The Double Life of Mistress Kit Kavanagh by Marina Fiorato

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The Double Life of Mistress Kit Kavanagh by Marina Fiorato

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Amy Etherington
Reviewed by Amy Etherington
Summary: A richly detailed and evocative historical adventure that follows the journey of a feisty and well-crafted heroine. Inspired by the life of the real Kit Kavanagh, Fiorato brilliantly blends history with fiction in this entertaining and emotional novel.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: February 2016
Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks
External links: [ Author's website]
ISBN: 978-1473610491

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In early eighteenth century Ireland, young Irish beauty Kit Kavanagh lives a quiet, settled life in a Dublin alehouse with her husband, Richard. When Richard is suddenly whisked away to join the British army, Kit disguises herself as a man and enlists as a soldier, determined to follow and find her husband across war-torn Europe.

The premise alone sets up The Double Life of Mistress Kit Kavanagh to be an exciting and interesting read, and it certainly lives up to its expectations. From the novel's opening pages the story immediately takes off and Kit's life is drastically changed from simple housewife to fearless dragoon, bound to set sail to the bloodied lands of Italy. As a reader, being immediately thrown in to the action is what had me gripped from the start – Fiorato's writing gives you detail without weighing the story down and it's very well paced. What perhaps made the story particularly interesting is that it is based on fact, since Kit Kavanagh was a real woman who fought in the British Army during the War of the Spanish Succession. Fiorato's novel is of course fiction but it's woven around factual details which gives the story its clarity and makes it feel grittily realistic.

The novel is split in to two parts: the first part focuses on Kit's life as an army soldier and having to conceal her identity from her fellow officers. The second part leads to Kit once again dressing as a woman when she is recruited by the cunning Duke of Ormonde to be used as a spy against the French. At first, I enjoyed the first half more than the second, but Kit's double life as a political pawn became equally as entertaining as her life as an army dragoon. The beginning of the second part did feel like things were moving more slowly since Kit had to once again start over and recreate her identity. Having said that, the novel worked well at keeping me guessing and Fiorato succeeds in executing a very entertaining recreation of a real woman's journey.

Set during the early 1700's in the middle of a war, the plot is quite history heavy. There's a lot of detail about why the war is taking place and who is fighting who and even the history of the European monarchy. Being historical fiction this is somewhat expected, but Fiorato incorporates this necessary detail very well. Plus, the story is principally a tale about Kit's adventures so you learn everything along with her and it's fascinating in addition to being vital to the plot.

Kit is a brave and unpredictable heroine and I loved how she continued to grow stronger and bolder throughout. She comes across as kind of an Irish Mulan and she relishes the glory of battle. Despite her reason for going to war being to search for her missing husband, she comes into her own and the story takes lots of twists and turns that I wasn't expecting, but it kept the plot bobbing along very nicely. Kit forms a close bond with her commanding officer, Captain Ross, and their friendship develops wonderfully. Kit and Ross were actually the only characters I was rooting for, since many of the smaller characters – Kit's comrades and such – are virtually interchangeable. There are however some wickedly brilliant antagonists who are characterised especially well in that they are both complex but very believable in their actions.

Ultimately this is a novel about a journey. Not just for the reader, but of Kit's quest for love, salvation, and how she grows in strength and courage. The end result is a raw and entertaining read that impressively balances history with fiction.

If The Double Life of Mistress Kit Kavanagh sounds like it interests you, you might also enjoy Duchess by Night by Eloisa James.

Buy The Double Life of Mistress Kit Kavanagh by Marina Fiorato at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Double Life of Mistress Kit Kavanagh by Marina Fiorato at

Buy The Double Life of Mistress Kit Kavanagh by Marina Fiorato at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Double Life of Mistress Kit Kavanagh by Marina Fiorato at


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