by Laura Lee Guhrke, historical (2000)
Sonnet, $6.50, ISBN 0-671-02367-5
Yee-ha! For grand adventures, high excitement, and wonderful wonderful romance with memorable and real characters, The Charade can't be beat. It's a fabulous double-agent espionage adventure skilfully woven into a romance so poignant and fabulous that at the end of the day I just feel as if I've just returned from a grand adventure in the pre-Revolutionary War period of America. Where's my tin hat?
Katie Armstrong, a thief consigned to America as a slave, runs away to Boston and starts a mini career as a pickpocket. No shrieking guilt-ridden wimpy woman here - Katie knows what she has to do to survive. She is observed by Ethan Harding, a well-off blue-blood who is also "John Smith", a spy for the Rebels. He is struck by her beauty (they always do) as well as her daring. Too bad Katie is also observed by an English nobleman out for the Sons Of Liberty' head.
She's caught and is forced to spy on the Rebels. So our feisty, intrepid heroine does just that, wiggling her way into the Whigs' secret headquarters to expose John Smith, which she does wonderfully. But Ethan/John holds the upper hand and poor Katie has to spy for him as well.
And Katie is a wonderful heroine. She starts out a woman trusting nobody, and her only codex is to be the last one still standing. But you know how things are, soon Katie begin to rescue people from trouble and begin to care for the poor children as well as John. And despite the mess she's in (her own words, spoken wryly), she soon find her life more complete with the purpose her mission gives her. This woman learns to trust, love, and care for people.
I love the way the author portray Katie's increasing conflict between self-preservation and committing the sacrifices needed when one decides to love and care for others. And Katie's realization that she cares for people is wonderful. There's one passage where she knows she can just run, but she can't - she has to put her life in danger for her loved ones. And her realization of just that - damn, she can't walk away - and the way she squares her shoulders and turns around to play heroine made my eyes tear a little. I love nothing more than to read of a cold, badly hurt person slowly coming to love and care for others and in the process discovers herself, and Katie captures that role magnificently.
And Ethan? What a wonderful man! Kind, gentle, yet possessing a cold, ruthless streak when he has to be merciless, he is one fine, intriguing man. He is a wonderful foil for Katie - he has a purpose, he has a reason to live, and he shows Katie what it means to believe in a cause. And best of all, he respects Katie for who and what she is. You just can't get any man finer than Ethan. He's reliable, he's dependable, and he loves Katie. Sigh.
And the vivid secondary characters make the story more alive. TC however, is more than just a love story. It's a story about rediscovering what it means to be alive, about making sense of it all, and finding a way to believe again. And best of all, it is a very good story.
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