Sovay by Celia Rees
Sovay is a well-to-do British girl living in the country. Her father is a simple man but he has some radical political beliefs. With her father gone on business and her older brother at school, Sovay is left alone to prove that her fiance is a scoundrel. She dons a cape and robs his carriage. After one exciting attempt, Sovay decides that being a highway robber has it's benefits and when her home and family are threatened, she takes to the road again.
I really enjoyed Pirates! by Celia Rees and this novel has it's good points (political intrigue, interesting characters), but there were a few things that really bothered me. The first has to do with plot. Sovay always has a man looking out for her--her brother, the overseer's son, an actual highway robber, a politician from America, and a French soldier. I understand that given the time period, it's very unlikely that a girl would be on her own, but I like my heroines to be real heroines, brave and independent. Another plot element that bothered me was Sovay's love life. Sovay is intelligent and beautiful and basically everyone that isn't related to her falls hopelessly in love with her. This is a big spoiler, but it isn't until towards the end of the novel that Sovay falls in love. It felt rushed and unexplained and I wasn't very convinced. By no means do I need my novels to have a romantic element, but if there is one, I need it to be believable.
The second thing that bothered me was how the novel was presented or marketed. The description on the back starts off: "When the rich and beautiful Sovay isn’t sitting for portraits, she’s donning a man’s cloak and robbing travelers—in broad daylight." I read this and thought that Sovay would be an experienced highway robber and that the book would center around her robberies. Sovay does rob a few trains, though not very many and they are all early on in the novel. The cover claims that she "robbed for love." Actually, she first robs for revenge. Her following robberies happen out of necessity. You could stretch it a bit and say that she robbed for familial love, but even that doesn't quite work.
So I'm not sure if this book was disappointing because I expected something different based on the cover description or if the character of Sovay just didn't click for me. As I mentioned, I really loved Pirates! and so I'll definitely be trying other books by Celia Rees. I would recommend Sovay if you enjoy historical novels, especially ones about the French Revolution.