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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Review - Smoke and Lies

I recently read where one person saw many correlations between this series and the Sebastian St. Cyr series by CS Harris.  I believe this is far more on the intrigue side and not as grim as Sebastian St. Cyr series that is a solid detective investigating sometimes gruesome murders.  I find this a welcome change when I don't want the darkness of Sebastian St. Cyr but rather the rush of political intrigue during the fascinating Napoleonic time period.

I have followed this series from the beginning: 

1 --SWEET REVENGE (click here)  

2 -- THE COCOA CONSPIRACY (click here), 

3 -- RECIPE FOR TREASON (click here)  

AUTHOR Interview -- (click here). 

Author: Andrea Penrose

Copyright: May 2018 388 pgs

Series: 4th in Lady Arianna Regency Mystery series

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical suspense, amateur sleuth

Main Character: Lady Arianna Saybrook

Setting: 1814 London, at sea, Italia island of Elba

Obtained Through: personal purchase

Book Blurb: "Now that peace reigns in Europe and Napoleon has been exiled to the island of Elba, Lady Arianna and her husband, the Earl of Saybrook, are determined to put government sleuthing aside. But the head of British security has other ideas . . .

Rumors are rife that Napoleon may be plotting to take back the French throne and plunge the Continent into another war. So when Saybrook learns that his Spanish cousin has gone missing on the island under mysterious circumstances, he and Arianna feel they have no choice but to undertake a secret mission to Elba for the government and unravel the serpentine tangle of truth and lies.

Friend or Foe? From the start, they find themselves up against treachery and deceptions. And for Arianna, things become even more difficult when she encounters ghosts from her past, forcing her to make fundamental choices about love, loyalty, family and friendship. Once on Elba, she and Saybrook—along with some unexpected allies—must match wits with a deadly enemy and the great Napoleon himself. And with the clock ticking, all the last-minute machinations come down to a question of Luck . . ."

Arianna is a smart action oriented character, perfect for intrigue and improvisation as she dons disguises and chases shadows. She has a troubled past and many bad life experiences that come back to haunt her in this addition to the series.  Alessandro De Quincy, the Earl of Saybrook, is more of a forceful presence yet he has had his share of grief and difficulty in his life due to serving in war.  These two rely on each other as they can't trust their allies in this mission. One such ally is Lady Plessy-Moritz who clearly has an additional mission, and perhaps even her own ulterior motives at play.  Then there is Count von Wolfram, Wolf for short, a dangerous con man from Arianna's past also tasked to work with them but seemingly hiding something as well.  Plus an American Navy officer, Captain Hamilton, is a rocky ally since American and England have barely ended a war.

Ms. Penrose incorporates setting expertly.  They are at sea for a bit of the story and you feel salt air and waves tossing the ship.  Once on the Isle of Elba, the sense of eyes watching every move and ears listening to every breath is ever present.  Great job with the setting.

Nothing is quite what it is supposed to be. The journey by sea could have dragged, but rather it is filled with intrigue, this only gets more intense once they reach Elba.  The pacing builds towards the climax and is well done.

 The climax is filled with urgency, bravery, and perilous danger.  Everything I love as well as a few revelations.  Great job.  

I must say, I love the intrigue this series always delivers. It is my go to for a great historical suspense and the characters of Arianna and Saybrook I find very enjoyable.  This outing was filled with cloak and dagger and danger lurking all handled quite well.  Ms. Penrose is at the top of her game.  If you are looking for less gruesome murders and more spy master intrigue, this is the series for you.

Rating: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list 

Here is a short video of Elba and Napoleon's time there.

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