My Dear Hamilton

April 27, 2018

open book graphic

My Dear Hamilton
by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

my dear hamilton 2

Genre/categories: Historical Fiction, U.S. History, Revolutionary War, Founders, Biographical

***Linking up today with Words on Wednesday. If you’ve clicked over from there, welcome! Enjoy your stay and look around!

Summary:

A general’s daughter, Elizabeth Schuyler meets and marries Alexander Hamilton amid the union’s fight for independence and the uncertainties of war. Eliza and Alexander find themselves establishing their life together at the same time as they are at the center of our nation’s founding. Authors Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to imagine Eliza’s story as a patriot, loving wife, political partner, loyal friend, supportive sister, and devoted mother of eight. Amazon Rating (April Early Reviews): 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

Meet Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton:

If you’ve seen Hamilton the Musical or read Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton or if you’re a fan of historical fiction and the American Revolution, trust me, My Dear Hamilton needs to be your next read! Currently, it occupies first place in the “best book I’ve read in 2018” category. 5+ stars

As modern women, it’s amazing to immerse ourselves into the stories and lives of strong and independent women living at a time when a woman’s well-being, success, and status were subject to a husband’s or father’s control, permission, and blessing. As Eliza Hamilton looked to her mentor, Martha Washington, it’s inspiring to hear about her influence and achievements despite the constraints.

Supportive and Faithful

Feisty and adventuresome by nature, Eliza is expected to be a quiet and supportive wife. Although she struggles with the quiet part (sometimes using it to her advantage), she is certainly supportive and loyal and holds dearly to her father’s military motto of “semper fidelis” meaning ‘always faithful’ in Latin. Throughout her life, this motto is one of her most highly held values.

“Silence is often the only weapon available to ladies. And I wield mine expertly.”
~Eliza Hamilton

Intelligent and Independent

As an intelligent woman and independent thinker, Eliza is revealed as a participant with Hamilton in personal debate on difficult issues, as his sounding board, and as a collaborator and writing partner. She holds definite views on slavery and earnestly strives to reconcile her personal ideals with the realities of the world in which she lives.

Determined Restorer

Alexander is a complicated and complex man, and Eliza and Alexander have a complicated relationship. Forgiveness is a major and poignant theme in the story as Eliza struggles to comprehend and forgive her husband’s betrayals. Authors Dray and Kamoie provide vivid details of Hamilton’s traumatic childhood experiences and imagine well constructed, dramatic, and tender dialogue between Eliza and Alexander that allows readers to truly understand the motivations that might drive some of his actions and also to fully appreciate and comprehend the source and sincerity of Eliza’s forgiveness.

“But the measure of a man, of a life, of a union of man and wife or even country is not in the falling. It’s in the rising back up again to repair what’s broken, to put right what’s wrong. Your father and I did that. We always did that. He never stopped trying until the day he died. And neither will I.”
Eliza Hamilton

Partners

Eliza is Hamilton’s most valued and treasured partner as she’s able to help him strategize, think, and write. She is strong enough to calm him, challenge him, and help him reason out the best actions and plans. She becomes his only personal confidant whom he learns to trust.

Compassionate

We also see that Eliza is a compassionate person. Most compelling is the compassion she shows to her husband after agonizing about his betrayal, eventually deciding that all the good outweighs the bad and that he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Her compassion extends to those in need, and even though she is the mother of several children, she takes in a young child whose parents have died and raises this child as her own. In addition, she invests a great deal of time establishing and supporting orphanages.

As I stared at this man who’d once been an abandoned child, I became even more certain of my decision to take Fanny into our household. “All children need love, and we are blessed to have more than enough to spare.”

My husband had a gift for government, but I had a gift for charity. A talent for it, if there be such a thing. I’d already helped to found a society to care for widows, an orphanage to shelter children, and a school to provide guidance and learning….. “Then what is this school? What is your orphanage? These things seek to expand the promise of America. To give opportunity to all as free citizens.”
~Eliza Hamilton

Hostess

Eliza is a gifted hostess with a warm sense of hospitality. Not only does she host political meetings for her husband, but everyone who comes to her door is welcomed, cared for, treated to baked goods, and entertained regardless of their points of view.

Advocate

Eliza is committed to preserving Hamilton’s legacy and spends decades creating a record of her husband’s contributions to the Founding. It seems fitting that a woman who is devoted to telling her husband’s story and recording his achievements should also have her story told because it’s truly their story and legacy. Dray and Kamoie are committed to sharing Eliza’s story of heartache, hardship, endurance, determination, and devotion so that we can appreciate and recognize her vital participation with Hamilton to establish the ideals and structures upon which our country was founded.

Recommended

This is one time I wish I could award more than 5 stars to a story. Not only has Eliza earned a spot in my reading as April’s most memorable character, she is likely one of the year’s most memorable characters.

Highly recommended for fans of America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, and Hamilton the Musical. Also, this is a valuable read for all fans of well-researched and well written historical fiction about ordinary women doing extraordinary things in the most difficult circumstances. Add this title to your favorite reads about the Founding, and to your collection of stories featuring strong, independent women. It makes history come alive! It’s a perfect companion read with Chernow’s.

I’d love to hear in comments or link up a post about your favorite and most memorable characters from your April reading.

My Rating: 5+ stars

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my dear hamilton

Buy Here

Meet the Authors,
Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

Stephanie Dray

Stephanie Dray is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal & USA Today bestselling author of historical women’s fiction. Her award-winning work has been translated into eight languages and tops lists for the most anticipated reads of the year. She lives near the nation’s capital with her husband, cats, and history books.

MORE ways to connect with Stephanie:
* Website: StephanieDray.com
* Facebook: facebook.com/stephaniedrayauthor

 

Laura Kamoie

A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction, 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. She is the author of AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER and MY DEAR HAMILTON, co-authored with Stephanie Dray, allowing 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. http://www.LauraKamoie.com




Link Up

Please join the Link Up by submitting a blog post about the most compelling character from your April reading or leave a comment.

 



Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

Next week, I’ll be highlighting a few suggestions for Mother’s Day gifts.



Sharing is Caring

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss!

I’d love to hear all about what you’re reading and who you thought was the most memorable character from your April reading! You are welcome to link up or leave a comment.

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Author Spotlight

April 21, 2018

authors spotlight

Do you like to attend author events? Or is an author event something you’ve always wanted to do?

This weekend I was thrilled to attend a Historical Fiction Author Brunch sponsored by a local library where (l to r) Michelle Gable (A Paris Apartment & The Summer I Met Jack), Susan Meissner (As Bright As Heaven), and Laura Kamoie (America’s First Daughter & My Dear Hamilton) were panelists.

author panel

It was a delightful morning surrounded by bookish peeps, delightful bookish conversation, and delicious food. I eagerly looked forward to this event because I had read two of the three authors’ works.

 

 

Highlights

Research

Interesting discussion among the panelists included how much all three enjoy the research part of writing historical fiction (sometimes more than the writing!), and they also mentioned the perils and the pleasures. Perils included going down rabbit trails and accumulating too much information or not enough. For example, as they approach reading a book as part of their research, they realize it’s common to take away only one small fact or detail from the entire book that they’ve read. All three of them emphasized that the research process is extremely pleasurable for them. I’ve always appreciated the quantity of research that goes into writing histfic. Now I won’t feel sorry for them!

Authors & Their Work

 It’s wonderful to hear authors speak of their work, and here are a few highlights. In addition, I’ll indicate which of their works I’ve read along with my review or Amazon summary and star rating.

Author: Laura Kamoie

A unique fact about Laura Kamoie’s most recent books is that she wrote them in partnership with Stephanie Dray. Co-authorship is a strategy their editor advised against; however, it has worked well for them. In fact, their editor reports that he can’t tell which one has written which section. Laura is a historian (previously taught history at the Naval Academy) and spoke extensively about the amount of research she conducts for her writing. She indicates that she and Stephanie had so much information for My Dear Hamilton that their editor made them cut thousands of words (and it’s still 652 pages!). Laura spoke earnestly about her passion for writing stories about women in history whose contributions have been overlooked. She is not surprised that when she researches men that there are thousands of primary source documents available; whereas for women there might be only 200 available. I appreciate hearing stories about independent and strong women and will continue to be interested in her work.

American’s First Daughter (Full Review Here)    

America's First Daughter

 My Rating: 5 Stars twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

My Dear Hamilton (I’m in the process of reading this…review coming soon)

my dear hamilton

Amazon Rating: 4.8 Stars



Author: Susan Meissner

As Bright As Heaven is the only Meissner book I have read. I’d like to read her back list some day. Whereas Laura Kamoie focuses on writing biographical historical fiction, Susan likes to create fictional characters and families and keep the historical focus on the location, time period, and events. She greatly enjoys creating imaginary people and families. One interesting fact about As Bright As Heaven is that she structured it in a similar way as The Poisonwood Bible (one of her favorite books) in that the story is told from a mother’s and her girls’ perspectives. She reports that she read Poisonwood Bible several times in preparation for writing a book like As Bright as Heaven (the only way they are similar is in the structure).

As Bright As Heaven (Full Review Here)

As Bright as Heaven

My Rating: 4 Stars   twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star
(I always debate between 4 & 5 stars….this could easily be a 5 star read for me because I keep thinking about this story and recommending it!)



Author: Michelle Gable

I haven’t read any of Michelle’s work. A Paris Apartment received mixed reviews and I’m still on the fence about it. I’ll probably read it now that I’ve met the author. Look at the reviews to see what you think! One interesting fact that Michelle shared with us is that she wrote it (every word!) entirely with pencil using a pad of paper sitting behind the screen at her children’s softball games. Multitasking at its finest! She wrote The Summer I Met Jack the same way and its release date is 5/29/2018.

A Paris Apartment (not yet read or reviewed)

a paris apartment

Amazon Rating: 4.0 Stars

The Summer I Met Jack (release date: 5/29/2018)

the summer I met jack



Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

Come back Friday when I’ll be highlighting my favorite, most compelling character from my April reading and offering a Link Up opportunity.



Sharing is Caring

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss!

I’d love to hear about authors you’ve met or would like to meet!

I was excited to hear that Fredrik Backman is doing an author event at the Barnes & Noble (in Huntington Beach for SoCal peeps), but was discouraged that attendees have to get there by 9:00 a.m. to get a wrist band which will give them a place in line for the evening event. No thanks! I’d much rather buy a ticket on line than to spend all day trying to get one. But if you’re in SoCal and want to see him, the information is on the Huntington Beach Barnes and Noble website. He’s also at different locations in the U.S. as part of a book tour. I imagine they’ll be quite popular events!

America’s First Daughter

September 15, 2017

America’s First Daughter
by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

My bookish and dear friend Cheryl recently recommended this book to me knowing I love histfic. She appreciated its readability, the rich language, and the way the sentences were constructed….causing the story to flow easily from one thought or experience to the next.  She mentioned that she liked exploring characters and events about which she had been aware but didn’t fully understand the context….throughout the narrative, Thomas Jefferson became a person for her. Finally, she learned more about the culture of slaves and slave owners from both perspectives. SOLD! I downloaded it to my Kindle that afternoon!

Sacrifice … Devotion … Hardship … Privilege … Grit

America's First Daughter

Genre/category: historical fiction, biographical

Summary:

A fast paced read, this well researched novel draws from thousands of letters and original sources as it tells the story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph. Patsy shares her father’s devotion to their country and becomes his partner, protector, and loyal companion after the death of her mother. As a young girl she travels with him to Paris when he becomes the American minister to France, and it is here she eventually learns of his relationship with Sally Hemings, a slave girl about her own age. According to the authors, it’s during these Paris years that Patsy falls in love with William Short, her father’s assistant and protégé who is an abolitionist and aspiring diplomat. Patsy is torn between love, principles, and family loyalty and questions whether she can be married to Tom and remain devoted to her father. This is a story of sacrifice and grit as Patsy tirelessly protects her father’s reputation and supports him as he guides and leads the nation he helped found.

Amazon Rating (September): 4.6 Stars

My Thoughts

If you’re looking for a highly readable narrative (I enjoyed the first person point of view) and an engaging book club selection because of its various themes, this might be an excellent choice! After my mother read it, we discussed it at length.  My review will consist of highlighting a few intriguing themes:

women’s lack of voice or choice/oppression of women

“And now I’d given up everything I’d ever dared to want for myself.
The convent. My dearest friends. William.

My inner feminist was raging during most of this story! It’s amazing to be transported back in time when women didn’t have a voice or certain rights or choices that we take for granted today (e.g. the father could simply decide to take the children if he were angry at his wife and sometimes this fact scared Patsy into submission). In addition, the lack of birth control certainly took a toll on women (Patsy had 11 children). To protect herself from having to bear more children, she considered arranging a mistress for her husband! Furthermore, if some men abused their wives, the women had very little protection or recourse because it was a man’s right to run his family as he thought was right.  It’s concerning to realize that women in some countries today don’t have the rights and protection that we have come to expect in this country. Another aspect of this theme is the idea that one avenue for women to find success, influence, or importance for themselves was to work under the umbrella of men in the family (a father or husband). Women could be influential as contributors but were not usually found driving agendas or enterprises of their own. As the story progressed, Patsy was able to exercise some voice: “My hand fell away from William’s grasp, and my voice no longer wavered. ‘I’m going to Virginia with my father, so if you love me, you’ll wait for me a little longer.’ ” A highlight is that Patsy did have two strong female mentors in Abigail Adams and Dolley Madison. The latter boldly stating: “There is only one secret to anything,” Dolley asserted, “and that’s the power we all have in forming our own destinies.”

privilege

Even though the Jefferson family suffered from bouts of poverty and misfortune, they were still speaking and acting from a position of privilege. In addition to having resources and support, their privilege also gave them the benefit of the doubt when their honor was at stake. Throughout the story, we explore inequality as it affects women, slaves, and the poor (non property owners).

father/daughter loyalty and devotion to family

Patsy’s relationship with her father, her loyalty and devotion, affected every relationship she had and heavily influenced all the major events in her life. It was a sad thread throughout the story that a child would feel so obligated to take on the burden of her father’s grief and well-being. Even though Patsy dearly loved her father, I didn’t view the relationship as mutually beneficial. From Patsy’s perspective it was sacrificial and duty bound; whereas, from Jefferson’s angle it was often controlling, manipulative, needy, selfish, and sometimes deceptive. Patsy did adopt some of her father’s deceptiveness however when she lied under oath in one circumstance (to protect family) and then manipulated other circumstances to keep her husband out of the military.  Finally, it was interesting to read about the sense of duty that grown children felt to care for their siblings (even as adults) when parents were gone. I wonder how many families today strongly hold that value.

sacrifice

One can identify several examples of sacrifice from multiple individuals throughout the story. Patsy definitely sacrificed over and over for her father and for the nation, her father sacrificed for the nation, Sally sacrificed the disclosure of her real relationship with Jefferson for his reputation, children sacrificed their own childhood to care for younger siblings, etc.

early stances on slavery

“Those slaves we knew, we saw their faces every day.
The idea of selling them was barbarous.”

It seems to this reader that keeping individuals as slaves must have seemed barbarous from the slaves’ point of view! Throughout the story, I wished that we could have heard from the perspective of Sally Hemings (and other slaves). So many of my recent historical fiction reads have been from the slaves’ perspective that I found myself missing that voice in this narrative. It was interesting that Patsy, even though she shared some of William’s abolitionist thinking, chose to buy her own slaves back in an act of compassion rather than free them or relinquish them to a worse future in the Deep South. Also astounding to modern-day readers is that Patsy couldn’t understand why the family slaves would want to be free since they were treated so well with the Jefferson family. The following justification for keeping Sally as a slave is offered:

“Someone with lighter skin she meant. Someone who behaved more like a servant so as to uphold the polite fiction of it all. Someone in the family.”

grit

Patsy Jefferson exemplifies grit and symbolizes the mindset of other women of the time as well. She expresses the following thoughts: “From tattered flags and uniforms to friendships strained to the brink, the women of my country had always been the menders to all things torn asunder. But now we’d do more than patch with needle and thread. We’d have to weave together a whole tapestry of American life with nothing but our own hands, our own crops, and our own ingenuity. And I would prove myself able to the task.”

deathbed promises

The deathbed promise that Mrs. Jefferson exacted from Thomas Jefferson and Patsy affected the rest of their lives. This promise was not taken lightly and their duty to keep it was admirable. It would be interesting to explore if in our modern times, the bereaved would share this profound sense of obligation or if this is an old-fashioned value.

loyalty/devotion to country

A concern at the center of the Jefferson family’s decision-making was the welfare of the new nation. Patsy valued and supported her father’s efforts on behalf of the country, even agreeing to act as First Lady when Thomas Jefferson was elected President. I wonder what we are prepared to sacrifice for our country.

trials, triumphs, failures of a family

Readers are treated to an honest look at the Jefferson family, their successes, struggles, fears, flaws, and failures. In my opinion, one failure was Jefferson’s reluctance to weigh in on the abolitionist arguments and sentiments, preferring to leave that discussion to the next generation. However, he was a brilliant thinker and writer and I think the country might have benefited from his insightful reflections. It seemed that it was a concern for his own reputation that made it difficult for him to reconcile his own personal use of slaves when challenged with the ideas of abolition. This was an issue he chose to ignore and I lost respect for that. Thomas Jefferson had a paralysis when it came to slavery and the author compared it to handling a wolf:

“He couldn’t safely hold it or safely let it go.”

Jefferson’s children with Sally had to run away rather than be freed by him which must have grieved Sally. However, throughout the story, I think the reader grows to appreciate that the largest issues are complex for multiple reasons and are never black and white.

saving face/a perfect image/honor

One of the most important values of the day was honor and projecting a perfect image of self and the family. The slaves helped preserve that image as did extended family and relatives. In fact, protecting Jefferson’s reputation and image seemed to occupy a great deal of time in the story. It seems that without 24/7 media coverage, one had a much better chance of keeping secrets. What do you consider our culture’s greatest value?

“HONOR.
In Virginia it wasn’t merely a matter of masculine pride–it was a matter of survival. Every loan for the farm, every advance of credit for seeds and foodstuffs, every public office and proposal of marriage depended on honor. Men would fight and die for it. And women would lie for it.”

imperfect people as leaders

Can imperfect people be good leaders and can they make important contributions to their country? Throughout the story we gain an understanding of Jefferson’s faults and flaws. This is where I wish the authors had done more to point out his unique contributions, especially because so much sacrifice from family members was required.

My IRL book club is discussing this book in October and I look forward to an interesting discussion!

My overall rating 5 stars (actually 4.5 rounded up to 5 on Goodreads)

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Highly recommended for readers who enjoy an engaging, fast paced historical fiction story with relevant discussable themes.

 

America's First Daughter

Buy Here

Reservations?

Some readers express concern about the fictionalization of the Patsy Jefferson/William Short romance. In the afterward, the authors discuss their reasons for including the romantic relationship. Even though there is a lack of letters that support the connection, the authors cite the amount of circumstantial evidence and widely accepted assumptions as their justification. I thought the romantic drama helped add interest to the entire story, and it was an intrigue that affected many of the events throughout her life. After all, it is historical fiction and I expect that some aspects might be more fictionalized than others. It did not affect my enjoyment of the story.

One area in which I did have a small reservation is the lack of information about the accomplishments of Thomas Jefferson. I realize that this was Patsy’s story; however, if one lacked historical background regarding the accomplishments of the founding fathers, I think that reader would wonder why Jefferson is a celebrated founder. Here, we are certainly made aware of his flaws. I think in light of Patsy’s sacrifice it would have been helpful to know more specifically what this allowed her father to do for the country. This is not a reservation about what was included, rather it stems from a desire to know more.

Meet the Authors: Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

Stephanie Dray

Stephanie Dray

Stephanie Dray is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal & USA Today bestselling author of historical women’s fiction. Her award-winning work has been translated into eight languages and tops lists for the most anticipated reads of the year. Before she became a novelist, she was a lawyer and a teacher. Now she lives near the nation’s capital with her husband, cats, and history books.

Laura Kamoie

Laura Kamoie

A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction, 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. She is the author of AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER and MY DEAR HAMILTON, 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. http://www.LauraKamoie.com

Flight Pick

Sometimes if readers have enjoyed a story, they might want to read a similar selection. Abigail Adams makes an appearance in America’s First Daughter. While I have not read Dearest Friend by Lynne Withey, my mother highly recommends this book about Abigail Adams. It’s on my TBR.

Dearest Friend

More Information Here

Happy Reading Everyone!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

Looking Forward!

Next week I’m thrilled to review Castle of Water by Dane Hucklebridge if you’d like to “buddy read.” It was unputdownable!

Castle of Water

Buy Here

Sharing is Caring:

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Discussion:

If you’ve read or think you might want to read America’s First Daughter, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section about the various themes.