A Master Passion: The Story of Alexander and Elizabeth Hamilton by Juliet Waldron
Book One: Love and Liberty
ARC, E-Book, 428 pages
Books We Love
March 25, 2015
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Received for Review as part of HFVBT tour
THE MASTER PASSION is the story of the marriage of our brilliant first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, and his courageous wife, Elizabeth Schuyler. It begins with a whirlwind Revolutionary War courtship at Washington’s headquarters. Conflict, however, is built into this marriage.
Betsy’s passion is Alexander. While Hamilton adores his wife and children, there are times when he loves America more.
“…And hence one Master Passion in the breast
Like Aaron’s serpent, swallows up all the rest…” ~~Alexander Pope
Alexander Hamilton has always been a man that I admired among the Founding Fathers of the United States and I have always felt that he was a man taken during his prime due to petty jealousy. The promise that he had that was left undeveloped… Of course, as with many things not learned in high school, I had NO IDEA that he was born and raised on a Caribbean island and came to the United States in the 1770’s. I just knew of him as the honorable revolutionary man and Secretary of the Treasury. And of his wife Betsy, I knew absolutely nothing (I didn’t even honestly realize he was married!).
So, the early parts of this novel were a little surprising to me and honestly a bit of a struggle to get through. While I know it was important to build up that early life story for Hamilton as a way to create his personality and rationalize his decision-making in the future, I found that it failed to lock me into the story. The entire section on Hamilton’s island life I found uninteresting, dry, and it almost made me put the book down a few times. It was just…boring. And, while I don’t really know much about Hamilton’s personality, I found that I didn’t like this portrayal of him at all. He is by turns, a little mean, womanizing, and insecure. By contrast, I found the early life story of Betsey Schuyler much more intriguing. I enjoyed learning more of the Dutch customs (I’m still confused however about the Blues, Reds, and Greens?) as well as life in the time leading up to the Revolution. I found the members of her family and other friends to at least be likable and interesting. Once we got into the war, courtship, and marriage part of the story I found that the plot picked up a bit in pace – and I’m not sure if I enjoyed it more for purely that fact or because the more likable Betsey helped balance my frustration with Hamilton.
In terms of the characters, overall, I found them very well written and each having a distinct personality. Even some of the side characters were not at all cookie-cutter and vague. One of the author’s strong-suits I feel is with crafting setting. No matter where the story took place I found the setting to stand out vividly and be almost touchable. There are two scenes that stand out in my mind as some of the author’s best for imagery – first when Hamilton and his men are trudging through snow and ice and are absolutely freezing on the way to attack Princeton and also when the men are downstairs celebrating the wedding of Hamilton and Betsey in the Schuyler parlor. Very well crafted.
While this book might not have been a favorite of this time period, I think my issue has more to do with my personal views vs. the author’s depiction of the character and I would encourage you to check this book out if you like reading about the early revolutionary period of the United States.
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