Monday, March 7, 2016

G696 Book Review of America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

Name of Book: America's First Daughte

Author: Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

ISBN: 978-0-06-234726-8

Publisher: William Morrow

Type of book: America, France, marriage, promises, father-daughter relationship, freedom, revolutions, heroes, 1781-1830, life, debts, Virginia, illicit affairs, duty vs personal happiness, hosting, politics, motherhood, death, disease

Year it was published: 2016


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.


Wow, a lot of characters play roles in the story, although I will focus on Thomas Jefferson, Patsy Jefferson Randolph, and Tom Randolph. Thomas Jefferson is portrayed as a very complex and loyal man, who one hand keeps his promise to his wife, but on the other hand begins a very scandalous affair that could ruin him in every which way. He also does his best to keep his promises to Sally and their children as well as to his two daughters. I was also surprised to learn of his generosity towards his family and that he is a very optimistic man. Patsy Jefferson Randolph is Thomas Jefferson's oldest daughter who takes her mom's promise very seriously and when the choice comes between duty and personal happiness, she always chooses duty. She is a very strong woman who also makes a lot of personal sacrifices and tries to ignore things that she finds unpleasant. Tom Randolph is Patsy's cousin of sorts and then he becomes her husband. He had less than an ideal upbringing with a father that stripped him of property and patrimony but settled him with debts. He believes himself cursed and has a love-hate relationship with Patsy Jefferson. In beginning of the marriage he is an ideal husband, but as years go on and he begins to change, he becomes less than ideal.


Humans can never escape history


The story is in first person narrative from Patsy's point of view, and what is amazing about this book is how in sync and connected the writing feels; its hard to believe that two authors decided to write it. The story is also in chronological order and the reader gets to watch Patsy grow up from a young girl who has lost her mother to a formidable matriarch who gets to decide what to leave behind her death. Along with that, I also see the growth of America from a new nation into a nation that is stable and can stand on its own. Some events, unfortunately, aren't given a lot of limelight by Patsy, namely the War of 1812 nor the Louis and Clark Expedition, but events dealing with revolution for freedom, and struggle between the free whites and enslaved blacks and how to justify them (there isn't a way to justify it.) are given a lot of thought. I was surprised to learn that there were attempts to make slaves free in 1800s, way before Civil War, I also was surprised that up until certain time, a lot of people were in favor of doing something for the slaves, but afterwards came the infamous theological idea that the Bible encouraged for whites to enslave blacks.

Author Information:
(From TLC Book Tours)

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Photo by Kate Furek

About Stephanie Dray

Stephanie Dray is a bestselling and award-nominated author of historical women’s fiction. Her work has been translated into six different languages, was nominated for RWA’s RITA Award, and won NJRW’s Golden Leaf. She is a frequent panelist and presenter at national writing conventions and lives near the nation’s capital.
Find out more about Stephanie at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo by Renee Hollingshead

About Laura Kamoie

Laura Kamoie has published two nonfiction 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 under the name Laura Kaye, the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books.
Find out more about Laura at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


It's actually very sad how Americans today are taught about history and politics of the past times; first there is disconnect between the people and what is going on, causing for history to be something that causes a lot of people to scratch their heads in puzzlement; why are we learning about? How is it important to today? And second is that heroes and leaders of the past are reduced to mere deeds and caricatures with no personality whatsoever. Prior to reading this book, the only things I knew about Thomas Jefferson is that he was one of the early presidents of US, was also on the nickel, he had a secret relationship with a slave girl Sally Hemmings, he was responsible for Lewis and Clark Expedition, and he was the famous writer of Declaration of Independence. My history of US is extremely sketchy, a condensed 400 years or so of modern history and it was focused more on events than people.

With that paragraph out of the way, let me just say how much I enjoyed the book once I really got into it. The topics, the people, the racism and slavery, politics, struggles of men and of the role women play behind the scenes are more modern than one realized. Today, aren't there people in Republican and Democrat parties who are participating in airing of dirty laundry? Aren't there politicians who are attempting to restrict/control women? Despite the fact that the book is nearly 600 pages, it took me a very short time to read it because yes, its that enjoyable and it can really suck anyone in as they get more and more curious about Thomas Jefferson through the eyes of his daughter, Martha "Patsy" Jefferson Randolph. The story has a lot of things that one is looking for; a very strong heroine, more true than fiction story, forbidden love, ideas of liberty while slavery is practiced at the same time, revolutions, war, and so forth. When giving it a try, this isn't likely to be regretted.

This is for TLC Book Tours

Tour Stops

Tuesday, March 1st: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, March 2nd: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, March 3rd: From L.A. to LA
Friday, March 4th: Read-Love-Blog
Monday, March 7th: Luxury Reading
Monday, March 7th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Tuesday, March 8th: Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, March 9th: Reading Reality
Thursday, March 10th: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, March 14th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, March 15th: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, March 16th: bookchickdi
Thursday, March 17th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Friday, March 18th: Peeking Between the Pages
Monday, March 21st: Puddletown Reviews
5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

1 comment:

  1. I love when I learn things from historical fiction! My knowledge of US history could use with some gap-filling!

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts as part of the tour.


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