We must have a romance for Valentine's Day!
"an enjoyable, not-too-predictable historical romance along the lines of a classic Hollywood movie featuring the dashing Errol Flynn. Best read with a sumptuous box of chocolates."
In the months following the end of the Napoleonic War, Emma, her sister Fiona, and their father Lord Forgall, are living in Paris. Emma is a talented cryptographer working for her father, who is a spy-master. Emma is proud of her code-breaking abilities, but rather too happy to discuss this supposedly secret skill in public, a fact that leads both her and her father into a dangerous situation. Fortunately, Captain Stephen Killian is on hand to save them. Killian is the wild Irish rogue; a gifted, fearless swordsman, whose combat skills bring him to the notice of Emma’s father. Unfortunately, Killian is also hot-headed and not very subtle with his use of language either – two characteristics that hinder his progress when he’s sent to learn spycraft from Emma.
Emma and Killian make an attractive couple, perfect creations for an action-packed romp. There’s a dual in an opera box, a stolen gem and murdered aristocrat, a missing secret code-book and a kidnap. Exciting stuff, as this extract suggests:
‘Time slowed down and each movement gained a crystalline nightmarish clarity. Von Hentzow’s angry face loomed large. She was trapped . . .’
As a page-turner the novel is not to be taken too seriously perhaps, but one knows this from the opening scene, where Killian meets Emma after he has single-handedly crossed swords with four Prussians on a bridge, and been observed doing so by Field Marshall Gebhard von Blücher, the Duke of Wellington and the French minister Talleyrand, plus Emma and her misguided parent. The Tsar of Russia arrives on the scene on the next page.
The novel is well-written and engaging, but a final proof-reading would have been beneficial for the edition I reviewed - which might have been a review copy, where errors often occur. (There were a few minor errors including shifting tenses and mixed points of view; Roman numerals need adjusting to clarify which King Louis had a long and glorious reign, and which a short and tragic life, and which of them was married to Marie Antoinette.)
All in all, however, this is an enjoyable, not-too-predictable historical romance along the lines of a classic Hollywood movie featuring the dashing Errol Flynn.
Best read with a sumptuous box of chocolates to hand!
© J.G. Harlond
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