The Girl in the Mask

Written by Marie-Louise Jensen
Review by Ann Turnbull

Sophia is an intelligent, energetic girl who reads Aphra Behn’s plays, rides horses and is a crack shot. She also has a keen sense of right and wrong and a determination to stand up for herself and others.

When her cruel father returns from his slave-run plantations, he is furious at how unruly his daughter has become. His response is to take her to Bath for the season in the hope of finding her a husband – which for Sophia is likely to mean passing from the control of one tyrant to another. Terrified at this prospect, she decides to make herself as disagreeable as possible to everyone she meets in Bath in order to discourage suitors. She achieves this in spectacular fashion, even rebuffing an attractive man who is clearly taking a genuine and sympathetic interest in her. Chaperoned by her aunt, forced to wear restrictive clothing and to travel everywhere by sedan chair, Sophia is desperate for freedom. One night she discovers that she can climb out of her bedroom window and escape into the streets of Bath. From then on, her adventures begin.

Marie-Louise Jensen weaves a complex plot involving an unwelcome suitor, highway robbery, spies, and the Jacobite rebellion of 1715. Sophia, reckless, brave and loyal, is a heroine to cheer for; and the urbane Mr Charleton makes an intriguing hero. This is an action-packed story with plenty of history and period detail woven into it. It conjures up the glamour and also the squalor of Bath at that time. And the unexpected ending is entirely satisfying.