Mistress Firebrand: Renegades of the Revolution by Donna Thorland

As a fan of historic fiction, how could I not jump at the chance to read a story that Donna Thorland has created.  Using the American Revolution as the backdrop to her historic romances, Thorland’s creation of the setting and scene, addition of historical benchmarks and characters that fairly breathe through the pages, it was a wonderful read.

Mistress Firebrand: Renegades of the Revolution

In 1777, Jennifer Leighton is eking out a living as an actress and playwright, while staying with her Aunt Frances, an accomplished actress. Part of the ‘custom’ of the time was artists being supported and encouraged by patrons: and Jennifer’s search for an arrangement to bring her into the circles of influence in the theatre bring her into contact with General John Burgoyne.

Burgoyne is well-known and the potential for her advancement with him as a patron is near limitless, but Burgoyne is not interested in being Jenny’s patron, but her lover.  Jenny finds her conscience at odds with her life: her cleverly written play laden with anti-British sentiment is a runaway hit, and has landed the author, under the penname Cordelia into danger on the British Most Wanted list.   Thorland uses the popular venue of the theatre to disseminate the message that Jenny is spreading, engendering anti-British sentiment among the population.  A means of spreading political views to populations, the performance of plays for all comers had skewered politicians and royals alike for years: think Shakespeare.

But danger may actually appear on Jenny’s doorstep in the form of Burgoyne’s man Severin Devere, an intelligence officer highly trusted by the general, and entrusted to bring Jenny to him. This starts a series of conflicted loyalties, espionage, attractions and danger that could threaten both of their lives, or become critical barriers in the battles for independence from Britain.

Thorland weaves this tale balancing desires with duty, Jenny’s pointed and often impolitic thoughts about the British and her loyalty to her family and their welfare, as well as the role of the theatre as both entertainment and propaganda machine.  With danger around every corner: the threats of Jenny’s discovery as the pen behind Cordelia, and Severin’s desire to both find the author and have Jenny for himself, the story is a nail biter.  Descriptions that put readers in the midst of the action, feeling the tension and seeing the potential dangers at every turn of the page have you wanting to rush through, even as you wish to savor every moment.  Utterly engaging and completely engrossing, I could not put this story down. A surefire favorite for readers who appreciate historical romance that holds just a bit more than the usual.

Mistress Firebrand: Renegades of the Revolution by Donna Thorland

Title: Mistress Firebrand
Author: Donna Thorland
Series: Renegades of the Revolution
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published by: NAL
ISBN: 0451471016
Published on: 3 March 2015
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 416
Rated: five-stars
Heat: One FlameOne Flame

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British Occupied Manhattan, 1777. American actress Jennifer Leighton has been packing the John Street Theater with her witty comedies, but she longs to escape the provincial circuit for the glamour of the London stage. When the playwright General John Burgoyne visits the city, fresh from a recent success in the capitol, she seizes the opportunity to court his patronage. But her plan is foiled by British intelligence officer Severin Devere.

Severin’s mission is to keep the pleasure-loving general focused on the war effort…and away from pretty young actresses. But the tables are turned when Severin himself can’t resist Jennifer Leighton…

Months later, Jenny has abandoned her dreams of stage glory and begun writing seditious plays for the Rebels under the pen name “Cornelia,” ridiculing “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne and his army—and undermining the crown’s campaign to take Albany. By the time Severin meets up with Jenny once again, she is on a British hanging list, and Severin is ordered to find her—and deliver her to certain death. Soon, the two are launched on a desperate journey through the wilderness, toward a future shaped by the revolution—and their passion for each other…


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A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

About Donna Thorland

Currently a writer on the WGN historical drama, SALEM, Donna Graduated from Yale with a degree in Classics and Art History and managed architecture and interpretation at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem for several years. She earned an MFA in film production from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, has been a Disney/ABC Television Writing Fellow and a WGA Writer’s Access Project Honoree, and has written for the TV shows Cupid and Tron: Uprising. The director of several award-winning short films, her most recent project aired on WNET Channel 13. Her fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Her Revolutionary War novels are published by Penguin NAL and she writers urban fantasy for Pocket under the name DL McDermott. Donna is married with one cat and splits her time between Salem and Los Angeles.

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