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literary inklings

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Mistress Firebrand by Donna Thorland


In Mistress Firebrand, author Donna Thorland continues her Renegades of the American Revolution series with a story full of rich history and pulsating romance.

America is deep in the throes of its search for independence from Britain in 1777, and to Jennifer Leighton it seems there are turncoats, spies, and dangers at every corner. An aspiring playwright determined to make her way to London and high success on Drury Lane, Jenny is in pursuit of a patron to support her as did her Aunt Frances, known to all as the iconic star of the stage, The Divine Miss Fanny. Together, Jenny and Frances are plotting to catch the attentions of a British general who could be the makings of Jenny’s career. Instead, Jenny finds herself embroiled in trouble, and the only man who can help her is an American-born British soldier, the charming – and, rumor has it, decidedly lethal – Severin Devere. Scorned by his father for his bastard beginnings, Severin has lived his life in a constant attempt to deny the Indian heritage that looks back at him in the mirror. He has always thrown himself fully into whatever work has been dealt him, which usually requires him to dirty his hands where his superiors will not; but that work, and even his allegiance to the crown, may be tested when his path crosses with that of the beautiful, strong-willed Jennfier Leighton.

Donna Thorland lays the workings for a superbly entertaining romance in Mistress Firebrand while her dedicated research and keen insight deliver a powerful historical atmosphere. Her attention to detail layers itself into the story to create a fascinating representation of a remarkable time in American history. Thorland works with every facet of the history, stitching together a patchwork of details to create a beautiful backdrop; her narrative tells of the specifics of dress and food, the nuances of custom, and the minutiae of life for both women and men on either side of the Revolution. When Jenny’s immersion into the American side of the fight brings her face-to-face with none other than General Washington, Thorland brings the reader so fully into the scene as to affect time-travel by the turn of a page. She folds the richness of her research into her narrative with skill, layering it piecemeal with a story of rebellion, identity, and enduring love that takes the reader across genres and through time.

As the narrative perspective switches throughout the novel to follow both Jenny and Severin, the reader is given vast insight into two characters seemingly plucked from history. Through Jenny’s eyes, the story unfolds of a young woman desperate to practice her creative art in a time when the arts were quite in turmoil, not to mention a time when women were expected – or allowed – to do very little on their own. She’s a stalwart character with abundant grit and compassion, sure only of her own capabilities as she tests the waters of the Rebellion and tries to determine in whom she can lay her trust as well as her life. Severin, meanwhile, is not only a study of a British soldier faltering to find his own identity, but of a Brit whose veins run with Indian blood, one foot planted on two very different lands. His attempts to come to terms with his heritage and determine where his loyalties lie make him a particularly unique and fascinating character. Together, Jenny and Severin share explosive chemistry, quick-witted conversation, and myriad ideas about the war and what it might mean for the future of America. Through this, and many other elements, Mistress Firebrand sets the reader up for a memorable love story and a suspenseful thrill ride through history.

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