Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Review: The Emperor's Conspiracy

Author: Michelle Diener
Publication Date: November 27, 2012
Publisher: Gallery Books

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.
“It was Charlotte’s turn to blink, but she was pleased to see his focus was entirely on his sister and missed her reaction. He had what would probably be called classical features. Straight nose, beautiful mouth, high cheekbones and forehead. And he was athletic. She felt the skin on her neck and chest heat. Very athletic. In the rookeries they’d call him all the way there. She’d never appreciated a slang phrase as much as she did at that moment.” – Paperback Copy pg. 24

“Outside, through an open set of doors, the boys played with a ball on the fine lawns, their own breakfast long since eaten. The sound of their laughter and shouting soothed her. They were happy, for now, and safe. That had been all she had thought of when she’d left her home, and she had achieved it. Thanks to Charlotte Raven.” – Paperback Copy pg. 30 & 31

“‘You know I will love you until the day I die.’ She shouldn’t have to say this to him, but she suddenly felt the need to remind him that she truly never would be free of him. He was buried deep in her soul. It might be a different kind of love to the one he wanted, or thought he wanted, but it was stronger than that love, to her mind. The love of family. No matter what he did, no matter how it hurt her, she would always love him, even if she could no longer see him because of what he’d become.” – Paperback Copy pg. 49

“‘My old lover. The boy who sat watch over me while I slept as a child, who fought off anyone who tried to touch me, and who was sent to Old Bailey because he struck out at someone who did me harm. The person to whom I owe my life.’” – Paperback Copy pg. 65

“If he spent just one hour in the rookeries, or half an hour talking to the boys imprisoned in the Bailey, or the Hulks, he would know boys took lovers, had girls who kept house in the small corner of a room they might have for themselves, girls who tried to keep their little place, pay the rent on it, while the boys were in prison.” – Paperback Copy pg. 66

This is the first book that I have read by Michelle Diener, but I do not think that I have read a negative review of anything that she has written. You all know how I much I love historical fiction, and I am rarely disappointed with this genre. Michelle took historical fiction to an entirely new level with this book because she captured a part of Regency England that I am not used to reading about: the grimy, disgusting streets filled with squalor. This book revolves around the life of Charlotte Raven, a girl who was fortunate enough to be taken away from the horrid streets and given a life of stability and solitude. Danger lurks all around her however, and because of her previous life this danger she cannot escape.

Charlotte or “Charlie” Raven never really leaves her past life behind and still strives to help those in need just as someone once helped her. Her story is not one that I could easily read. The past life that she was subjected to was awful, and though I am not so naïve to think that young children are not thrown out on the streets to fend for themselves, it is not something that I can digest easily. My heart went out to Charlotte and I found her character to be phenomenal. She took pity on those whose lives reminded her of the one that she was rescued from, and I commend her for that. It takes an incredibly strong person to turn back on the life you prayed for escape from, and to journey back into its ugly depths just to help others who need it.

This book is a very raw read and touches topics that I am not used to reading about, but it was such a wonderful change of events. I found myself going so deep into the reading and asking myself all these questions about what it took to write a novel about such a horrendous time in London’s history. This book may not be based on a factual story, but I am sure that the elements that make it up are very real. Sexual abuse, child abuse, brothels, and the list goes on and on. This is real historical fiction and I loved it. I found myself gritting my teeth and squinting my eyes to get through certain scenes and descriptions, but it is necessary to tell a story this vivid and real. This is not a mushy gushy love story and will give you a new outlook on what went on and still goes on down those grimy city alleyways.

I think Historical Fiction lovers will enjoy reading about this time period and will absolutely love Charlotte Raven’s story! This book also contains a reading guide so it would be perfect for book groups!

***A huge thank you to the publishers at Gallery Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***

1 comment:

  1. I really liked this one too. It was gritty and had characters that I adored. Great review.