Edallia's Reviews > Sabrina

Sabrina by Candice Ransom
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's review
Aug 06, 2008

really liked it
Read in August, 2008

(This is officially a 3.5 star rating. I want half stars, dangit!)

The Sunfire Re-Read plunges steadily on! After a long string of Vivian Schurfranz, (I just decided to get her out of the way) I was looking forward to this one! I love the Revolutionary War! I love Charleston! Did this one deliver?

Thankfully, it did! Not flawless, but definitely one of the better short-format Sunfires. Sabrina Robbins, orphaned at a young age, now lives in Charleston and works in her uncle's apothecary shop. She's not treated unkindly, but it's pretty clear that she's the "poor relation." Her cousin Mercy is the pretty, popular one with the fancy clothes and the finishing school, and Sabrina is... actually kind of funny-looking. (Please ignore the cover, on which poor Sabrina looks TWELVE. No, they didn't marry 'em off quite THAT young.)

The only person who makes her feel special is Martin Cresswell, who wants to marry her. But he's a Tory. And Sabrina is a diehard Patriot. They kind of ignorantly assume that this won't eventually come between them and go about their merry courting business.

Charleston is attacked and conquered by the British, and the cracks in Sabrina's life get a little deeper. Her uncle, who depends on her quite a bit already, has to ask Sabrina to take his place in the Patriot spy ring when he becomes too ill to work. His contact is a surly backwoodsman named Richard Taylor, to whom Sabrina finds herself increasingly drawn.

Ransom's writing is actually quite nice in this novel. She sometimes disappoints, but her characterization is pretty well done this time around, and some of her diction is wonderful. (In particular, Sabrina's first impression of Richard is full of lovely descriptions- he "deals his words like playing cards" and she subconsciously compares him to wild animals.) And we're told all we need to know about the oppositional characters of Mercy and Sabrina in one passage describing their childhood embroidery samplers. Nice.

It's probably bias towards a setting I personally find interesting that makes me give this book three and a half stars. It's not without its flaws. The plot hinges a little too much on coincidence- the injured Patriot that Martin risks his life to help just happens to be Mercy's secret sweetheart! And Sabrina, on a spy mission, gets into trouble right underneath a tree in which Richard happens to be hiding!

The character of Martin, rather than becoming an easily-tossed-aside jerk, is instead richly complex. His conflicted loyalties don't leave him with a lot of options. He's such a *good* guy that you're sad to see him part from Sabrina. They could have easily ended up together if circumstances had been different, which lends an extra poignancy to Sabrina's romantic choice.

I can't help but wish that Sabrina and Richard's relationship had a little more time to gel. They just snipe at each other for a while, and are attracted, and then they are suddenly in love. The shorter Sunfires often demonstrate that the authors had some problems fitting their story into 220 or so pages.

The last chapter is pretty eyeroll-worthy, since it centers on Sabrina's supposed mastery of the swamps and rivers around Charleston. She lived out there for the first eight years of her life and hasn't left Charleston since. Realistically speaking, there is no way that she is as familiar with them as she is at the end of the novel. And I could have done without the last-minute celebrity encounter.

Verdict: It's one of the better short Sunfires, for sure, despite the wonky cover art (she seriously looks WAY too young) and the plot goofinesses that subtract a star and a half.
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