IMPERIAL SCANDAL – Teresa Grant
Kensington Trade Paperback
Brussels, Belgium – 1815
The people of Brussels are breathlessly awaiting news of what Napoleon will do now that he has escaped Elba. While society, both British and Belgium, celebrate the Duke of Wellington's assured success against the French emperor in the only way they know how—with a ball—British intelligence agent Malcolm Rannoch meets secretly with one of his best French sources. The meeting goes awry when the Frenchman is killed, and Malcolm nearly so, but not before the double agent imparts a word of warning—beware the Silver Hawk. With those words ringing in his head, Malcolm and fellow British spy, Colonel Harry Davenport, investigate the chateau from where the shots may have come and happen upon a second casualty, Julia Ashton, the sister of Lady Cordelia Davenport and wife of Captain John Ashton of the British Life Guards.
Lady Cordelia Davenport's unexpected arrival in Brussels is a mystery in its own right. The gossips still speak in hushed tones of Cordelia's various affairs and of her lengthy separation from her husband, Harry. Could she have come to visit her sister? Only one person knows why she is here, and Cordelia is keeping her own counsel. But when she receives the news of her sister's untimely death, she battles her own grief with a determination to find out who is behind the murder. Malcolm Rannoch has developed a reputation with his wife, Suzanne, for sleuthing, and it's no surprise that Wellington asks for their assistance once again.
But as Suzanne and Malcolm begin the arduous task of finding out who killed Julia Ashton and why, it unravels a nasty coil of treacherous secrets that may be better left alone. Battle still looms between England and her allies and Napoleon Bonaparte. It's a race against time and could spell disaster on many fronts.
IMPERIAL SCANDAL is jam-packed with action and heroism, yet maintains a saga-like quality. I actually missed out on the previous book, VIENNA WALTZ, in Teresa Grant's apparent series, and while I had to do some back-peddling to get up to speed, it didn't diminish my enjoyment. Suzanne and Malcolm's story begins there, and now they've been married long enough to have a son and to already have developed their sleuthing reputation.
When I sat down to write this review, I was actually at a loss as to where to start. The heart of the story is the murder of Julia Ashton and the tower of secrets that fall like a house of cards once Suzanne and Malcolm get started. But there is so much else going on while this mystery is being solved: the eventual Battle of Waterloo; Harry and Cordelia's tempestuous marriage; and even secrets between the Rannochs that may have already been mentioned in VIENNA WALTZ but assuredly astonished me in IMPERIAL SCANDAL. That one I'm intentionally leaving out of this review because I feel it's too much of a spoiler, but it really added a dimension to Suzanne and Malcolm that I'm hoping to read more of in the future.
We'd be here all day if I were to begin an entire list of characters, so I won't even go there. Seriously, the book is prefaced by a Dramatis Personae list and describes the individual characters, to whom they're related or married, and their hierarchy. It's two pages in length. I felt myself referring to it repeatedly just to keep everyone straight in my head.
That being said, IMPERIAL SCANDAL is not left wanting for all the referencing I had to do. Teresa Grant has penned a stunning tale of treachery, murder, spy games, and romance, and set it as her own prelude to the Battle of Waterloo. I want more. I've already planned on going back and reading VIENNA WALTZ, but now I'm left wondering when I'll get to read more of Suzanne and Malcolm and just what they'll get into next.