Drawing from thousands of letters and original sources, Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie reveal the fascinating, untold story of Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph, Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter. Patsy was one of the most influential women in American history: not only the progeny of a founding father – and the woman who held his secrets close to her heart – but a key player in the shaping of our nation’s legacy. And her story is one seldom told, until now.
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Available March 1, 2016
About AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER:
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.
☆¸.•*¨*★☆About the Authors☆★*¨*•.¸☆
STEPHANIE DRAY is an award-winning, bestselling and two-time RITA award nominated author of historical women’s fiction. Her critically acclaimed series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into eight different languages and won NJRW’s Golden Leaf. As Stephanie Draven, she is a national bestselling author of genre fiction and American-set historical women’s fiction. She is a frequent panelist and presenter at national writing conventions and lives near the nation’s capital. Before she became a novelist, she was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the stories of women in history to inspire the young women of today.
Laura Kamoie has always been fascinated by the people, stories, and physical presence of the past, which led her to a lifetime of historical and archaeological study and training. She holds a doctoral degree in early American history from The College of William and Mary, published two non-fiction 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 as the New York Times bestselling author of over twenty books, Laura Kaye. Her debut historical novel, America’s First Daughter, co-authored with Stephanie Dray, allowed her the exciting opportunity to combine her love of history with her passion for storytelling. Laura lives among the colonial charm of Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and two daughters.
Available December 1 on Amazon Kindle
***ARC received from San Francisco Book Review in exchange for an honest review***
Zenobia, the proud daughter of a Syrian sheikh, refuses to marry against her will. She won’t submit to a lifetime of subservience. When her father dies, she sets out on her own, pursuing the power she believes to be her birthright, dreaming of the Roman Empire’s downfall and her ascendance to the throne.
Defying her family, Zenobia arranges her own marriage to the most influential man in the city of Palmyra. But their union is anything but peaceful—his other wife begrudges the marriage and the birth of Zenobia’s son, and Zenobia finds herself ever more drawn to her guardsman, Zabdas. As war breaks out, she’s faced with terrible choices.
From the decadent halls of Rome to the golden sands of Egypt, Zenobia fights for power, for love, and for her son. But will her hubris draw the wrath of the gods? Will she learn a “woman’s place,” or can she finally stake her claim as Empress of the East?
She was born for something more – greatness, power. Why would the gods have put this keen interest in her heart, this yearning for politics, unless it serves some purpose?
Daughter of Sand and Stone is a richly woven tapestry of words that creates a Persian desert full of color, scent, and texture. I found myself inhaling to catch the scent of spices on the warm desert breeze I couldn’t feel. Or straining to hear the tinkling of water as I sat under the shady palms of the desert oasis. That’s how beautifully detailed this book is.
Not much is factually known about Zenobia and the author has taken many liberties, by her own admission. This in no way detracts from the story, but rather enables the author to create a world full of conflict and intrigue. Libbie Hawker has written a captivating and tragic tale recounting the life of an enigmatic woman in rich and vivid detail. The author imagines Zenobia as a woman with desires and ambitions, destined to follow in the steps of Cleopatra and Dido, in a time when a woman’s greatest hope was for an advantageous marriage. She makes Zenobia real – a daughter, sister, mother, lover, Empress – and not just the small footnote in the history of the Roman Empire she has been relegated to.
The Huffington Post wrote an article in September detailing the factual aspects of Zenobia’s life and her fight against the Roman Empire. At a time when Palmyra is once again being destroyed by invading forces, Daughter of Sand and Stone brings a historically and politically important city, and the woman who led it, back to life.
***ARC received via Netgalley in return for an honest review***
When Alizée Benoit, a young American painter working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), vanishes in New York City in 1940, no one knows what happened to her. Not her Jewish family living in German-occupied France. Not her arts patron and political compatriot, Eleanor Roosevelt. Not her close-knit group of friends and fellow WPA painters, including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner. And, some seventy years later, not her great-niece, Danielle Abrams, who, while working at Christie’s auction house, uncovers enigmatic paintings hidden behind works by those now famous Abstract Expressionist artists. Do they hold answers to the questions surrounding her missing aunt?
Entwining the lives of both historical and fictional characters, and moving between the past and the present, The Muralist plunges readers into the divisiveness of prewar politics and the largely forgotten plight of European refugees refused entrance to the United States. It captures both the inner workings of New York’s art scene and the beginnings of the vibrant and quintessentially American school of Abstract Expressionism.
B. A. Shapiro explores one of the most turbulent times in American history. The popular sentiment in the U.S. at the time was to stay out of events in Europe and concentrate on recovering from the Great Depression. The Muralist draws on many emotions by personalizing the struggle of European refugees fleeing from Hitler’s armies and the families in the U.S. fighting for their relatives’ freedom and safety – fear, anger, sadness, and frustration just to name a few. Shapiro does an excellent job of articulating the political turmoil of time as well as the artistic forces behind the Abstract Expressionist movement.
I enjoyed The Muralist for many reasons – the history behind the WPA, the background of the Abstract Expressionist artists, and most especially the Isolationist history of pre-WWII America. The characters are engaging, and I found the interaction between Alizee and the real Expressionist artists intriguing – enough so that I was disappointed to learn that Alizee is completely fictional as is her art. The narrative of the Jewish refugees and their resulting plight as they were turned away by the United States infuriated me in a way history class never did. At the same time, I found it easy to put this book down. It didn’t call for me to keep reading, and I had to block time out to finish it. I would still recommend this book to anyone who enjoys history, art, politics, and mystery.
***ARC received from San Francisco Book Review in exchange for an honest review***
In 88 B.C., it seems as if the entire ancient world is at war. In the west, the Italian states are rebelling against Rome; in the east, Mithridates is marching through and conquering the Roman Asian provinces. Even in the relatively calm Alexandria, a coup has brought a new Pharaoh to power and chaos to the streets. The young Gordianus has been waiting out the chaos in Alexandria, with Bethesda, when he gets a cryptic message from his former tutor and friend, Antipater. Now in Ephesus, as part of Mithridates’ entourage, Antipater seems to think that his life is in imminent danger.
To rescue him, Gordianus concocts a daring, even foolhardy, scheme to go “behind enemy lines” and bring Antipater to safety. But there are powerful, and deadly forces, at work here, which have their own plans for Gordianus. Not entirely sure whether he’s a player or a pawn, Gordianus must unravel the mystery behind the message if he’s to save himself and the people he holds most dear.
I love historical fiction that makes me what to learn more about history. Steven Saylor has brought the ancient world to life in a way history books never can. History is more than just names and dates of battles; it’s the people, the emotions, the absolute brutality of that time. Meticulously detailed, Saylor effortlessly interweaves historical and fictional characters with true historical events. It is easy to envision the opulence of the nobility and the squalor of the Roman refugees through the intense narrative. By focusing on such a tumultuous time period in ancient history, the author piques the readers interest to find out more about the events and historical figures (at least this reader’s interest). Some of the passages, the descriptions of the torture inflicted on Roman prisoners, are difficult to get through simply because they are so vividly (and accurately) described.
Through the inclusion of diary segments from Anitpater, Gordianus’ mentor and tutor, the author also manages to add personal narrative and reflection to the time period. One passage more than any stuck out to me, drawing parallels to more recent history.
“A deliberate campaign of deriding and belittling the Romans has been going on, making them not only objects of fear and loathing, but also of ridicule. They have been set apart, not only by having been driven from their homes and forced to seek sanctuary, but by such measures as the degree that they must wear the toga – ostensibly so that decent folk can see these thieves and rapists coming and protect themselves.”
History is bound to repeat itself.
I was initially horrified to learn that this was book 14 written by Steven Saylor with Gordianus the Finder as the main character. However, Wrath of the Furies is the third book in Steven Saylor’s Novels of Ancient Rome series, a prequel series to his Roma sub Rosa series, and is easily read as a stand-alone book. Any references the author makes to previous situations do not leave the reader confused or left in the dark, but rather leaves the reader wanting to find out exactly what happened. A superb read for anyone with a modicum of interest in history.
*** ARC from San Francisco Book Review for honest review ***
Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Siddal is working in a milliner’s shop to help support her struggling family when she catches the eye one of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) artists. Convinced to sit for him as an artist’s model, Lizzie quickly becomes the darling of the PRB movement and especially that of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the charming and charismatic co-founder of the PRB. Throughout their tumultuous affair, Lizzie struggles with depression, drug addiction, and Rossetti’s infidelity to find her own identity.
Rita Cameron weaves a heart-wrenchingly tragic love story full of rich detail and texture. Through the use of existing paintings, poetry, and letters Ophelia’s Muse imagines the intricate details of lives of several renowned artists of the PRB movement. This is a luxuriously written historical fiction that draws heavily from history as well as the author’s imagination. I both loved and disliked this book for it is a real love story, full of ecstasy and heartbreak.
Lizzie did not fit the mold of the ideal Victorian woman. Her height, slight figure, and pale complexion were not within the fashion of the times. She was also well-read, a bit of a day dreamer, and reserved in her manner. She is concerned for her reputation and the propriety of being an artist’s model as they did not have the best of reputations. However, she is convinced by her employer that sitting for gentlemen painters might introduce her to more polite society and open her prospects for marriage. This might have been true had she not met Rossetti and been drawn into his life.
As a young artist Rossetti imagined himself to be chivalrous and imbued with the ideals of courtly love. His fascination with Dante Alighieri, and Alighieri’s muse Beatrice, bordered on obsession. Upon discovering Lizzie, Rossetti transfers that obsession to her imagining her to be his own Beatrice. He pulls her into his social circle and life to the detriment of Lizzie’s standing in polite society and her mental well-being. Emotionally manipulative, Rossetti strings Lizzie along for years, jealously guarding his artistic muse while exploring his own artistic proclivities elsewhere. “He wanted to savor what they had, and was in no rush to change it. He desired the Lizzie who walked among other women like a goddess, who fed upon nothing more than love and poetry, and demanded nothing more, or less, than worship.”
Lizzie finds herself in a precarious situation. Her unorthodox relationship with Rossetti results in her family disowning her and she is forced to rely on Rossetti, regardless of his resistance to marrying her. She spends years trying to make sense of his feelings for her. “How could she have pinned her hopes on a man who seemed to create his reality to meet his needs as easily, and often, as he created new worlds in his paintings? She would never be sure where she stood with him, what version of her he wanted at any moment-whether he wanted the woman or the muse; the collaborator in his art or merely the silent beauty in his paintings?” It is only when she appears to be upon her deathbed that Rossetti finally marries her.
Reading this book from the perspective of 2015, it is easy to see that Lizzie suffers from depression and drug addiction. Rita Cameron does a wonderful job of not spelling this out for the reader. She describes the emotional rollercoaster Lizzie rides through her entire relationship with Rossetti – her hopes, her dreams, her disappointment – In a way that draws on the reader’s empathy, allowing the reader to make their own judgment and determination. Cameron provides Rossetti’s perspective as well and it is easy to imagine him as a modern-day rock star telling Lizzie, ‘I have to be free to be me, babe.’
I am by no means an art connoisseur and my knowledge of art is limited to the art appreciation class I took in college. I found myself on many occasions finding pictures of the paintings on the internet while reading Ophelia’s Muse – being able to see the art and to imagine the artist’s perspective while reading added so much to the experience of the book. I don’t recommend doing this if you are not already familiar with the particulars of Rossetti and Lizzie’s lives – it will give the story away.