Shakespeare in Love meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith in this witty and thrilling story of star-crossed assassins in Elizabeth 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.
After Queen Elizabeth I's men kill 17-year-old Katherine Arundell's father, Sir Richard, for practicing Catholicism in Protestant England, Katherine flees Cornwall for London. Aware that Richard was plotting regicide via mail, Katherine finds his coconspirators and joins them. Nineteen-year-old Tobias Ellis, a royal spy who intercepted one of Richard's letters, is intent on preventing the queen's assassination. Toby sets a trap, enlisting Shakespeare to write a seditious play, Twelfth Night, to be performed in front of the queen. Katherine takes the bait, posing as a boy, Christopher "Kit" Alban, to secure the part of Viola. Hoping to ferret out any aspiring murderers, Toby assumes the role of Orsino, but then he and "Kit" fall for each other, forcing both to question their convictions. Katherine and Toby's alternating voices heighten the tension and drama. Although the book's middle sags in between its harrowing start and nail-biting conclusion, Boecker (The King Slayer) creates complex characters and a rich historical setting in a story that explores religious extremism, self-identity, and the blindness of love. Ages 14 up.