4.0 out of 5 stars Crown of Fire picks up immediately where Lords of the East left off, as Marianne and her merry band of loyal friends take the long road to Moscow so she can warn Napoleon of a treasonous plot against his Russian campaign. Once in Moscow, they find the city in panic and the citizens fleeing at the word of the Emperor’s approach. Separated from the rest of their group, Marianne and Jason cross paths with old foe Count Chernychev. Male egos and tempers fly and the two men duel, with Jason landing in the clinker (no spoilers, that’s on the jacket) and Marianne’s left to shuffle for herself – and just like a cat she always (well, almost always) lands on her feet.

The embittered Moscow residents plan to burn the city to the ground rather than yield it to the invading army, and let’s just say that our heroine definitely jumps out of the frying pan into the fire this time. Even if she can escape the burning city, there’s still a long road to travel as Russia’s deadly winter begins its bitter grip on the countryside – there’s little food, the horses are dying and plenty of marauding Cossacks are bent on revenge against all things French. Plus there’s still a very ticked off  Napoleon somewhere on the road behind her (and when she ticks him off she doesn’t mess around ;)).

Will our heroine survive this latest peril? Will Napoleon strangle her when he gets his hands on her? Will Jason escape prison and search for his beloved Marianne, or will he continue to be the jealous jerk he’s been in the last two books? Will Marianne finally get over her blind devotion to Jason, wake up and smell the coffee and realize where her true destiny and happiness lies? Gawd, I sure hope so.

This was just as much fun as the previous books in the series, although I am glad it’s finally over – a person can only take so much high adventure, returns from the dead, near misses and emotional turmoil – and all of that before she hits her twentieth birthday! There were a couple of things I wish had been resolved better instead of leaving the reader hanging wondering what really happened. We never do find out what you-know-who was really up to in Russia, what happened to Dr. Leighton and Marianne’s missing jewels, nor the mystery of the diamond and the identity of the person who retrieved it. Perhaps there was another book written and/or planned that never made it to this side of the pond? All in all this series was jolly good fun and I do want to hunt down Benzoni’s Catherine series one of these days. These books were wildly popular in France and have been put to film. I found this clip from the first episode on YouTube,

The series in order,

  1. Marianne (also found in two volumes as Bride of Selton Hall and The Eagle and the Nightingale)
  2. The Masked Prince
  3. The Privateer
  4. The Rebels
  5. The Lords of the East
  6. The Crown of Fire