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Patriot Hearts: A Novel of the Founding Mothers

3.42  ·  Rating Details ·  483 Ratings  ·  105 Reviews
When Martha Dandridge Custis marries her second husband, George, she never suspects that the soft-spoken Virginia planter is destined to command the founding of a nation—or that she is to be “Lady Washington,” the woman at the first President’s side. Only a select inner circle of women will know the cost of sharing a beloved man with history . . . and each will draw streng ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published December 26th 2007 by Bantam (first published January 1st 2007)
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Tamora Pierce
Jan 16, 2009 Tamora Pierce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful portrayal of the women closest to our first four presidents: how they met, how they dealt with their men's rise to power in the fledgling United States, and how they dealt with the power struggles of the new country up to the War of 1812. Hambly has a genius for showing the telling details of everyday life that create pictures of worlds, societies, and the complex ties of emotion, politics, and obligation that build cities, families, and nations.

She also very vividly shows h
Patriot Hearts by Barbara Hambly about Dolley Madison, Martha Washington, Abigail Adams and Sally Hemings covers their lives from the 1770’s through 1814. The story jumps from one person to another, one time to another that it nearly gave me heart palpitations. Mind you, I like a book told during more than one time and from more than one perspective, however it has to be done cleanly and clearly so the reader can follow it or exquisitely as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Hambly isn’t Marquez.

This novel was obviously extremely well-researched, however, I believe this actually got in the way of the story. Hambly tries to cram to much erroneous information into the book and this, I believe, takes the attention and focus away from the true feelings and hardships of the Founding Mothers. She had lofty goals to tell the story of four very different woman and in the making of it, she loses the essence of each one. The book also switches perspective and time much too often and the reader is ...more
Apr 02, 2011 Ginger rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I liked the parts of this book dealing with Dolly Madison, Martha Washington, and Abigail Adams, but I didn't like how the author made a steamy romance between Sally Hemmings and Thomas Jefferson. I get that we don't know anything about their relationship, but I really liked that with all the other women the couples were allowed their privacy regarding their "relations", and I feel like it lessened the impact the book could have had by making a big romance for SH and TJ, rather than concentratin ...more
Laverne Sheehan
I thought I would just love. this book since I love history and historical fiction. It took me much too long to read. I seemed to lose interest in some of the characters. There were too many other individuals that were brought into the picture. I found the reading slow going. It didn't seem to flow like other fiction. Perhaps it was the going back and forth among the characters and from present to the past.
Aug 12, 2013 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Let's be honest: it was slow to start, and Dolley Madison's starting the story by reminiscing about objects that belonged to other first ladies seemed extremely gimmicky.
But then it got extremely interesting.
I felt like a true American patriot, crying my eyes out about the presidents on the bus. *grin-sigh*

EDIT: An important addition to this review.
Feb 25, 2009 Alli rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Great idea for the book. Lame way to put it together. I found it confusing and difficult to follow. I loved the history (and the info on what was real vs. fake) at the end of the book... but otherwise, not my favorite!
Was not interestingly written at all. Despite multiple efforts to read, I could not get through it. I am very much disappointed.
Sep 21, 2014 Chris rated it really liked it
For me, Hambly is always first a science fiction or fantasy author. This is because the first book I ever read by her was about a dragon that falls in love with a human. Her historical fiction, however, tends to be a cut above her sf/fantasy writing, though that implies that her work in that genre isn’t good. That’s not true; her work is usually excellent, even her work in Star Trek and Star Wars is above average.

But there seems to be a tad more passion or feeling in her historical fiction.

Jeannie Lee
Jul 30, 2010 Jeannie Lee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romance, history
I abolutely loved this book! I came to feel like I was one of Dolly Madison's close friends. What an amazing woman! I cried and felt her horrible shock and pain when she held her dying husband in her arms in front of her 3 year old son. The book is primarily told from Dolly Madison, as she was preparing to flee the Presidential Mansion before the British captured Washington and burnt it to the ground. The author also told the story from several other women's lives, and she even included Sally He ...more
Jan 20, 2011 Jacqie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Again, I'll read whatever Barbara Hambly writes. This one did not get picked up by me for a bit. Honestly, I was a bit afraid of the sweep of the book- the first four first ladies, no less! However, I was fascinated by learning more about these women. We get Martha Washington, conflicted about the time she spent away from her children to be with her husband during the war. Abigail Adams is perhaps the least well fleshed-out character, but perhaps that's because Hambly is now writing a mystery se ...more
May 18, 2013 Maria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hambly's novel intertwines the lives of Dolly Madison, Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Sally Hemmings, a British spy and a host of other people in believable ways that are not at all obvious when you read a "history" book. I particularly liked the manner in which Hambly dealt with Sally Hemmings' story, with charity for both Sally and for Jefferson too. (I get tired of the way people discuss Jefferson's relationship with Sally Hemmings. He was neither a saint nor a demon. He was a man, with hu ...more
Jul 23, 2011 Marcia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a historical fiction of the lives of the first four presidents' wives. In general it was well written and very interesting, but there were a few drawbacks for me. The author jumps back and forth between different characters and time periods making it a bit hard to follow. This was made all the worse by the fact that all the characters have multiple names (a given name, a name the are actually called by, and some other cutesie nickname). I think it would have been better have just started ...more
Mar 03, 2008 Megan rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. The characters are interesting and I could relate to them as mothers and wives. (How horrible to live during battles fought at your doorstep and yellow fever epidemics!) There are a lot of flashbacks (and flashforwards) but once I gave myself a quick review of US history (pre-revolution to just after the war of 1812...thanks Bill) it was easy enough to follow. I did refer often to the listing in the back of the book of who all the characters were...they all seeme ...more
May 14, 2012 Emily rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well, 2 stars might seem a little harsh. It wasn't a BAD book, I just didn't love it. A lot of the time I was reading it, I was thinking about abandoning it; let me tell you why. This is a historical fiction book about important women to the first few years of the USA; Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, and Sally Hemings. I think the reason I wasn't getting into it very well from the beginning is that there are so many side characters (of course, all of the womens' families and th ...more
May 11, 2008 Loni rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has been so fascinating and interesting! It's not an easy or quick read, but very worthwhile. It's about the Founding Mothers and their history, lives and the influence they had on our country. I've loved learning about what their lives were like especially about what it was like to be a mother and wife in their age. I highly recommend it for any woman to read. Although it takes place many years ago, it's very relevant and applicable to our struggles today. I learned a ton and apprecia ...more
Jun 13, 2016 Betsy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The more things change the more they stay the same. Fictionalized account of the first First Ladies. Really enjoyed this book!
Carol Naille
May 05, 2017 Carol Naille rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well researched and enjoyable read. Dolly Madison, Martha Washington,Abigail Adams,Sally Hemings become real people. They loved their husbands, their families and their country. The threat against democracy is ever present but we persist because we love our country and our families.
A good book if you like American history.
Feb 04, 2016 Patty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A novel, as the subtitle says, about the "Founding Mothers", which in this case means Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Sally Hemings and Dolly Madison.

There's two basic approaches to doing feminist history: you can show women participating in the same high-status activities as men (being soldiers, politicians, writers, etc), or you can take low-status activities traditionally assigned to women (raising children, caring for the sick, cooking food, organizing households) and insist that these to
Dec 28, 2007 Taylor rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I'm having a historical fiction kick right now. Really. I love (have always loved) history and the many stories that may or may not exist behind the facade of the historical text book. This book raised a lot of the questions that fuel that passion for historical fiction.

Hambly takes the reader through the pages of a history text into an adventure with the 3 Founding Mothers (Dolley Madison, Abigail Adams, and Martha Washington) and Thomas Jefferson's mistress/slave Sally Hemmings (side note - s
Nicole Brown
Jun 29, 2016 Nicole Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A fictionalized account of the extraordinary lives of four women: Martha Washingon, Abigail Adams, Sally Hemings, and Dolly Madison.

They said the Devil called you in the voices of your loved ones. What he offered you in trade for your soul was whatever you wanted.
-- Barbara Hambly (Patriot Hearts: A Novel of the Founding Mothers p 30)

…while one doesn’t always remember, one never forgets.
-- Barbara Hambly (Patriot Hearts: A Novel of the Founding Mothers p
Alexandria Brim
I absolutely adore this book. When I finish with books on my Kindle, I generally delete them. But this book never got deleted as I love to go back and reread different passages from time to time.

Hambly does a wonderful job weaving the four stories together. It's interesting to see where they intersect and how so, though Abigail Adams' story seems to do so less than Martha's, Sally's and Dolly's stories do. Hambly takes us through the country's crucial years from a different perspective.

I also
Dec 14, 2016 T rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating read. The title might have helped it sell, but it does the book little justice. I'm glad I picked it up thanks to the subtitle. Each of the four women speaks in her own unique and believable voice. Thoroughly researched, artfully written. Not the romance you might expect from the title.
Aug 08, 2008 Tristi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I hate to say this, but I didn't finish this book. It was well written, but the chronology was driving me insane. We start out with Dolley Madison and skitter back and forth through her life, then we go to Martha Washington in the next chapter and skitter back and forth throughout her life. Abigail Adams and Sally Hemings are also portrayed, all women I wanted to learn more about, but I never knew if I was coming or going or what time frame I was in. I'm probably just overly grumpy right now and ...more
Shelee Bush
Apr 09, 2010 Shelee Bush rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fictionalized account of 4 women in their real-time history spanning the revolutionary war and the days afterward. I love reading about strong women and these ladies lived in a time that required duty, sacrifice of personal happiness, and strict dedication to the cause of liberty and freedom. Though apparently this didn't mean freedom for all at the time, the founding fathers gave the constitution the foundation to right the wrongs of slavery and a devastating civil war years later se ...more
Dec 27, 2008 Alison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though all the founding mothers were not of the same political or religious belief, they were all remarkably full of faith in their God and love of their country. Each went about their service in a different way, but each of them sacrificed so much for our freedoms. How can you read a book like this and not feel gratitude and a desire to emulate them? I enjoyed how intertwined their worlds were despite living so far from each other. I loved that they were a support to one another and to their hu ...more
Jun 18, 2011 Terry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My initial acquaintance with Barbara Hambly was through her excellent fantasy novels and her historical novels about New Orleans. I appreciated the research she did and the care she took in illuminating the early history of the United States through the experiences of the women who influenced the first four presidents. Abigail Adams and Dolley Madison were the most compellingly drawn characters, while of the presidents, Thomas Jefferson fared the worst. It took 100 pages of so before the broken ...more
James Eckman
Apr 16, 2014 James Eckman rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This read a little bit too much like a history and not a work of fiction, not surprising, with the exception of Sally Hemmings, the main characters have extensive written materials so it's hard to play too fast with them. I think if the author had turned this into a straight history or used lesser known or fictional folks as the foreground characters it might have been a better read.

Her Benjamin January series is outstanding, if you like historical fiction, I recommend reading that. After readin
Jul 10, 2008 Jacki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All women

This book has been extremely fascinating and interesting! It's not what I would call an easy or quick read, but very worthwhile and informative. It's about the Founding Wives and their history, lives and the influence they had on our country during its infancy. I've enjoyed learning about what their lives were like especially about what it was like to be a mother and wife in their age. The struggles they went through and the things they had to endure are something I am glad I will (hopefully) ne
Sarah Hearn
Dec 17, 2016 Sarah Hearn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An interesting and well-written recounting of the lives of the women behind the Founding Fathers: Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, and Sally Hemings, the slave-concubine of Thomas Jefferson. In the year's between 1783 and 1815 when the US was struggling to establish itself and keep its feet in the aftermath of its own and the French Revolution, the women who were there, watched it all, supported and loved their men, but had no official voice - and in the case of Sally, no offici ...more
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aka Barbara Hamilton

Ranging from fantasy to historical fiction, Barbara Hambly has a masterful way of spinning a story. Her twisty plots involve memorable characters, lavish descriptions, scads of novel words, and interesting devices. Her work spans the Star Wars universe, antebellum New Orleans, and various fantasy worlds, sometimes linked with our own.

"I always wanted to be a writer but everyone
More about Barbara Hambly...

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“…while one doesn’t always remember, one never forgets.” 0 likes
“She understood that even the worst days contained only twenty-four hours. One did what one had to do to get through them, and afterwards, one slept.” 0 likes
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