Nothing is fair in love and war. . . Europe’s elite have gathered at the glittering Congress of Vienna–princes, ambassadors, the Russian tsar–all negotiating the fate of the continent by day and pursuing pleasure by night. Until Princess Tatiana, the most beautiful and talked about woman in Vienna, is found murdered during an ill-timed rendezvous with three of her most powerful conquests. . .
Suzanne Rannoch has tried to ignore rumors that her new husband, Malcolm, has also been tempted by Tatiana. As a protégé of France’s Prince Talleyrand and attaché for Britain’s Lord Castlereagh, Malcolm sets out to investigate the murder and must enlist Suzanne’s special skills and knowledge if he is to succeed. As a complex dance between husband and wife in the search for the truth ensues, no one’s secrets are safe, and the future of Europe may hang in the balance. . .
Publisher and Release Date: Kensington, 29 March 2011
Time and Setting: Vienna, 1914
Genre: Romantic Historical Mystery/Suspense
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by Jill
<“…in this city where, every day, borders were redrawn and lovers changed partners as lightly as if they were dancing the waltz…”
In 1814 the Congress of Vienna was convened to redraw boundaries after the Napoleonic Wars and to redress the balance of power in Europe.
Malcolm Rannoch, diplomat and intelligence agent and member of the British delegation, is accompanied by his wife Suzanne and their 17 month-old baby Colin to Vienna. Suzanne has been sent a note by Princess Tatiana Kirsanova, rumoured to be the mistress of the Tsar of Russia and other notable persons at the Congress. When she enters the room the Princess is dead and Suzanne finds her husband Malcolm kneeling over the dead body. But barely before any of her questions can be answered, another two men enter the Princess’s room, Tsar Alexander of Russia, followed shortly after by Prince Metternich, Austria’s foreign minister. It seems that Suzanne was not the only one to receive a note from Princess Tatiana.
Although this is the first book by Teresa Grant and it is a standalone, Vienna Waltz is actually part of the Charles & Melanie Fraser series by Tracy (aka Teresa) Grant. There are three other books – Secrets of a Lady (aka Daughter of the Game), Beneath a Silent Moon and The Mask of Night which is the order in which they were published. The chronological order of books though is Vienna Waltz, Beneath a Silent Moon, Secrets of a Lady and The Mask of Night. The books though, in my opinion, can be read in any order and as stand-alones. But for a better picture of the central relationship of Malcolm & Suzanne (aka Charles and Melanie) then it is best to read all.
Author Teresa Grant has written a complex and gripping historical mystery. Her ability to weave fictional figures and events into real historical events is brilliant. At the beginning of the book she has provided a Dramatis Personae listing the real and fictional characters, which is handy in such a complex plot to keep in mind who’s who.
Suzanne is no gently-reared 19th century lady cowering behind the strong arm of her husband. She is in almost every respect Malcolm’s equal. And this is never more evident as when she stands side-by-side with Malcolm in kickass action mode. This will have some historical fiction lovers cringing. But for those who have read the previous Charles & Melanie novels you know exactly what you’ll be getting. And in fact in this one Suzanne doesn’t get quite as much action time as Melanie usually does.
A little rant about the central relationship. The Rannochs’ relationship is fascinating. Their calm, polite interactions with each other belie the tumultuous undercurrents that have brought them together. Where Teresa Grant has excelled in the historical details and complex plot, the protagonists’ relationship has not been given similar devotion. Instead Teresa Grant prefers to drip-feed details about their relationship. It is all so frustrating and teasing. And addictive. In that sense Teresa Grant has done a fine job of keeping me interested in this series as I’m now so invested in it I will continue reading the coming installments simply to garner the next little tidbit she throws out. I’m like one of those pathetic weekend gold-panners hoping for that little glimmer of gold that shows up all too infrequently. But so delighted when I do find a speck that it keeps me going and pressing on till the fates deliver another tiny speck into my pan. Such are the rare and yet incredibly golden moments in this series, when a tiny morsel of info about Malcolm and Suzanne is revealed.
Though not quite the perfect blend of history, mystery and romance – the history and mystery far outweigh the romance – for readers who love their historical mystery and historical fiction without the encumbrance of romantic notions, this will be a perfect read. A multi-layered, historical mystery, rich in historical detail. At the heart of this novel though, is Malcolm and Suzanne. Without them, their dynamic, these novels (Charles and Melanie Fraser series) would lose their substance, their focus.