The Dutch Girl
Renegades of the American Revolution Series, Book #4
By Donna Thorland
Author’s website: http://www.donnathorland.com/
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
Manhattan and the Hudson River Valley, 1778. The British control Manhattan, the Rebels hold West Point, and the Dutch patroons reign in feudal splendor over their vast Hudson River Valley estates. But the roads are ruled by highwaymen. Gerrit Van Haren, the dispossessed heir of Harenwyck, is determined to reclaim his inheritance from his decadent brother, Andries, even if that means turning outlaw and joining forces with the invading British. Until, that is, he waylays the carriage of beautiful young finishing school teacher Anna Winters…
Anna is a committed Rebel with a secret past and a dangerous mission to secure the Hudson Highlands for the Americans. Years ago, she was Annatje, the daughter of a tenant farmer who led an uprising against the corrupt landlords and paid with his life. Since then, Anna has vowed to see the patroon system swept aside along with British rule. But at Harenwyck she discovers that politics and virtue do not always align as she expects…and she must choose between two men with a shared past and conflicting visions of the future.
The Dutch Girl is a captivating page turner, full of exquisite period detail, strong characters, and plenty of romance and intrigue.
I am never disappointed by Donna Thorland’s elegant writing and enchanting treatment of the American Revolutionary War. I always come away from her books having learned something. As the title implies the story centers around the Dutch settlers of early America. Heretofore, I did not know much about the Dutch settlements along the Hudson Highlands. The patroon system, much like the feudal caste systems in play in Europe, serves as a fascinating backdrop for the quest for military advantage by both the Rebels and the British.
Anna Winters has carefully reinvented herself following the death of her father, a rebellious Dutch tenant farmer, and her subsequent flight from the law. She is no longer the poor fugitive Annatje Hoppe but now passes herself off as a well-bred English gentlewoman and mistress of a finishing school for young ladies. A woman associated with Anna’s former mentor arrives at the school and blackmails her into spying for the Rebel cause. Anna soon finds herself back in her home territory of Harenwyk after a seventeen-year absence posing as the teacher to the current patroon’s nieces, tasked with securing Andries Van Haren’s support for the Rebels.
She is not prepared to come face to face with her childhood friend and love Gerrit Van Haren. Gerrit, the first born son, has been passed over in favor of his younger brother Andries. Opposed to the whole patroon system, he is embattled with Andries for the title and land ownership with hopes of divvying up the two hundred thousand acres so that the tenants may own their own land. And, he is willing to side with the British, if necessary, to accomplish this feat. Though initially able to maintain her façade, Gerrit eventually realizes Anna is his childhood love that he thought was dead. Thus begins the renewed romance and exciting tale of class, people’s natural rights, and political strategy.
I really appreciate that Anna and Gerrit’s romance is not a matter of love at first sight but rooted in a decade ago relationship between two teenagers separated by vastly different positions in society. They have a natural chemistry and sweet affection for each other, and I particularly enjoy their witty, flirtatious dialogue exchanged in the carriage after Gerrit “kidnaps” her.
Andries and Gerrit’s opposing ideals make them interesting counterpoints to each other. Thorland did an excellent job of presenting their views in a compelling manner, and I could see the pros and cons of both sides. What could have been a mere sketch of a villain, Andries is instead much more than he seems, a complicated character with secrets and wishes of his own. All of the characters, whether main or supporting, are all finely crafted and complex, truly remarkable to read about.
My only quibble is small. After such lush character building and plotting, the ending feels somewhat rushed. In addition, the espionage takes a back seat to the romance whereas in the other books in the Renegades of the American Revolution series there seems more of a balance between the passion and intrigue.
The Dutch Girl is a delightful read and entertaining, informative history lesson. I heartily recommend it to fans of independent, capable heroines faced with daring circumstances with plenty of romance and more than a dash of political stratagem.