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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Review: Vienna Waltz

Title: Vienna Waltz
Author: Teresa Grant
Page Count: 436 pages
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: historical mystery/historical romance
Copy for review compliments of the public library:

Cover Summary:

Nothing is fair in love and war. . .
Europe's elite have gathered at the glittering Congress of Vienna--princes, ambassadors, the Russian tsar--all negotiating the fate of the continent by day and pursuing pleasure by night. Until Princess Tatiana, the most beautiful and talked about woman in Vienna, is found murdered during an ill-timed rendezvous with three of her most powerful conquests. . .

Suzanne Rannoch has tried to ignore rumors that her new husband, Malcolm, has also been tempted by Tatiana. As a protégé of France's Prince Talleyrand and attaché for Britain's Lord Castlereagh, Malcolm sets out to investigate the murder and must enlist Suzanne's special skills and knowledge if he is to succeed. As a complex dance between husband and wife in the search for the truth ensues, no one's secrets are safe, and the future of Europe may hang in the balance. . .

This was a fun book in a variety of ways- lots and lots of historical detail, an interesting puzzle of a murder mystery (with a killer that honestly came as a surprise to me,) an interesting examination of infidelity in marriages at the time period, and a starring couple that I'm looking forward to getting to know better in future installments in this series.

The Congress of Vienna is an excellent backdrop for a story like this- there are movers and shakers from all over Europe gathered in one, sparkling place, and they all know each other's dirty little secrets.  Princess Tatiana, the unfortunate victim of the murder, had played political games with aplomb for as long as anyone could remember, and then someone murdered her.  The situation is especially difficult because to level any accusations would cause an international mess of epic proportions.  Investigators need to tread lightly, and that's where Malcom and Suzanne Rannoch come in.

We meet Malcom and Suzanne after their marriage has already been established- they also have a young son.  Becase they were married so quickly, they don't truly know each other on the level that other couples might, and as a result Suzanne isn't quite sure what to think when the always-helpful grapevine claims that Malcom had been intimately involved with Tatiana in the past.  Folks aren't exactly totally discreet about their extramarital activities and people are generally sympathetic to Suzanne.

Revealing what, specifically, went on between Malcom and Tatiana would be a big spoiler and give away way too much of the twisty, turny plot, so I'll say that when you go into reading this, you always have to withhold judgment until the facts are totally on the table.  In Vienna, secrets are everybody's business, literally.  Another big part of the series revolves around Malcom having to decide whether or not he's going to be totally honest with Suzanne about his past and his current situation- they truly love each other but find that there's a minefield between them that neither had anticipated.

The examination of infidelity was done really well here as well- Tatiana is a famous courtesan who's been romantically linked to everyone at the Congress of Vienna- single, taken, old, young, they were all fair game to her.  She was a beautiful, intelligent woman who knew what she wanted and went after it without apology and without consideration for collateral damage, and ultimately her dedication to her own causes put her in the path of a murderer.  I shy away from saying that Tatiana was a bad person- she did what she wanted and was her own strongest advocate because she totally understood that nobody else truly had her back.  She was what circumstances had made her.

The descriptions of the various events of the Congress are beautifully detailed, and it totally sucked me right into the story.  Suzanne is a great character as well- she's devoted to her husband but she's seen horrible things in her life and knows not to take things at face value.  Her dedication and honest face make her an excellent detective, and she's able to ferret out information and ideas that Malcolm would never have been able to discover on his own.

My main issue with the book is mainly an issue of timing- apparently this is a sort-of-first book in a series.  What I mean by that is that it can be read as an introductory book, which is how I read it, but upon reading some other reviews and product pages for this book I discovered that this is also a continuation of ideas that were presented in a previous series by the same author.  Apparently there was a switch in publishers and therefore some names were changed, but the overall flavor was the same.  Because of that, there wasn't a ton of introduction to Malcolm and Suzanne and we're kind of flung into their relationship right at the moment that the curtain goes up.  Past events are hinted at but there isn't a ton of explanation; those things have to kind of be taken at face value so that the current story can get under way.  The timing felt just a tiny bit off at times, but not enough to keep me from enjoying the story- if anything I want to go back and read the books that were previously released.

Overall Rating:

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