Pre-Release Review: Defiant Brides, The Untold Story of Two Revolutionary-Era Women and the Radical Men They Married by Nancy Rubin Stuart


Defiant Brides: The Untold Story of Two Revolutionary-Era Women and the Radical Men They Married
Nancy Rubin Stuart
Beacon Press 
ISBN: 978-0807001172
264 Pages
Hardcover and eBook
US History / Biography
Pre-Order Now:  Powell’s  § Indie Bound § BAM  § Amazon § Barnes & Noble

Stars:  5

About the Book:

The story of two Revolutionary-era teenagers who defy their Loyalist families to marry radical patriots, Henry Knox and Benedict Arnold, and are forever changed.

When Peggy Shippen, the celebrated blonde belle of Philadelphia, married American military hero Benedict Arnold in 1779, she anticipated a life of fame and fortune, but financial debts and political intrigues prompted her to conspire with her treasonous husband against George Washington and the American Revolution. In spite of her commendable efforts to rehabilitate her husband’s name, Peggy Shippen continues to be remembered as a traitor bride.

Peggy’s patriotic counterpart was Lucy Flucker, the spirited and voluptuous brunette, who in 1774 defied her wealthy Tory parents by marrying a poor Boston bookbinder simply for love. When her husband, Henry Knox, later became a famous general in the American Revolutionary War, Lucy faithfully followed him through Washington’s army camps where she birthed and lost babies, befriended Martha Washington, was praised for her social skills, and secured her legacy as an admired patriot wife.

And yet, as esteemed biographer Nancy Rubin Stuart reveals, a closer look at the lives of both spirited women reveals that neither was simply a “traitor” or “patriot.” In Defiant Brides, the first dual biography of both Peggy Shippen Arnold and Lucy Flucker Knox, Stuart has crafted a rich portrait of two rebellious women who defied expectations and struggled-publicly and privately-in a volatile political moment in early America.

Drawing from never-before-published correspondence, Stuart traces the evolution of these women from passionate teenage brides to mature matrons, bringing both women from the sidelines of history to its vital center. Readers will be enthralled by Stuart’s dramatic account of the epic lives of these defiant brides, which begin with romance, are complicated by politics, and involve spies, disappointments, heroic deeds, tragedies, and personal triumphs.

Book Review:

There must be something in the air. This is the second book that I have read in the past few weeks that is primarily focused on correspondence of the focal characters.  In a uniquely parallel perspective of two contemporaries, we follow the stories of Peggy Shippen Arnold, wife of Benedict, and Lucy Flucker Knox, wife of Henry.  Both men are familiar to everyone who is familiar with the American Revolution, although in most accounts of the time the women’s contributions to the course of history are often ignored in their entirety.

A solid grounding in research, providing a curiously parallel track of the lives of these two women allows the reader to enhance their knowledge of some key players in the Revolution, from a different perspective; bringing freshness to the male-dominated history that we are all familiar with.

I don’t know that I saw either woman as particularly defiant, perhaps in marrying beneath their established social strata, or in their determination to persevere all the challenges thrown at them in their positions of helpmate and supporter of their husband’s activities.  While there is a subtle lean on the part of the author to suggest Peggy Shipton Arnold is more deserving of recognition and a revamp of her image as wife of the most infamous traitor of the time, it did not distract from my reading. Perhaps it is so, far easier to be associated with a man and a name that is not reviled, but the relationship that was detailed between Lucy and Henry Knox was one that felt most modern and contemporary, despite the conventions of the day.

This book was an interesting read, providing volumes of information without reading like a history text: annotations are peppered throughout and give additional information, while the reproductions of portraits give face to the people featured in the book.  The deft handling of the two stories, to compare and contrast their lives serves to enhance both their stories and is an elegant introduction to their lives.

I received an eBook copy from the Publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

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