Friday, April 3, 2015

Review: Mistress Firebrand by Donna Thorland

Release date: March 3, 2015
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: NAL Trade
Pages: 416
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided for review through Netgalley
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
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…
Anyone who regularly reads my reviews, I'm sure, knows I review almost exclusively YA. That doesn't mean I don't read other things, but I stick to a pretty regular diet. Sometimes, though, a book catches my eye that I just have to read. Such was the case for Mistress Firebrand. I was so sold on the idea of an actress and playwright during the American Revolution and the British officer who helps her.

And there was so much to enjoy here! I loved Jenny, who had come from the middle of nowhere to Manhattan to live with her aunt, a famous actress of the London stage, and who dreams of becoming a prominent playwright. She acts because she has to, but it's the writing she loves. Jenny thinks she's willing to do anything and everything to become successful and have her plays in London, but she finds out there are lines she's unwilling to cross. But Jenny is terribly smart and resourceful, finding a way to get her words to the masses,

Her match is Severin Devere. Severin is the man who does the dirty work for the British army, yet he's only motivated by his need to be one of them. He was not-so-secretly fathered by a Native American, the shame of his family, and only his brother's grudging willingness to accept him as a true member of his family keeps Severin as part of society. In New York, however, he's very quickly disillusioned with the people he works for, realizing no one cares about him, only what he can do for them.

What's so fun in reading Mistress Firebrand, in addition to the characters themselves, is that you get such a good glimpse of life in British occupied New York during the Revolutionary War and see what a huge role the theater and plays could play in the court of public opinion.

While it's out of my normal reading material, I hugely enjoyed Mistress Firebrand. It's got an unconventional setting, wonderful characters who you'll absolutely root for individually (and to get together, of course), and really lovely writing. Do you need more?

About the author:

A native of Bergenfield, New Jersey, Donna graduated from Yale with a degree in Classics and Art History. For many years she managed architecture and interpretation at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, and wrote and directed the Witch City’s most popular Halloween theater festival, Eerie Events. She later earned an MFA in film production from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Donna has been a sorority house mother, a Disney/ABC Television Writing Fellow, a WGA Writer’s Access Project Honoree, and a writer on the ABC primetime drama, Cupid. Her screenwriting credits include episodes of the animated series, Tron: Uprising. Her short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Albedo One. The director of several award-winning short films, her most recent project, The Night Caller, aired on WNET Channel 13 and was featured on Ain’t It Cool News. Currently she is a writer on the WGN drama SALEM. She is married with one cat and divides her time between the real Salem and Los Angeles.

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