Sunday, April 24, 2016

Book Review: "America's First Daughter: A Novel," by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie


In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph—a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.

From her earliest days, Patsy Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate, protector, and constant companion in the wake of her mother’s death, traveling with him when he becomes American minister to France.

It is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of revolution, that fifteen-year-old Patsy learns about her father’s troubling liaison with Sally Hemings, a slave girl her own age. Meanwhile, Patsy has fallen in love—with her father’s protégé William Short, a staunch abolitionist and ambitious diplomat. Torn between love, principles, and the bonds of family, Patsy questions whether she can choose a life as William’s wife and still be a devoted daughter.

Her choice will follow her in the years to come, to Virginia farmland, Monticello, and even the White House. And as scandal, tragedy, and poverty threaten her family, Patsy must decide how much she will sacrifice to protect her father's reputation, in the process defining not just his political legacy, but that of the nation he founded.

My thoughts:
The authors weeded through thousands of letters, books, original documents and other sources to piece together Patsy Jefferson's fascinating life, and this book provides rich detail about a very pivotal point in America's history through a woman's perspective. Patsy was an amazingly strong woman who endured numerous tragedies, including the death of her mother, sister and a daughter in childbirth. She married a violent and insecure man, eventually giving birth to 12 children (11 survived to adulthood). Financial difficulties, spousal abuse, and issues related to slavery plagued her family throughout her life. But Patsy was the glue that held everyone together, starting with the day when her mother pleaded with ten-year-old Patsy on her deathbed to look after her famous father, Thomas Jefferson, who was devastated by his beloved wife's death. This story carries the reader from one event to the next, wisely sticking to Patsy's story rather than dwelling too much on historical events that have been examined in detail elsewhere. Rather, we see how Patsy and her family were shaped by what was happening in their lives, and how it affected their choices and relationships. Patsy's strength and support surely had a great effect on her father and the early years of U.S. history. Highly recommended.

Author pic- Stephanie Dray
About Stephanie Dray:

STEPHANIE DRAY is an award-winning, bestselling and two-time RITA award-nominated author of historical women’s fiction. Her critically acclaimed series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into eight different languages and won NJRW's Golden Leaf. As Stephanie Draven, she is a national bestselling author of genre fiction and American-set historical women's fiction. She is a frequent panelist and presenter at national writing conventions and lives near the nation's capital. Before she became a novelist, she was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the stories of women in history to inspire the young women of today.

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Author Pic - Laura Kamoie
About Laura Kamoie:

Laura Kamoie has always been fascinated by the people, stories, and physical presence of the past, which led her to a lifetime of historical and archaeological study and training. She holds a doctoral degree in early American history from The College of William and Mary, published two non-fiction books on early America, and most recently held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing genre fiction as the New York Times bestselling author of over twenty books, Laura Kaye. Her debut historical novel, America's First Daughter, co-authored with Stephanie Dray, allowed her the exciting opportunity to combine her love of history with her passion for storytelling. Laura lives among the colonial charm of Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and two daughters.

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Disclosure: I borrowed this book from the library. This post contains my Amazon affiliate link.

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