Publisher: Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Landmark
Review source: Publisher
Reviewed by: Kathy Davie
Series: Jack Absolute, 1
First in the Jack Absolute historical fiction series; I can't decide if it's thriller or suspense... It's certainly spy fiction for this particular story with a very James Bond feel to it albeit with horses rather than Ferraris.
This is an ARC I received from the publisher.
On the whole, I adored this swashbuckling adventure behind battlelines and in drawing rooms as Jack struggles to discover the identity of his enemies.
It's makes a pleasant switch to hear the thoughts of a man about to duel who is both confident in his abilities and realistic in his chances. It's also a treat to find an author who can so comfortably bring today's realization of equality between peoples and incorporate it into an historical novel and make it feel so very real and natural. I do love Jack's sense of honor and the struggle Humphreys puts him through to stay true to his sense of morality.
I also like the friendship between Jack and Até. They treat each other as equals, a rare partnership for the 1770s. And I do enjoy Até's sense of humor, wicked man, LOL.
Gotta love that British love for a proper turnout!
"We may be beaten this day---but we will not be under-dressed!"
Humphreys is an actor and he brings his understanding of acting and writing into the story, giving us a different perspective on what attracts people to the craft as well as providing the story with an unexpected insight. I did enjoy how Humphreys brought in the manners and morality of the time and very unlike the traditional historical romances as this exposition is against a much rougher backdrop.
An excellent point about the British North American Act of 1763---the Indian Magna Carta. It's too bad it was only written on paper.
The negatives are the silly bits of melodrama---I almost expect Snidely Whiplash to appear, twirling his mustache---with the lack of depth and eye rolling that it brings. I would have enjoyed this story more if the hints had been less obvious and Jack a bit smarter. The end bit with the traitor unmasked was certainly tense, but definitely soap operaish. Although, then again, I do try to remind myself that this is a bit of fun for Humphreys, an adventure he's created for a character whom he enjoys.
Oh, lord, wait'll you read who is playing the wicked Sir Lucius in the play in Philadelphia. Another one of those obvious bits.
Do give Donna Thorland's Turncoat a read as well. She covers the same time period and characters with her spy-romance novel, albeit in a more serious vein, and it's interesting to read the same thing from two different perspectives. Let alone that Humphrey's Jack Absolute is male while Kate Grey is female!
That damned Sheridan has stolen his identity, but Jack is back, struggling to rebuild the family fortune. Unfortunately, General Burgoyne has other ideas for Jack. He needs a spy in America, and Jack's activities with General Wolfe during the French-Indian War has resulted in many friendships among the Indians.
That, and Jack is so very good with ciphers and intelligence.
Jack Absolute is a devil-may-care lad who is slowly maturing, and about to become a captain again. An eye for the ladies and a quick escape, Jack is also very good with ciphers and intelligence work. His friend and companion, Atédawenete "Até", a.k.a., The Inexhaustible, calls him Daganoweda. A Mohawk, he will follow Jack everywhere, for they are brothers. Sir James Absolute is his nutjob of a father. Tonesaha is the Mohawk wife whom Jack mourns.
General John "Gentleman" Burgoyne was Jack's commanding officer in the 16th Light Dragoons until Jack quit. I enjoyed learning more about Gentleman Johnny; as an American, we never did learn much beyond his nickname in history in school. Hannah Foy is the wife of a commissary officer and Burgoyne's mistress. Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Carelton is Burgoyne's adjutant; Braithwaite is his batman.
Midshipman Edward Pellew has his own views on what the Royal Navy will do when the Army surrenders; Alexander "Sandy" Lindsay, Earl of Balcarras, is in charge of Burgoyne's Light Infantry (and he's a "fine, fast bowler"); General Simon Fraser who rose in the ranks through sheer ability (a rare thing in the British army of the time); Colonel Barry St. Leger is a typical example of British commanding officers under the buy-your-way-in policy; Captain Ancrum is St. Leger's adjutant; Major Watts is full of himself until he finds himself on a battlefield--whoops!; Generals Gates and Clinton make their appearance, or rather lack of one; Sergeant Willis is a very brave messenger; Major Puxley is now above Jack in rank; and, Ensign Anton Hervey is also in the Philadephia-version of the play.
Sir William Howe is the Commander-in-Chief of the Army; Betsey Loring is his mistress. Major John André is in charge of intelligence, and neither of them are Jack's friend. Miss Peggy Shippen and Miss Peggy Chew are part of André's entourage.
Baron von Riedesel is the commander of the German component of the army; Von Spartzehn is von Riedesel's interpreter; and, Breymann is a loyal and brave German officer.
Miss Louisa Reardon is an American British patriot---on the outside; Nancy is her very helpful maid. Her father is Colonel Thaddeus Reardon. Humphreys' description of Philip Skene is priceless and helps to showcase Jack's own leanings regarding the Americans. John Butler and John Johnson are Loyalist leaders. Alphonse is a tailor in Philadelphia.
Joseph Brant is an Iroquois leader, a Mohawk, and of the Wolf Clan---the same as Até, although they are not friends. Molly is Joseph's sister and lives in Canajoharie.
That scoundrel, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, a supposed friend of Jack's, has turned Jack into a character in his play, The Rivals.
Adolphus Maximillian Gerhardt, Count von Schlaben, is a wicked and cunning man determined on his success. And Baron von Riedesel's cousin. Cato is a code name for an Illuminati spy.
Banastre Tarleton is a serving cavalry officer with a major hate on for Jack. An easily led man... Elizabeth Farren is a hot young actress in London over whom the duel is supposedly being fought.
Colonel Benedict Arnold has his own problems, beyond being a braggart and the best under-used commander in the colonial army. Hans Yost plays an idiot for the Yankees. And it works. He's also General Philip Schuyler's cousin. Angus MacTavish, Alisdair, and Gregor are Scots patriots whose lives Jack saved. Lucky for him!
Diomedes is a code name for a patriot spy.
The Illuminati were founded by Adam Weishaupt, a professor of religious law; their purpose is disruption, disorder---revolution with the intention of rebuilding a new order. Hmmm, how very Sceptre of them...
The cover is perfect! The back of a redcoat against an old parchment of writing. A perfect metaphor for this adventurous tale.
The title introduces the protagonist, an 18th-century James Bond, Jack Absolute.