America’s First Daughter
By Laura Kamoie with Stephanie Dray
Print Length: 624 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins/William Morrow Paperbacks
March 1, 2016
Paperback, E-book and audio formats.
E-galley provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
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.
Turbulent, with great depth of emotion and events and breadth of time and place, AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER is an amazing book and an incredible accomplishment. Although there is of a fictional component to AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER than a book by McCollough or Ambrose, it is also incredibly well researched and goes beyond the facts to humanize the founders – known and unknown, of this country.
We first meet Patsy when she is young, but also incredibly aware and cogent, and we follow her through gut and heart-wrenching loss, political and personal upheavals, love and loss until she is, for her time, an old woman. We meet many dignitaries of the day through her devotion to her father, Thomas Jefferson. It was different to follow this one woman’s life of service, brilliance, and devotion and through so much history.
Most Americans are brought up with a healthy respect for but little, or at best, clouded, understanding of the roles and lives of the men and woman who literally put their lives on the line for an idea. While every war has a multitude of causes, Kamoie and Dray present Jefferson as curious, and often brilliant, we learn how conflicted many Virginians were about slavery. Far from being easy, it was often a huge rent in people’s conscience; but then they were sunk too far into the mire of the unjust institution to find their way out.
Of course, with Jefferson and slavery we also learn about the slave family of the Hemmings; who were related to Patsy through her mother and through her husbands. This family of slaves is as related to Patsy as any white sister or cousin. And the unfairness of is a constant in Patsy’s life.
Through Patsy’s life, financial and personal struggles, we are offered a glimpse into what life might have been like. Much of it was not pretty. And, most of the financial strife revolved around farming and slavery.
But what got me most was how human these larger-than-life heroes became in the book, and though human and fallible, the authors present them with compassion. Thomas Jefferson’s humanity does not diminish his greatness; on reflection, his accomplishments, when merely a man of many flaws, makes him even greater.
I cannot believe how true and utterly genuine every single page of this story felt. I was moved, excited and then, moved again.
We know Laura Kamoie as Laura Kaye, a writer better known for her romance novels in the paranormal and military hero/suspense genres. But as a historian and former associate professor of history at Annapolis she has earned her chops in history and historical research. I have followed her career all the way and as she enters this new arena of historical fiction I have been curious to see how she would do. I am thrilled that she comes into the new genre with mastery over both story and history. With her writing partner, Stephanie Dray, she has entered this arena with sure footing.
Well-written and researched, and obviously deeply felt this book gets my very highest recommendation: It is a MUST READ.
Dray and Kamoie: http://draykamoie.com/
Laura Kaye: http://www.laurakamoie.com/#!books/cnec
Stephanie Dray: http://www.stephaniedray.com/books/
Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/1oT6Hon
Add it to your Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25817162-america-s-first-daughter
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.
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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“And what of our future . . . ?” I asked.
Mr. Short smiled. “If you could give up all thoughts of the convent, our future depends upon the orders your father is awaiting from America. Your father has asked that in his absence, I be appointed in his place as chargé d’affaireswith commensurate salary. If I receive such an appointment, then I can present myself to your father as a worthy suitor. Otherwise, I’m afraid he’ll consider me a wandering wastrel without employment.”
“He would never!”
Mr. Short chuckled mirthlessly. “You think not? I have in my possession a letter from your father lecturing me on the need to build my fortune. The most memorable line reads: This is not aworld in which heaven rains down riches into any open hand.”
How churlish of Papa, but had I not, from the youngest age, also received letters filled with his lectures? “You mustn’t worry, Mr. Short. If my father requested your appointment, then it’s sure to come. But until it does, how can I be sure of your intentions in asking for my love?”
I didn’t expect him to laugh. “You’re Jefferson’s daughter, to the bone. You want evidence. Well, give me the chance and I’ll give you the proofs you require—both of my love and of the world you should love too much to abandon even for God. I wouldn’t have you enter a convent, much less love, in ignorance.”
“What do you think me ignorant of?”
With mischief twinkling in his eyes, he stopped, drawing me into a grove of trees. Beyond us, in the ditch, we heard boys playing a ball game in the dim lamplight. Somehow, in the dark, Mr. Short’s fingertips found my cheeks, and his mouth stole over mine. This first kiss was soft and tender. As if he feared frightening me. Nevertheless, it shocked me. It was like my heart was a loaded cannon he’d held fire to, and it threatened to shoot out of my chest. But I wasn’t frightened and I didn’t pull away. Instead, it seemed quite the most natural thing to kiss him back, mimicking what he did, glorying in every soft, sweet sensation.
At the feel of my lips teasing softly at his, he groaned and pulled back. “Oh, my heart . . .”
The sweet taste of him still on my lips, our breaths puffing in the night air, I asked, “Have I done something wrong?”
He held my cheeks in his hands. “The error was all mine. I’d beg your pardon if I could bring myself to regret it, but I never want to regret anything with you, so tonight I must content myself with one kiss.”
Only one? I wanted to lavish a thousand kisses on his face. His lips, his cheeks, his ears. The desire was a sudden hunger, a desperate plea inside me echoing like the cry of peasants for bread.
“What if I’m not yet content? Wasn’t kissing me meant to be the proof of your intentions?”
“No, Patsy. Kissing you, then stopping before satisfaction, is the proof of my intentions, which I hope you’ll see are honorable and directed toward your happiness.”
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