The Traitor’s Wife
Beautiful. Tempestuous. Cunning. Peggy Shippen is all these things. As the reigning belle of Philadelphia society during the British occupation of 1778, she is admired by men and envied by women. First the lover of the notorious British spy John Andre, and then the wife of celebrated American general-turned-traitor Benedict Arnold, Peggy and her story are brought to life through the eyes of her loyal maid, Clara Bell.
The Traitor’s Wife is a refreshing departure from the typical royal-themed historicals pervading the market today. The upheaval caused by the American Revolution makes for fascinating reading, and yet Peggy Shippen has been little written about. Perhaps it is because she is not a sympathetic character, and this novel does nothing to disprove that notion. Nonetheless, Peggy’s magnetic ability to obtain her desires is vividly brought to life; the reader can almost imagine her melting gaze in the midst of her full-fledged assault on the brash, yet unassuming Benedict Arnold.
Unfortunately, this novel has some drawbacks. The story’s narrator, Clara Bell, has little depth. While generally loyal to Peggy, she floats along without much purpose beyond bemoaning her living conditions with the Arnolds and pining after Caleb Little, the Shippen family stable hand. Even when given a chance to make a difference, she agonizes over what to do. Additionally, there are numerous mistakes in the details of the period. Descriptions of clothing and customs are misrepresented throughout the novel.
However, it is clear that the author has a passion for the story of Peggy Shippen; she accomplishes the re-telling of the historical narrative very well. General historic fiction readers will enjoy the quick plotting and originality of the The Traitor’s Wife, but historical fiction purists may want to pass.