Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Scandalous Alchemy by Katy Moran. My thanks to Vicky Joss at Head of Zeus for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my review copy.
About the Book
Fontainebleau in 1825 is a glittering international court, rich with intrigue, passion and simmering violence. Lieutenant Colonel Kit Helford must navigate these treacherous waters to deliver the beautiful, self-destructive Princess Royal to her prospective husband. Kit’s childhood friend, Clemency Arwenack, is tasked with safeguarding her royal mistress’s reputation as the princess awaits a marriage she is dreading.
But both have secrets they will hide at all costs. Kit is on the run – from a man shot and left for dead back in London and a lifetime of scandal that includes a liaison with the princess herself. He will do anything to salvage his family’s reputation. Clemency, meanwhile, conducts a perilous trade in lies and blackmail as she seeks to destroy the princess, not protect her.
With the Princess’s life under threat, Kit and Clemency are pitted against each other, even as a dangerous attraction grows between them. The past hunts them both, remorselessly, relentlessly, and neither can escape it for long.
Format: Hardcover (416 pages) Publisher: Head of Zeus
Publication date: 10th June 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction
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I loved both Katy Moran’s previous books – False Lights (published in digital format as Hester and Crow) and its follow-up Wicked by Design. Scandalous Alchemy is set in the same re-imagined history as its predecessors, a world in which Britain and her allies were defeated by Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.
The main focus this time moves from Lord Lamorna (known to his intimates as Crow) and his wife Hester, to Crow’s younger brother, Kit Helford. If you’ve read either of the previous books you’ll know that Kit has a habit of getting himself into scrapes. He also has a way with the ladies that definitely runs in the family. Okay, so there are no scenes of a bare-chested Crow like those that got me so hot under the collar in previous books, but he does make the odd well-timed appearance. I hope the following description gives you an idea of his appeal. ‘Sailor, soldier, spy, tattooed ployglot, expert liar… tall and dark, with that streak of grey behind one ear, and his very own air of unruly éclat.’
Kit, now a Lieutenant Colonel, finds himself in France appointed to the role of Captain of the Personal Guard of Her Royal Highness Princess Nadezhda. There he runs into Clemency Arwenack, who has been appointed Mistress of the Robes in the Princess’s household. Clemency is considered by some as a ‘safe’ appointment but others know there’s much more to her than outward appearances would suggest. Not only is she a demon at the card table but she’s a practiced intelligencer. Unfortunately, trading in information can be a dangerous game when you have secrets of your own that you’d rather not be revealed. Clemency was once Kit’s childhood playmate back in Cornwall but that’s not how he thinks of her now.
The opulence of Fontainebleau is vividly evoked such as in this description of the preparations for a post-hunt picnic. ‘Hot-house peaches and necatarines were piled in shining pewter, and preserved Seville oranges arranged in honeyed slices on platters of chinaware. There were great heaps of glistening pastries too, sugar-dusted and dotted with caramelised nuts, covered for now with muslin cloths. Not far away, a quartet of violins and a harpist practised unfashionable Beethoven with bored competence.’ Yes, better rethink your plans for next weekend’s BBQ.
Moving from Cornwall to Fontainebleau with a brief stop along the way at an infamous London club, Scandalous Alchemy is a delicious mix of romance, espionage and political intrigue – Georgette Heyer meets John le Carré, if you will. And there’s a generous helping of aristocratic excess and bad behaviour thrown in for good measure. The concluding chapters gallop along at a frantic pace with plenty of twists and turns as danger seems to lurk around every corner.
The publishers describe Scandalous Alchemy as a ‘thrilling and sexy romp through 19th-century France, England and Russia’ and I’m definitely not going to disagree with that! The book ends with what I can only describe as teaser suggesting more adventures may lie ahead for the Lamorna family. I do hope so.
In three words: Pacy, action-packed, spicy,
Try something similar: The Cornish Lady by Nicola Pryce
About the Author
Katy Moran is the author of Wicked by Design and False Lights, published by Head of Zeus. (False Lights was originally published under the pseudonym K J Whittaker.) Katy has taught creative writing
in schools, at the Arvon Foundation, and for the charity Waterloo Uncovered, an archaeology project with a support program for veterans which aims to understand war and its impact on people. She visited the battlefield of Waterloo at their invitation, which led to her exploration of combat stress in False Lights. Katy’s research melds the testimony of present-day soldiers with the
records of their historical counter-parts, to examine common ground and shared experiences across the centuries. She is co-project manager for Waterloo Uncovered’s forthcoming educational project looking at the lives of camp followers, women who accompanied soldiers to the Peninsular War and the Battle of Waterloo. The project offers a
rare insight into the lives of military spouses in a conflict on the cusp of modern history, seeking to broaden our understanding of history by removing the filter of prejudice.
Katy lives with her husband and three children in a ramshackle Georgian house in the Welsh borders. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association.