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A Secret Agent Infiltrates a 19th-Century Spy Network in Hold Fast

This new historical fiction novel is set during the tumult of the Napoleonic Wars.

hold fast
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  • Photo Credit: Linda Holman / Unsplash

From 1803 to 1815, the Napoleonic Wars raged through Europe. Led by the notorious Napoleon Bonaparte, the French Empire and its various allies instigated conflicts with other European nations in a quest to extend imperial power across the continent.

One of the nations pitted against France was England. France hoped to isolate and economically weaken the island country, but the latter ultimately emerged from the conflict victorious. In fact, Britain’s win helped secure the nation’s place as a global power, foremost in the world in naval might and economic strength.

Related: 8 Essential Texts About Napoleon Bonaparte and the Napoleonic Wars

For the history buffs among us, this might all seem obvious in hindsight. But when the Napoleonic Wars were ongoing, the outcome seemed far from certain. Europeans were waiting with bated breath as the future of their nations and even their very lives hung in the balance.

For those who are curious about the conflict’s human impact, there’s really no better way to envision the highs and lows of this era than by reading historical fiction. Hold Fast, a new novel, immerses readers in the taut suspense of the Napoleonic Wars. Picking up the action in 1803, it follows Thomas Grey, a former agent for His Majesty’s Secret Service. 

Grey might be fictional, but the backdrop of this story is very real, taking place at the outset of the war. The first shots of the conflict have already rung out, and tensions are running high. For his part, Grey once excelled at extracting classified information from the enemy, but his wife’s death has left him bereft. He decides to leave his native England for Boston, where he can grieve quietly. But Grey soon learns that he can’t outrun his past—not even when he’s oceans away.

Related: Travel to an Unexplored Moment in History with A Man at Arms

When the ship carrying Grey gets into a sea battle with a privateer, the captain is forced to make a detour in neutral Portugal. There, the French make Grey an offer: if he sells out Britain’s spy network to the enemy, he’ll be handsomely rewarded. However, the French have overlooked one crucial detail. Grey’s wife lost her life to an unlucky shot from a French cannon. Grey is no disgruntled ex-employee of His Majesty after all, but a man with an impassioned vendetta against the French. 

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  • Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Grey takes the offer, leaving the unsuspecting French with a triple agent in their midst. He relocates to Paris, where he schemes to infiltrate the highest levels of Napoleon’s government. Between his handlers, his fellow spies, and Napoleon’s secret police, Grey faces the danger of his true motives being exposed at every turn.

Hold Fast is author J. H. Gelernter’s debut novel, released on May 4, 2021. It’s already received positive reviews: fellow author Lee Child said, “This is superb, like a great Cold War thriller, smart, fast, twisty and dangerous. Highly recommended." Meanwhile, Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying, "Gelernter keeps the suspense high without sacrificing plausibility. Bernard Cornwell fans will welcome this promising new talent."

Related: 10 Everyday Objects that Doubled as Real Spy Gadgets

With clashing empires, rollicking sea battles, and international espionage, Hold Fast is an exciting glimpse of a bygone era. Not only does it feature the twists and turns of the Napoleonic Wars, but it shows readers what espionage was like in an era without advanced technology. Modern intelligence bureaus such as the CIA weren’t formed until World War II or later, so even readers well-versed in covert operations will find they have something to learn from Thomas Grey’s exploits.

For a thrilling book set during a fascinating era, you can’t go wrong with Hold Fast. Order this absorbing new historical fiction novel today for a read you won’t be able to put down.

Get your copy at Bookshop or your preferred retailer below!

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Featured photo: Linda Holman / Unsplash