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June 14th, 2017

Elza, the female trickster

James Bond, Jack Sparrow, even D'Artagnan -- we're used to the male trickster as hero, or at least as the protagonist of his own story, but female tricksters are few and far between.  Elza, hero of The General's Mistress, The Emperor's Agent, and now The Marshal's Lover, is a female trickster.  She is a secret agent, the wily, seductive, libertine master of disguise more often seen as the hero's antagonist, the Bond Girl.  But this is her story, and she's the one calling the shots -- quite literally, as she takes on a counterespionage mission with a license to kill.  In short, The Marshal's Lover is the story of two of Elza's assignments in the Emperor's service.  But being a secret agent has a price, and Elza uses herself as hard as any clever trickster can, from the battlefield where she takes a near-fatal wound to the ballroom where she seduces the enemy with utter ruthlessness to get the information she needs.

And yet her life is far from joyless hardship.  Elza revels in her bisexuality, in her ability to play seducer and seduced both, and in the freedom she enjoys and appreciates all the more for knowing that it's only possible because she is a citizen of France, with license forbidden to most women in Europe.  In the first book, The General's Mistress, Elza thought politics was a crock of bull, a game for rich men to play that meant nothing.  Twelve years later, she fights for her ideals.  She values her freedom and the government that allows it, and so she plays the game of espionage for that most elusive of reasons, idealism.  She is a principled trickster.  This is also true of her private life.  While she and her lover, Michel, are very much a thing, he knows that she will seduce enemies.  And that she will amuse herself with friends.  They've entirely come to terms with that, and to a certain extent to his marriage.

If you've ever wanted to see inside the mind behind that beautiful, inscrutable face confronting the hero over a pistol or a pillow, if you've ever wondered what her internal life was like and what her reasons were for playing this dangerous game, read this book.  Meet Elza.