The Firemaster’s Mistress by Christie Dickason
Kate Peach, a young woman who was orphaned by the plague, has been forced to serve as Hugh Traynor’s kept woman and servant-girl in London to gain his protection so that she can use her glove making skills to make an income without being part of the guild. Prior to her wretched existence under Hugh’s thumb, she was involved with Francis Quoant, a firemaster who left Kate alone in England when he went to work his gunpowder magic against the French. Although he left her, she still feels fondly of him, especially given her current circumstance. Hugh uses her past to get Kate to set up a meeting with Francis. Soon after their reunion, their lives in London become too dangerous and Francis escorts Kate to his home, where his father, Boomer Quoant, still lives and works with gunpowder. But are they really safe even so far away from King James‘ London? Will the specter of Hugh Traynor and Francis’ growing connection with a plot to kill the King and much of parliament result in their own deaths?
What appealed to me the most was that Catholic characters were portrayed as human beings. Yes, they were flawed people, but not all of them felt that violence was the answer to return England to a Roman Catholic kingdom. It must have been difficult in those days to have the way to practice one’s faith dictated to you by a revolving set of Tudor monarchs who alternated between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. Christie Dickason did a wonderful job of bringing that frustration to life in this novel. England will forever be an example of how each individual should determine how or whether he or she worships, not the state.
As a fan of Tudor related Historical Fiction, I was very excited to read this novel as it continues on where Queen Elizabeth I left off. The British Catholics at that time were excited as well in hopes of being able to practice their faith in the open once again. When King James proved to be a disappointment for the Catholics, a group of men decided to take matters in their own hands in order to bring a Catholic monarch back to the throne of England. Thus the Gunpowder Plot was born. Despite knowing the eventual outcome, I was certain that this novel would be a compelling read. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it to be so. Once Francis and Kate left London, the story dragged for me. The potential for drama was high with characters like Guy Fawkes in the mix, but it was very dry for me. I finished this novel, but it took me nine days – a very long time for me. I am glad that I finished the novel, but I have no interest in reading The Principessa, the sequel.
There are so many readers out there who loved The Firemaster’s Mistress. While I can’t say with certainty that I would have enjoyed this novel more a year ago, I am currently a little Tudor burnout. This could explain why I might have liked this novel a little more. That is a side affect of devouring everything I can find in one time period nearly exclusively. Here are some glowing reviews of The Firemaster’s Mistress by bloggers I trust. They really talked the novel up when I announced what the Historical Fiction Lovers Book Club was reading this novel in May.
You can browse through this book for yourself if you’d like, courtesy of Harper Collins:
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