Courtesan, actress, medium - spy. 1805: Europe stands poised on the brink of war. Elza is content with her life in the demi-monde, an actress and courtesan 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. She has one alternative - to become the secret agent of the most feared man in Europe, Napoleon Bonaparte! France's invasion of England is imminent, but a spy in the camp of the Grand Army threatens the secret plans. Taking the Emperor's commission to catch the spy means playing the deadly game of spy versus counterspy. However, this is no ordinary espionage, but backed by the power of the witches of England determined to hold England's seawards against invasion. Only an agent who is herself a medium can hope to unravel their magic in time - with the life of the man Elza loves hanging in the balance. From the theaters of Paris to the sea cliffs that guard the Channel, from 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 for she must triumph - or die!
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The Emperor's Agent starts with Elza who is basically a woman beyond her time. Elza has separated from her husband. She was not willing to trade her freedom to remain in a loveless marriage.
Elza is blackmailed into being a spy for Napolean. She has to uncovered the spy who is informing the British of a pending invasion from France. With her lover's Michel in the balance and the one true man she will ever love, she unwillingly accepted the deal.
There is a bit of mysticism involved. Elza is also a medium who can see bits and pieces of the future. She is pitted against the witches of England find the spy.
The narrator Anne Hancock delivers a very good performance of reading the book. The story is a little more complicated. Michel is not of noble class. He has old fashion values. He has married a noble woman after getting her pregnant. He even tried to resist his attraction to Elza and to be faithful to the woman he married. Michel is idealistic that the woman he married should love him back. Yet again Michel is a general even though he is inapt socially.
I also enjoyed that the story filled the background story of the Napolean War and the brilliance of Napolean's war strategy.
I have received this audio book from the author via Audiobook Blast to write an honest review. I was not compensated or influence in any way for writing the review.
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.
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.
I received an AudioBook copy of the title from the narrator via AudioBook Blast for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.