We first met the Firemaster, Francis Quoynt, embroiled in the Gunpowder Plot in the pages of The Firemaster’s Mistress. As this new adventure opens, he is still employed by the wily Robert Cecil but now only as a creator of lavish firework shows to entertain the rich and idle. Kicking his heels in frustration at the diminution of his talents – for he comes from a line of soldiers and explosives experts – he is quick, too quick perhaps, to agree to Cecil’s latest plan: this time to help him wriggle out of a massive and top secret loan extracted from the dying and insane Prince of La Spada, an Italian city state, a hotbed of intrigue and danger where it helps to keep one’s wits honed as sharp as one’s dagger. As usual, Cecil is not telling Francis the whole truth. Once arrived, Francis meets Sofia, the Prince’s daughter, who, although very young, is already well-versed in keeping secrets and disguising her true intentions. Is Cecil to be trusted? Is anyone, especially Sofia? And has our honest and straightforward soldier hero finally bit off more than he can chew?
This is a fabulous read I would recommend to anyone who enjoy historical adventure and intrigue, twists and turns but also to those who revel in a poignant and powerful love story. There’s something for everyone, and it’s beautifully written as well. What more could anyone ask? I cannot for the life of me understand why Christie Dickason’s novels are not better known and appreciated. It’s high time.