In this historical novel, set during the Revolutionary War, a young Philadelphia woman takes on the dangerous job of spying for the patriots.
Eighteen-year-old Sarah Champion is a dutiful parson’s daughter, so when she’s sent from her Connecticut home to help her aunt, Elizabeth Sage, in Philadelphia, she makes no protest. When Sarah arrives, in September 1777, Mrs. Sage informs her that she plans to give her fine clothing, teach her deportment, and bring her into society, which puts the young woman in a moral quandary. Her twin brother, James, was killed fighting for Gen. George Washington; now she’s living among Loyalists and must often bite her tongue to stay polite. Meanwhile, Capt. Andrew Warren is trying to develop a spy network for Gen. Washington. He wants to find a woman who’d be welcomed at Gen. Sir William Howe’s parties, where she can overhear useful information—someone like Sarah. She agrees and proves herself to be both brave and determined, but she finds herself in danger from Capt. Ian Jamieson, a blackguard British officer. Meanwhile, she becomes close to the kind, humorous Capt. Charles Colborne, Sir William’s aide. As the British withdraw from Philadelphia in 1778, Sarah’s life undergoes major changes—and she’ll need every ounce of courage to survive a dramatic confrontation. West (Overkill, 2009, etc.) provides excellent ingredients in this well-told historical novel, including scheming, flirting, romance, and villainy. There is also some fine period detail that helps to set the scene, such as fashionable young ladies practicing papyrotamia (the art of paper cutting). However, the promising espionage theme isn’t very well-developed. There are no ciphers, no coded letters or invisible ink; indeed, Sarah gets only one real chance to tackle a mission while in disguise. Although some intriguing historical issues, such as back-alley abortion, are discussed, the novel misses out on an opportunity to more thoughtfully look at what the idea of independence means in a slave-owning society.
An entertaining blend of intrigue and romance, but the spycraft disappoints.