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The Turncoat: Renegades of the Revolution (edition 2013)

by Donna Thorland

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677178,380 (3.46)4
Member:Thorland
Title:The Turncoat: Renegades of the Revolution
Authors:Donna Thorland
Info:NAL Trade (2013), Paperback, 448 pages
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The Turncoat by Donna Thorland

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
A fun, light romance about spies during the American Revolution. Some of the circumstances and characters are a bit far-fetched, but not so much that the entirety is unbelievable. Fun reading for those seeking a little romance. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Jun 5, 2014 |
This story was excellently researched, and the protagonist—a Quaker woman, daughter of one of Washington’s commanders, positioned as a spy among General Howe’s forces in occupied Philadelphia in the winter of 1777—is perfectly situated to both witness and affect grand historical events. She’s also realistically overwhelmed when she finds herself determining the fate of seiges and battles, not only dooming men she’s never met but also, potentially, those she’s closest to.

I found most of the characters sympathetic, especially the many well-drawn historical figures, including Hamilton (who the author may have a crush on, and which she may have transmitted) and John Andre, the British spymaster. Even the antihero Caide was engagingly complex, and I could have read an entire novel about the American (or at least anti-British) spymistress Angela Ferrars.

Oddly enough, the character I felt least engaged with was the hero, Peter Tremayne. Compared to the passions and conflicts endured by all the other characters he seemed rather bland, and also had his moments of being pushy, overbearing, and snobbish. The heroine Kate calls him out on it, but that’s still not what I prefer to see in my heroes. There were moments when I liked Caide better, because at least he was honest about his faults.

On the other hand, his faults were many—he’s a sexual sadist and a brutal military commander, in that order. This is an extremely grim story at times. Sexual violence is committed against several female characters, and while I certainly think this topic can be powerfully addressed in fiction, I wasn’t satisfied with Thorland’s depiction of it overall. First, it makes my skin crawl when every male character is depicted as primed and ready to assault any woman he comes upon at the wrong time. Someone once described this as “rape-happy” and the phrase is horrible but fitting, I think—that air of gruesome abandon is exactly what I sense. It’s true of most of the villainous characters (John Andre excepted, and not because he’s gay—he even forbears to compromise a young man he clearly mutually desires), and more than a bit of Tremayne (the heroine having to lock her door against the love interest got old with Virginia Holt). Also—and I had to think a while before I struck on this—while Ferrars cautions Kate that rape is not “a fate worse than death,” it seems synonymous with death for most female characters. We aren’t ever shown a woman coping with the aftermath of assault. Rape victims become disposable. Perhaps with one exception—there is one situation with Kate that I’m hesitant to go into detail on because of spoilers, although several aspects of that situation dissatisfied me, too.
Chief among them was the way Kate and Caide’s relationship was portrayed. From the beginning, it was a fascinating dynamic—Caide is unapologetically repellent, but also has a certain charisma that attracts both Kate and the reader (at least me). However, Thorland seems to take a lazy shorthand to reveal his depravity when she depicts him as into what would nowadays be called BDSM. He’s also shown as a rapist, but frankly, “vanilla” rape is depicted as bad enough, showing him doing some arguably consensual kink is not going to make me think worse of the man. Kate may or may not also be a sadomasochist, which I think is excellent. I’d love to see more sympathetic depictions of the lifestyle in fiction! But Kate’s interest in these dynamics is portrayed as a dark shadow, perhaps part of Caide’s corrupting influence. The problem is, using sadomasochism as a shorthand way to depict how awful characters are backfires when the BDSM dynamic proves as compelling and not significantly more unhealthy than the vanilla relationships (in the story—in real life BDSM is not at all more unhealthy than a vanilla relationship, assuming everyone is practicing risk awareness and consent. This problematic “shorthand” has shown up in Philippa Gregory’s work, too, although with Gregory it can be hard to tell what the author’s judgement is vs the judgment of some very screwed up character narrators). This was another case where crafting all characters sympathetically made the author’s job more difficult.

Although I spent a lot of time on these complaints, they actually take up very little of the story itself, and while I’d certainly have been happier if the sexual politics were more thoughtfully handled, I do appreciate that Thorland was daring enough to address these dynamics in the first place (well, somewhat—I could do without heroines’ virtue being constantly threatened, and that goes for every story I read. Rape culture gets old. Perhaps I could do with more John Andres in my villains).

The story itself is fast-paced and high-stakes, with Kate and Tremayne never getting a break for a moment. There was little extraneous detail and the story never felt bogged down by Thorland wanting to show off her research. The ending, in fact, came a little fast—while most of the story takes place in the winter of ‘77-78, the last few chapters cover the last years of the Revolution almost in summary form. This made it hard to emotionally engage with them until the pacing slowed down, including a powerful concluding scene for John Andre. I should note that several American Revolution romances tend to end with a rushed epilogue covering anything from 1776 onwards to 1781. The Revolution did not do a favor for us all and wrap up quickly. Perhaps it would be better for authors to accept that they don’t need to show the war’s conclusion if it doesn’t fit organically in the story—after all, we know how it ended.

This review is cross-posted with Love Changes Everything . ( )
  T.Arkenberg | Sep 10, 2013 |
There wasn't a lot about the book that I enjoyed. While the actual historical fiction aspect throughout the book were well done and interesting enough, I found that even those were lost in the "romance" of the book. The book was suppose to be a historical fiction, but what I got was poorly executed "romance" between the characters. The romance wasn't believable and I found it to be forced, it took over the entire story, rather than compliment it. I also found that the character interactions during the romantic scenes didn't bode well with the time period.

Other plot ploys written into the book, including the "big reveal" between two characters, was pointless and didn't add anything into the story. It didn't help with the characters development and it didn't seem to flow into the plot. I didn't like the characters and found that their deployment was forced , choppy and for the most part I found them to be underdeveloped and not very believable characters. Kate for example was a character who development and changes constantly contradicted each other and her development into a spy happened to fast and in an unnatural way - it didn't work well or make sense to how she developed or the explanation why.

In the end, definitely not the book for me.

Also found on my book review blog Jules' Book Reviews - The Turncoat ( )
  bookwormjules | Jun 20, 2013 |
This review originally appeared on the Historical Novel Society's website. Review copy provided by publisher.

The Turncoat is a strong debut set mostly in British-occupied Philadelphia during the Revolutionary years 1777 to 1780. Kate Grey, the Quaker daughter of a farmer turned revolutionary, is drawn into the world of espionage by a glamorous Rebel spy known as the Widow, but not before she has inadvertently given away her father’s secret to British officer Peter Tremayne. Tremayne does not betray Kate, but his loyalties are stretched farther when Kate turns up in Philadelphia under an assumed name and engaged to Tremayne’s rake of a cousin, Bayard Caide.

The American Revolution provides the novelist with plenty of scope for intrigue and action, and I think Thorland has made a good effort at doing the period justice. The parallel between two closely related nations fighting over a land and two men with an intricately twisted family tree at odds over a woman is worth considering. The Turncoat provides a strong historical background for readers, with plenty of action in the field of battle to balance out the society and bedroom scenes.

On the minus side, there is a disconnect between Kate’s origins as a Quaker woman and her sudden transformation into a glamorous demi-mondaine, and I find it hard to believe she could lose her morals overnight. In addition, it is disconcerting that bad boy Caide is in some ways every bit as attractive to the reader – and to Kate – as the hero, Tremayne. Yet the complexity added by these jarring notes makes the novel more interesting to me, as do the interesting cast of characters and the author’s refusal to follow the conventional path of what could have been a straightforward romance. These elements suit the background of intrigue and add up to a satisfying read. ( )
  JaneSteen | May 2, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451415396, Paperback)

They are lovers on opposite sides of a brutal war, with everything at stake and no possibility of retreat. They can trust no one—especially not each other.

Major Lord Peter Tremayne is the last man rebel bluestocking Kate Grey should fall in love with, but when the handsome British viscount commandeers her home, Kate throws caution to the wind and responds to his seduction. She is on the verge of surrender when a spy in her own household seizes the opportunity to steal the military dispatches Tremayne carries, ensuring his disgrace—and implicating Kate in high treason. Painfully awakened to the risks of war, Kate determines to put duty ahead of desire, and offers General Washington her services as an undercover agent in the City of Brotherly Love.

Months later, having narrowly escaped court martial and hanging, Tremayne returns to decadent, British-occupied Philadelphia with no stomach for his current assignment—to capture the woman he believes betrayed him. Nor does he relish the glittering entertainments being held for General Howe’s idle officers. Worse, the glamorous woman in the midst of this social whirl, the fiancée of his own dissolute cousin, is none other than Kate Grey herself. And so begins their dangerous dance, between passion and patriotism, between certain death and the promise of a brave new future together.

READERS GUIDE INCLUDED

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:54:16 -0400)

Rebel Kate Gray cannot resist the advances of British Major Peter Tremayne, but after a member of her own family steals his military dispatches, Peter, having narrowly escaped hanging, vows to get revenge on Kate.

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