Book Review: THE EMPEROR’S CONSPIRACY by Michelle Diener

The Emperor's Conspiracy
Publisher: Gallery Books
Released: November 27, 2012
Source: Review copy from the publisher

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.


THE EMPEROR’S CONSPIRACY was an enjoyable read filled with mystery, a touch of romance, and rich historical details about London life at the dawn of the 19th century. From the memorable opening chapter to the unexpected ending, the story kept me engaged.

England’s gold is disappearing fast, and Lord Edward Durnham is assigned to find out who is behind it before the economy suffers. It takes the help of a very unique young woman to put the pieces of the mystery together.

I loved the heroine Charlotte Raven. She is not your typical lady of the ton. Not many members of high society spent their childhood as an impoverished chimney sweep like Charlotte. Though rescued by a generous and wealthy woman, she’s kept her connections with the seedy side of London. She can’t forget her roots, and does what she can to help others. Her ability to blend into both worlds becomes invaluable to Edward’s search for answers.

One person in particular is not happy about Charlotte’s involvement with Edward – crime lord Luke Bracken. Luke was Charlotte’s protector during her years in the stews, and he wants nothing more than to have her again. I have to say, I was rooting for Luke. He had such a rough life, and what happened to him was heartbreaking.

THE EMPEROR’S CONSPIRACY was a well-written historical mystery, dark at times, but always entertaining. The ending was left somewhat open-ended, so I’m wondering if the author has plans for a sequel? I hope so!

Rating: 4 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: IN A TREACHEROUS COURT by Michelle Diener

Series: Susanna Horenbout and
John Parker
, #1
Publisher: Gallery Books
Released: August 2, 2011
Series: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★¾

One of the King’s courtiers and commissioned artist Susanna Horenbout uncover secrets that could mean the end of the King Henry VIII’s reign.

John Parker is one of Henry VIII’s most useful courtiers- utterly merciless and completely loyal. But one small favor for his King pulls Parker into a deadly plot against the throne: one that will test his courage, his resolve, and most especially, his heart.

A commission from Henry VIII should have been the crowning achievement of Susanna Horenbout’s career, but before she even sets foot in England, the talented artist finds herself in possession of a secret that could change the country’s history. With Parker as her only protection against killers who will stop at nothing silence her, Susanna has to trust the dangerous, enigmatic courtier. She’s used to fighting in a man’s world, but she never expected to be fighting for her life.

IN A TREACHEROUS COURT is Michelle Diener’s exciting debut novel. The story is set in the court of Henry VIII when he was still married to his first wife Catherine of Aragon. John Parker, one of the king’s most trusted and loyal courtiers, is sent to meet the king’s new court painter arriving by ship from the Netherlands. He is surprised to learn that the Flemish artist is a young woman named Susanna Horenbout, and that she was the witness to the murder of a spy. The secret message for the king that the dying man whispered to Susanna has put her life in grave danger, and it’s Parker’s duty to deliver her to Henry safely. Soon Parker and Susanna become entangled in a plot against the king, and they must find who’s responsible before Susanna becomes the next victim.

IN A TREACHEROUS COURT is an interesting blend of historical fiction, mystery, suspense and romance. I love stories set in the Tudor period, and I enjoyed the vivid descriptions of this time and place, both the beautiful and the cruel. Henry VIII is one of history’s more intriguing rulers, so I loved that he was a character in this book.

The main characters were also based on actual historical figures. Susanna Horenbout was a Flemish artist who is thought to have worked for the king at one time. John Parker was the King’s Keeper of the Palace of Westminster and his Yeoman of the Crossbows. They seemed well suited for each other since the story tells us neither were traditional players in Henry’s court. Their romance blended nicely into the story as a whole. My favorite character was Parker, who could be ruthless yet compassionate when needed.

The mystery surrounding the plot against the king, including the major players involved, was well researched and very convincing. The book started out strong, but the pacing did slow down in the middle. However, the ending was very suspenseful – there were plenty of nail-biting moments. This is the first book in a series, and I will definitely be reading the next installment, KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS. I would recommend IN A TRECHEROUS COURT to fans of historical fiction/mystery who like a good romance included.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.