Couples coming together for romance from opposite sides of the of the tracks is one of the staples of literature but Michelle Diener gives it a different twist in her historical novel The Emperor’s Conspiracy. Her Charlotte Raven embodies both sides of the track as a former chimney sweep adopted and raised by a wealthy and fashionable gentlewoman. When Charlotte warns Lord Edward Durnham’s sister of impending danger to her children, she is drawn into his world of spies and intrigue, a Napoleonic plot to destabilize the English government, and her childhood friend Luke’s dangerous personal, and criminal, war against the British government.
The Emperor’s Conspiracy is a fast moving story heavy on the intrigue and history- with a splash of romantic feeling between Charlotte and Edward. It’s nicely intertwined with the twisty plot that doesn’t neatly fold itself into a particular genre, but straddles several – historical fiction, mystery, spy novel, a tad bit of a romance. Charlotte Raven is a particularly appealing character because she doesn’t escape the hardship that would have been face by those who lived in poverty. She’s adopted around the age of twelve, and though she has the appearance of a gentlewoman she is burdened by the horrors of her past, the life she narrowly escaped and the friends left behind who weren’t so lucky. With feet planted firmly in both worlds she navigates the restrictions of her privileged lifestyle and the watchful eye of Luke, a man who still longs for the relationship they shared as younger adults.
Diener based her plot on real life Napoleonic conspiracies to topple the English government, and her novel gives every evidence of careful research. I’ll cop to not always knowing what was going on. It is quite detailed, clever and most of all, enjoyable. Recommended.