i was persuaded to read this by the recommendation from Philippa Gregory on the cover, and the PG-esque illustration, and it wasn’t bad – it just wasn’t as good as Philippa Gregory and unparalleled Dorothy Dunnett (I must reread the Lymond and Niccolo series in case I find that I now disagree with my university self’s assessment of her historical novels).
Set in the early 17th century, master of fire – originally military but now firework displays and pageants – Francis Quoynt is persuaded to travel to the eastern fringes of Christendom to spy for Robert Cecil in the (fictitious) princely state of La Spada.
There he (and we) meet Sofia, the Principessa of the title, her evil half brother and despotic, dying father, the Prince of La Spada…. the rest is a bodice-ripping race to discover if Francis will manage to deliver on the promise he is forced to make the Prince, and which of the Prince’s children will succeed him as ruler of La Spada, and so control the lucrative trade and information routes between Europe and the Orient.
Amazon.co.uk link: The Principessa – Christie Dickason