For the moment, London is relatively sheltered from Napoleon’s war of conquest, but that hardly means the city is sitting idle. Castlereagh’s loyal group of spies are traipsing all over the continent gathering information on Napoleon, trying to figure out how to end his war. When Tirrell starts making his way home with important documents only to be nearly beaten to death when he gets there, they begin to suspect the threat to their country may lie closer than they thought.
Of Honest Fame is a historical fiction novel, but you don’t have to be a history guru to enjoy this book. History and geography are probably my two worst subjects. I have steered away from historical fiction in the past for that very reason. Plus, I feared historical novels would dry and polite and formal. And let’s face it, no matter how high school text books paint an event, there’s always more to the story than what you read.
I think that is what intrigued me so much in Of Honest Fame. This was not the academic glossing over I remember from world history. I appreciated how real everything felt. The characters were unique and human, with faults and strengths and interesting personalities. As much as I admire Jane Austen for her creativity and writing ability, I have never been completely captured by her characters because they are just too prim and proper. Bennetts is able to capture in this book the nuances of London life in 1812 in a way that makes is seem very familiar and real. Yes, there elaborate parties and different boots for different times of the day, and of course manners and social conniving play a part, but rather than this being the focus, it seems to be more of a façade everyone wears while real life is happening in the background.
The main plot of this book focuses on the fact that someone knows who Castlereagh’s spies are and is killing them off one by one. It’s a fantastic plot, but in all actuality it really takes a backseat to the characters stories. At least it did for me. I loved Jesuadon’s interactions with Lady Wilmot. Bennetts did a great job of showing his character change with every meeting. I have a hard time with books where I feel like the main character is still the exact same at the end as they were in the beginning. Not so with any of Bennetts characters. Boy Tirrell is a perfect example of a character driven story rather than a plot driven one.
I would hate to spoil Tirrell’s story for anyone, so I won’t go into detail, but the complexity of this character was very enticing. As much as I enjoyed everyone else in the book, I always got excited when I got back to another Tirrell chapter. Through most of the book there is so much you wonder about this character. What exactly happened in Tirrell’s past? Where did he learn is incredible skills? And there were many times after Tirrell was sent to live with Dunphail that I was suspicious that something was off, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. For any of you who keep up with my reviews, you know how much I love that! I hate guessing the twist early on, and Bennetts did a great job of keeping that from happening. She knows how to end a book too!
I could probably go on about this book for a while, because I enjoyed it so much, but I won’t. I’ll wrap it up by saying that Of Honest Fame has really changed my opinion of historical fiction. I can’t wait to read her next book. The research she puts into her books is impressive, and her dedication truly shows through in her writing. I felt like 1812’s London could have been right around the corner because it was portrayed in such a realistic, easily relatable way. Bennetts creativity in developing both story and characters makes sure there is never a dull moment, either. And I learned a lot about what was going on during that time too, which makes it even better.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. The characters and story are great. No plot holes. No inconsistent characters or story lines. There is beautiful romances, danger, sword fighting card playing, intrigue, spying, and more. It was a great read.
Who would I recommend this book to? Obviously any historical fiction readers interested in this time period, but really anyone who enjoys a good romance, a dangerous adventure, or even readers who love the political intrigue of high society. There really is a lot to enjoy in this book. Younger readers may find some of the dialect a little difficult at first if they’re not used to reading something like that, but it would hardly keep them from enjoying the book.