The Charade by Laura Lee Guhrke
published by Sonnet Books in March 2000
Home, freedom, liberty . . . those were mere words to Katie Armstrong, a savvy thief and indentured servant on the run in colonial Boston. For the sake of survival, she agreed to a British lord's bribe: unmask the identity of the patriot known as John Smith, or be returned to her brutal master. But soon the cagey John Smith was making the same threat–unless she spied for him. Katie planned to play both men against each other . . . until, masquerading as Smith's mistress, she lost her heart to the seductive stranger she had set out to undo.
Ethan Harding's steely heart was ready to risk anything to end British tyranny–even if it meant taking on the false identity of John Smith, putting his own life in jeopardy, or blackmailing a beautiful and terrified young woman. And if that woman's angelic face made other men spill their secrets, so much the better. But now, Katie Armstrong's charms were about to betray his heart and his cause–and his desire for the elusive temptress would turn the tables on everyone and everything he had pledged to protect.
Genre: historical romance
The Story: The blurb is a very good synopsis, but I'm still going to do a little synopsis. Katie Armstrong is an orphan who grew up in the street of London and became a thief. After being caught, she was sent to America to be an indentured servant instead of being hanged like her accomplice because she's pretty. Once in America, Katie runs away to Boston after her new master has demonstrated his sadistic preferences which led to the death of another servant. Unfortunately for Katie, she is caught in Boston by a nobleman recently arrived from England.
It is a time of turbulence in the New England colonies as "Americans" start to rebel against England power. The current governor is in over his head, but refuses to arrest anyone without proofs. Thus, the British Lord sets out to find proofs, arrest the rebels and perhaps become the new governor. However, he needs Katie to spy for him and find out the identity of the mysterious John Smith. Katie, not having much choice, accepts and quickly finds out that John Smith is no other than Ethan Harding, a supposed British supporter. Soon, she is stuck between the two parties, having to become a double agent... but where does her loyalty lie?
My Opinion: First of, I have to admit that I'm not knowledgeable about this time period Ms Guhrke decided to explore in this book. I'm aware that Quebec went through something very similar, but know absolutely nothing about the American history ^_^; So I was a bit confused at first, especially figuring out who were the Tory and the other side. I didn't know what an indentured servant was either... However, the more you read the more you catch on.
My main problem with this book I guess is that I wasn't absorbed by the characters or the storyline. Part of it was probably due to the mood/atmosphere of the book. It was darker and more serious than most Guhrke books I've read. Same thing for the characters... they were more detached, more serious and calculative... and to an extent, manipulative and ruthless. I understand why. I mean, they were working for a greater cause and gaining America's independance was their priority. Unfortunately, it seemed to put the romance between Katie and Ethan in the background.
The romance was nice, but a little too short. They hadn't spent that much time together and already, Ethan found out that Katie was spying. I know it's hard in those circumstances, especially since they've spent to little time together, but I would have like for Ethan to trust Katie. I think that's what was missing in the whole storyline. Trust between Ethan and Katie. I think that if Katie would have come clean to Ethan, it would have cast a softer glow on their relationship. In this case, the whole thing started off as an affair and it's hard to say when it became more.
What enjoyed how Katie got off the hooked at the end. I'm also glad that the governor wasn't a total buffon or totally naive. However, the ending was a ruined by well the ending ^_^; It would have been nice for Ms Guhrke to add an epilogue and something like "X years later." Instead, the book end with Katie and Ethan together, but with a future uncertain as they get ready to go to war. Sure, it's a happy ending... sort of, but not enough to satisfy me.
My Grade: C. As much as it hurts me to give such a low grade, this book just didn't do it for me.