The Dutch Girl

Written by Donna Thorland
Review by Ann Pedtke

A prim schoolmistress with a scandalous secret. A handsome highwayman fighting for romantic ideals. A dangerous spy mission with the fate of nations hanging in the balance. Donna Thorland’s The Dutch Girl has all the ingredients of an over-the-top romantic thriller. But for readers who venture past the first few pages – and with Thorland’s addictive plotting, it’s difficult not to – this book proves itself a serious contender.

In Revolutionary New York City, Anna Winters appears to be a respectable English gentlewoman running a prestigious finishing school. But underneath she is still Annatje Hoppe, the daughter of a Dutch tenant who lost his life in a failed uprising against the powerful Patroons – and the passion to bring justice and independence to her people still burns. Her turbulent past makes it a reckless act for Anna to set foot ever again in the Hudson Highlands. But her familiarity with Dutch language and culture, and her youthful love affair with the sensitive son of the Patroon – long forgotten (or not) – makes her uniquely suited to infiltrate the estate in the guise of a governess and win the people to the side of the American Rebels.

In the midst of this swashbuckling plot, Anna emerges as a real and likable character: clever in practical ways, confident and competent, but with genuine care and understanding for her students (so rarely evinced in fictional governesses) and a deep-set loyalty to her people and her roots. Beautifully researched details bring sparkle to this fast-paced plot, and while the ending comes a little too easily, Anna’s fate remains tied to her own choices – and thus eminently satisfying. The Dutch Girl plays successfully to those in the market for a romantic thriller, a Revolutionary epic, or just an absorbing story of characters fighting against the conventions of their time.