In the first novel of her series, Roseanna M. White pits spies against each other in the American Revolution, through America's first spy ring, the Culper Ring. With the war well under way, New York City is a stronghold of the loyalists. Winter Reeves, helping her childhood friend Robert Townsend, collects information of the Redcoats movements from her soldier suitors to be smuggled along the ring out to George Washington. Bennet Lane, a professor from Yale, is watching and seeking to identify the patriot spies in New York, knowing that at least one moves among the elite. The two find themselves courting, and, though each is devoted to their cause, falling in love.
I really liked that the main characters, though essentially spies, felt like real people. Winter struggles with hiding her personality and lying about her past to appease her abusive grandparents; she is hurting and alone, with only two people who truly care for her, neither of which can see her socially. God is her main source of strength and comfort in her grandparents' loveless home. When Bennet comes along, she appreciates that he can glimpse her real personality and humor beneath the empty-headed facade, even though it threatens her gathering of military intelligence. Bennet, though typically bumbling with women, is drawn because of her personal intelligence. However, he refuses to propose because of her flirtatious, empty-headed mask; he knows there's a real person in there, and he pursues her, not the lovely face. He needs to know her true self before committing to marriage. It speaks volumes of his integrity and wisdom in pursuing a wife; for a character, he has great depth of character.
In her author's notes at the end, White includes details of the historical facts behind her novel. Like the characters of her novel, in history patriots and Tories alike mourned the death of John Andre, and Benedict Arnold was trusted by none. It is a good reminder that just because politics says that a man is an enemy, don't let your heart be closed to a good person, nor be blinded to a friend.
The plot was solid, the characters real, and the history fascinating, For the sake of spoilers, I shall not reveal more of the end, but I admit to being blindsided, which is quite a feat. Now I must reread it in my enlightened state and see what hints I missed! I eagerly await the sequel, set during the War of 1812. 5 out of 5 stars!
The Culper Ring:
1. Ring of Secrets
1.5. Fairchild's Lady (novella)
2. Whispers from the Shadows
2.5. "A Hero's Promise" (short story)
3. Circle of Spies