Thursday, November 22, 2018

An Assassin's Guide To Love and Treason by Virginia Boecker

An Assassin's Guide To Love and Treason by Virginia Boecker
Release Date - October 23, 2018
Publisher Website - Hachette Canada
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  374 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received from the publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
When Lady Katherine's father is killed for being an illegally practicing Catholic, she discovers treason wasn't the only secret he's been hiding: he was also involved in a murder plot against the reigning Queen Elizabeth I. With nothing left to lose, Katherine disguises herself as a boy and travels to London to fulfill her father's mission, and to take it one step further--kill the queen herself.

Katherine's opportunity comes in the form of William Shakespeare's newest play, which is to be performed in front of Her Majesty. But what she doesn't know is that the play is not just a play--it's a plot to root out insurrectionists and destroy the rebellion once and for all.

The mastermind behind this ruse is Toby Ellis, a young spy for the queen with secrets of his own. When Toby and Katherine are cast opposite each other as the play's leads, they find themselves inexplicably drawn to one another. But the closer they grow, the more precarious their positions become. And soon they learn that star-crossed love, mistaken identity, and betrayal are far more dangerous off the stage than on.
I've always loved historical novels that offer something extra. Virginia Boecker's An Assassin's Guide To Love and Treason offers a well researched historical read but it also offers a well paced, thrilling story that weaves together romance, deception, and mistaken identity.

The characters are the driving force of this story. The plot is quite straight forward so it is the characters and their development that really shone for me. It's easy to become engrossed in a story like this because of the way the characters are written. The writing style ensures that the story is a fast read which also brings the reader further into the story. It's a historical set novel that has a very contemporary feel because of the way it is written.

Toby and Katherine are both fascinating characters.There is an element that adds an additional layer to their story that should have been obvious from the synopsis. Katherine is cast in a play during a time period where only men were cast in plays. This means that she would have to be disguised as a boy for her to be able to take part. This additional twist adds tension to the romance that wouldn't be there originally. It also makes the character of Toby more nuanced than he could have been. His bisexuality is addressed on the page and in a way I felt worked for both the time period, and story being told. It's never far from the reader's mind that Toby could be in danger if discovered. It makes their scenes have a sense of urgency that only added to the tension of the story.

The characters of both Queen Elizabeth and William Shakespeare are standouts. The Queen is a shrewd, smart, calculating woman who manages to make a lasting impression. She's an imposing figure and it is easy to see  how she would inspire both fear and devotion. Shakespeare is delightfully silly at times, brilliant, and dizzying. He manages to capture your attention whenever he appears and ensures that you immediately love him. I like that of these characters create such a strong reaction but neither overshadow the main characters. They work within the storyline and serve their purpose without being overwhelming. These larger than life type characters could easily feel caricature but Boecker manages to keep them feeling grounded even as they are fantastical.

This is a revenge plot at its core. Katherine wants revenge for her father's death. The Queen's laws, and therefore the Queen herself, are to blame so to Katherine the obvious answer is to hold the Queen responsible. This novel works as a spy/assassin thriller on every level. I felt constantly on edge with worry that Katherine was going to be caught. I easily found myself caught up in the plan and the pieces that needed to fall into place for it to happen. There is a sense something impending that keeps the readers on their toes in a way that is more than just the growing tension.

Those of you who love historical novels that are a mix of fictional and non fictional characters will certainly find much to love within these pages. Virginia Boecker weaves together a solid plot with some memorable and intriguing characters to create a book that I predict even those who are not fans of the historical genre will love.

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