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Jan 24, 2014

The Traitor's Wife by Allison Pataki

Spoiled American socialite betrays her country..
The Traitor's Wife by Allison Pataki
Howard Books, February 11. 2014
Paperback 496 pages
Review copy from NetGalley for which I was denied at first and then I had to beg for indignantly and thus I got accepted to review it, geesh, make a girl beg why don'tcha?
Burton Book Review Rating: 4.5 stars

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.

If you are one of those readers that have to like the main protagonist in order to enjoy reading the book, then you may not enjoy this. Peggy Shippen Arnold didn't have much of a noble character as she can be summed up as a wishy washy spoiled brat who had no qualms at being a manipulative twit. She only wants parties and bigger hair, and flashy men..her only loyalty was to herself. She doesn't care if her admirers are the British or the Colonials, as long as they are fawning all over her and she is the life of the party. Her maid Clara is her saving grace, as the novel features Clara's story as she serves as Peggy's maid at a time when Peggy was looking for that perfect knight in shining armor. She flirts with everyone until she finds herself the wife to Benedict Arnold, the man whose name is known as the traitor to the new American country. But as this story tells it, perhaps he would not be known as a traitor if only he had not met Peggy Shippen.

The nuances of the era were very well portrayed, as one can really get a sense of the Colonials versus the British mentality. I haven't come across a lot of American Revolution novels, despite the fact that fellow readers express their interest in such. Pataki's novel will certainly help fill that void, even if Peggy causes you to have a sour taste in your mouth simply because of her traitorous habits. There never really does seem to be a good enough reason for Benedict to betray one's country, aside from the fact that the Arnolds felt they were owed money for his previous heroic military maneuvers, and so it's hard to empathize with the Arnolds.

However, the story is quite engaging because of the historical detail and the fictitious characters that Pataki creates who redeem the novel as a whole. The use of Clara and her love interest as an added feature to the novel helps draw the reader in to Clara's world. Pataki's storytelling brings to life the less than glorious aspects of the Colonial Americans and brings their situation into a new light. Benedict Arnold's character is very intriguing, and I'm even more interested in further reading of the struggles of our forefathers. I would definitely be interested in the latter half of Peggy and Benedict's life together, as the novel ends right at their point of ultimate disgrace. A very shocking scandal for the times, and I enjoyed how the story played out. Well researched and well written, I recommend this novel for those also interested in learning a slice of colonial history.