have been. We begin Whip Smart with a beautiful montage: Lola blowing out two of three candles (which I believe corresponds to the identities she held up to that point and a clever wink) as she stews in oubliette. Through the narrative, I felt as insecure and unsure as Lola did, frantically searching for a place to belong. After all, Lola was only 16 when she fled home. But, as I read, I could see her become an infamous woman. Being a spy for the irritable and irascible Grimaldis probably didn’t help to slow the process, but her adolescent mind was racing with remarkable alacrity. There was one character who stuck out most for me: Pedro Coria, the glass-eyed bodyguard. His silence, strength and gristly end reminded me of Othello, duty-bound, and unfortunately the perfect scapegoat. Overall, the last 100 pages left me breathless as we bounded all over the Spanish countryside, tripping through pools of blood, carrying young mothers on horseback and desperately trying to piece the puzzle together.
While I thoroughly enjoyed Whip Smart, I did often wonder what else Lola had to offer other than her sexuality. She became a spy because of it, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that her last test would involve it. I was shocked by Lola’s forwardness and her ability to fall in love. However, Brennan tempers this love-lust with wit and cleverness.
Even though I would classify this story as historical fiction, it would also appeal to the fem lit lovers in all of us. There’s just enough humor to make us old friends, and there’s enough grit for the hardened war-lit reader.
There’s only one word of advice I’ll leave with you: Be prepared to forget to come up for air. There were times when I would sit down to read, look up, and realize that I’ve had my nose to the pages for over an hour.
The same fate could befall you faithful Functional Girl reader – we’re giving away two (2) copies of Whip Smart: Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards, courtesy of our pals at Astor & Blue.
Be sure to enter the Whatever Lola Wants Giveaway!
Jourdan Simmang usually spends his weekdays teaching reading, writing and history to middle schoolers. In his spare time he cooks… a lot. He and his wife have travelled the world in their kitchens, and are now trying to travel the kitchens of the world. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, two dogs and a rabbit.