America’s First Daughter

First Lines: Sons of a revolution fight for liberty.  They give blood, flesh, limbs, their very lives.  But daughters…we sacrifice our eternal souls.  This I’m sure of, as I stand in the quiet emptiness of my father’s private chambers.

I got this book as an ARC from the publisher (it doesn’t officially release until March 1, 2016).  I actually requested it because I’m on a historical fiction kick this year–big time.  And this looked really intriguing.

From the time she was eight years old Martha “Patsy” Jefferson always knew that no matter how much her father, Thomas Jefferson, loved his family, he loved his country and liberty more.  And it never bothered her because she was always at his side.  The eldest of his children, Patsy traveled with her father to all sorts of places: Paris, Philadelphia, Washington City, and more.  But being so close to her father isn’t always a good thing.  She discovers that her father seems to be in love with a slave girl named Sally Hemings who is Patsy’s age.  What (if anything) can she do to keep her father’s secrets from becoming hurtful gossip?  And Patsy has fallen in love too–with William Short, her father’s protege.  Only, love is rarely simple. Forced to choose between her duty as a daughter and her happiness, Patsy will have to make sacrifices.  But how much is Patsy willing to sacrifice for her father, his reputation, and the new nation she calls home?

You guys, if you really loved detailed and well-researched historical fictions, this book is stellar.  I mean seriously.  You can tell that a lot of research went into this.  It’s so detailed and, as usually happens with historical fictions, sometimes the most bizarre things are actually the truest.  I love when fact is stranger than fiction.

Patsy is such a compelling character when you actually get to know her.  While on the outside she appears to be a submissive and quiet female (qualities that were valued at the time), she’s actually incredibly clever and powerful.  There are multiple times throughout the story where it becomes clear that she has more power than some of the men she interacts with.  She can make or break them.  And it’s so cool to see that because I think a lot of the time, we just assume that women played small roles in history because they didn’t leave as big a mark as the men did.

I will add that Patsy isn’t always likable.  But I didn’t see that as a problem so much as a side effect of her political background.  Patsy is a true politician at heart, just like her father.  She schemes.  Sometimes, people get hurt.

It does take a little while to sink into the story.  It all starts when Patsy is 8 and ends when she’s in her 50s or 60s.  It’s a life story, and those always take a long time to develop.  But once you get into it, there’s usually enough going on to keep your attention.

I hate to make that sound like nothing happens in the beginning of the story.  Lots of action happens once the Jeffersons make it to Paris, but I felt like I was still trying to figure Patsy out at that point and I wasn’t as into the story as I was later.

I was surprised by how hard the ending hit me.  Even knowing what was coming, I was still knocked off my feet.  It was rough, but so enjoyable.

Overall, it’s a solid historical fiction.  Entertaining and yet so rich in details.

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