Desert Isle Keeper
The Turncoat: Renegades of the Revolution
This book caught my attention immediately because I am a huge fan of stories set during the American Revolution, which are hard to come by. I’m so glad I picked it up because The Turncoat proved to be a thrilling read, both incredibly romantic and edge-of-your-seat suspenseful. Be warned: it will keep you up to the wee hours to finish.
Kate Grey lives a quiet life on her father’s Pennsylvania farm, embracing the Quaker values of pacifism and plain living. Her life becomes infinitely more complicated with the arrival the widow Mrs. Ferrers, who becomes her father’s house guest and, only a short time later, of British Major Peter Tremayne, who commandeers Kate’s home and kitchen for his troops. Tremayne and Kate feel an immediate attraction, and when he discovers a letter than could implicate Kate’s patriotic father of treason, she agrees to an illicit assignation in exchange for the letter. Before Tremayne can complete his seduction, he is called away to deal with a local military issue. While he’s gone, the dispatches he was to deliver to General Howe are stolen. Kate discovers that Mrs. Ferrers is actually a spy working for George Washington’s Continental Army. Suddenly, Kate is intimately involved in the War for Independence whether she wants to be or not.
While Kate and Mrs. Ferrers are fleeing discovery, Kate witnesses a regiment of British Dragoons committing atrocities, and she vows to fight in whatever way she can. She offers her services as a spy to General Washington, and after several weeks of tutelage from Mrs. Ferrers, Kate enters Philadelphia society as the glamorous Lydia Dare. She gains the attention of Colonel Bayard Caide, a man well known for his cruelty and lack of scruples. While her close relationship with Caide puts Kate in position to hobnob with the British officers and learn much about General Howe’s plans, which she passes on to Mrs. Ferrers, it also brings her to the attention of British spymaster John Andre, a man determined to destroy Ferrers and all of those connected to her.
Disgraced after his dispatches were stolen, Tremayne is nearly court marshaled and hanged. In order to redeem himself, he is assigned the task of hunting down the woman who betrayed him. This duty holds no appeal given that he believes Kate to be complicit in the crime, and he doesn’t want to see her captured, tortured and hanged for treason. Tremayne travels to British-occupied Philadelphia and is horrified to discover that sweet, plain Kate – now the dazzling Lydia Dare – has become engaged to his reprehensible cousin, Bayard Caide. He knows Kate is a spy working against the British army, but Tremayne’s feelings for her continue to deepen. As powerful and dangerous men become suspicious of Kate’s real identity and her life becomes more endangered, Tremayne must push his own loyalties to the very limit to keep her safe.
I imagine The Turncoat is what would result if you crossed the movie The Last of the Mohicans with the TV show Alias. The twists and turns of the spy angle kept the pace moving at a break-neck speed. Both Tremayne and Kate are in constant danger of discovery. The fact that they both work for opposing factions creates real obstacles to their relationship, so that when they do connect, the feeling of forbidden love is thrilling.
Far from being a wallpaper historical with the American Revolution serving simply as an excuse for men in dashing uniforms and women with powdered hair, the plot of the entire story is completely driven by Kate and Peter’s involvement in the war and how their feelings for the other affect their actions. Real life figures play prominently in the story, and it is very clear that Thorland did extensive research not only on the lifestyle and social norms of the period but on the military and political machinations at work. In addition, the true horrors of war are not glossed over, the threats to the characters real and deadly.
Kate and Tremayne are very appealing characters, both of them smart and incredibly brave. Kate could serve as the grandmother of all modern day kick-ass heroines, and she makes me think about how women like her have surely played a role in all of America’s conflicts. She takes to her calling as a spy with wit and calm, and her commitment to the American cause remains steadfast even when it means she may have to sacrifice the man she loves or her own life. Tremayne never directly betrays his own country, but as his feelings for Kate grow deeper, he risks more and more to protect her and be with her.
I truly appreciated that Thorland never employed the Silent Martyr trope, in which one character is asked to sacrifice something in order to save the other and the gesture devolves into a Big Misunderstanding due to lack of communication. At all times, Tremayne and Kate are open about how their continued relationship endangers them both and their despair over being told that in order to save each other and themselves, they should remain apart.
My only true quibble is the suddenness of the feelings Kate and Peter develop for the other. After spending less than a full evening together, their mutual affection and intense passion dominate their thoughts and greatly affect their actions throughout the rest of the book. That said, the chemistry between these two characters felt very real, and I believed in their love and desire to be together.
The Turncoat offers a fantastic change from standard Regency fare. This is the first in a new series. I’ll be snatching up the next installment the minute it hits bookshelves, happy to return to this exciting period in America’s history.