If you’re looking for really good historical fiction with a touch of romance, I highly recommend Donna Thorland, who writes about the American Revolution. This is my second book by Thorland; I previously reviewed her Mistress Firebrand.
Thorland’s writing stands out to me because it’s so rich in detail, and it focuses on historical settings and characters you wouldn’t necessarily think about. The Dutch Girl is set in New York on an estate held by a Dutch “patroon”. Unlike most of America at this time, workers don’t own their own land. They work for the patroon, who has absolute authority. The system makes it very difficult for the working class to move up because they can’t amass land or property, and they have to buy all of their supplies at the inflated rate charged by the patroon; meanwhile the patroon keeps most of the profits from the land.
Anna is a woman who used to be in the servant class on this estate. She fled from it years ago after her father incited a rebellion and she was accused of murder. She changed her identity with the help of a woman called “The Widow”. Now she’s been asked to go back – as a spy – or have her true identity revealed. This particular piece of land is in a highly strategic location, and both sides are angling for the patroon’s loyalty.
I enjoyed this book from start to finish. Anna is such a strong heroine, and this book is a nice mix of action, romance, and most of all history. This may not be the Revolutionary War history you’re used to – but Thorland will have you seeing, hearing and even tasting what life is like in New York at this time. If you’re interested in how cider was pressed or how wooden shoes were made, this is the book for you.
I also appreciated the complexity of the characters. Anna starts out seeking only to protect her name, but her mission evolves as she learns more. We see how hard it is to go back to her childhood home, where she experiences many conflicting emotions. There are two brothers who are struggling to control the estate, and instead of making one the hero and one the villain, both of them have interesting and multi-dimensional characters.
Like Mistress Firebrand, this book was great fun but it will make you think as well.
Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley and publisher NAL. The book was released March 1, 2016.