The Emperor's Conspiracy
Charlotte Raven leads the life of a lady but, unlike her peers, she was not born into the upper classes--the orphaned daughter of a London prostitute and unknown father spent her youth as a chimney sweep before being taken in as a ward of Lady Catherine Howe. When characters from her past start to pop up at the balls and parties of the well-to-do, she quickly finds herself drawn into a political plot she could not have foreseen but now cannot escape, the epicenter of a collision of the rich and the poor in 19th-century London.
The Emperor's Conspiracy is based on an actual plot to undermine England's economy by smuggling gold out of the country, though Michelle Diener (In a Treacherous Court) has embellished on the original story to add levels of intrigue and romance. Diener's imagination results in a story of murder and mystery, smugglers and thieves, all underpinned by a simple romance. Though some of the characters in The Emperor's Court are conspicuously one-dimensional, particularly when it comes to the "bad guys," the novel's protagonist, Miss Raven, proves subtle and complex. Her struggle to find a balance between her past and her future, forced to decide to whom she will give her alliance--and her heart--proves the most interesting plotline, and one that will leave readers of historical romance looking for more from Diener. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm