Rating: 2.75 stars
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Length: Novel


Lark Alleyne never intended to become a spy. He’s a servant, after all, and while he has the ear of his master and is a known face a court, he doesn’t expect to be thrust into the dangerous world of seventeenth-century politics. But with youth and a feigned air of innocence about him, Lark is perfect for undercover work. And with Will Cranmore, the King’s eyes and ears, training him, Lark discovers he has a knack for the difficult work of a spy. It doesn’t hurt that he and Will have serious sexual chemistry and Lark finds himself attracted to Will’s gruff and intimidating mentor.

While his attraction to Will grows stronger, Lark infiltrates a group of renegade Catholics plotting to attack Parliament during its opening session. If it succeeds, it could destroy the foundations of the British government or plunge the country into civil war. To save the King and win the respect of the man he loves, Lark must stop the plotters and expose their treason, even if it costs him his life.

“Remember, remember the 5th of November,” so the old rhyme goes. The Gunpowder Treason Plot was a seminal moment in British history and one of the great “what if” events. If a guard hadn’t caught Guy Fawkes in the act of guarding nearly 40 barrels of gunpowder beneath the House of Lords the night before a scheduled bombing in 1605, the British government might have been obliterated, both figuratively and literally. It’s a fascinating bit of history and the biggest reason I picked up The Gunpowder Plot. Unfortunately, two rather unlikable main characters and a silly plot device made this one hard to enjoy.

I wanted to like Lark, but he’s rather whiny and lacking in depth. His preference for men is well known at Court, to the point that he’s routinely raped, and the book opens with one of these attacks. But despite this horror, Lark seems unfazed by his life at court and more concerned with his father’s rejection and the disconnection from his family. These family troubles make Lark a sympathetic figure, but otherwise he feels flat and rather bland. Will is a cold fish and, while part of this works for his character, it’s hard to find him likable because he has so few emotional attachments to Lark or anyone for so much of the book.

The plot as a whole isn’t strong and while treason lies at the center, the actual events leading up to the attempted assassination aren’t well explained and the history feels glossed over at best. Lark’s eventual connection with an acting troupe read as wildly out of place with the rest of the story and felt wedged in and all together lacking in nuance. That particular side plot took me out of the narrative and I struggled to find my way back, especially as the end was rushed and almost anticlimactic.

I wanted to enjoy this one given its historical background, but The Gunpowder Plot didn’t work for me. I couldn’t really connect with either of the characters and the plot never developed into something solid or engaging. Still, I applaud the author for tackling such a massive historical event and giving it a measure of relatability for modern readers.