John Dickinson's first historical novel is an espionage thriller set in nineteenth-century Europe among conflicting factions united only (and not very) by their opposition to Napoleon; I was expecting something like a nineteenth-century version of Alan Furst, which may be why the characterization struck me as especially crude. I don't think it compares well to Dickinson's YA fantasies, either, though.
Michel Wéry, an embittered former revolutionary from Belgium, seeks to bring down the French state that betrayed his country and his ideals, by working for various petty German principalities. He reserves his sole human warmth for his friend Karl von Adelsheim, who dies during the war, and later for Karl's sister, Maria, who abandons a life of physical luxury and emotional poverty under her mother's tyrannical brilliance to investigate the circumstances of her brother's death.
The title refers to a ritual-cum-dance girls perform to discover their future husbands; Maria performs it in front of her brother Karl, giving her romance with Wéry an odd feeling of substitution on both sides. The title seems initially misplaced, as the first part of the book is much more concerned with espionage, politics, and war than with romance; it comes to feel more fitting, and the book unfortunately less interesting, as the romance comes to the forefront. Neither Wéry nor Maria are complex or interesting enough to carry a novel of character, although it was a relief to realize his author thought Wéry was as nuts as I did. [eta 12/1/12: I wish I had been more specific about how Wéry was "nuts," but I believe it had to do with his political decisions--how he prioritized a vengeance he knew he couldn't achieve over realistic change or personal happiness.]