Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Emperor's Conspiracy by Michelle Diener


Synopsis

From nineteenth-century London’s elegant ballrooms to its darkest slums, a spirited young woman and a nobleman investigating for the Crown unmask a plot by Napoleon to bleed England of its gold.

Chance led to Charlotte Raven’s transformation from chimney sweep to wealthy, educated noblewoman, but she still walks a delicate tightrope between two worlds, unable to turn her back on the ruthless crime lord who was once her childhood protector.

When Lord Edward Durnham is tapped to solve the mystery of England’s rapidly disappearing gold, his search leads him to the stews of London, and Charlotte becomes his intriguing guide to the city’s dark, forbidding underworld. But as her involvement brings Charlotte to the attention of men who have no qualms about who they hurt, and as Edward forges a grudging alliance with the dangerous ghosts of Charlotte’s former life, she faces a choice: to continue living in limbo, or to close the door on the past and risk her heart and her happiness on an unpredictable future.



When Michelle Diener contacted me to offer a review copy of this book, I was interested, but mainly because Michelle lives in Australia  and therefore I could count this book for several challenges. And then I noticed that Amy from Historical Fiction Virtual Tours was running a tour for the book. I volunteered because then not only would I intend to read it, I would actually read it and in a timely fashion! The thing is though, by the time I finished the book, I was happy to have read the book, not because of challenges or impetus to read, but because in the end this was a really good read!

The book opens with a scene that is quite unusual. A London lady finds herself with a chimney sweep stuck up her chimney because the sweep had grown too large, and the sweep is abandoned by her master because if the sweeps can't work, then he can't afford to feed them.

Fast forward a number of years, and we are introduced to Charlotte Raven. She is a young lady who is mostly at ease in the glamorous world of the ton but equally at home in the rougher parts of London. She is something of an oddity in the ton, because she is ward to a well respected lady who took her into her home and introduced her into the rarefied ways of the ton. She is also unusual in the stews because she is one of the lucky ones, one of the people who climbed out of a life of poverty. Charlotte is acutely aware of her own good fortune and does her best to help others get a start on a better life if they are prepared to make the necessary changes.

There are two main male characters in the book, both representing the two different parts of Charlotte's life. On one hand, Charlotte's childhood protector and love, Luke, is now running a crime ring. He rules the streets of his area which are filled with hardship and deprivation and more. On the other, Lord Edward Durnham. He is aloof, rarely seen in society but has a complicated secret life. When the two worlds collide, thanks predominantly to Charlotte's own actions, she is the one who has the power to control their fates. And yet, it is her own fate which may be the most difficult to decide given that she doesn't really fit in her new world but she certainly doesn't fit in the old world either.

Central to the drama between the characters is a plot which seems highly improbable, until you realise that it was taken straight from the pages of the history books! This plot is what gives the book it's title. I must confess that for the first parts of the book I was wondering precisely where the title fitted in, but it all became clear in due course. The only clue I am going to give you is that the book is set during the Napoleonic wars.

The thing about this book is that it doesn't really fit neatly into any sub-genre. There are times when you might think that what you are reading is building up to a historical romance story... but it's not only that. You may think that you are reading a historical mystery, and you are, but not in the sense that the heroine decides that she wants to be an amateur sleuth and sets out to solve a crime. Rather Charlotte is trying to find, or keep, her place -trying to keep one foot in both her past world and her present world.

I may have mentioned once or ten times now that I am currently reading Les Miserables. Whilst I am enjoying that book, it is a book that I am having to work hard at reading. By contrast, this book was a completed breeze to read and I closed the book already wondering if we were going to see more of these characters. As I look back with the added distance of a couple of days, there are probably a couple of plot holes, and there probably could have been a bit more in the way of character development, but in terms of the actually reading experience I had, it was perfect for me at the time. Just what I needed.

This was the first time I have read this author, and I will definitely be looking for more from her in the future, especially if there is a follow up book to this one.

Rating 4/5

Thanks to the author for providing a copy of the book along with a gorgeous bookmark. This did not influence my review.




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1 comment:

  1. Another book to put on my list :) Thanks for the review!

    ReplyDelete