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.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Smoking, Alcohol, Homophobia
Booklist (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. It’s Elizabethan England: practicing Catholicism can lead to execution, William Shakespeare is working on As You Like It, and Tobias Ellis spies for Queen Elizabeth herself. In Cornwall, Lady Katherine Arundell watches as her father is murdered for his faith, and she becomes entangled in a plot to assassinate the queen. When he catches wind of this plot, Toby sets a trap—Shakespeare’s new play, Twelfth Night, will be performed exclusively for Her Majesty—and Katherine walks right in. Disguised as a boy called Kit, she joins the troupe, playing opposite a watchful Toby. But Toby, bisexual in a time when same-sex relationships were dangerous, is beginning to fall for Kit, and Katherine has feelings for him as well, despite her guilt over lying to him about her true identity. Opening night approaches, and, one way or another, the truth will out. Boecker (The King Slayer, 2016) spins themes from Twelfth Night into her narrative, while neatly working ideas of gender and sexual identity into historical context. A romantic, swashbuckling adventure that will tempt Shakespeare buffs.
Kirkus Reviews starred (August 1, 2018)
A spy for the queen and a vengeful Catholic intent on regicide bend genders and battle their lovesick hearts in Elizabethan England. When Katherine’s father (a Catholic and therefore heretic) is killed by order of Queen Elizabeth I, Katherine escapes and, assuming the male identity of Kit Alban, stage actor, vows to avenge his death. Toby is a royal spy, intercepting coded letters, unraveling secrets, and unveiling traitors (it was his skill that unearthed Katherine’s father’s plot to kill the queen). Besotted with power and Toby’s dreamy blue eyes, HRH enlists him to ensnare her would-be-assassin. His solution? Bait the zealot with a role in Twelfth Night, to be performed mere feet from the monarch. Kit and a team of co-conspiring Catholics bite, arming Kit with a dagger and little hope for escape. Enter stage right: unexpected attraction between Toby and Kit. The first-person, present-tense dual narration of Kit/Katherine and Toby shows their tandem turmoil of pretense: hiding true missions, veiling sexual identity and orientation (Toby is bisexual), simultaneously hoping to actualize and be unfettered from their mutual affection. Though the author’s note declares liberties in storytelling, the meticulous design and execution make it read as a scrumptious slice of history. The conflicts of religion, sexuality, class, and gender identity are apropos to contemporary times. Victor, Victoria and Shakespeare in Love: Meet your thrilling new sister. Or brother. (author’s note, maps, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 12-adult)
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 is www.virginiaboecker.com
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