America’s First Daughter: A Novel
Authors: Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow, 2016
Paperback Edition: 580 pages plus Notes and Reading Group Guide
Source: Personal copy

Patsy Jefferson is a heroine of her time and for all time. This compelling and readable novel tells her story in all its heartbreaking detail. The authors based her story on solid research. Excerpts of letters from Thomas Jefferson begin every chapter. Readers will discover not dry history, but a story of high interest. Many will not be able to turn the pages fast enough.

Goodreads gives the novel a 4.2 rating, Barnes and Noble 4.9. The era, Thomas Jefferson and Monticello come alive in the hands of these authors. Patsy’s tumultuous life and her loves fill every page with uncertainty and suspense. This novel was designated “editor’s choice” by the Historical Novel Society. Discussion questions and reading guides are available on line and the paperback edition includes interviews with the authors.

The novelists follow Patsy from childhood to elegant life in Paris and back to America and Monticello where life in Virginia can be tough, even degrading. All along her way she is very close to her famous father. She marries and mothers eleven children. Her extended family is often disrupted and disruptive, but she devotes her life to struggling with all of their issues, including Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemmings, her own difficult marriage, and her hopes and dreams for all the people she loves. Yet, the reader will not be bogged down by her many trials and tribulations, but lifted up through Patsy’s loving determination and her struggle to be all she can be, especially to and for others.

If you are a history buff or a follower of Thomas Jefferson, you will enjoy this book. Seems to this reader that a great television dramatic series based on this book is just waiting to be written. It can’t happen soon enough for me. Hummm. Who should portray Martha “Patsy” Jefferson?


  1. Karen Kozian

    Have added this to my list to read. I am currently reading The Emancipator’s Wife by Barabara Hambly. Intriguing novel about Mary Todd Lincoln.


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