Monday, October 22, 2018

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

🦇 Read for the Unapologetic Romance Readers Halloween 2018 Reading Challenge for the category of: A romance where one of the characters is a murderer 🦇

I was initially going to post lots of status updates for this book, because I feel like that is what you are supposed to do when you manage to finagle a prized ARC like this one - but instead I knocked it back like it was a glass of drinkable wine and I was trying to get drunk off of it. What I'm trying to say is that it was good. Really good. Defies expectations good.

AN ASSASSIN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND TREASON, despite the cutesy title, is actually a very dark story. It is set during the times of Elizabethan England. The heroine, Katherine, is the daughter of an illegal Catholic and sees him murdered before her eyes. Naturally, she wants revenge and seeks out his associates who are in the middle of a plot to murder Queen Elizabeth and replace her with a Catholic ruler. Her plan? To dress up as a boy and join a group of performers who are performing Twelfth Night before the Queen...and then assassinate her during the last act.

The hero, Toby, is a spy in the employ of the Queen's spymaster. He's part of the intelligence behind Katherine's father's murder, and is determined to ferret out the rest of the culprits. His plan is to work with William Shakespeare to create a play that appears to be sympathetic to Catholics (called Twelfth Night) that will be performed before the Queen. Surely, the would-be assassins won't be able to resist the trap, and when they do, they'll be waiting. To be absolutely sure that he's got the right person, he'll be acting in the play. He doesn't expect to fall for his opposite though; the attractive "boy" who plays his love interest, Viola-Cesario to his Duke Orsino.

So yes, it sounds cheesy, and it was, a little. But it was also action-packed and reminded me of some of the good YA I've read, like POISON STUDY or GRAVE MERCY or even THE WINNER'S CURSE. Books that are well-written and don't look down on their audience, and feature heroines who actually have agency and don't just sit around twiddling their thumbs while pining away over the love interest. I can't tell you how happy I was to see a few F-bombs dropped in this book, or to have actual grievous consequences looming over the two star-crossed lovers. Also, this is a cross-dressing romance, which is a secret weakness of mine, but it tackles head-on what most of those types of books only skirt around: the hero is bisexual, and reacts in a very believable way to finding out Kit is a girl (unlike some of those other books, where the hero is like, "Woohoo! Thank God I'm not gay!")

This book is very gay, and in the best possible way. I think you should read it.

Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!

4.5 out of 5 stars

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