Review: Imperial Scandal by Teresa Grant
Author: Teresa Grant
Title: Imperial Scandal
Release: March 27th 2012
Series: Charles and Melanie Fraser #5/Suzanne and Malcolm Rannoch #2
Source: Personal library
Purchase: | Book Depository
Amid the treachery of war and the whirl of revelry, no one is what they seem. . . Nights filled with lavish balls. . .lush, bucolic afternoons. . .. Removed to glamorous Brussels in the wake of Napoleon’s escape from Elba, Intelligence Agent Malcolm Rannoch and his wife, Suzanne, warily partake in the country’s pleasures. But with the Congress of Vienna in chaos and the Duke of Wellington preparing for battle, the festivities are cut short when Malcolm is sent on a perilous mission that unravels a murderous world of espionage. . . No one knows what the demure and respectable Lady Julia Ashton was doing at the château where Malcolm and a fellow British spy were ambushed. But now her enigmatic life has been ended by an equally mysterious death. And as the conflict with Napoleon marches toward Waterloo, and Brussels surrenders to bedlam, Suzanne and Malcolm will be plunged into the search for the truth–revealing an intricate labyrinth of sinister secrets and betrayal within which no one can be trusted. . .
War and peace in the 18th and 19th century were so much more glamorous than today. It was just as hellish, the results were just as devastating, but everything around it was completely different. In Vienna Waltz Teresa Grant introduced readers to the Congress of Vienna and the diplomacy and politics of a world after the peninsular wars when Napoleon was thought to be vanquished. With balls, endless parties and treaties signed between waltzes and country dances.
Now, a year later and Napoleon has escaped and is once again threatening to take Europe, and Grant’s readers join Suzanne and Malcolm as well as the creme de la creme of British society as they await the final stand near Brussels in what will soon be known only as the Battle of Waterloo. Imperial Scandal continues the exploits of Suzanne and Malcolm Rannoch (important note on this series can be found in my review of Vienna Waltz).
It is June 1815 and Britain and its allies are camped outside of Brussels waiting for Napoleon to make his move. Meanwhile, in Brussels, high society continues to do what it does best – dance their troubles away. When the body of society matron Lady Julia Ashton is found by Malcolm somewhere she most certainly had no place being, Malcolm and with him Suzanne, are asked to investigate and time is running short as Napoleon and his forces march ever closer. Soon the mystery surrounding Ashton’s death grows even greater as love, espionage and the victim’s past all play a part.
Grant weaves a beautiful web of intrigue that kept me turning the pages with wonder. Just when I thought I solved the mystery, she would pose a game changer. Then there is Suzanne and Malcolm’s story, I think Imperial Scandal has some of the most multifaceted characters I have read in a very long time. Suzanne’s inner turmoil over what lies ahead, the obvious tension between the couple and yet, the obvious love they share made for a sublime read and some incredibly poignant moments. I cannot say too much because that would definitely ruin the tale but Suzanne and Malcolm are a couple I keep rooting for and keep wanting to read more about.
Now for the historical aspect, Grant knows just how to present 1815 Brussels on he eve of battle and all the major historical players perfectly – every detail is just as it should be, but what I really enjoyed? She doesn’t take sides. Imperial Scandal doesn’t present any one side as ‘good’ or ‘evil’ though obviously, most of the tale is told from the British perspective. Yet we are also shown what the Bonapartists were fighting for – emancipation, modernization… a more liberal Europe.
Grant’s characters showcase the many reasons a person has for choosing to be loyal to a cause, or for choosing to betray one – money, ideals, love, hate – all play a part and it’s up to the reader to decide which, if any is acceptable.
Reading Imperial Scandal I was simply swept away by the story, standing right there next to the characters at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball. My only regret is that it took me so long to get a hold of this book. Imperial Scandal has the perfect balance between romance and a mystery with just the right amount of historical detail; truly this was Grant’s Waterloo.