Book: The Emperor’s Conspiracy by Michelle Diener
I usually have good luck with the nonfiction titles I choose to read. Likely because they are of a topic that interests me, even if something falls flat in the delivery. Fiction, however, is always a crap shoot. Last week the odds were on my side and I ended up with a pearl. This week, the odds went against me and all I have is a lump of wet sand.
Charlotte Raven begins life as the illegitimate offspring of a prostitute’s daughter, spends a part of her childhood as a chimney sweep living on the streets, and ends up a lady—thanks to an actual lady who took pity on the young girl and made Charlotte her ward. Charlotte keeps in touch with the crime lord she befriended during her street days, and eventually her past and present collide in the midst of a government investigation into gold bullion smuggled out of England.
Oh, and she meets and falls for Edward Durnham, brother of friend, who just happens to be in the employ of the Crown, trying to determine who is involved in the gold smuggling.
Where to start? The premise is absurd, the language anachronistic, and the characters flat and unlikeable. The conspiracy of title doesn’t figure into the plot until a good half-way through the story. The reliance on coincidence is great, and the resolution incomplete and unsatisfactory. Yet with all that, my biggest objection is to the author’s disrespect for the genre.
I tend to be an historical fiction kind of girl. As such, I believe that a writer needs to realistically represent the time in history about which she is writing. Historical fiction demands that the author conduct research in order to accurately portray the time period. I can’t find too much evidence that Miss Diener did that. Characters speak with modern speech patterns and vocabulary. The society characters are more familiar with each other than was common during the Napoleonic wars. Yes, perhaps the conspiracy to steal British gold did exist, but it seems that Miss Diener took that event and set it in an England of an indescribable time and let her characters speak and behave without regard to conventions of the actual time period. That just does not sit well with me.
So why, then, does this book get a 2 rating rather than a 1? Sadly, for what it is not rather than what it is. Edward Durnham could have easily been a prototype for Jane Eyre’s Edward Rochester (dark, brooding, melancholic, and thug-like), but he is not. This book could have easily been a trashy romance (raspy, moaning voices; domineering hero and virginal heroine; suggestive language and innuendo), but it is not. So for restraining herself from turning a bad historical romance to an even worse historical romance novel, Miss Diener merits herself a 2-book rating.