Toby and Katherine start this story on a collision course with destiny and the authorly expertly weaves it from their alternating points of view.
Typical of Tudor England, Toby was orphaned young, but he benefitted from the tutelage of a resourceful man, a poet named Marlowe. He showed a talent with words and playing roles and easily fell into a life of spying, as well. The girls all adored his beautiful eyes, including the aging Queen Elizabeth. Truth be told, though, he preferred male company, an illegal thing at the time.
In the service of the Queen, Toby hatches a plan to help put on a play meant to reveal Catholic rebels bent on assassination.
Katherine loses her mother young, but enjoys the parenting devotion of her father who indulges her with an education. She adores him. On a dark night, the Queen’s soldiers arrive to arrest him and all who conspire with him in his household, including her. There’s a fight and she watches him killed. Escaping with her priest-in-training friend, Jory, she takes on the costume of a boy and vows to assassinate the Queen out of revenge for her father’s horrific murder.
It’s only a matter of time before Toby and Katherine wind up in the same tavern, listening in on the same conversation between William Shakespeare and his rowdy friends. Toby notices Katherine, but she’s dressed as a boy. She tips her glass to him, displaying the manners of a boy which is something she’s really come to enjoy. So much more personal freedom!
Of course, Katherine – now going by “Kit” – reports the news of a new play being prepared, not realizing it’s a trap. She and her group of conspirators decides she will audition for a part. She does and nails it. She also recognizes the boy from the tavern observing the whole process of finding actors for all the parts. Unlike other girls, she’s undeterred by his blue eyes and notices things like how he seems to be studying everyone and how calculated he is.
Toby remembers the ‘boy’ from the tavern too. Although he doesn’t realize she’s actually a girl, he does figure out that she’s pretending to be something she’s not. She’s too well-educated and articulate to be a nobody. So he follows her (he’s also investigating other suspects) and she discovers him doing so.
They end up rehearsing together, neither realizing the other suspects something.
By this point in the story, it’s really getting kinda hilarious. Because, you see, Katherine is a girl pretending to be a boy who has won the part of girl character – Viola – in a play and that character is actually a boy. And the roles of girls were played by boys back then.
And Toby likes boys. Not girls.
Katherine’s lust for revenge started her down this road, but she’s starting to have pokes of consciousness about killing someone. Her friend, Jory, speaks to this. Also, she realizes she has a hard time killing chickens for dinner, and they don’t fight back or have armed guards. To say nothing of not knowing how to wield a sword.
Then there’s this weird thing of becoming better friends with Toby. Maybe her rage over her father’s death is subsiding as her world view opens up.
Likewise, Toby realizes he’s forgetting his own lies when he talks to “Kit” and accidentally speaks truths, harmless ones, but still…
“Kit” stays on Toby’s list of suspects even after most of the names have dropped off. The closer he draws to the truth about “him”, the scarier it gets. This is uncharted territory. He cares about this person.
This books has everything I love about a great story and it’s set in one of my favorite time periods. I’m familiar with all the sights and sounds and smells of this setting, so it was easy to get lost in the narrative. The suspense was riveting and even downright funny. Both characters are unique and they grow.
Great book. Better run out and get it right now. Or, check out these links for your favorite way to buy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Virginia Boecker is the author of The Witch Hunter series and An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason. A graduate of the University of Texas, she had a decade-long career in technology before quitting to become a full-time writer. When she isn’t writing, Virginia likes running, reading, traveling, and trying new things (most recently: learning to drive a boat). She has lived all over the world but currently resides in beautiful Lake Oswego, Oregon with her husband, children, a dog called George and a cat named Thomas.
Her website was not working for me, but you can learn more about her and find more of her books by checking out her profile on Goodreads- Virginia on Goodreads