“They hang men. Women disappear. It’s only glamorous in the novels, Kate. If we are successful, we can’t boast. Spying is a dishonorable trade for women, for precisely the reason you despised me this afternoon, and you despise yourself now. We exchange our virtue for their secrets. If we fail, we don’t have the privilege of a public trial and famous last words. Our reward for failure is an unmarked grave.”
(from The Turncoat, page 40)
The Turncoat is the first novel in Donna Thorland’s Renegades of the Revolution series, but readers don’t have to worry about starting a new series as it looks like each of the books will stand alone. Set in 1777 amidst the British occupation of Philadelphia during the American Revolution, The Turncoat is the story of an innocent Quaker girl whose determination, outspokenness, and bravery get her into a whole heap of trouble.
When Kate Grey’s father goes off to serve with General Washington, she’s left on the family farm with Angela Ferrers, a.k.a. the Merry Widow, a Rebel spy determined to destroy Colonel Bayard Caide, who is busy drinking, looting, and raping his way through the Colonies, and steal the plans he is to pass on to General Howe. But it’s his cousin, Major Peter Tremayne, Lord Sancreed, who arrives at the Grey’s farm…and there’s something different enough about him and Kate that they immediately are intrigued by one another.
Months later, Tremayne, disgraced by the Merry Widow, seeking to rebuild his career, and still thinking about Kate, enters Philadelphia and finds a very different Kate working her charms on his cousin. Having witnessed the evils of war, Kate puts her Quaker pacifism aside and puts her life (and virtue) on the line to help the Rebel cause. But she is torn between her loyalty to the revolution and her feelings for Tremayne, and one slip will lead to their downfall.
I wanted to read The Turncoat because I’ve always been fascinated by stories about female spies, but I soon worried that the romance and the sex would overpower the danger and the war. However, there was just something about these characters and the time period that made it impossible for me to put the book down. Thorland’s characters are well drawn and complex, especially Bayard Caide, who comes off as evil but has a story that makes you think twice about him. I loved Kate and Tremayne, the passion and tension between them, and the obvious conflicts that arise between a Rebel and a Redcoat, a plain Quaker and an aristocrat. Thorland’s portrayal of the historic figures, including Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John André, General Howe, and Peggy Shippen, seemed realistic, though I didn’t know more than the basics about them before reading this book.
The Turncoat covers so much ground, from the battles at Forts Mercer and Mifflin and the decadence of occupied Philadelphia to espionage and the treatment of women during war. Readers should be warned that there are some pretty steamy sex scenes in this book, along with several instances of rape, but I thought for the most part, they were well done and contributed to the development of the characters. There is much suspense and danger throughout this novel, and I was on the edge of my seat and up past my bedtime, needing to know how it all played out. Thorland really brings the American Revolution to life in The Turncoat, with a strong heroine and plenty of historical facts, fascinating characters, and exciting adventures to hold readers’ interest from the first page.
Disclosure: I received The Turncoat from NAL for review.
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