Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Release Date: October 23, 2018
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult / Romance / Historical
Philippa Gregory meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith in this witty and thrilling action-adventure novel of star-crossed assassins in Elizabethan England. Perfect for fans of My Lady Jane and The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue.
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.
An Assassin's Guide to Love and Treason, by author Virginia Boecker, is a historical fiction/romance novel set in the early 17th century. This is a story that features real-life historical figures and events such as William Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth I, the Lord Chamberlain's men, and the Protestant-Catholic conflict, but with a bold and adventurous twist. The story itself alternatives between two very different characters; Toby Ellis and Katherine Arundell.
19-year old Toby works for Queen Elizabeth as a watcher, cryptographer, and a spy. But, he is also a poet and a writer who was linked for a time to Christopher Marlow who apparently influenced William Shakespeare. His job is to hunt down so called heretics, Catholics, who are illegally practicing their religion. The author has labeled them as Recusants (a Roman Catholic in England who refused to attend services of the Church of England or swear allegiance to the Queen). Toby's plan is that he will lure in the assassins by writing a play called Twelfth Night.
17-year old Katherine's father, Sir Richard Arundell, is a Recusant, a liar, a heretic, and a traitor. After the Sheriff of Cornwall shows up at her home, and her father is killed in the process, Katherine runs away with a priest in training and heads for London. In London, she becomes Kit Alban. Kit, as a boy, finds herself aligned with other Catholics who want revenge against the Queen for killing people because they refuse to kneel to her, and because they are Catholics. Kit's desire for revenge brings her to the attention of one William Shakespeare who is putting together a play called Twelfth Night.
Not unlike the character she will play in the story, Viola (Cessaro), Kit finds herself pretending to be a boy, pretending to be a girl in order to gain a part in the play in order to get close to the Queen who will be attending the play. If you know anything about this era in history, you will also know that men played the female roles in pretty much every single play that was put together. Meanwhile, Toby, aka Duke Orsino, has to uncover the plot against the Queen and find the assassins before they are successful.
As the play progresses, Kit and Toby find themselves drawn towards each other which means forbidden feelings crop up as well. Again, in this era, if you are a man caught with another man, you can be executed without a trial. Fun times these folks lived in, yeah? When you think about Toby's character, it's pretty apparent that he is in a whole lot of trouble if his secrets were to be found out by the Queen, or those who work for her. So, in a way, both Kit, and Toby are breaking the law, breaking the law...oh wait, sorry, got carried away!
Overall, I found the story to be entertaining while also humble since the hatred between the religions was real, and ended up with a whole lot of people being hurt, or killed. I could never live in this time period for fear I would be the next one to be hung by the neck.