Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Release Day Review: The Traitor's Wife

The Traitor's WifeAuthor: Allison Pataki
Publication Date: February 11, 2014
Publisher: Howard Books

A riveting historical novel about Peggy Shippen Arnold, the cunning wife of Benedict Arnold and mastermind behind America’s most infamous act of treason.

Everyone knows Benedict Arnold—the infamous Revolutionary War General who betrayed America and fled to the British as history’s most notorious turncoat. Many know Arnold’s co-conspirator, Major John AndrĂ©, who was apprehended with Arnold’s documents in his boots and hanged at the orders of General George Washington. But few know of the integral third character in the plot; a charming and cunning young woman, who not only contributed to the betrayal but orchestrated it.

Socialite Peggy Shippen is half Benedict Arnold’s age when she seduces the war hero during his stint as Military Commander of Philadelphia. Blinded by his young bride’s beauty and wit, Arnold does not realize that she harbors a secret: loyalty to the British. Nor does he know that she hides a past romance with the handsome British spy John AndrĂ©. Peggy watches as her husband, crippled from battle wounds and in debt from years of service to the colonies, grows ever more disillusioned with his hero, Washington, and the American cause. Together with her former lover and her disaffected husband, Peggy hatches the plot to deliver West Point to the British and, in exchange, win fame and fortune for herself and Arnold.

Told from the perspective of Peggy’s maid, whose faith in the new nation inspires her to intervene in her mistress’s affairs even when it could cost her everything, The Traitor’s Wife brings these infamous figures to life, illuminating the sordid details and the love triangle that nearly destroyed the American fight for freedom.

“To beguile the time, look like the time;
Bear welcome in your eye, your hand, your tongue:
Look like the innocent flower,
But be the serpent under it.”

                     - Lady Macbeth

No one will suspect a flower of such beautiful bloom to conceal a serpent underneath. She can manage it. She can manage anything.

I wonder, as I study his large features – his placid eyes, his wide, honest brow – does Washington know already? Or is there still time?

I see, as the men do, the panic, the bewilderment and despair of a woman who has just found out that her husband is a traitor. I see all that, but I also see something they do not; I see that the pain she shows is nothing more than a mask. A painfully beautiful mask.

To be completely honest I have heard people called a “Benedict Arnold”, but never knew what or whom it referred to. After doing my research and reading this fascinating tale, I am pleased to say that I now know the story of Benedict Arnold and his wife, Peggy Shippen Arnold. I became so completely immersed in this couple’s story and life, as I am sure the author, Allison Pataki, did, that I found it hard to stop researching and reading about the life they shared together as well as the betrayal they both took part in. History was my second favorite subject in school, next to English, and stories like this one only feed that passion. 

This tale was told from the perspective of our heroine and Peggy’s maid, Clara Bell. I enjoyed reading about Clara and hearing all of the treason and treachery unfold from her point of view, but she was definitely nothing like Peggy. Clara was more timid and shy than her mistress. I couldn’t help but want to know and hear more from Peggy. Seeing her through Clara’s eyes was an interesting turn of events for me because I got to see Peggy how others might have saw her as well. She seemed to be confident and often times unlikeable. However, I do believe that reading this story from Clara’s point of view made Peggy seem all that more intriguing to me.

While reading this book, stopping and realizing how immersed I was in the story, I found that I had stumbled across an inviting and truly talented new author. I enjoyed everything about Pataki’s writing style and didn’t realize until many pages in that this was her debut novel. I could feel the passion and the soul that she had poured into writing this book. It was obvious that this topic and these characters were ones that had danced around her mind for quite some time. Any history nerds, fans of the Revolution, or fans of amazing female protagonists should pick up a copy of this book as soon as possible!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Howard Books in exchange for my honest review***

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