The Traitor’s Wife by Allison Pataki
ARC, e-book, 497 pages
February 11, 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Received for review via Netgalley
“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 André, 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 André. 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.”
When reading historical fiction that is set during a war, my choice will always be the American Revolution. There is just something about the formation of a new country and that ensuing drama just pulls me in. Within that setting, one of the people that fascinates me most is Benedict Arnold. Although he is a traitor to the country, I find him quite to complex man who is intriguing to try to understand. With these things in mind, this novel screams at me to read it!
I very much appreciated seeing Peggy’s perspective regarding the betrayal in this novel – I actually dislike her very much, but that is a discussion for later and not at all related to how the character was written. The author did a great job at portraying Peggy Shippen Arnold as a frivolous, but calculating woman who is willing to do pretty much anything to get her own way. Benedict Arnold was not as fleshed out as I would have liked him to have been. He was present, but sort of whitewashed. The character that we learn the most about is Peggy’s maid, Clara, and she was refreshing and I enjoyed the portions of her novel about how she survived living with the Arnolds.
I struggled to love the style of the novel all the way through. There are portions of the novel that take place in the “present” time – which is the time immediately surrounding the betrayal – and then periods that sort of flash-back to the two years preceding when Peggy meets Arnold. Both sections worked on their own, but I found the transitions to be a little bit clunky and unnecessary as a storytelling device here.
Overall, this was a relatively strong debut novel, even if there are a few things that I would have liked tightened up a little bit. Peggy was a fascinating character and it was invigorating seeing this story told more from her perspective.
And can we discuss the cover for just a second? One of my favorites of releases in 2014! That alone would make me pick it up off of the shelf, even if it is still a headless woman. Gorgeous!
This is author Allison Pataki’s debut novel, with a sophomore release coming out in February. You can visit Allison’s website or blog for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book (about halfway down the page)?
You can also watch the book trailer below.
Additionally, the author discusses The Traitor’s Wife in this video clip:
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