Lady Céline Wexham seems the model British subject. French by birth but enjoying life in 1813 as a widowed English countess, she is in the unique position of being able to help those in need-or to spy for the notorious Napoleon Bonaparte.
When Rees Phillips of the British Foreign Office is sent to pose as the countess’s butler and discover where her true loyalties lie, he is confident he will uncover the truth. But the longer he is in her fashionable townhouse in London’s West End, the more his staunch loyalty to the Crown begins to waver as he falls under Lady Wexham’s spell.
Will he find the proof he needs? And if she is a spy after all, what then will he do?
With sharp wit, fast-paced dialogue, and infectious intrigue, Ruth Axtell deftly creates a world where black and white burst into a confusion of colors-and no one is who they seem.
The year is 1813 and Europe is in turmoil. Napoleon has suffered a disastrous defeat in Russia and is now rebuilding his troops. Great Britain has formed a coalition with Austria, Spain and others in hopes of eventually defeating the French Emperor. Meanwhile, the brother of executed king Louis XVI is living in exile in England along with other displaced French royalists. They would love to see Napoleon deposed and France become a monarchy again. But it isn’t just Napoleon standing in their way; a group of their fellow émigrés would love France to be a democratic republic.
When Rees Phillips is sent undercover as a spy in Lady Céline’s household, he doesn’t know which side the French widow is on. Her mother is part of the French court-in-exile and her father was one of those executed during the Reign of Terror that followed the French Revolution. Does she support Napoleon? Is she sending him information based on the gossip she hears in London society? Does she want the French monarchy restored? Who is she meeting with when she leaves her house late at night?
Moonlight Masquerade mixes romance and suspense as Rees and Céline play their complicated game. Other characters also shine, such as Céline’s personal maid, Valentine who has a strong dislike of Rees. It should be noted that Valentine is frequently referred to as an abigail. My understanding is that this was a term used in the 19th century for a personal maid, but it is slightly jarring to those readers who haven’t come across it previously. The French court-in-exile is well described; these were a people desperate for a return to the days of power. There are also frequent observations regarding the movements throughout Europe of Napoleon and his adversary, the Duke of Wellington. They’ll meet eventually, in June 1815, at the Battle of Waterloo.
Publisher: Revell (a division of Baker Publishing Group)
Publication Date: March 2013
Page Count: 352
Thank you to Revell for my free copy of Moonlight Masquerade, which I received in exchange for an honest review.