As regular readers of my blog may have noticed, every once in a while a book comes along that I can't stop raving about. Last year it was The Illusionists by Rosie Thomas. This year it's all about Kit.
Dublin 1702. Irish beauty Kit Kavanagh leads a comfortable life running a tavern with her beloved husband Richard. But everything changes one night when Richard is taken for a solider. Not content to sit at home and wait for news Kit disguises herself as a man, and, taking her late father's sword with her, enlists in the Duke of Marlborough's regiment and follows Richard to war-torn Italy. As Kit risks her life in battle she soon forms a bond with her regiment, the Scots Greys Dragoons, particularly with her handsome commander Captain Ross. When a duel lands her in prison she escapes by dressing once more as a woman, soon catching the eye of the scheming Duke of Ormonde who recruits her to masquerade as a French countess and spy upon the enemy. Torn between Captain Ross and her husband, with two false identities to her name, Kit's greatest danger is discovery...
My love affair with Kit began the second I first saw the cover, it's just stunning! Then I read the blurb - it sounded like some kind of Irish Mulan and I was immediately intrigued. It's been a while since I've had time to read a book that I can fully immerse myself in, and this fitted the bill nicely. I don't know what it is about the book that grabbed me so - the plot, the settings and the characters all just had me hooked. The attention to detail is perfect, and you can easily picture the changing landscapes and characters of Kit's journey without being overwhelmed with information.
Kit is everything I wish I could be. She is brave with an unquenchable thirst for adventure (not to mention that fact that I'm jealous of her hair!) She drew me completely into her story, and while I didn't want it to end I was also anxious about whether she would get a happy ending, so much so that it was a real struggle not to read ahead! The novel is split into two parts, 'The Sword' and 'The Fan', each detailing one of Kit's identities - the soldier and the lady respectively. Despite all of the acting that each role requires, the costumes, the accents and the mannerisms, we as the reader never lose sight of the real Kit, the girl beneath it all.
As for Ross.. I knew from the minute that we first meet him that I was going to love him. I loved the moments between him and Kit at the fireside, how he drew maps on the ground to help bring the reader up to speed as much as Kit. I loved how he loved his men, how he was their comrade as much as their Captain. I just loved him. Sigh.
Action and dialogue are balanced just right, and thankfully for me the battle scenes, while realistic, aren't too graphic- I'm incredibly squeamish and gore can put me right off a book. The plot is full of twists and is unpredictable to the last - I couldn't put it down!
The ending was just perfect, and I have to admit that the epilogue almost had me in tears - which is a big admission for someone who has never cried at a book, ever! It was also a wonderful surprise to find the historical note at the end telling me that Kit was a real person. Granted, a little artistic license was taken with her story, but there were more similarities than I would have expected, and to know that she, and Ross, actually existed just made the whole thing even more real to me. Fiorato also named the rest of the Dragoons after the men on her local war memorial which I just thought was such a lovely thing to do!
If you were to take everything that I love from historical romance and historical fiction and put it all in one book it would resemble something very much like this. Kit is the best book that I have read in a very long time, and is easily one of my all time favourite historical novels!
5/5 stars - and I'd give it more if I could!
*Thanks to bookbridgr for providing a copy of this book in exchange for a review!*