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An Assassin's Guide to Love and Treason

Review

An Assassin's Guide to Love and Treason

I didn't know how much I needed a book that combined Shakespeare, spy-craft, Elizabethan England and theater into one until I read it. Virginia Boecker's AN ASSASSIN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND TREASON was the answer to this unknown literary craving and now that I devoured it, I wanted more.

Sequel, please?

For those of you who aren't familiar with the book, let me introduce you: AN ASSASSIN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND TREASON tells the story of a plot against the Queen of England and the Shakespearean play that is meant to catch the plotters. Toby is a young playwright turned spy who has no autonomy but desperately wants it. He hopes that this last mission is his way out, because to be himself in Elizabethan England is a dangerous thing and the reminder of his mentor Marlowe, who died and left him alone, is too much to bear most days.

"I didn't know how much I needed a book that combined Shakespeare, spy-craft, Elizabethan England and theater into one until I read it....Sequel, please?"

On the other side of the plot is Katharine, the daughter of a Catholic who was slain for his beliefs. She flees after her father is killed and her house is seized of all the Catholic relics and items --- her priest is arrested as well under Crimes against the crown and practicing Catholicism.

Katharine and her father's groom flee to London where they believe the other men involved in the Catholic plot will help her. But instead of hiding or fleeing the country, she joins the plot, desperate to avenge her father. They hatch a plan like Lord Essex's failed attempt, to use a play as a rouse to usurp --- or in this case, kill --- the Queen and restore rule to the monarch they believe should rule.

Katharine will become Kit and try out for the play and when it is performed for the Queen in a private showing, she will kill her. She and her fellow plotters are unaware that this plan is playing into Toby and the rest of the Queen's men's hands. They are expecting a plot and they are expecting it to happen in just that way.

What follows is a wonderful, intriguing and breathless novel, split between two points of view. When the two meet, Katharine as Kit and Toby as a player in Shakespeare's company, the two have instant chemistry. Neither can fully trust the other --- as each have plots in plots to go through with, and yet they find that the only thing real about either of them is their growing feelings for each other.

Every detail about Elizabethan England felt meticulously real and well-researched. I think Virginia Boecker must have time traveled to the 1600s and took careful notes and sketches because I feel like I could navigate the streets of the city of London back then for all I've read about it in this book. I also feel like I know more of Shakespeare and the inner workings of Elizabeth's court --- each was so fascinating.

The discussion of identity was also really interesting and telling. Katharine as Kit feels much freer, safer and unencumbered. But Toby feels like he is always hiding and therefore always hides himself, even though he has nothing worth questioning in his appearance --- people can't tell that he's bisexual or that he's a spy from his appearance. Even though he appears rough around the edges and often too intense, he can access more places than Katharine can, until she dons her disguise as Kit.

I loved how the plot unfolded and how I honestly didn't know how it would end. I couldn't guess what would happen next, even if I wanted things to turn out a certain way. By the end, as I mentioned earlier, I was clamoring for a sequel. Virginia Boecker has given us a gift with this book and one that I hope keeps on given in future novels.

You must check this one out! I bet you will fall in love with the setting and characters and be as desperate for more by the end.

Reviewed by Brianna Robinson on December 18, 2018

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