Unlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a Playwright, and a Spy Saved the American Revolution

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Overview

Unlikely Allies is the story of three remarkable historical figures. Silas Deane was a Connecticut merchant and delegate to the Continental Congress as the American colonies struggled to break with England. Caron de Beaumarchais was a successful playwright who wrote The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro. And the flamboyant and mysterious Chevalier d'Eon—officer, diplomat, and sometime spy—was the talk of London and Paris. Is the Chevalier a man or a woman?

When Deane ...

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Unlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a Playwright, and a Spy Saved the American Revolution

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Overview

Unlikely Allies is the story of three remarkable historical figures. Silas Deane was a Connecticut merchant and delegate to the Continental Congress as the American colonies struggled to break with England. Caron de Beaumarchais was a successful playwright who wrote The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro. And the flamboyant and mysterious Chevalier d'Eon—officer, diplomat, and sometime spy—was the talk of London and Paris. Is the Chevalier a man or a woman?

When Deane is sent to France to convince the French government to support the revolutionary cause, he enlists the help of Beaumarchais. Together, they successfully smuggle weapons, ammunition, and supplies to New England just in time for the crucial Battle of Saratoga, which turned the tide of the American Revolution. And the catalyst for Louis XVI's support of the Americans against England was the Chevalier d'Eon, whose decision to declare herself a woman helped to lead to the Franco-American alliance. These three people spin a fascinating web of political intrigue and international politics that stretches across oceans as they ricochet from Versailles to Georgian London to the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall) in Philadelphia. Each man has his own reasons for wanting to see America triumph over the British, and each contends daily with the certainty that no one is what they seem. The line between friends and enemies is blurred, spies lurk in every corner, and the only way to survive is to trust no one.

An edge-of-your-seat story full of fascinating characters and lavish with period detail and sense of place, Unlikely Allies is Revolutionary history in all of its juicy, lurid glory.

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Editorial Reviews

Carolyn See
Unlikely Allies is a nonfiction account, but it reads like a Monty Python movie.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Arthur Morey steps into the boots of three unwitting heroes of the American Revolution: with his smooth delivery and flawless voice, Morey transforms into Silas Deane, Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, and Chevalier d'Eon—respectively the eponymous merchant, playwright, and spy, allowing listeners to lose themselves in this compelling, true story of American's origins. Morey's voice and Paul's words prove to be the ideal combination for an entertaining and informative history. A Riverhead hardcover (Reviews, Dec. 21). (Dec.)
Library Journal
Numerous hagiographies portray the Founding Fathers as selfless, infallible leaders of the colossal struggle between liberty and tyranny, while lesser-known heroes fall between the cracks of time and are lost to history. In this notable reassessment, the critical roles played by Connecticut merchant Silas Deane, French playwright Caron de Beaumarchais (Barber of Seville), and the enigmatic Chevalier d'Eon in the successful outcome of the American Revolution are placed at the forefront. Drawing on a wealth of sources, Paul (Hastings Coll. of Law, Univ. of California) constructs an intriguing and readable account of three "unlikely" but extraordinary characters who in the face of substantial obstacles diligently labored to supply the American revolutionaries with arms at a critical juncture in the war and forged the decisive Franco-American alliance. Through grit, determination, and great personal sacrifice, Deane arduously struggled behind the scenes, emerging as the unsung hero of a tale with a brilliant cast of characters, including the infamous rake John Wilkes and the story's villain, Arthur Lee. VERDICT Paul's fast-paced, engaging narrative fills a gap in the historiography of the American Revolution and is essential reading for students of revolutionary diplomacy as well as general devotees of the age.—Brian Odom, Pelham P.L., Pelham, AL
Kirkus Reviews
A tantalizing reassessment of America's earliest foreign policy. Paul (International and Constitutional Law/Univ. of California, Hastings) explores the network of spies, diplomats and profoundly self-serving aristocrats whose actions helped determine the outcome of the American Revolution. The primary characters are Silas Deane, the Connecticut merchant charged by the Continental Congress to secure financial and military aid from France, and two French counterparts, Beaumarchais, the playwright and inventor, and Chevalier d'Eon, the transgendered officer and secret agent. A web of personal and professional machinations are brought to bear on each of these players as they engineer sometimes duplicitous missions for the French, British and American governments with often unintended but weighty consequences. We learn about the intricacies of Beaumarchais's covert arrangements with Deane and King Louis XVI to smuggle arms to the Americans; a partnership between Deane and his fellow diplomat, Benjamin Franklin, built as much on a shared interest in the dirty politics of a domestic land-grab scheme as a love of liberty; and the intriguing and self-absorbed political ramifications of d'Eon's transgendered identity. Paul handles each of these relationships with diligent care, accounting not only for the grand schemes and boisterous actions of his subjects, but also the nuanced textures of their daily lives in revolutionary-era Europe and America. The author keeps a close eye on the weather, fashion and, most importantly, the sense of time-the unreliable and painfully slow pace of trans-Atlantic communication plays heavily into the narrative. Occasionally, the author's detail work moves fromharmless quotidian chronicling to questionable character assessments, as when he asserts that "it was precisely because d'Eon was so readily swayed by her heart's desire, rather than by rational self-interest, that she found herself in this predicament," as a primary reason that she became alienated from the French king. A few such quibbles are not enough, however, to undermine an otherwise keen, intriguing assessment of how personal politics might play out on the international stage. Agent: Doe Coover/The Doe Coover Agency
Publishers Weekly
Arthur Morey steps into the boots of three unwitting heroes of the American Revolution: with his smooth delivery and flawless voice, Morey transforms into Silas Deane, Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, and Chevalier d'Eon—respectively the eponymous merchant, playwright, and spy, allowing listeners to lose themselves in this compelling, true story of American's origins. Morey's voice and Paul's words prove to be the ideal combination for an entertaining and informative history. A Riverhead hardcover (Reviews, Dec. 21). (Dec.)
From the Publisher
"[A] keen, intriguing assessment of how personal politics might play out on the international stage." —-Kirkus
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594484872
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/2/2010
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 791,045
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Joel Richard Paul teaches international economic law, foreign relations, and constitutional law at the University of California Hastings Law School, where he is also associate dean, and writes about international trade, globalization, regulatory competition, private international law, and the president's foreign relations powers.

Arthur Morey has recorded over two hundred audiobooks in history, fiction, science, business, and religion, earning a number of AudioFile Earphones Awards and two Audie Award nominations. His plays and songs have been produced in New York, Chicago, and Milan, where he has also performed.

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Customer Reviews

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( 16 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 12, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Going Rogue, Revolutionary Style

    While talk of Tea Parties and founding fathers may be all the rage, the founding of the nation-as Paul's book makes delightfully clear-was far more complex, fragile, hard fought and exceptional than we ever knew. Indeed, this excellent and well-researched book should be mandatory reading for students of early American history. They'll not only encounter Revolutionary heroes far more heroic-and revolutionary-than those of the standard tale: a misunderstood and unjustly maligned patriot merchant who sacrificed all, a cross-dressing chevalier who dared blackmail a monarch, and a playwright who creates and is ultimately undone by Figaro. They'll also learn what "going rogue" really means.

    Reviewers will no doubt offer well-deserved praise for Paul's engrossing narrative and masterful storytelling skills. Many writers attempt to bring history to life with gunpowder and battlefield maneuvers, but when was the last time you couldn't put down a history book out of sheer fascination? Perhaps that highlights the book's true genius. It not only inspires a deeper appreciation of the political complexities of its time and the personal determination of its characters-remove any one and American independence could have become just another unrealized idea-it does so through the most unlikely approach: simply telling the truth, the whole truth. Thanks to "Unlikely Allies", to borrow from the late Paul Harvey, now you know the rest of the story.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 16, 2014

    Incredibly Interesting

    This is NOT your 6th grade version of American History! The odd characters who combine to perform actions that saved the American Revolution make this book hard to put down. It's hilarious and extremely well written - guaranteed to be a story about financing the American Revolution that you have not heard before!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2014

    An interesting account of an important, but largely forgotten pi

    An interesting account of an important, but largely forgotten piece of the American Revolution.  The narrative was engaging, and it was interesting to see the halo of history pulled back with an inside look at many of the politics and intrigue that lead to France intervening in the American Revolution

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2013

    An exceptional retelling of the intrigue and the deceptions that

    An exceptional retelling of the intrigue and the deceptions that played in the politics of getting the aid and support needed to pull off the American Revolution.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2011

    One of my favorites...

    I am somewhat biased having grown up in Wethersfield, CT (Silas Deane's hometown), but I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The author did an amazing job researching the subject matter and presenting it in an entertaining, easy-to-read format. I also love that he vindicates Deane (a hero of mine) against the claims that he was a traitor to the revolution, pointing out that there were those in Congress who had personal grudges against him. They sullied his reputation while the whole time he's out trying to secure France's aid and getting virtually no guidance or assistance from those who sent him. Then Ben Franklin shows up in the 11th hour and gets all the credit.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Reads like fiction - Bursting with facts!

    I don't pretend to be an "expert" on American history, so I cannot truly attest to historical accuracy of the research, but this book is incredibly enjoyable informational reading! The "characters" draw you in entirely and the hidden truths of how our independence was choreographed are incredible. I highly recommend this for any history buff in school or out - but this would make a fantastic subject for a book report!

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