The Emperor’s Conspiracy
by Michelle Diener
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication date: November 27, 2012
Genre: Historical fiction
Purchase*: Barnes and Noble/Amazon/Book Depository
Set in early nineteenth-century England, this vivid and romantic historical novel goes from the most elegant ballrooms of London to the city’s most tawdry slums, as a spirited young woman helps unravel a plot by Napoleon to bleed England of all its gold. Through good fortune, Charlotte Raven escaped the poverty of the London slums and is now an educated, wealthy Society lady. But she lives between two worlds, unable to completely turn her back on her old life—specifically Luke, her childhood protector and now a ruthless London crime lord. When Lord Edward Durnham is asked to investigate the alarming movement of gold out of England, his search leads him to London, and his recent acquaintance with Charlotte affords him access to a dark world he barely knew existed. As they delve deeper into the underbelly of London, danger lurks at every turn, and Charlotte must navigate between her two worlds to save England. And soon she faces a defining choice: to continue in the familiar limbo she’s lived in for years, or to take a painful and risky leap toward happiness she never thought possible.
The cover drew me to The Emperor’s Conspiracy, the synopsis had me grab it and the novel captivated me. Michelle Diener’s novel has elements I love in a good book; suspense, mystery and a side dish of romance all set in nineteenth century London. I adored the unique characters and the plot against the crown. I was captivated by this tale and could not put it down.
Our heroine Charlotte Raven’s by all appearances looks to be the perfect lady with an impeccable reputation. Charlotte has many secrets and her past is one of them. Chance has her reveal her true self and befriend the sister of Lord Edward Durnham. When he begins searching for gold disappearing from England’s coiffures, he finds himself looking to Charlotte for aid. The tale that unfolds is suspenseful and mystery. I became completely immersed in this tale and its characters.
Charlotte Raven is a curious creature; she is beautiful, snarky and graceful. She is head-strong, witty, bright and very protective of those she loves. Resigned to never share her life, she is taken aback by her feelings for Lord Durnham. We see growth in her as a character throughout the novel and I really liked this complex woman. Edward is a serious bloke, burdened by family responsibilities and a diligent agent to the crown; he has little time for the social circles of the ton. He is brave, noble and smexy in his attempt to protect Charlotte. I loved how she completely unnerved him and made him lose his senses. That fact that it completely shocked him, made me giggle. Luke the local crime king-pin was an interesting and complex character. While I admired his loyalty to Charlotte, I also hated the price she paid for that loyalty. Diener provides quite a cast of side characters and each one was interesting and unique.
I love when a novel hooks you in the first few pages and that is exactly what happened with The Emperor’s Conspiracy. The fast pace, twists and fleshed out characters immediately swept me up and kept me entranced. This is one of those novels where I just had to read “one more chapter” despite the late hour and found myself up till three am! It was worth the lack of sleep as I found the mystery and tale to be delightful. Diener took true historical facts about Napoleon and his plans to take down England’s economy and wove them into this tale. At times it was very dark and gritty and the suspense was unnerving as the author blurred the lines of fiction and reality. I love when a tale and its characters become real to me. The romance was sweet, complex and totally takes a back-burner to the intense plot. The ending allows the reader to draw their own conclusions and I closed the book with a smile.
I so recommend The Emperor’s Conspiracy to fans of mystery and suspense in a historical setting. Not sure you like historical fiction, but love mysteries, crime novels and suspense? I recommend you try this since the pacing is riveting. I look forward to reading more from this talented author. You can find all of Michelle Diener’s works listed here.
I gave this novel 4.5 cups of coffee out of 5