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

America’s First Daughter
Author: Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Pages: 624
Source: Edelweiss/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: 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 Review: Martha Jefferson Randolph was the daughter of Thomas Jefferson and undertook the role as First Lady when Thomas Jefferson became president. Besides that bare fact, I did not know anything else about her. However, after reading America’s First Daughter, I realized not only how colorful her life was, but that she also had many accomplishments. She was Thomas Jefferson’s rock. Without his daughter’s support and encouragement, he would not have accomplished half as much as he did in his own lifetime. Martha Jefferson Randolph was a strong woman, who in the time when women were not supposed to meddle in a man’s world, helped save her father and her family’s reputation.

     Martha Jefferson Randolph is steadfastly loyal to her father. She chooses him first before any man, including her husband. I found Martha choosing her father first to be very touching and radical because in that era a woman should always choose her husband first above any other man.  She saved her father many times from embarrassment by getting involved in his affairs. I really liked Martha Jefferson Randolph because she was very clever and a problem solver. She saved many of her relatives from scandal. Martha did have some faults. She could be judgmental and temperamental. Yet, these make her human and her strengths outshone her weaknesses.

     Overall, I found this novel to be an in-depth psyche into Martha Jefferson. I like how it chronicles her life as a naive young girl to a mature, practical, and capable woman. I also like how Thomas Jefferson has been portrayed. He is portrayed as a lonely, unconfident, and vulnerable person. Because of his daughter’s steadfast faithfulness, Thomas Jefferson relies on her, and he gradually develops confidence in himself. This book is well-written, and I love the vivid historical details. It made it seem as though the era of our Founding Fathers had come alive again. Even though this was a long book, I was so fascinated by Martha Jefferson Randolph’s life that I did not want it to end. Her life was so full of political intrigue and drama, that I was surprised that she has not been a favorite subject in historical fiction. America’s First Daughter helps give attention to a forgotten woman in American history. This novel is a tribute to Martha Jefferson Randolph and her accomplishments.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Here is a video of the authors, Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie talking about their novel, America's First Daughter:


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