Monarch Mixes Spies, Lies & Butterflies {a Review}

Monarch by Michelle Davidson Argyle

Review {+ Giveaway}

Monarch Michelle Davidson Argyle

Today we get to get all undercover and talk about this brand new debut thriller from a girl who totally gets what’s inside my head.  Which is scary, considering she knows how to kill in like seven different ways.

About Monarch:

Nick’s life as a CIA spy should be fulfilling, but it has only given him unhappiness—a wife who committed suicide, and two daughters who resent everything he has become. Now, stuck in the Amazon on the last mission of his career, he must track down Matheus Ferreira, a drug lord and terrorist the U.S. has tried to bring down for years. If he succeeds, he’ll have the chance to start his life over again.

Just when Nick is on the brink of catching Ferreira, he’s framed for a murder that turns his world upside down. His only chance of survival lies in West Virginia where Lilian Love, a woman from his past, owns the secluded Monarch Inn. He’s safe, but not for long…

The Review:

I probably only read a couple of thrillers a year.  There’s this caged up person inside of me that knew as soon as she watched the first season of Alias that she was meant to be a CIA agent.  The rest of me realizes that this career would end quickly in some bizarre comi-tragic accident and is pretty content to let others do the heavy lifting.  It’s still a fun world to visit now and again and the only reason I don’t read more books in the genre is that I’ve found they are very rarely anything like Alias.  Still, I’m glad that Monarch made this year’s cut.

One of my favorite things about this book was the monarch butterfly theme threaded so carefully throughout.  If you haven’t met me, you probably don’t know that I have a large monarch tattoo on my inner forearm.  Everyone just assumes that I’m a girl and I like butterflies, but if they ask they will find out that along with some nifty symbolic reasons, I got that tattoo when I was writing my first screenplay, Broken Butterflies.  Monarchs and their migration also played a heavy part in my story, so I was really excited and curious to see what she had done with the theme.

And… I tip my hat to Michelle because I was a little blown away.  She used the monarchs in ways that would never have occurred to me and that just slid so nicely into this particular story.  It was so fun to see how she incorporated the images in the most unexpected places in the book.  It was extra cool to see an ass-kicking CIA agent like Nick think a pool of blood looked like a butterfly.

The Writing
Argyle’s writing style was really spot on for the genre.  Her pacing was taut.  The only time I really slowed down in the book was when I was thrown off guard by some completely breath-taking piece of description.   Description that made me taste and smell and know what it was like to be in the middle of a jungle in Brazil or hiking through deserted trails in West Virginia.

The Plot

This thing was obviously carefully plotted as well.  It’s told through the eyes of three different viewpoint characters, so tying together that many scenes and making it all tell the story with such great urgency, without getting us lost along the way is a testament to pure skill.  There were a few gems of extra twisty goodness in this book too, especially throughout the middle of the story, a place where some thrillers kind of start to drag and fall flat for me.  I would have loved to see a little more of that surprise carried through to the end of the story, but by that time we are so invested in these characters and how it will end that it didn’t really matter all that much.

The Characters
I really adored most of the characters in this work.  The three viewpoint characters Nick, Lillian and Devan each brought a different dimension to the story, with their vastly different life experiences.  Nick (who just happened to look remarkably like George Clooney in my head) was sexy and smart, but he was also really complex.  He was James Bond with a conscience and a past and that made for some really interesting moments.

The characters throughout were generally complex and surprising and unique.  I especially loved Nick’s daughters Clara and Violet and the mysterious Catarina.  These women had such personality and life to them, even though none of them are the three main characters. Little details like this really make a book for me.  It was also refreshing for a thriller to see such clear character growth from almost the entire cast.  Honestly the only character I had much trouble with was Lillian. I liked her, I just kept wanting her to do a little more.  It seemed she was always the one waiting and worrying and not much else.  Still, the story’s events brought about a profound change in her and that didn’t feel forced in any real way by the end of the book.

The Wrap Up

Monarch is a taut thriller, with big splashes of charm, that’s heavier than most on character. Recommended for those in search of feel-like-you-are-there action with a heaping spoonful of heady romance.

My Rating:

Cover Story: B+

I love the concept of this cover (fragile, fragile things), it’s one of the things that drew me to the book in the first place.  I just kept trying to figure out who the dead person was in the book, and although the bodies pile up, I think it’s more of a generic nod to the genre.

Little Details
ARC Courtesy of Rhemalda Publishing
Title: Monarch by Michelle Davidson Argyle
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Thriller
Format: Paperback, 341 pages
Publisher: Rhemalda Publishing; (September 15th, 2011)
ISBN:  978-1936850198
{ Goodreads | Amazon }

The Author

Michelle has been writing since a very young age. She completed her first novel at sixteen and graduated from Utah Valley University with a BA in English/Creative Writing in 2002. Rhemalda Publishing released her debut novel, Monarch, in 2011. Additionally, she independently published Cinders, a fairy-tale themed novella about Cinderella after she marries her prince. The Breakaway will be published by Rhemalda in 2012, and Bonded (which includes Cinders) will be published in 2013 by Rhemalda.  Find out more about Michelle and her other books at her website:

The Monarch Giveaway:

Congrats to our Winner:


(Winner has been notified via email)

Thanks to those who entered, I wish I had a copy for everyone.  Please follow Michelle’s tour by clicking on the button below for more chances.

{Contest Now Closed}

I’ve got a fresh copy of Monarch to giveaway! (Yay.)

Just leave a comment on this post telling me who your favorite spy is and you are entered to win.  Easy peasy.

Entries close @11pm Mountain Time on Sunday, Sept. 25th.

Open to U.S. & International.  Book will be shipped from publisher.

(Thank you to Rhemalda Publishing for sponsoring this contest.)

The Tour:

Look for more chances to win as you read more reviews and learn more about Michelle on the Monarch Blog Tour.

The Innocent Flower

7 Replies to “Monarch Mixes Spies, Lies & Butterflies {a Review}”

  1. My favorite all-time spy is Maxwell Smart (agent 86) from the Get Smart series. Not only did he make you laugh with his bumbling idiocricy but he actually solved mysteries! He’d make you laugh and go “huh”? and then actually have you wrapped in the suspense. I read the teaser of Monarch and can say that it pulled me in after the first page…can’t wait to read the entire book!

    1. Haha. Yes. That was one that I had completely forgotten about, (now wondering where I can find some episodes online…) Thanks Shay.

  2. Oh neat! Looks sort of dark but that’s how I like my thrillers! Obviously my favorite spy ever is James Bond, hello!

    1. Hmmm… Sean Connery. I haven’t seen any of the Daniel Craig movies yet. Not sure how that happened. And now I’m kinda thinking if you slapped a British accent on him Clooney would make a great bond.

  3. Thanks everyone for participating the contest has closed, but feel free to continue to comment on the review.

    As for myself… favorite spy…. Tom Cruise…I mean Ethan Hunt from Mission Impossible. I can’t help it, my little sister had that movie on an auto-play loop during my semi-formative years. Oh wait, that’s after Sidney Bristow from Alias of course, and possibly Nikita from either of the tv series versions though technically I don’t think she’s considered a spy… close enough.

    1. Agreed. Hey, I’ll watch Bond: The Senior Years if he’ll do it. 🙂

Leave a Reply