Banquet of Lies, by Michelle Diener, is a delectable romp in the English countryside circa early 1800s with a twist of French chic. Taking place in a Downtown Abbey-esque setting, Giselle Barrington takes to hiding out in the house of nobleman Lord Aldridge posing as his cook who is able to whip up his current cravings for French cuisine (which makes his English butler aghast by the way….).
However, she also makes the rest of the kitchen staff, and especially the butler, nervous as she keeps forgetting her societal place, using her own noble etiquette instead of succumbing like servants as the rest of them do. Oh, and there is also the fact that she keeps running out at night without a reason why….
Being the daughter of a British spy, one who is killed in front of her to start out the book, she has an important document she must keep safe, while also figuring out clues as to who the “shadow man” is that killed her father and finding someone to help her, without giving herself away to anyone who might want to kill her!
Michelle’s novel was an entertaining read of light and fun espionage and a lovely story of relationships–of those within the household and of a possible growing one between Lord Aldridge and Giselle.
She gives us a strong female lead that isn’t afraid to be afraid. You know….she doesn’t let fear stop her from doing a mission she feels she was bound to do. Lord Aldridge is enamored by her the moment he sees her and can’t stop thinking he’s seen her somewhere before. And he loves her food…doesn’t the saying go, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach?” Her dishes certainly made my tummy rumble!
The details in the books, such as the cooking, the market, setting the scene from light to dark of night was all done in a way that I could visually see what was happening. Her spy twists were suspenseful and the emotional and romantic tension helped propel me through the book.
I also liked Michelle’s layering of characters, both low and high classes and showcasing positive qualities in the lowest of employees, reminding us as readers that they were humans too who had real lives, dreams, hopes, loves, and beauty. I loved how she took the time to explore her secondary characters and enjoyed watching Giselle empower and inspire them.
Banquet of Lies is definitely a page turner that left me guessing as well as being entertained by light, engaging prose and eloquent details. I hope this series continues though, as I’d like to find out where the characters are heading next….I’d like to visit them again!
BANQUET OF LIES, Synopsis~
A young noblewoman flees to London and poses as a servant to evade a murderer in this richly detailed and “compelling” (Publishers Weekly) historical novel.
Frightened for her life after her father, a British spy, is murdered, Giselle Barrington flees with the secret document her father gave her for safekeeping. Needing to hide from those now chasing her, and knowing that no one would look for a wealthy young society lady in a kitchen, she takes a job as a cook for a nobleman, determined to use her anonymity to uncover the murderer.
Life below stairs gives her a new perspective on the hard realities of servants’ lives, even though she’s a highly paid one. And when her employer is drawn not only into her investigations, but also to her, they find themselves faced with the power imbalance between servant and master.
Author Michelle Diener, Biography~
Michelle Diener writes historical fiction. Her Susanna Horenbout and John Parker series starts with IN A TREACHEROUS COURT. Set in the court of Henry VIII, it features the real historical figures of artist Susanna Horenbout and Henry’s Keeper of the Palace of Westminster and Yeoman of the King’s Robes, John Parker. It was followed by KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS, also featuring Susanna Horenbout and John Parker, and DANGEROUS SANCTUARY, a short story with the same characters, set between the two books, is currently available as an ebook only.
A new historical novel, set during the Napoleonic Wars in London in 1811, THE EMPEROR’S CONSPIRACY, was released on November 27th, 2012.
Michelle also contributed a short paranormal story to the ENTANGLED Anthology entitled BREAKING OUT. All the proceeds of the sale of ENTANGLED go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Michelle grew up in South Africa, and now lives in Australia with her husband and two children.
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