The Emperor’s Conspiracy by Michelle Diener


Published by Gallery Books, 27 November 2012


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.

Heat Level 1 Mystery/Romance



Review by Caz

I thoroughly enjoyed this book – although it eventually missed out on getting a 5 star rating, of which more later.

The heroine, Charlotte Raven is an unusual one in that she was once a street urchin and has retained her links to London’s underworld, mainly through her friendship with Luke Bracken, who has risen through the ranks of the criminal fraternity to become what we might now term a gangland boss. Although she is well aware of the restrictions that come with her position as a young, unmarried woman, she is nonetheless very direct in her manner and is not afraid to come forward with information that could help others while possibly endangering her own position in society. I liked that she was fairly straightforward with Edward, too – there is no Big Misunderstanding between them in order to drive the story – she is honest about her attraction to him, even though she is wary of acting upon it.

Her relationship with Luke is very well drawn. They share a bond that neither is willing or able to break, even though Charlotte makes it clear several times that she loves him like a brother, Luke can’t help torturing himself with his desire that she will return to him and love him in a romantic way. Their relationship is dysfunctional, messy and not good for either of them, but there is a real depth to its portrayal that makes it quite compelling to read.

Edward, the romantic hero is less well fleshed out, I felt. He’s all a reader would expect in such a character – handsome, titled, rich and clever – but I never really felt like I got to know him. That said, he and Charlotte make an attractive couple, and the parts of the book where they are working together have a real undercurrent of sexual tension. But this is part of the reason for the 4.5 stars instead of 5 – and why I hope that perhaps we will encounter Edward and Charlotte in a future novel – the ending of the novel is rather inconclusive. On one level, that works very well as we are shown Charlotte, finally free of her demons and realising that she can now be her own person in a position to make her own decisions. On another, it’s a little frustrating that we don’t get at least a glimpse of the hero and heroine together at the end of the book. Looking at it in a positive light however, I suppose that gives the reader the chance to draw their own conclusions and it certainly makes Charlotte into a stronger person.

In her author’s note, Michelle Diener points out that her inspiration for the plot of the novel is drawn from the real-life attempt by Napoleon Bonaparte to destabilise the British establishment by undermining its financial system, thereby bringing about revolution and chaos. The story in the book centres around the gradual realisation on the part of Charlotte and Edward of the attempt, by a small group of so-called gentlemen to enrich themselves by smuggling gold out of England and into the hands of the French government.

This was a real page turner for me, one of those books I was eager to pick up during every spare moment I had. The thriller element was very well done indeed, and kept me guessing as to the identities of the conspirators right up until the reveal; and Charlotte’s progression from someone who feels she belonges nowhere to a woman who finally knows who she is, was extremely engaging.

With thanks to Gallery Books and Edelweiss for the review copy.

About me

I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two girls and have always been an avid reader. I was introduced to the novels of Jean Plaidy at the age of eleven and have never looked back! I love good, meaty, well-researched historical fiction – whether it’s about real figures (Sharon Penman) or fictional ones (Dorothy Dunnett), but I’m a sucker for a well-written historical romance, too.


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