Charlotte Brontë is drawn into a web of political intrigue in the latest novel from Rowland, author of the Sano Ichiro series (The Snow Empress, 2007, etc.).
The cherished isolation of Haworth is disturbed when Charlotte receives an alarming letter regarding her publishing career. She decides the only way to straighten out the mess is to present her real self to her publisher, with sister Anne in tow. Charlotte’s other sister, Emily, furious that their pseudonyms are to be revealed, storms off to stalk the moors. As soon as Charlotte and Anne board the train for London, their adventure begins in the form of Isabel White, a governess of modest means and highly peculiar manner. Miss White seems to be escaping something, and not long after they arrive in London, Charlotte witnesses Miss White’s murder. The killing, far from another example of London’s violence, is instead part of a conspiracy of international proportions. Charlotte must team up with Mr. Slade, a spy for Her Majesty’s Foreign Office, in order to save herself and her family (all have been threatened with death) and capture the villain. After dodging bad men and traveling to the Continent and back, Charlotte discovers the mastermind prepared to topple the British Crown: the seductive Kuan. Seeking to put an end to the British opium trade that has crippled China, Kuan plots treacherous schemes that include the kidnapping of the royal children. Along the way Charlotte falls in love with Mr. Slade; her ruined brother Branwell redeems himself; and the fragile Emily leaves Haworth to do a bit of spying at a school that secretly trains its girls for prostitution. If at times the pursuit of Kuan seems, well, Victorian in its countless plot turns, Rowland offers an attractive counterpoint in her portrayal of the Brontë clan and their family dynamics.
A very Victorian murder, the evils of British imperialism and a beloved novelist unite in this appealing literary mystery.