OH GOD WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO ME
David, Lord Nolan, is Duke of Norfolk and was a notable Catholic in Queen Mary’s day, but when Elizabeth took the throne, he converted to Protestantism along with most of the country. However, the queen’s advisors are convinced that it was only for political expediency and that Lord Nolan remains deeply involved in the Catholic Stuart secret plans to put Mary, Queen of Scots, on the English throne — suspicions that are fanned by the fact of his French-born wife, Marie-Marguerite Blanchard, having considerable connections among Mary’s former French court and the formidable Duc de Guise. Nolan’s only daughter and heiress, Emma, is also close to Thomas More’s granddaughter — whose mother was Margaret Roper, one of the most learned and influential women in the country. Spirited, beautiful, and strong-minded, Emma has recently come to Queen Elizabeth’s court and has caught the eye of more than one eligible gentleman there, but she disdains their attentions — even those of Lord Cassidy, son of Robert Gold, the queen’s infamous court magician and soothsayer.
Killian Jones is an Irish-born mercenary who has been hired by Francis Walsingham, the queen’s spymaster, to raid Nolan’s Norfolk estate and capture any incriminating letters, materials, or priests hidden down holes. He is a colorful, roguish rakehell— he is close with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, which Dudley’s enemies like to use against him when discouraging his suit to Elizabeth, and the queen herself, always one for a handsome man, has showed him unusual favor for a Dublin orphan, which has earned Jones plenty of enemies of his own. But the crown is no stranger to employing dashing, lone-wolf privateers; Jones has just returned from sailing in the Caribbean under letters of marque, pillaging Spanish treasure galleons and bringing home the spoils for England. He runs in the same circles as fellow privateer Sir Walter Raleigh, and served as a routier in Flanders for some time as well, fighting in Continental wars. He’s rumored to be a member of the School of Night alongside Raleigh and Christopher Marlowe, so part of his agreement to work for Walsingham is that the crown does not pry too closely into his own connections. He, too, is on thin ice.
Emma has just returned home to consider a marriage proposal from Lord Cassidy, which her parents urge her to accept, on the night Killian Jones comes to Arundel Castle in Sussex to launch his raid. Of all the things he was expecting to cross his path, the beautiful blonde daughter of the lord of the house, armed with a silver candelabra and capable of delivering a smart blow across the skull, was certainly not one of them.