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    Fast-paced - interesting

    4.5 Stars Things are very, very tense in England. Napoleon has escaped from Elba and is marshaling his troops in order to, once again, take the throne of France and the rest of Europe. The various countries and factions on the continent are vacillating between standing alone, joining Napoleon or joining with England. If Lord Charles Mellon can’t ferret out the spies within each camp and wrestle the various factions into an alliance, then all of Europe will be engulfed in war – again. England can’t fight the battle alone because all of her seasoned troops have been sent to America for the War of 1812. Even though that conflict has ended, there is no way to get those troops from America to England in time to stop Napoleon. That means that the Duke of Wellington is left with a rag-tag group of raw recruits and whatever coalition the diplomats can throw together. Can they defeat Napoleon? Luck will have to be with them at every turn for that to happen. Lord Charles received a secret communication from someone in the Prussian delegation claiming there was a group of conspirators within the coalition of European allies that are in league with Napoleon. They are to foment distrust and dissension in order to cause the coalition to crumble. That would throw the balance of power to Napoleon. The next step depends on Arianna, Countess of Saybrook because the information had met her in Vienna the year before and trusted her. A meeting between Arianna and the informant is set in the garden of the ball they are to attend. Except – when Arianna arrives at the appointed place, she hears a gate slam and finds her contact dying. He mutters a few words and has written a ‘V’ in his own blood. The victim was indeed someone Arianna knew – and liked. The clues lead in multiple directions, there are plots within plots and all are designed to throw any investigators off the track. Arianna and her husband along with Constantina, Dowager Countess of Sterling, Miss Sophia Kirtland, and Lord Grentham are lead from England to Brussels pursuing multiple mysteries whose solutions can save England as well as Europe from the clutches of Napoleon - not to mention saving a young girl from kidnapping and her father from torture and death. This is a fast-paced, excellently written story of intrigue and a bit of romance. The characters are memorable and the scene-setting is exceptional. This author manages to seamlessly weave together fact and fiction in a way that will keep you reading from the first page to last. It was interesting to find – from the Author’s Notes – how much of the book was actually fact. I love it when an author includes the author’s notes and explains their research and what they found. I can definitely recommend both this book and this series!

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