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REVIEW: The Turncoat (Renegades of the Revolution) by Donna Thorland

“In the year of 1777 in rural Pennsylvania, Quaker Kate Grey is powerfully drawn to British officer Peter Tremayne. But when Kate’s “Aunt Angela”, a master spy posing as a Quaker, steals his military documents, he is disgraced and run out of town. With the support of Peter’s dissolute cousin, Colonel Bayard, Peter returns to Philadelphia to apprehend the women who betrayed him, Angela Ferrers. But when he arrives in town, much to his dismay, he realizes that the love of his life Kate Grey has a new fiancé, and is working undercover for the Rebel cause. If captured, she will be tortured and executed.

Fighting for their love and their life, Peter and Kate are caught between duty and desire…pursuing their military objectives even as they refuse to expose each other. But they can’t hide the truth forever.”

Dear Ms. Thorland,

I began to hear about this book last November when DA received a request to read and review it. Since then there has been a steady build up of notice to its release. I was immediately interested since I adore Georgian/18th century books and haven’t read one about the American Revolution in ages. Still as I finished up some other books also due out in March and got closer to starting it, I got nervous. What if the crescendo lead to a dud? I always want to like the books I read but due to the setting I truly wanted to be able to give this one a green light and then cross my fingers that authors will get enthused about the era as well.

The Turncoat (Renegades of the Revolution) by Donna ThorlandThe book fires off to a quick start that sets the scene – rural Pennsylvania at the home of Kate’s father as they gather supplies for the American cause – which is followed in rapid succession by the introduction or description of most of the important characters we’ll be dealing with as well as a stomach churning look the stakes at hand. You don’t flinch at portraying the uglier side of war in the raid that the women witness or what Angela Ferrers is capable of pulling off in one night. It’s no wonder her character is so eagerly sought by the British as she can flirt, gather information, ride like the wind and take out two British dragoons while shooting backwards at a full gallop. Since Angela’s actions have implicated Kate, and Kate is rapidly proving to be much more than a simple country Quaker girl, I wasn’t surprised that Kate becomes Angela’s newest protegee though the speed at which plain Kate is transformed into dashing “Lydia” and snags a British officer fiance is astounding.

Still since it’s party hardy time in Philadelphia with the Loyalists and British whooping it up over the winter fighting break, the transition is more believable now then it then if it took place later in the war. It’s also the best place for gathering intelligence which Kate becomes quite good at. I would love to have spent more time among the network of spies but realize that with all the other threads of the plot to deal with this would have been problematic. Quaker raised Kate’s wrestling with her conscience over the ultimate use of her information does make sense though I would have bet that no-nonsense Angela might have toughened Kate up had she the time. Somehow I had an image of John Andre as being far more the gentleman spy but this portrayal has altered that and I now will see him as a nasty piece of work, especially given the outcome of the various pies he had a finger in. I had read books with American female spies dying (Shadow Patriots) but the (implied) torture scene was a hard look at the fate some probably endured before death. The re imagining of the motivation behind Elizabeth Loring and her husband’s actions are thought provoking though I’m not sure if I can buy into it especially as there is no evidence to support it.

The romantic relationship between Peter and Kate isn’t cookie cutter from the start. Yeah for a man who is excited and enthused because of the heroine’s intellect. I kinda like the fact that once Kate’s argumentative skills have caught his attention, his initial intent is willing seduction, pure and simple and that Kate discovers within herself the desire to be seduced. After all, why shouldn’t she have sexual desires and want to have them fulfilled? I imagine some readers might balk at the fact that it’s another man who actually begins her introduction to pleasure but then the relationship between Kate, Peter and his cousin Bayard over the course of the novel is intricately twined and twisted to say the least. With each new repulsive revelation in their family tree, Bayard’s character got worse until his brutal conduct was almost a foregone conclusion. The final ‘nail in the coffin’ of the blackness of his character disappointed me – really, BDSM to show this, the non-consensual sex isn’t enough? I do like that when Kate turns Peter’s initial proposal down, it’s not from some misplaced “I will only agree to Twue Love” nonsense. And that the two had already sexed each other up before that.

When the British stay in Philadelphia ends and it’s only 1778, I was curious about how and at what historical point the book would end. The way you move and position Kate and Peter for the remainder of the war is clever and the way they’re brought back together is harrowing and horrible to witness, to say the least. Kate finally redeems some of the earlier mistakes in her spying career – honestly, I could almost feel Angela throwing up her hands in frustration at times – and how they arrive at their final destination is an acceptable way close to Peter’s career as an officer without the worry of further British retaliation.

There’s a darkness to the story as well as a more believable sexuality than the usual “hop in a bed with a complete stranger.” Kate isn’t looking to protect her virginity for marriage so her willingness to experiment and be pleased works better for me than the trite excuses used in a lot of romance books. I think this also fits in with the more casual attitudes of the period about premarital sex. This is a book about war and the spies working to further the cause of both sides so I appreciate that punches weren’t pulled. Horrible things happen even early in the story but this also means Kate is well aware of the dangers she and Angela face. There were times when I wanted to shake Kate into being a more ruthless and efficient operative but to her credit, she hadn’t been at it as long as Angela and she did as much as her conscience would allow. It was a time that tried mens’ souls – on both sides – I think. B

~Jayne

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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

20 Comments

  1. Ros
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 08:06:57

    Wow! This sounds really good. Crossing my fingers that it’s on sale in the UK…

  2. Meri
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 08:50:03

    Are you sure this book is available from all these sellers? I could only find it at Amazon and B&N.

    Unfortunately, although it does sound quite good, the price at Amazon is more than I am willing to pay for a book by an author I haven’t read before.

  3. DB Cooper
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 08:57:48

    Well now, I just may become a romance reader after all. DA was responsible for me finding my first book, and now I just might have found my second.

    Thank you for the review, Jayne! This sounds fantastic, what with the plotting, the frustration, the darker moments, and the absence of traditional romance hangups about having sex.

  4. Jayne
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 09:08:00

    @DB Cooper: One book at a time, we will win you over. Mwhahahaha…

  5. Jayne
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 09:11:45

    @Meri: I saw it at the Book Depository. But that the price is steep.

  6. Lynnd
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 09:13:34

    @Meri: This sounds like a very interesting book, but at $10.99 plus 13% HST (in Canada)for the ebook, it’s not at a price point at which I’m prepared to give a new author a try. I’ve had too many disappointments with trad published debut auhors lately. Hopefully my library will purchase it at some point or the price will come down at some point soon.

  7. Meri
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 09:13:44

    @Jayne: I meant availability as an e-book, I apologize for not being clearer in my previous post.

    The price at TBD is even worse than Amazon.

  8. Jayne
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 09:21:26

    @Meri: Ah, I understand. The links that show up are automatically generated and unfortunately don’t guarantee that the book will be available from all of them. Which sucks.

  9. Patricia Eimer
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 09:24:17

    Wow this sounds interesting. And I get to read a book set around the area I’m living in so that’s a bonus.

  10. Sunita
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 09:32:53

    This looks really good. I’ve been hearing about it for a while and I’m so glad it lived up to its early buzz.

    I assume the high price is because it’s (a) trade rather than mass market paperback and (b) Penguin, which is not discounting yet. So even if/when it gets to Kobo, etc. it will be at that price. But trade format may make it more likely to be purchased (in print at least) by libraries.

  11. Lia
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 09:36:15

    Kobo has it at 10,39 euro. A bit steep, so will wait for the price to come down before I buy it. Does sound like a good story.

  12. Janine
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 11:16:04

    @DB Cooper: What was the first book?

    @Jayne — Loved this review. The book sounds very good.

  13. DB Cooper
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 12:08:39

    @Janine: The Siren, by Tiffany Reisz. DA didn’t review it, but mentioned it more than once. Then when it made the daily deals back in November, I jumped on the opportunity.

    The DA note (blue box text) and some of the goodread recommendations sold me (I never did find Ms. Milan’s review). Funny thing though, part of what caught my attention was the bit about it not being a romance in any fashion. When I got started, I agreed, but by the time I was half-way through I got to thinking that some of the things I had felt were touching upon “romance patterns”, at least as I understood them. Not that I minded either way, I was thoroughly hooked.

    Double my surprise when I got to the end and saw that it had been published by Harlequin. That sort of story didn’t match up to my pre-conceived expectations for HQN (nor the sneak-peeks I had taken at other harlequins before). Nothing like an actual experience to further one’s education. :)

  14. SonomaLass
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 12:12:05

    Putting it on my wish list for when price-fixing goes away. Thanks for the great review, Jayne!

  15. Janine
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 12:24:26

    @DB Cooper: Thanks for satisfying my curiosity. I’m always interested in what hooks readers into trying a new genre.

  16. Janine
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 12:25:04

    When will Penguin books start being discounted? Can anyone tell me?

  17. Nancy
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 15:03:38

    Thanks for the review Jayne. I’m always looking for 18th century settings, especially during the American Revolution. I used to love learning about the American Revolution in school and would read any novel set during the war. It’s unfortunate that my favorite genre, romance, doesn’t have many books set during that time period. Thanks for letting me know about this one!

  18. Jayne
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 19:30:35

    @Nancy: I used to read quite a few books set during the American Revolution. This is one I reviewed here a few years ago. http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/independent-heart-by-juliet-waldron/

    Looking through some of my old notes – “The Rebel and the Rose” by Joan Wolf is one of her older ones. It has a British heroine married to an American hero.

    “Darcy’s Kiss” by Jacqueline Marten is a bit similar to “The Turncoat” in that the British hero is a military man and the American heroine is a spy.

    “Scarlet Ribbons” by Judith E French has a patriot hero and a Loyalist heroine and is set in Delaware.

    “Traitorous Hearts” by Susan Kay Law has a British hero in disguise and an unconventionally pretty American heroine and is set early in the war.

    “Love’s Brazen Fire” by Betina Krahn is actually set during the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion.

  19. Nancy
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 23:33:59

    @Jayne Thanks for the recs – I’ll definitely look into them! I also appreciate your search for books set during the 18th century in general. I am always on the lookout for a good Georgian and look forward to your reviews on this time period. I, like you, hope they’ll be good so that other authors will write about (and popularize) the time period.

  20. Jayne
    Mar 19, 2013 @ 07:07:33

    @Nancy: Something to keep in mind – most of these are late 80s/through 2000 releases and I haven’t read them in 6-10 years so I have no idea how they’d hold up for me.

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