Difficult choice in the BotW stakes this week, but both options had a historical feel to them. It was between the second of Tracy Grant’s Charles and Mélanie Fraser books and the first in Jodi Taylor’s time travelling adventure books. And as you might be able to tell from the title, it was the Grant that won – in part because I really liked the first book in the series but I happened to read it in the same week as The Glittering Art of Falling Apart and it lost out in the BotW stakes that week. So this – perhaps more than ever – comes with a warning about reading the series in order. On that subject, more later. First, the plot:
Charles and Mélanie Fraser are not your average society couple. The Napoleonic Wars are over, but danger still lurks in the streets of London. There’s something rotten in the Ton and the source of the answers may well be closer to them than they could possibly realise. Assassination, espionage, and secrets in Charles’ family all add up to a fast paced, twisty and complex spy adventure.
With the end of Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series, I’ve been on the hunt for something to fill the Nineteenth Century set spy novel shape in my reading life. And although Grant’s series actually started before Willig’s, I’ve discovered them the other way around. I can’t remember how I first came across them – but it’ll probably have been an if-you-like-this-try-that from either Amazon or Goodreads (and probably based on purchasing Pink Carnations or Deanna Raybourn) and for that I am grateful!
These aren’t timeslip novels, but they do jump backwards and forwards in Charles and Mélanie’s lives – sometimes within the book, but definitely within the series – this was the second book to be published, but is set before the first. And on top of that, the chronological order list on Goodreads gives it as book seven!* But given the events of book one – about which I don’t want to say too much – I suspect reading them in order may have the most impact and will give it the most layers and nuance.
Charles and Mélanie have a complex relationship – founded in necessity, complicated by love and built on secrets. Charles’ family is just as bad. Possibly worse. Add that to a murder and conspiracy and all in all it makes for a gripping page-turner of a book, with more secret compartments than James Bond’s suitcase and some incredibly devious twists and turns. It’s not for the faint-hearted/weak of stomach in places, but it’s worth a bit of queasiness for a historical mystery this good.
I’ve already bought the next one (which is only available on Kindle) and may have put an order in for an actual copy of Book 4. Now prices are variable on these – I’m not sure they’re all published over here (the UK), so the later titles are imports and more expensive. But for the most part the Kindle prices are more reasonable. The first book is Secrets of a Lady (originally Daughter of the Game) and is under £3.50 on Kindle at time of writing but nearly £10 in paperback from Amazon (although they do have second-hand copies for less). Beneath a Silent Moon is under £3 on Kindle and only available second-hand via Amazon. It gets even more complicated later on, but as I said, do start at the beginning…
*And to complicate things further, mid series the lead characters’ names change to Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch. Not that I’ve got there yet, but my head is already aching!