The Emperor's Conspiracy

The Emperor's Conspiracy - Michelle Diener Charlotte Raven is torn between the two worlds of early 19th-century London. On one side is the dark, poverty-stricken, and dangerous underbelly where she grew up, where her childhood friend and protector, Luke Bracken, has grown up to be a bitter, powerful crime lord. On the other side is the pristine, silk-and-satin upper class society that she has was adopted into twelve years prior, where she falls into the company of the formal and refined Lord Edward Durham, a secret agent to whom she has an unexpected attraction. When Charlotte finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy that threatens the structure of society and the nation itself, as well as the lives of those around her and her own reputation, she must use her unique position to find out the truth and bring down the conspirators.This Regency-era historical fiction novel reminded me of Pride and Prejudice -- which, believe me, is a good thing -- if Elizabeth Bennet had a secret past and Mr. Darcy were a spy. This book also contains more murder, smuggling, intrigue, and a brothel or two, which certainly would have scandalized Austen's Bennets. The heroine, however, has every bit as much spunk, wit, and intelligence as Elizabeth, and the hero -- despite a rather prideful and arrogant first impression, has the same sense of honor and integrity as Darcy. It deals with the same sort of issues of family pride and upbringing, loyalty to those love, and the importance of manners, decorum, and social status.In this novel, the author adds intrigue and suspense to these, however, and puts the reader on edge, wondering at the possible connections, who is behind the murders, and how far up the conspiracy goes. The romance aspect is (in my opinion) overly-lustful, but the author does still manage to convince the reader of the characters' sincerity and affection for one another, and you do find them wanting to end up together, despite their differences.At times, the conspiracy created a rather tangled web that was difficult to unravel, but it all ended up making sense in the end. Reader, beware: there are definitely some "Rated-R" topics (rape, brothels, child molestation), but even these weren't overdone (they actually had a point in the plot, not just put in there for shock value) and the evildoers do eventually get their comeuppance.I would definitely recommend this; I was particularly interested to read that the conspiracy described was actually based on true events of the Napoleonic era. Other fans of the historical fiction and mystery genre may enjoy this one as well.Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book!