I really expected to love this story; historical fiction, intrigue, Napoleonic era, a woman serving multiple roles in an era when women were often little more than window dressing, Jo Graham has brought multiple elements into the story that should have had me devouring the story. I love historic fiction, and am always intrigued with stories from all sides, so the opportunity was too good to pass up.
The Emperor’s Agent
Although the fifth book in the series, this does stand alone as information regarding the heroine, Eliza, is clearly presented. Eliza was orphaned at a young age, married and widowed, and after her husband’s death, she is embroiled in several love affairs. Her affair with the one man she cannot forget, Michele, is a repeating element in this story, both in flashback and in current remonstrations. A bit confusing and less emotional than I would have hoped – most of the flashbacks are focused on the eroticism to show the connection, which never quite fit for me.
But, I digress. Eliza has been recruited to ferret out the spy that is revealing secrets of the campaigns: Napoleon’s hierarchy is said to be concerned with the spirits that are guiding England in the war, and are using Eliza in some mystical way to commune with the spirits to bring them to the side of the French. While interesting, the author did not explain key elements of the whole connection and the purported use of Eliza for this. Additionally, her dressing in men’s clothes, taking the name of Charles because people treat her differently (even as they know she is a woman in men’s clothing) just felt trite and gimmicky to me –she makes no effort to contain her femininity and by her sheer power of will she gets her results. I was close to putting the audio away and not completing at this point.
Graham’s writing is uneven: lyrical and beautiful in some places then choppy and vague in others. While the research that went into this story is apparent in the battle descriptions and actual timelines, the fiction got lost in a loosely directed overcrowded series of events and ‘must be in there’ elements leaving me more interested in the actual history.
Narration is provided by Anne Hancock, and she uses her crisp delivery and careful attention to the plot to provide a pleasant listen. I didn’t find much emotional reality in the story, it seemed to feel more melodramatic or willful unfeeling moments from Eliza, and this was reflected in the narrator’s performance. Without adding elements that did not exist, nor overplaying the moments that did, Hancock presented this story clearly, with no missteps or overreach in adding elements that were just not supported by the writing.
I’ve read several fictionalizations from this period, and of course non-fiction, but I would not be inclined to recommend this to all but the most dedicated of readers of this author’s work.
Stars: Overall: 2 Narration: 4 Story: 2
Title: The Emperor's Agent
Author: Jo Graham
Series: Numinous World #5
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance
Narrator: Anne Hancock
Published on: 23 April, 2014
Audio Length: 12 Hours: 3 minutes
Heat: Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ AllRomance ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Book Depository ♦ Google
Courtesan, actress, medium -- spy.
Elza is content with her life in the demi-monde, in the glittering society of France's First Empire. But when her former lover is arrested for treason, Elza is blackmailed into informing on her friends and associates in a deadly game in which there are ultimately no winners. She has one alternative -- to become the agent of the most feared man in Europe, Napoleon Bonaparte!
From the theaters of Paris to the camps of the Grand Army, from the ballrooms and bedrooms to battlefields corporeal and astral, Elza must rely on her wits, her courage, her beauty, and her growing talents as a medium to survive -- and to triumph!
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A copy of this title was provided via Narrator for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.