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The Barbed Crown

by bdietrich on May 1, 2013

Ethan, Astiza, and son Harry are back on May 7, in The Barbed Crown. That’s the publication date of my latest novel, by HarperCollins.

Astiza? Wasn’t she carried off in a hurricane in The Emerald Storm? Well, yes, but thanks to a bit of ingenuity, dubiously claimed by her husband…

She’s smart, beautiful, and popular with readers. You bet she’s coming back.

“I was smuggled to France on a moonless flood tide,” Ethan begins, “soaked from rain and spattered with the blood of a sailor beheaded by a cannonball.”

Our hero has become an English spy, bent on revenge against Napoleon, and in the company of a beautiful comtesse named Catherine Marceau. But a number of surprises await him onshore, not the least of which is his wife. And then things get really tangled.

The Barbed Crown is the sixth in the series of Ethan Gage adventures, taking place in 1804 and 1805. Historical events include Napoleon’s coronation as emperor, his attempt to invade England, and the decisive naval battle of Trafalgar in which Britain was triumphant but Admiral Nelson was killed.

Once more, Ethan is in the middle of it all.

For those new to the series, it begins with Napoleon’s Pyramids set during Bonaparte’s 1798 invasion of Egypt. Following, in order, are The Rosetta Key, The Dakota Cipher, The Barbary Pirates, and The Emerald Storm.

Readers can dip in at any point: Each can be read as a stand-alone novel. But together they trace the Napoleonic era and the evolution of Ethan Gage and his family.

The Barbed Crown is the best one yet, of course. This time the action is on both sides of the English Channel, including Napoleonic Paris, his army camp at Boulogne, British spy headquarters at Walmer Castle, and Nelson’s home at Merton.

Ethan Gage gets to all of them, and involves his family in a quest for a sacred relic and a hunt for a mysterious medieval machine. Some of this mission carries over into the next novel of the series, tentatively called The Three Emperors and scheduled for publication in 2014.

The Barbed Crown gives intimate views of Empire and Regency society, looks at the conflict from both sides, and traps Ethan and his comrades in peril and mystery. Napoleon is a central character, and Astiza, Ethan’s wife, plays an ever-more-central role.

Research included exploring Notre Dame, site of the coronation, the catacombs of Paris, and Nelson’s flagship Victory that is a museum in Portsmouth, England.

The latter was particularly useful for the novel’s climax at the Battle of Trafalgar, fought off the coast of Spain between the British fleet and the French and Spanish navies. I did a lot of interesting reading to try to get it right.

I also enjoyed enlisting four-year-old Horus, or Harry, in key parts of the adventures. It will be interesting to watch him grow up.

I’m making a number of presentations on the book. Check “Readings” on my blog for the latest.

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