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Authors: Donna Thorland

Mistress Firebrand

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Mistress Firebrand

“I loved this book from the first page and raced through it. The plot is seamless, the characters (all of them) compelling, and the romance just lovely. The two main characters are a perfect balance of equals. I consider this author a major find. . . . I am adding Donna Thorland to my list of favorite authors.”

—Mary Balogh,
New York Times
bestselling author of
Beyond the Sunrise

“Donna Thorland is an author I adore, and I loved
Mistress Firebrand
every bit as much as her first two books,
The Turncoat
The Rebel Pirate
. Her unique mix of history, romance, and adventure all add up to create stunning, sensual stories you cannot put down. For readers who yearn for historical fiction with a distinctive edge, Thorland’s Revolutionary War–set novels deliver.”

—Jennifer McQuiston,
New York Times
USA Today
bestselling author of
What Happens in Scotland

The Rebel Pirate

“Donna Thorland has started her own revolution in American historical romance and placed her original stamp on an era. Authentic detail, amazing characters, and a dazzlingly broad sweep of action make this a richly romantic adventure that’s hard to put down. Truly brilliant. Prepare to be blown away.”

—Susanna Kearsley,
New York Times
bestselling author of
Season of Storms

“A fast-paced, soundly researched historical intrigue with vivid characters and sharp writing,
The Rebel Pirate
is a compelling read.”

—Madeline Hunter,
New York Times
bestselling author of
His Wicked Reputation

“We enjoyed
The Rebel Pirate
immensely. It is a great read with all the joy of wonderful historical detail and surprising plot twists. Thumbs up from us!”

—Tom and Sharon Curtis writing as Laura London, author of
The Windflower

“A fast-paced historical novel set in Massachusetts at the dawn of the American Revolution. In a novel that seethes with conflict, intrigue, and romance, Thorland brings to life the tumultuous age of Redcoats and Rebels through her exquisite use of historical detail . . . richly vibrant and utterly believable. . . . If you’re a reader who enjoys immersion in another place and time, or if you’re simply looking for a riveting page-turner, you can’t miss with
The Rebel Pirate

—Amy Belding Brown, author of
Flight of the Sparrow

The Turncoat

“Fans of Philippa Gregory and Loretta Chase will find
The Turncoat
a thrilling read.”


“Very entertaining.”

—Margaret George,
New York Times
bestselling author of
Elizabeth I

“Let [Thorland] sweep you back to the American Revolution, into a world of spies, suspense, skulduggery, and sex. You won’t want to stop reading. You won’t want to come back to the present.”

—William Martin,
New York Times
bestselling author of
Back Bay

“Cool & sexy.”

New York Times
bestselling author Meg Cabot

“A stay-up-all-night, swashbuckling, breath-holding adventure of a novel . . . an extraordinary book about an extraordinary heroine.”

—Lauren Willig,
New York Times
bestselling author of the Pink Carnation series

“Kept me up far too late . . . an absolutely gripping read.”

—Meredith Duran, bestselling author of
Fool Me Twice

“It’s a trip into the dangerous past from the comfort of your reading chair, filled with romance, authenticity, and great storytelling—the very best of what historical fiction can be.”

—Simone St. James, author of
Silence for the Dead

“Thorland takes you on an incredible adventure through a wonderfully realized depiction of Colonial America. I was so taken by the story, I finished the novel in a single sitting. Highly recommended to anyone with a love of adventure, intrigue, and romance!”

—Corey May, writer of video game Assassin’s Creed 3

“An exhilarating, intelligent, and superbly intricate spy thriller that keeps its tension vibrating and surprises crackling until the very last page. Heroine Kate is a strong, resourceful, and memorable character.”

RT Book Reviews

“A strong debut . . . provides a strong historical background for readers, with plenty of action in the field of battle to balance out the society and bedroom scenes.”

—Historical Novel Society

“One high-stakes adventure, crossing historical fiction with romance, danger, and sex. . . . Thorland’s believable dialogue steals each scene.”

—New Jersey Monthly


Renegades of the American Revolution Series

The Turncoat

The Rebel Pirate

New American Library

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 375 Hudson Street,

New York, New York 10014

USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China

A Penguin Random House Company

First published by New American Library,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC

Copyright © Donna Thorland, 2015

Readers Guide copyright © Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 2015

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.



Thorland, Donna.

Mistress Firebrand: renegades of the American Revolution / Donna Thorland.

pages cm

ISBN 978-0-698-16686-8

1. Actresses—Fiction. 2. Manhattan (New York, N.Y.)—History—18th century—Fiction. 3. United States—History—Revolution, 1775–1783—Fiction. I. Title.
II. Title: Renegades of the American Revolution.

PS3620.H766M57 2015

813'.6—dc23 2014036540


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.




Other Novels by DONNA THORLAND

Title page

Copyright page



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two


Author’s Note

Recommended Reading

"Readers Guide

About the Author

For Ellen,
whose story sense is


Manhattan Island

December 1775



John Burgoyne was in New York.

Jenny overheard the wine merchant telling the tavern keeper in hushed tones. She knew better than to look up when she felt their eyes on her. Two years in a city buffeted by mob violence and political intrigue had honed her instinct for self-preservation. She kept her head down and studied her mother’s letter from home.

Seated beside one of the tall windows in the elegant taproom at the Fraunces Tavern, with its lofty ceilings and fine painted paneling, she nursed her single cup of chocolate and tried to concentrate on the words on the page, but her mind kept returning to Burgoyne. For the wine seller and the publican, Burgoyne’s presence meant a business opportunity, and one that must be kept secret
from the Liberty Boys, who had abducted a loyalist judge, an Anglican clergyman, and a British physician from their homes only the week before. Politics, the two merchants agreed, were terrible for trade.

They were also murder on the Muses. Isaac Sears and his rabble had stormed the theater, broken all the benches in the pit, and would have beaten the players as well if the company had been performing. Congress had closed all the other theaters in the colonies. Only New York’s John Street remained open, performing without a license, and at the mercy of the Rebel mob, which saw it as a British institution and an instrument of tyranny.

There was no future for a playwright in North America.

Jenny’s mother tried to tell her as much in her weekly reports from New Brunswick. The newsy letters arrived every Tuesday like clockwork, carried by the dishearteningly efficient Rebel post, threaded with the subtle message that, in such trying times, Jenny would be wise to come home.

But even her mother could not claim that New Brunswick was untouched by the current troubles. It had taken eight men a whole day, she wrote, to raise the new church bell, which had been cast in Holland from six hundred pounds of silver donated by the first families of the parish, into the steeple. It had been rung only once before word reached the town that the British were abroad—hunting for caches of weapons and confiscating church bells along the way so that the Rebels could not raise the countryside with their alarms.

Whatever their individual political leanings, the faithful of New Brunswick had denuded their tables
and donated their plate for the glory of God, not King George. The church consistory voted unanimously, her mother wrote with obvious satisfaction, to take the bell down and bury it in the orchard across the lane.

If Jenny did not do something about it, she would end up like the bell, buried in New Brunswick until the Rebels were routed. Teased and tormented by four loving brothers who had followed her father into the brick-making trade and could not understand why a pretty girl bothered herself with scribbling for players.

There was no future for a playwright . . . in North America. That was why Jenny wanted, needed, to meet Burgoyne.

The general was said to be a personal friend of David Garrick. Burgoyne’s plays had been performed at Drury Lane in London.

will be a week at least refitting,” murmured Andries Van Dam, who was arranging to send a crate of his best Madeira aboard the ship. “The general also asks for six quarts of Spanish olives, twelve pounds of Jordan almonds”—the tavern keeper began writing it all down, eyes alight—“two dozen doilies, one box of citron, six jars of pickles, and one Parmesan cheese.”

Jenny waited until they disappeared into the storeroom—all furtive glances and quiet whispers—before dashing out of the tavern. Samuel Fraunces, publican—Black Sam, to his friends—was a notorious Rebel, but evidently not a man to let that get in the way of trade. Jenny had never cared for politics. She liked them even less now that the royal governor and the garrison had retreated to their gun ships in the harbor and left ordinary New Yorkers like herself to the pity of the rabble, who had none.

She wanted nothing better than to dash directly home to John Street and Aunt Frances with her news, but she still had errands to run for the theater’s manager: costumes to pick up from the mantua maker, canvas to fetch for repairing the scenery, playbills waiting at the printer. This, though, gave her the opportunity to make discreet inquiries about the
with the sailmakers and victuallers. By the time Jenny reached the little blue house next door to the theater, wrapped in her plain wool cloak and laden with packages, she had acquired a box of oranges and knew that the
was anchored off the Battery, undergoing repairs.

Aunt Frances was upstairs, at her desk in the little parlor, working on a manuscript. She looked effortlessly stylish—as always—in a simple blue silk gown with her hair teased and tinted to match. Her arrival in New Brunswick, after fleeing her London creditors, had changed Jenny’s life. Aunt Frances was old enough—just—to be her mother, but unlike the matrons of Jenny’s acquaintance she had not rushed headlong into the trappings of domesticity or middle age. She wore no frumpy caps or homely aprons. She neither baked nor sewed. She wrote a little, acted a great deal, and charmed the patrons in the greenroom, always.

Without raising her head, she said, “How is your mother and everyone in New Bumpkin?”

“New Brunswick,” Jenny corrected. “They are fine. And Burgoyne is in New York.”

Aunt Frances stopped writing and looked up. “On what business?”

Jenny had not thought to find out. “Does it matter?”

She put her pen down. “Yes, actually. Very much so. He was in Boston a week ago, staging amateur theatricals
and lamenting his lack of seniority over Clinton and Howe. If he is being recalled to England, it might signal a change in the government’s policy toward America.”

Jenny did not care about seniority or policies. “If he saw one of my plays, if he thought it was any good, would he be able to introduce me to David Garrick?” she asked.

Her aunt considered. “Yes. He knows Garrick. More importantly, his plays have made money for Garrick. But you have no experience handling a man like John Burgoyne.”

The playwright general known for his heroic cavalry charges was said to be the bastard of a lord and had eloped with the daughter of an earl. Jenny knew she was out of her depth. “That is why I hoped you would help me get aboard the

Her aunt shook her head. “No. Go to Caesar like Cleopatra, rolled in a rug?
is what you absolutely must not do.”

“What, then?” asked Jenny, feeling keenly her lack of sophistication.

“You do not want this man entranced by your person,” said Frances Leighton. “All
will get you at Drury Lane is a place as an opera dancer. You want Burgoyne enthralled by your writing, enough to sponsor a London production of your work—or convince Garrick to do so. Nothing less will serve.” She swept her manuscript aside, pulled a clean letter sheet out of the drawer, dipped her pen, and offered it to Jenny. “To that end, we must lure the general here, to John Street.”

*   *   *

Severin Devere was standing on deck when the case of Madeira was hoisted aboard the
. He considered
sending the crate back to shore, but that would only attract more notice, and drawing further attention to the crippled man-of-war in New York Harbor was the last thing he wanted to do.

He had been sent to America for the purpose—among other things—of fetching John Burgoyne home quietly and discreetly. The King and Lord Germain, the secretary of state for America, had read Burgoyne’s letters from Boston describing the fiasco of Bunker Hill—for which he had been present but not in command—and his proposals for pacifying the colonies. They had found these observations full of good sense. Now they wished to hear more, preferably without alerting the Rebels to their intentions.

Unfortunately, John Burgoyne did nothing quietly or discreetly.

Severin’s faint hope that the general had exercised a modicum of good judgment in his transaction with the wine merchant was dashed when he broke the seal on the receipt that accompanied the crate.

Burgoyne had bought the Madeira under his own name, which meant his departure from Boston was no longer secret.

The other letter that had come aboard with the wine was also addressed to Burgoyne. It was sealed with cheap wax, written in a round, girlish hand, and scented with a whiff of scandal.
. Severin pocketed the missive and descended belowdecks to the general’s cabin.

Four lieutenants had been displaced to create Burgoyne’s apartment, and part of the wardroom had been cannibalized. Captain Hartwell had balked at removing any of the guns, though, so Burgoyne had draped
the thirty-two-pounders with thick furs and Indian-tanned hides and brightly beaded garments he had bought as souvenirs.

The general sat at his breakfast table wearing a striped silk banyan and an embroidered turban. His slippered feet rested upon a Turkey carpet. On the table alongside the serving dishes was spread a map with a carefully penciled line running from Quebec to Albany.

This was the contradiction in Burgoyne’s character that fascinated Severin. The man had an appetite for luxury, and a tendency toward egotism and bombast, but he wasn’t lazy. A few years past fifty, he had the vigor and ambition of a man half his age, evident in his still-black hair and avid, heavy-lidded eyes.

“Your wine has come aboard,” said Severin. He dropped the two letters on the table beside Burgoyne’s notes and gestured for the servant to leave. The man scurried from the room.

“Excellent,” said Burgoyne, slicing into a chop.

“Lord Germain had hoped that your departure from Boston might go unnoticed by the Rebels. You gave the wine merchant your name and direction.”

Burgoyne shook his head. “Secrecy is impossible. Everyone will know I have gone when I am not present at
The Blockade of Boston
. If you had wanted my departure to go unnoticed, we should have delayed it until after the performance.”

He meant his farce, being rehearsed for a benefit night at Faneuil Hall, though Severin had never known the proceeds of such events to reach any of the advertised widows and orphans.

“Give me leave to doubt the noteworthiness of a
missing the odd theatrical event when his country is at war,” said Severin.

theater,” said Burgoyne. “I should have thought that a man with your . . .
 . . . regarding the savages of North America would know that. Do the Mohawk not paint their faces before going into battle?”

Severin’s Mohawk ancestry was one of the reasons he had been chosen to fetch Burgoyne, so he might advise the general, who desired to employ native allies in his proposed campaign next year. The difficulty was that Burgoyne had proved disposed to respect the opinion of an Englishman—
Englishman—on native questions more than that of a man who had lived among the Mohawk, especially one the general believed was tainted by Indian blood, like Severin.

“Think of our visit to New York as a mummer’s play, then,” advised Severin, “and perform the role accordingly. Lord Germain does not wish the Rebels informed of your movements, sir. There must be no more transactions with Van Dam, or anyone else in New York.”

Burgoyne sighed. “I do not need your advice on dealing with shopkeepers, Devere. If I had not used my name, Van Dam would have sent me an inferior vintage at double the price.”

“And now he will make up his loss on the wine by peddling the news that you are in New York. For those alert to affairs of consequence, your recall to London will tell them all they need to know about the character of the next campaign.” Generals Gage and Howe had always treated the colonials like brothers, because they were decent men and they had ties to America. They
were doing everything within their power to avoid bloodshed and bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict. “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne would not.

The general made a little show of setting down his fork and leaned back in his chair. “Have you considered that such news might serve to scare sense into these people?”

It was a widely held opinion that the Americans were spoiled children, that a show of force was all that was needed to bring them into line.

“Lexington Green and Bunker Hill,” said Severin, “argue otherwise.”

Burgoyne waved away the two biggest British military disasters in recent memory. Evidently he not only preferred an Englishman’s understanding of Indians, but gave little weight to an
views on the English. “Poor planning and poorer leadership.”

Severin drew the other letter from his pocket. In the close quarters of the cabin he discovered that it was scented with more than scandal. It had a hint of orange about it. Not the sophisticated tincture of neroli, but the bright perfume of freshly peeled fruit.

It made Devere long for uncomplicated pleasures, for warm summer afternoons far from war and intrigue. For a moment, Severin did not want to part with the smooth, scented envelope.

But he had a point to make. “We have already been the target of sabotage.” The spoiled beef in the
’s stores had almost undoubtedly been poisoned, and the ship’s spar had been intentionally damaged. “Now that the Americans know you are here, they will try again.”

“Let them,” said Burgoyne, breaking the seal and scanning the letter. For a moment the bouquet of orange
intensified, then faded. Then Burgoyne barked with laughter and tossed the letter, along with a slender booklet, to Severin.

“An actress,” he crowed. “One enterprising harlot knows I am in New York. So much for your ‘consequences.’
rather provincial invitation to sin.”

Severin picked the letter up off the table. He noted the round feminine hand once more. It was the product of a thorough education in penmanship, every character neat and well formed. There were no showy flourishes, which indicated restraint and taste. Scarcely the hallmarks of a harlot. But the contents, calculated to elicit Burgoyne’s interest, roused Severin’s suspicions.

BOOK: Mistress Firebrand
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