The Emperor’s Conspiracy

Written by Michelle Diener
Review by Caroline Wilson

Born to a life of hardship in the Rookeries of Regency London, Charlotte Raven makes a miraculous escape when she is adopted by a member of the ton. She is raised in the ways of the aristocracy but never manages to sever her ties to the dark underworld of her childhood. When she meets Lord Edward Durnham, an agent of the Crown investigating the alarming removal of gold from England’s shores, the two become entwined in a perilous plot rooted in real-life history.

The Emperor’s Conspiracy shines as a mystery. Diener is a competent writer who should be applauded for her ability to weave the particulars of this historical conspiracy with the fictional characters presented in the novel. However, problems arise with the hasty romance between Charlotte and Edward. The chemistry between them is practically nonexistent, and the added complication of Charlotte’s one-time lover turned crime boss further convolutes the story.

Additionally, the characters evoke little sympathy. Notwithstanding the first chapter, Charlotte’s traumatic childhood is divulged through brief, conversational mentions that belittle the difficult life she had to endure. Even more unsympathetic is Edward, who is the epitome of the strong, silent type; he is so upstanding he borders on priggish. And yet he throws caution to the wind several times, which is in complete contrast to his personality. While the heart-rending reasons for his being so generally frigid are eventually revealed at the end, the reader may find it hard to empathize.

The novel would have truly excelled had these characters been relegated to solving the mystery only. It is the core of the story and is done well. Consequently, mystery and historical fiction lovers will find this story appealing if they can ignore the romantic subplot.