About America's First Daughter
In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph—a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.
From her earliest days, Patsy Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate, protector, and constant companion in the wake of her mother’s death, traveling with him when he becomes American minister to France.
It is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of revolution, that fifteen-year-old Patsy learns about her father’s troubling liaison with Sally Hemings, a slave girl her own age. Meanwhile, Patsy has fallen in love—with her father’s protégé William Short, a staunch abolitionist and ambitious diplomat. Torn between love, principles, and the bonds of family, Patsy questions whether she can choose a life as William’s wife and still be a devoted daughter.
Her choice will follow her in the years to come, to Virginia farmland, Monticello, and even the White House. And as scandal, tragedy, and poverty threaten her family, Patsy must decide how much she will sacrifice to protect her father's reputation, in the process defining not just his political legacy, but that of the nation he founded.
It was my haste that made me stumble halfway down the stairs. Only a wild, wrenching grasp at the carved wooden rail saved me from a broken neck. Alas, the heavy fall of my feet echoed up the staircase and drew my father from his rooms.
“Patsy?” he called, peering over the bannister.
I froze, breathless, my belly roiling with shock and anger and revulsion. I ought to have pretended that I didn’t hear him say my name. I ought to have hurried on, leaving him with only the sight of my back. I ought never to have looked up at him over my shoulder.
But I did look up.
There on the landing my father loomed tall, a tendril of his ginger hair having come loose from its ribbon, his shirt worn without its neck cloth, the stark white linen setting off more vividly the red flush that crept up his throat. Was it shame for his behavior with Sally or . . . ardor?
On the heels of giving witness to his behavior, the thought was so excruciatingly horrifying that heat swept over me, leaving me to wish I’d burn away to dust.
“Are you hurt?” Papa asked, hoarsely.
I couldn’t reply, my mouth too filled with the bitter taste of bile. Finally, I forced a shake of my head.
He glanced back to the door, then back at me, his hand half-covering his mouth. “Were—were you at my door just now?”
“No,” I whispered, as much as I could manage under my suffocating breathlessness. And how dare he ask if I’d been at his door when neither of us could bear the honest answer? Even if Papa didn’t know what I’d seen, he knew what he’d done.
He ought to have been downstairs with us, reacquainting himself with the little daughter who still didn’t remember him. He ought to have been sipping cider with the young man who fancied me, giving his permission to court. He ought to have been doing a hundred other things. Instead, he was preying upon my dead mother’s enslaved half-sister—and the wrongness of it filled my voice with a defiant rage.
“No, I wasn’t at your door.” I held his gaze, letting him see what he would.
My father paused on the precipice, clearing his throat, absently smearing the corner of his lips with one thumb. “Well—well. . .did you need something?” As if my needs were at the forefront of his thoughts.
My fingers curled into fists as a lie came to me suddenly, and sullenly. “I was coming up to fetch my prayer book.” Surely he knew it was a lie, but I didn’t care. If he challenged me, I’d lie again, without even the decency of dropping my eyes. I’d lie because between a father and a daughter, what I’d witnessed was unspeakable. And I’d learned from the man who responded with silence to my letters about politics or adultery or the liberation of slaves. . . .
Papa never spoke on any subject he didn’t want to.
Neither would I.
“Are you certain you weren’t hurt,” Papa finally murmured, “ . . . on the stairs?”
Rage burned inside me so hotly I thought it possible that my handprint might be seared upon the railing. I bobbed my head, grasped my skirt, and took two steps down before my father called to me again.
I couldn’t face him, so I merely stopped, my chest heaving with the effort to restrain myself from taking flight. “What?”
A heavy silence descended. One filled with pregnant emotion. I feared he might be so unwise as to attempt to explain himself, to justify or confess his villainous lapse in judgment, but when he finally spoke, it was only to ask, “What of your prayer book?”
Swallowing hard, I forced words out despite the pain. “I’ve reconsidered my need of it. I’m not as apt as some people to forget what it says.”
Advanced Praise for America’s First Daughter
“America’s First Daughter brings a turbulent era to vivid life. All the conflicts and complexities of the Early Republic are mirrored in Patsy’s story. It’s breathlessly exciting and heartbreaking by turns-a personal and political page-turner.” (Donna Thorland, author of The Turncoat)
“Painstakingly researched, beautifully hewn, compulsively readable -- this enlightening literary journey takes us from Monticello to revolutionary Paris to the Jefferson White House, revealing remarkable historical details, dark family secrets, and bringing to life the colorful cast of characters who conceived of our new nation. A must read.” (Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Accidental Empress)
About Stephanie Dray
STEPHANIE DRAY is an award-winning, bestselling and two-time RITA award nominated author of historical women’s fiction. Her critically acclaimed series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into eight different languages and won NJRW's Golden Leaf. As Stephanie Draven, she is a national bestselling author of genre fiction and American-set historical women's fiction. She is a frequent panelist and presenter at national writing conventions and lives near the nation's capital. Before she became a novelist, she was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the stories of women in history to inspire the young women of today.
About Laura Kamoie
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