Meet John Donne: soldier, poet, lover, husband, spy.
The current patron of Jack Donne, as he prefers to be called, is Lady Bedford, who’s interested in him for reasons other than the verse he writes to keep his family afloat. Jack’s promising career was halted when he neglected to ask the Lord Keeper permission to marry his niece, clever Anne More, and her father refused to release her dowry. King James’ promise of religious tolerance has been negated by wily Robert Cecil, his chief counselor and spymaster, who aims to crush followers of the old faith. Jack is a member of a prominent Catholic family who became Protestant but still suffers from doubt. A distant relative of the martyred Sir Thomas More, he opposes fanaticism and would love to see religious freedom. But he’s forced to spy for Cecil by pretending to be returning to the Catholic faith in order to ferret out those Catholics who would harm England, especially one known only as Guido. Cecil forces two companions on Jack: Lady Bedford’s manservant, Timothy Burr, and Sir Walter Chute, who’s proclaimed his desire to become Catholic. Seeking information about the elusive Guido, Jack visits many of his Catholic friends in England and even goes with his erstwhile companions to Holland, where his mother lives in exile. Caught between his desire to see Catholics worship freely and the nefarious schemes of the untrustworthy Cecil, he returns to England surrounded by dangers he never suspects.
Crockett’s first foray into historical fiction is a compelling and plausible thriller.