LONDON, 1812: Giselle Barrington is living a double life, juggling the duties of chef with those of spy catcher. She must identify her father’s savage killer before the shadowy man finds her and uncovers the explosive political document her father entrusted to her safekeeping.
Banquet of Lies
Diener, Michelle (2013). [Genre: Historical]
Thank you to Gallery Books for providing an Advanced Reader Copy of this title. All opinions are my own.
In 1812 London Giselle Barrington finds herself going to ground as a chef after the murder of her travelling academic/aristocrat/spy father. Her unusual upbringing means that although she's a society lady, she's also well prepared for a life undercover as she tries to uncover her fathers killer and deliver the important documents left to her by her father into safe hands. The novel is set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic wars; the war doesn't play a substantial role in the story itself but provides a crucial historical context to both the characters and plot.
I love historical novels that are witty and clever!! It's so rare to come across one that's not under the guise of historical romance. While Banquet of Lies definitely has substantial elements of romance, it's truly a traditional historical novel. The historic details are very accurate and give credence to the plot line without taking away from the story, which is actually very insulated from the historical events of the time - a device I found very refreshing in comparison to many historical novels, that concentrate more on the history than the plot.
The characterisation is also lots of fun. Giselle is a strong, independent heroine with a mind of her own. I really appreciated that her upbringing more than explained her sometimes out-of-time character - she's not a modern heroine in a historical time, but a historical heroine with an unusual (but completely believable) upbringing. Lord Alridge, the central male character, also has fantastic characterisation. His back story is not as complete as Giselle's, but it still fits perfectly with the traits he demonstrates through the novel. The switching narrative between Lord Alridge and Giselle was extremely well done and it was great fun seeing the story unfold between them; both because of the male perspective and the bird's eye view we get as the two characters cross wires.
On the whole Banquet of Lies is a charming romp through Napoleonic London. The story and (non-historical figure) character driven plot is refreshing in a historical novel. The characterisation is solid as a rock, with a fun and fitting story.
4/5 stars. Richly detailed and compelling. This is the first time I've come across Michelle Diener - now I'm looking forward to investigating her backlist!