Petticoat espionage in a decidedly stinky, dangerous Old New York.
Few novelists working now have a better grasp of early American history than Robson (Fearless, 1998, etc.), who, among her other virtues, understands that not every colonist talked like a pirate and shuns outré and anachronistic dialect. In this spirited—and quite entertaining—confection, she turns her attention to a Quaker clan in a New York whose administration isn’t quite working at the dawn of the Revolution, with all the mounds of uncollected garbage that entails. The likes of General Howe and suave spy Major Andre wish very much to see royal governance restored, and Rob Townsend hasn’t been doing much to stop them; he “had watched the Continental Army straggle into the city four months ago, but this was not his fight. He was a Quaker, and he swore loyalty to no one but God.” Hearing the Declaration of Independence proclaimed changes Rob’s mind, and fellow Quaker Seth Darby and his 17-year-old sister Kate likewise opt for the rebel cause, all prepared to give their lives just as good Nathan Hale is about to do. Rob has a thing for Kate (“He clasped his hands behind his back so she would not see him trembling”). So does Major Andre, and Kate has, well, reciprocal views: “He did have the most beautiful teeth and eyes. Kate felt the usual flutter in her chest whenever he was near.” Even Benedict Arnold, Andre’s onetime bête noire and ally-to-be, notices Kate, and he’s got his hands full with the tenacious Peggy Shippen, a figure nicely drafted out of real history to do duty here. Chests heave, flintlocks discharge, and history takes its ever unpredictable twists and turns as spy meets spy, George Washington tells fibs that would make Parson Weems wince, Alex Hamilton takes offense at everyone and everything and the Revolution suffers its darkest hours.
Wholly believable, confidently realized, attention-holding historical fiction.