The Firemaster’s Mistress
Harper, Sep 2008, $14.95
In 1605 in London with plenty of circumstantial evidence abounding, the Earl of Salisbury worries about an insidious plot against King James I. He needs someone to get inside the traitors’ inner circle to learn what they are plotting so they can be stopped; that volunteer must have a special skill the conspirators would need to succeed in their plot or he would never be accepted.
Explosives expert Francis Quoynt accepts the dangerous undercover mission in which he will act as if he is against the King. Francis understands the risk. If he caught by the Royalists too soon he will hang as the counter attempt must be kept secret; if the plotters uncover his loyalties they will torture and kill him.
Francis’s former lover Kate Peach happens to be in the capital; she is a Catholic at a time when the religion is not visibly practiced in London and she is alone having lost her family to the plague. Her current lover merchant Hugh Taylor is abusive so she earns money by pretending her dad still lives so she can make gloves to illegally sell to his customers; money she saves to leave London soonest while she remains alive and not incarcerated. When she and Francis meet, their desire for one another is as strong as ever; but their trust is as weak as ever.
This is an exciting historical intrigue that retells the events of the Gunpowder Treason plot. The lead couple is a terrific pairing as their emotions seem real while the support cast is strong whether they were real like Guy Fawkes or fiction. Although at times it seems half of early sventeenth century London appears (the scorer’s sheet of characters helps) they add depth to a complex thriller that will leave grateful fans demanding more historicals from Christie Dickason.