The Founding Fathers’ Families in Fiction

As Independence Day nears, we are all reminded of our nation’s founding fathers, and the way they shaped our nation. These men have become icons, but they were just human beings, often quite complicated human beings, with wives, mistresses, and children (both legitimate and illegitimate).

Historical fiction can flesh out the characters we know from our history books and give us a look at what life may have been like in those tumultuous times. Here are five novels featuring the men who were there at our nation’s beginnings, and the women who were at their sides.

America’s First Daughter America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie by Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie.  This carefully researched tale  imagines the experiences of Thomas Jefferson’s daughter Patsy, who while accompanying her father to Paris struggles with his past affair with a slave and falls in love with his protégé against a backdrop of a growing revolution.

Mount Vernon Love Story Mount Vernon Love Story by Mary Higgins Clark by Mary Higgins Clark. In researching George Washington’s life, Mary Higgins Clark was surprised to find the engaging man behind the pious legend. Her novel tells the story of a rare marriage between  Washington and Martha Dandridge Custisand, and brings to life the human side of the man who became known as the father of our country.

Benjamin Franklin’s BastardBenjamin Franklin's Bastard by Sally Cabot by Sally Cabot. This work of literary historical fiction that brings to life a little-known chapter of the American Revolution — the story of Benjamin Franklin and his bastard son, William (a steadfast loyalist), and the women who loved them both.

Patriot Hearts Patriot Hearts: A Novel of the Founding Mothers by Barbara Hambly by Barbara Hambly. The triumphs and turmoil of early America are revealed through fictional portraits of four women–Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Sally Hemings, and Dolley Madison–who played key roles during four presidential administrations.

The Hamilton Affair The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobbs by Elizabeth Cobbs. A tale inspired by the true romance between Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler traces Hamilton’s rise to one of America’s most unlikely heroes and Schuyler’s establishment of New York’s first orphanage.




Jenn Reads: The Turncoat

All I have to say first is: Oh my.

I needed a hot shower after reading this book.

If you’ve followed my reviews, you’ll know I typically don’t read bodice busting, Fabio-inspired books. My fare tends to include classics, mysteries, literary fiction, and chick lit. Not historical romance.

The Turncoat by Donna Thorland was a gift from my two cats (yeah, yeah) for my birthday. I had picked it out at Barnes and Noble based on the cover and synopsis on the back jacket. It did allude to some smut, but I thought, “Ehh- it’s a large paperback. It can’t be that bad.”

I chose this book for my turn for my girlfriend’s book club, thinking that it would be a lighter read and easy enough for everyone to get through in the allotted time. I warned them that there would be some smut.

I didn’t realize how much smut.

Now, I’m no prude, and wasn’t offended by the sex that was in this book or the quantity of sex. It wasn’t gratuitous and made sense in the context of the story.

And that’s all I’m saying about the smut.

The Turncoat opens with Quaker Kate Grey hosting a British general and his entourage during the American Revolution. There is an instant connection between Kate

The Turncoat by Donna Thorland

and Peter Tremayne (of course). Kate’s father, Arthur, is on his way with supplies for the rebel army and she hopes to stall Peter so the British do not catch up with him. With Kate is her “Aunt”, a woman she has never met before. Tremayne ends up pilfering a letter Arthur Grey had written that would give away secrets, military strategy, etc. In an effort to retrieve the letter, Kate ends up alone with Peter in her bedroom. She does not get the letter back.

After Peter leaves, Kate and her “Aunt” end up fleeing the Grey house and traveling to see General Washington with news. Turns out “Auntie” is a spy for the rebel army. Kate decides to join Aunt Angela as a spy for the rebels and is placed in Philadelphia close to British General Howe.

There is a lot to this story besides the romance between Kate and Peter. One of the reasons I was drawn to this book was that it takes place during the American Revolution, and historical fiction in the last ten years has largely been ignored. The book, while being about a Quaker spy, is also about the British invasion of Fort Mercer in 1777, the occupation of Philadelphia, and John Andre.

Thorland packs a lot into 400 pages and overall I think you get a good idea of what went on during this period of the American Revolution. A couple of her facts are incorrect- like the number of Jaguers that are killed/wounded/captured during the assault on Fort Mercer, but it’s not enough to distract from the story.

The Turncoat was engrossing, but at about 300 pages, I was ready for the story to end. The last hundred pages could have been made into a sequel, as they deal with the turning of Benedict Arnold, and hint at the future capture and hanging (history spoiler!) of John Andre. Thorland is making this a trilogy, but not with the same characters.

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 (would have been 4, but it got long)

I’m looking forward to the next one!

See you in the stacks,