The Turncoat is a strong debut set mostly in British-occupied Philadelphia during the Revolutionary years 1777 to 1780. Kate Grey, the Quaker daughter of a farmer turned revolutionary, is drawn into the world of espionage by a glamorous Rebel spy known as the Widow, but not before she has inadvertently given away her father’s secret to British officer Peter Tremayne. Tremayne does not betray Kate, but his loyalties are stretched farther when Kate turns up in Philadelphia under an assumed name and engaged to Tremayne’s rake of a cousin, Bayard Caide.
The American Revolution provides the novelist with plenty of scope for intrigue and action, and I think Thorland has made a good effort at doing the period justice. The parallel between two closely related nations fighting over a land and two men with an intricately twisted family tree at odds over a woman is worth considering. The Turncoat provides a strong historical background for readers, with plenty of action in the field of battle to balance out the society and bedroom scenes.
On the minus side, there is a disconnect between Kate’s origins as a Quaker woman and her sudden transformation into a glamorous demi-mondaine, and I find it hard to believe she could lose her morals overnight. In addition, it is disconcerting that bad boy Caide is in some ways every bit as attractive to the reader – and to Kate – as the hero, Tremayne. Yet the complexity added by these jarring notes makes the novel more interesting to me, as do the interesting cast of characters and the author’s refusal to follow the conventional path of what could have been a straightforward romance. These elements suit the background of intrigue and add up to a satisfying read.