Skip to main content

Review: The Firemaster's Mistress, by Christie Dickason


The Firemaster’s Mistress is set against the rich backdrop of 1605 England. In the spring of that year, an explosion took place in London that was a harbinger of a far larger plot: the Gunpowder Plot, in which a number of Catholics planned to blow up Parliament and King James I, and put a Catholic on the throne of England.

Francis Quoynt is a firemaster (someone who creates explosions), who is enlisted by William Cecil, Secretary of State, to spy for him. Quickly, Quoynt ingratiates himself among a number of men (including one who calls himself “Guido”) who are deeply involved in the plan to kill the king. Francis's father, Boomer Quoynt, is a former firemaster who lives in what is now Brighton, at the family home, Powder Mote.

Kate Peach is a glovemaker and secret Catholic, whose family perished during an outbreak of the plague in the summer of 1604. Her lover, Hugh Traylor, uses her for his own nefarious deeds, including hiding Catholic priests in Kate’s home at a time when to do so is synonymous with treason. One of her other tasks is to find Francis Quoynt, who used to be her lover before her left her. Very soon, the pair finds themselves on opposite sides of the law: one to assist in the Gunpower Plot, the other to stop it from going forward. Despite their past, however, Kate and Francis find themselves being drawn inexorably towards one another once again.

Historical fact and fiction are seamlessly integrated in this lively, fast-paced novel (I finished this 500-plus page book in three days). The first twenty or so pages are a little bit difficult to get through, but very soon, the reader finds themselves immersed in a world where treason and treachery are commonplace, and where each of the characters would do well to worry about who to trust. Even the reader has a hard time figuring out where to place their loyalty. As a result, I got emotionally involved with Kate and Francis’s story, such as it exists in the first half of this novel.

The story abruptly (maybe too abruptly?) turns from romance to thriller a third of the way through; and the ending of Kate’s story came from left field and felt a little bit tacked-on to me. However, this is a well-researched, well-thought-out novel, reminiscent of Philippa Gregory’s novels, especially Earthly Joys. Also, I thought that the author’s interpretation (and in some cases, fictionalization) of events was highly believable. Christie Dickason relied heavily on Antonia Fraser’s The Gunpowder Plot to write The Firemaster’s Mistress, reminding me that I should probably take my copy of that book down from my bookshelves and actually read it sometime.

Also reviewed by: Medieval Bookworm, Historical Tapestry, Peeking Between the Pages, A Reader's Journal, The Literate Housewife Review

Comments

Marg said…
I really liked this one when I read it. I liked the second one as well, but not as much as the first!\


My review is here
Anonymous said…
I just finished this too and had the same complaint about the ending. Ah well.

Marg - I didn't even know there was a second book so thanks for pointing that out!
Teddy Rose said…
Wonderful review. I just added it to my TBR.
Michele said…
I'm so glad you posted a review on this book - very comprehensive, thank you!
Anna Claire said…
I was definitely wondering about this one. I'm adding it to my TBR pile and crossing my fingers for lots of bookstore gift cards this Christmas!
Darlene said…
Great review! Like you I didn't expect the ending either. I really enjoyed it though. I wouldn't mind reading others that she's written. Thanks for linking my review. I'm going to add your link to mine also.

Popular posts from this blog

Another giveaway

This time, the publicist at WW Norton sent me two copies of The Glass of Time , by Michael Cox--so I'm giving away the second copy. Cox is the author of The Meaning of Night, and this book is the follow-up to that. Leave a comment here to enter to win it! The deadline is next Sunday, 10/5/08.

Review: The Far Cry, by Emma Smith

Pages: 324 Original date of publication: 1949 My edition: 2007 (Persephone) Why I decided to read: It’s been on my TBR pile since I purchased it six months ago How I acquired my copy: from the Persephone shop, September 2009 The Far Cry was inspired by the author’s experiences in India. In 1945, at the age of 21, Emma Smith (who describes herself as “a green young woman” in her preface to this edition) traveled to India with a film production crew as a junior script writer/gopher. While she was there, Smith kept a journal of her experiences and thoughts to detail her “magical Cinderella-like transformation” into a worldlier person. In the preface of the novel, Emma Smith writes brilliantly about what kind of impact her travels to India had upon her, a first-time visitor. What she wrote in her journal went largely into the writing of this novel; and the stronger it is for it, I think, because this is an absolutely stunning book. When Mr. Digby’s ex wife returns from Amer

Read in 2017

January: 1. London: the Novel, by Edward Rutherfurd 2. Notes from a Small Island, by Bill Bryson 3. A Very English Scandal, by John Preston 4. Imagined London, by Anna Quindlen 5. The Black Dahlia, by James Ellroy 6. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote February 1. Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen 2. The Girls of Slender Means, by Muriel Spark 3. Patience, by John Coates 4. Into the Whirlwind, by Eugenia Ginzburg 5. The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James 6. Few Eggs and No Oranges, by Vere Hodgson 7. Vittoria Cottage, by DE Stevenson March: 1. The Exiles Return, by Elizabeth de Waal 2. Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen 3. The Death of the Heart, by Elizabeth Bowen 4. The Buccaneers, by Edith Wharton 5. The Death of the Heart, by Elizabeth Bowen 6. White Teeth, by Zadie Smith April: 1. The Heat of the Day, by Elizabeth Bowen 2. The Two Mrs. Abbotts, by DE Stevenson 3. The Road to Little Dribbling, by Bill Bryson May: 1. London War Notes, by Mollie Panter-Dow