Review: REBEL SPY by Veronica Rossi
Published by Delacorte Press on June 23, 2020
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
I was drawn to Veronica Rossi’s new novel Rebel Spy because although I love historical fiction and read it often, I’ve not read much in the way of fiction that focuses on the American Revolution. I was especially intrigued by Rebel Spy because the rebel spy in question is actually a woman, which was definitely new information to me. Aside from those who went on to become First Ladies, the only other female figure that even comes to mind when I think of the Revolutionary War is Betsy Ross. Needless to say, I was thrilled to learn that there were actually female spies in George Washington’s intelligencer networks and that they played a vital role in the war.
Rossi’s novel follows a woman identified in our historical records only as Agent 355 “Lady.” Agent 355’s true identity remains unknown to this day and all we know of her is that she was a woman of high society in New York and that she worked as a part of Washington’s Culper spy network. In her novel, Rossi has used her imagination to fill in the gaps and reimagine Agent 355’s life.
In Rossi’s reimagining, Agent 355 is Frannie Tasker, an orphaned young woman who lives on Grand Bahama Island with her abusive stepfather. Frannie dreams of a new life free from his abuse, and when her stepfather announces that he wants to marry her, Frannie becomes all the more desperate to get away from him. A timely storm, a devastating shipwreck with no survivors, and the body of a young woman who drowned in the wreck and bears a striking resemblance to Frannie provides her the escape she has been looking for. With her quick thinking, Frannie switches places with the young woman, thus assuming her identity. She learns that the young woman has lost her entire family in the shipwreck and the plan is now to put her on the next ship to New York, where her new guardian is located. The story follows Frannie as she takes on this new identity, learns to behave like a proper lady of society, and begins her life anew in New York City. It is while she is on the journey to New York that Frannie meets a young man who puts the idea of rebelling against the Crown into her head and sets into motion her journey to joining a spy ring. Frannie’s new position as a lady of society in New York gives her a prime vantage spot for intelligence as there are constantly British soldiers milling around at events she attends.
Rebel Spy is definitely a character driven story in the sense that while we do see Frannie in action as a spy, the spy ring and the Revolutionary War itself are very much in the background. This is a story about Frannie, the life she has left behind, the new life she embraces in New York, the new friends and more-than-friends she meets along the way, and then finally her introduction to the world of spying. As much as I enjoyed reading about Frannie’s life and what a resourceful and principled young lady she was, I would have rated this book even higher if we had gotten to see a little more of the actual spying and the war up close.
Even with that little quibble, I still found Rebel Spy to be a quick and satisfying read and one that has definitely made me want to learn more about the women who played a role in the American Revolution.
Wow, Agent 355, whoever she is, is amazing! It utterly sucks that women like her have been lost to history. That said, this book sounds like it fills an incredible retelling/ filling in the blanks with Frannie.
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I agree about it sucking. I had no idea she even existed until I started hearing about this book.
I’m a big fan of Veronica Rossi so this is on my TBR. The premise sounds really interesting. I think I would want more of the spying aspects too but it’s good to know going in so I don’t end up too disappointed. The characters sound great though!
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This was my first time reading her books but I definitely want to try more of them.
I’m glad you mention that the spy ring and the war are very much in the background because I think if I picked this one up, I’d expect the focus to be there (considering the title and the synopsis). I actually enjoy more character driven stories and I like how Rossi took an actual historical figure and then ran with it.
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It’s definitely character driven and quite interesting if you want an idea of how someone might end up working as a spy.
This seems so different from her other books. I’m fascinated with the details you shared, but I agree, it would be fun to see how female spies work during that time period😁
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I need to try more of her books. I really enjoyed her writing style and would be curious to see what kind of books she normally writes.
Sounds like a very interesting read. Thanks for sharing.
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The American Revolution is such a great time period, and the idea of a high society lady being a spy is really intriguing!
Yeah, that was definitely what caught my attention when I read the synopsis. I really need to find more historical fiction from this time period too.
It sounds like a fascinating read! I’m guessing the reason why Rossi dodged actually depicting the spying within the war, because it probably would have overlapped reality too much. While she felt comfortable reimagining the aspects of the real agent’s life that were lost, it might have felt a lot trickier then taking that fictional aspect in parts of her life that were actually recorded… But I’m only speculating! A great review, Suzanne:))
You’re probably right on the money with your speculation. 🙂
Another well written review, Suzanne. Thanks. Although I don’t read historical fiction myself anymore, I like character driven stories and that authors are finding more women in history to inspire their protagonists. I don’t know a great deal about US history but I’m assuming that Rossi has enough relevant historical facts to add credence to her work of fiction.
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