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America's First Daughter: A Novel

America's First Daughter: A Novel

4.9 13
by Stephanie Dray, Laura Kamoie
     
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Donna Thorland
“America’s First Daughter brings a turbulent era to vivid life. All the conflicts and complexities of the Early Republic are mirrored in Patsy’s story. It’s breathlessly exciting and heartbreaking by turns-a personal and political page-turner.”
Allison Pataki
“Painstakingly researched, beautifully hewn, compulsively readable -- this enlightening literary journey takes us from Monticello to revolutionary Paris to the Jefferson White House, revealing remarkable historical details, dark family secrets, and bringing to life the colorful cast of characters who conceived of our new nation. A must read.”
C.W. Gortner
“[A] triumphant, controversial, and fascinating plunge into the complexities of Revolutionary America, where women held power in subtle ways and men hid dangerous secrets. You’ll never look at Jefferson or his legacy the same way again.”
Historical Novel Society
“This is a stunning historical novel that will keep you up late, hoping the engaging story never ends. Highly, highly recommended!”
Kirkus Reviews
2015-12-21
A Founding Father's daughter tells all! At the age of 10, upon the death of her mother, Patsy Jefferson steps into the role of mistress of the house for her father, Thomas. Patsy, our narrator, recounts the story of a man of great contradictions. He proclaims his love for domestic life but is repeatedly drawn to public service and repeatedly fails to manage his great estate, Monticello, losing it after his death to creditors. Then there is the matter of his slaves—"Our slave-holding spokesman for freedom," taunts a schoolmate of Patsy's when Jefferson serves as an American envoy in Paris. His hypocrisy includes a long-standing affair with Sally Hemings, who was not only his slave, but his wife's sister. Authors Dray (Daughters of the Nile, 2013, etc.) and Kamoie (Irons in the Fire, 2007) have performed tireless research. Whether it's detailing Patsy's life as a debutante in Paris, where she dances with Lafayette and witnesses the first flickers of the French Revolution, or recounting the world of a Virginia plantation, they've done their homework. Indeed, their fidelity to history can be excessive: so many Virginia cousins, scandals, and disinheritances can weary the reader, especially when the prose takes a sappy turn ("Watching him struggle against undeserved abuse from such a villain made me forgive him, truly"). Patsy marries her cousin Tom Randolph and bears him 11 children while enduring his abuse, but she remains most devoted to maintaining her father's happiness, property, and legacy. A thorough and well-researched if sometimes flowery saga of the Jefferson family.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062347268
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/01/2016
Pages:
624
Sales rank:
16,226
Product dimensions:
7.80(w) x 5.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

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.

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. 

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America's First Daughter: A Novel 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Couldn't put it down, hated for it to end. This novel made the venerable Thomas Jefferson a real man of flesh, bone, strength , and weaknesses. I'm still processing my feelings about Patsy, who must've been formidable in her own right. A woman of great strength but also subject to the human condition. This is a book that won't be easily forgotten.
Virginiaw 22 days ago
This book was very interesting. I liked how the author made Thomas Jefferson and his daughter both human. I guess politicians are the same throughout the ages. Patsy Jefferson was quite a smart woman and that would have been a very hard thing to be during this century. I enjoyed this story.
thereadingchick 4 months ago
America's First Daughter is the story of Thomas Jeffersons oldest daughter Patsy, and her life as young girl, daughter, wife, mother, and most importantly keeper of the legacy that was her father. What a fascinating book! Thomas Jefferson was a prolific writer, thousands of which are available letters, the authors used those historical letters and crafted a very well plotted believable tale. Most of which is based on fact, but some liberties were taken by the authors to create an interesting and cohesive story. If even half of what was written in this novel are true, then Martha Jefferson Randolph, or Patsy, as she was known, was a truly unique, and honorable woman. The choices she made in life showed her devotion to her family, and especially to her father, Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson was, perhaps, one of the most fascinating men in American history. He was the father of our constitution, an American Ambassador in France, held many offices, including Vice President and President of the United States. He was a scientist, philosopher, biologist, botonist, poet, and writer, really he was the Michelangelo of his time. There is also controversy over whether he fathered children on his housekeeper, Sally Hemings, a mulatto slave. What makes this novel unique, is that we are given a backstage look at this fascinating man, through the eyes of his daughter, who it turns out is equally fascinating! This voyeuristic view of the Jeffersons lives, even if only half truthful, was as good if not better than watching Downton Abbey. My favorite part of the book is when Patsy and her father are living in France. Patsy is a child, and then grows into a young lady. She has been schooled in a convent, but her father also takes her around the city and enmeshed Patsy in Paris culture. She becomes fluent in French, and as a young girl she falls in love with her fathers secretary, William Short. The very cleverly written flirtation and longing for one another, over a period of a couple of years, builds up their feelings for each other, but also my own, making me fall a bit in love with their idealism and youth, and William Shorts charming insouciance. The contrast of their innocent love with the poverty and political machinations in France, as well as the manipulation of Patsy's emotions by her father, were just the first in a long line of disappointments I felt Patsy made in her life. She leaves France with her family, and without William, and removes to Monticello. There her father introduces her to what will be her husband Tom Randolph. I admit, I had a tough time forgiving her for leaving Will behind. I even went on Wikipedia, and some other historical sights to try to see if she and Will ever got together in real life, but could only console myself with the fact that Will never wed, although was horrified to learn that Patsy had 12 children. I was somewhat mollified when Tom was introduced and they seemed to have a grand passion for one another, though as the book went on, and his character diminished, I wondered at her perseverance in keeping an honorable name just so that her father would not be shamed publicly. I wanted her to leave him numerous times! It was hard to read about women and their lack of choices in those times, hard to not let my own liberal upbringing and modern thinking sway my feelings about Patsy's constant coddling of her father, even as she was wed to a man and started to raise her own family. As th
Mirella 5 months ago
I cannot stop raving about this book. Not only is it well-researched, it is filled with conflict, scandal, and secrets. As slave ownership was swiftly falling out of favor, Thomas Jefferson and his daughter Patsy did everything they could to keep their family darkest scandals secret! Troubles always haunted this family, making this a terrific page turner. Coupled with gorgeously beautiful prose, I must say that this is one of the best books I have ever read! It is nothing short of brilliant! Get it! Get it now! You won't be sorry! Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca and http://www.historyandwomen.com, where women's stories and the greatest historical fiction novels are reviewed!
SherreyM 5 months ago
Exquisitely Told Story of Devotion FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review. Opinions expressed are mine. "Sons of a revolution fight for liberty. They give blood, flesh, limbs, their very lives. But daughters . . . we sacrifice our eternal souls. This I am sure of, as I stand in the quiet emptiness of my father's private chambers. I'm here now because my father is dead and buried. And I'm left to make sense of it all." ~~~~~~~~~~ Writers of historical fiction have my deep and abiding respect for their work. Not the work we see produced between the artistic covers of a bound book or on the screens of our digital readers. No, I'm talking about the work that goes into the book other than the words on the pages. It is amazing to think that Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie read through more than 18,000 letters written by Thomas Jefferson in order to write the story of Jefferson's daughter, Martha, in America's First Daughter. Most of the dialogue attributed to Jefferson came from his letters. Dialogue of other characters, when possible, is quoted directly from letters thereby reflecting biases, prejudices and political opinions of the time period. These letters barely scratch the surface of the research they must have done to draw out this story. America's First Daughter is 624 pages of the most beautifully written history I've read in a very long time. The authors have managed to paint portraits of each character bringing them to life on the page, and at times you feel as if you've been in their presence. Scenes, clothing, transportation, architecture both in France and America are meticulously detailed in words allowing the reader to time travel back to the late 1700s and early 1800s. Most importantly, Dray and Kamoie share with us a woman quite influential in American history. However, Martha "Patsy" Jefferson managed to remain quietly influential while making strides in many areas of government. Read the rest at my blog, Puddletown Reviews (http://puddletownreviews.com).
bookchickdi 6 months ago
When the hottest thing is entertainment is Broadway's hit musical Hamilton, the timing is good for a novel about President Thomas Jefferson's daughter Pasty. Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie combined to give us a fascinating look at not only Patsy Jefferson, but also at a fascinating time in our history in America's First Daughter. On Patsy's mother's deathbed, she told young Patsy that it would be Patsy's job to look after her father Thomas and that is what Patsy spent her life doing. She accompanied her father to his post as ambassador to France, served as his hostess when he became President and became mistress of his famous estate in Monticello, Virginia. Patsy also cared for her younger daughter Polly, and then married and became mother to eleven children. The man she married, Thomas Randolph, was left penniless due to a family fight, and he descended into anger and alcoholism which left Patsy to care for her family on her own. Her first love was William Short, a man her father considered his adopted son. Patsy and William's path to a happy future was a rocky one because Thomas Jefferson believed that Short would not be able to provide adequately for his daughter, and would not give his blessing. How different her life would have been if only he did! Short believed that slavery was an abomination, and because Jefferson's home state of Virginia depended on slave labor, this was a problem. Patsy also believed that holding people captive was wrong, and when she discovered that her father was carrying on with Sally Hemings, a household slave and his wife's half-sister, she was bereft and conflicted. I was particularly impressed with how the authors dealt with the complications of slavery in this novel. Jefferson famously wrote that "all men are created equal" while he himself owned slaves and depended on them to operate his beloved Monticello. He had several children with Sally Hemings, children who were slaves on his plantation. There are many wrenching scenes in this novel, but none are more disturbing than the one of Patsy attending an auction of her family's worldly goods, including many of the slaves. She is heartbroken that families will be broken apart and sold South, and yet she feels there is nothing she can do to stop it. We also see in this novel what little say women had in their own lives. There are scenes of domestic violence where women are beaten and abused by their husbands and no one, not even a former President of the United States, is allowed to intervene. Married women are at the mercy of their husbands whims and decisions no matter how intelligent or wealthy they may be. I read America's First Daughter on a plane and was so totally lost in this world I was shocked at how quickly the time flew. Dray and Kamoie clearly did a great deal of research and used letters recently released by the Jefferson estate as a jumping off point. There is a terrific conversation with the authors at the end of the book that should not be missed. I highly recommend America's First Daughter, especially for people who like to read about historical figures. Patsy Jefferson comes alive in this wonderful book, and I am now going to read the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed to find out the real story of Sally Hemings and her children.
CharlotteLynnsReviews 6 months ago
Historical Fiction can be so daunting. This is a story with a lot of history shared in it and I devoured it. I took the reading of this book slowly. I read every word, not wanting to miss a single syllable. The story of Patsy Jefferson is not a story I am familiar with. Honestly, history was an incredibly boring subject to me in school and most of what I learned is long gone. The fact that the entire story is told from a woman growing up during the Revolutionary Era is wonderful. She is able to give facts that a man might have missed, such as the clothing, the treatment of slaves, and the politics of the men. Most things are taboo for a women but Ms. Jefferson is let into the inside world of men due to her mother’s death and her father’s incredible need for her to be his right hand person. Life was not easy for Patsy. She raised 11 children, burying some before their time, raised her husband’s siblings, and dealt with the life expects of Thomas Jefferson’s family. I really enjoyed getting a glimpse into her life and learned so much about that era, the life of families, and the history of Thomas Jefferson’s Family. America’s First Daughter is not a light read but it is an excellent read. I devoured it slowly, agonizingly slow at times. Yet, I could have continued reading for another 500 pages. This is a book I would love to have a discussion with my book club about. I highly recommend getting your own copy.
beckymmoe 6 months ago
A thoroughly engrossing, but difficult to read book at times--I couldn't put this one down! Needless to say, this book is very different from the books I've read from Ms. Kamoie's Laura Kaye persona, and it's my first from Ms. Dray, though we have a few of her books over here in the never-ending, towering TBR (and signed too! We met both authors at the Baltimore Book Festival). There's no excuse, really, because I do enjoy historical fiction--so now I'm definitely going to have to pick one up more sooner than later. As in, as soon as I can find one of them in the disaster area Mini Moe #2 calls her room. But I digress... I didn't know a whole lot about Patsy Jefferson going in. Several years ago I'd read Cokie Roberts' Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation , which she was featured in, along with a dozen or so other women, but the details are pretty fuzzy. What I know about Thomas Jefferson mainly comes from studying and teaching American history and reading books like Joseph J. Ellis's Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation and American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic . My views now of both of them are even more torn than they were going in! Such a contradictory pair...there were times in the novel that I really wasn't sure I even liked them at that point, yet I couldn't put it down. History always looks so much cozier--and cleaner--from 200+ years in the future, doesn't it? It's hard to remember that things were so up in the air for so many years for our country...and hearing Patsy talk about the tumultuous elections she lived through really puts our current craziness into perspective. I have all kinds of respect for Patsy; even though I don't agree with every decision and choice that she made, the authors definitely made me see why she might have gone that route. The poor woman, she was practically pregnant her entire adult life (until blessed menopause, anyway), and she stilll got so much done. There were always so many demands on her time--from her father, her husband, her children, Washington society... And on top of all that, until both her father and her husband died, her life truly wasn't her own. Once again I am so glad to not have lived in that time period, because slaves weren't the only ones considered property. When her eldest daughter's husband snarled that he'd beat his wife until she remembered her place? I got chills. And I lost track of how many times the last few chapters had me tearing up as I read--really, so, so good. But now I'm dying to go visit Monticello. And D.C. again--but mostly Monticello :) The authors' notes and discussion at the end were just as interesting, and they give an extensive bibliography at the end that has caused my TBR to grow yet again. Barbara Chase-Riboud's Sally Hemings is definitely up near the top... Rating: 4 1/2 stars / A I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
gigiluvsbooks 7 months ago
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. Review: Wonderfully written story that seamlessly blends history with fiction! I really could not put down this story, I was so engrossed in the lives of the Jefferson's and those around them. A very detailed and you can tell researched story that brings these people to life. I, like many know certain facts about the lives of these people, but it was very basic. I know some of this story and events are creative license I think given what is known they made it seem completely plausible for the fictitious to have happened. This story is told from Patsy's POV as she reads through Thomas Jefferson's personal correspondence after his passing. As she reads these letters the reader is drawn into what happened in the past as Patsy relives those moments. I thought this was a more creative and interesting way to tell this story because it was known that the family censored the letters before being archived. Being written by two different Authors I think they worked well together and you cannot really see where the two may have switched back and forth. Reading this story I ran the gamut of emotions; sad, hopeful, happy, tense, it is truly a well-rounded story. Excellent, engrossing story! 5Stars *Received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.*
SuperReaderChick 7 months ago
America's First Daughter starts off heavy in the action of the American Revolution. Dray and Kamoie do an excellent job of setting the stage for what life might have been like for the daughter/family of a key revolutionary. As the story went along, I really felt the pressure that Patsy must have felt to be tasked with "keeping an eye on her father" as they spent time in Paris, all the while growing into herself. I enjoyed being able to witness her developing feelings for Mr. Short. The turmoil that lay there between them kept me turning page after page to see how things would progress. When they go their separate ways, it broke my heart just a little bit as it showed yet another sacrifice that Patsy must make in her life. Much later in the story, around the time that her father becomes President, Patsy's sacrifices were still so evident, although it seemed that she had come to terms with this pattern of her life as Thomas Jefferson's daughter. A scene that I found absolutely heartbreaking was when Patsy lost her sister. It was hard to keep from tearing up during their final moments. When Thomas Jefferson is finally back at Monticello and finished with his political career, the focus really shifts to Patsy's married life and I really felt for her as her happy marriage spiraled down into the abyss. This story was fascinating from the very beginning and had an ending that I found to be pleasant and satisfying. I absolutely loved the blend of history and fiction that Dray and Kamoie have woven together in creating this story.
Bookworm2Bookworm 7 months ago
This story revolves around Thomas Jefferson and his daughter, Patsy Jefferson. It begins with the death of Jefferson’s wife, Martha, leaving behind 3 daughters, Patsy, Polly, and baby Lucy. Jefferson is left bereft and Patsy takes over the responsibility for her father and sisters. Jefferson is then sent to France and Patsy accompanies him. There, she acts as her father’s hostess, learns French, and how to interact well with international people. She also meets William Short who steals her heart. When it comes time to return to America, Short wants Patsy to stay in France but she feels she cannot leave her father so they are parted. Back in America, Patsy meets and marries Thomas Randolph. Without going into a long dissertation here, suffice to say that Patsy becomes her father’s lifelong advocate including taking the name, Martha, as her mother was named. We learn of Jefferson’s illicit long affair with Sally, a slave, and the children they had. Martha’s marriage to Randolph is rocky and she gives birth to 11 children. There are hardships faced by many members of the family and while Martha does not like slavery, in Virginia, it is accepted. Much of the story here is gleaned through the letters Jefferson wrote and the numerous papers he amassed. This is a difficult review for me to write because there is so much I want to share. But it such a beautifully written novel that I hope will find itself on everyone’s bookshelf. I would love to see this book as required reading in every American history class. A huge thank you to the authors for their amazing research in writing this novel. It is a must read. Copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
MoniqueD 7 months ago
AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER is the best historical novel I have ever read, bar none! Granted at 600 pages, it cannot be read in one sitting, but don’t let it deter you; it is so compelling, you will not skip one line. The authors used countless letters to recreate the life of Martha “Patsy” Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, and through her eyes, we witness the American Revolution, the French Revolution, as well as the life of an admirable woman. It was not easy being the daughter of such a great man, and Patsy had to make many sacrifices, most of the time for her father’s career. It is most commendable that Ms. Dray and Ms. Kamoie managed, with much flair and panache, to make AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER so lively and intimate; it is written in the first person, and it feels like we’re part of Patsy’s life, whether on a plantation or in the salons of Paris. AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER is very well written and everything flows seamlessly. Needless to say, it is extremely well documented, but also richly detailed, and the characters are described so vividly, they come alive on the page. AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER is a remarkable book that will captivate generations to come. I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Cupcakegirly 7 months ago
I don't read a lot of Historical Fiction, but a few months ago, I tripped and fell down the rabbit hole known as Hamilton (the musical) and haven't been able to get enough of the Revolutionary War period since. AMERICA'S FIRST DAUGHTER is engrossing, emotional, and kept me turning the page well into the night. The extensive research the authors have done is evident, but blends together beautifully with fiction, creating a story that will satisfy even the most critical of historians while also appeasing readers (like me), who came for the chocolate drops and the hint of romance. Read it.