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The Traitor's Wife

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A riveting historical novel about Peggy Shippen Arnold, the cunning wife of Benedict Arnold and mastermind behind America's most infamous act of treason . . .
Everyone knows Benedict Arnold--the Revolutionary War general who betrayed America and fled to the British--as history's most notorious turncoat. Many know Arnold's co-conspirator, Major John Andre, who was apprehended with Arnold's documents in his boots and hanged at the orders of General George Washington. But few know of the integral third character in the plot: a charming young woman who not only contributed to the betrayal but orchestrated it.

Socialite Peggy Shippen is half Benedict Arnold's age when she seduces the war hero during his stint as military commander of Philadelphia. Blinded by his young bride's beauty and wit, Arnold does not realize that she harbors a secret: loyalty to the British. Nor does he know that she hides a past romance with the handsome British spy John Andre. Peggy watches as her husband, crippled from battle wounds and in debt from years of service to the colonies, grows ever more disillusioned with his hero, Washington, and the American cause. Together with her former love and her disaffected husband, Peggy hatches the plot to deliver West Point to the British and, in exchange, win fame and fortune for herself and Arnold.

Told from the perspective of Peggy's maid, whose faith in the new nation inspires her to intervene in her mistress's affairs even when it could cost her everything, The Traitor's Wife brings these infamous figures to life, illuminating the sordid details and the love triangle that nearly destroyed the American fight for freedom.

496 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2014

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About the author

Allison Pataki

12 books2,171 followers

Her work has been translated into more than a dozen languages, has been featured on The TODAY Show, The NY Times, The Huffington Post, USA Today, FOX News, Morning Joe, and more.

Visit AllisonPataki.com to connect and find out more.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,372 reviews
Profile Image for Annette.
742 reviews321 followers
December 30, 2021
Philadelphia, PA, 1778. Clara Bell arrives at the Shippen mansion, house of the famous Judge Edward Shippen, to be the lady’s maid. As she chaperones Miss Peggy to a social gathering, she is approached by Robert Balmor, secretary to Major John Andre.

When the French become a threat to the British navy, the Crown decides to abandon the city of Philadelphia. Miss Peggy had her eyes on Major Andre, but since Americans took over the city under the control of Major General Benedict Arnold, Peggy takes interest in Arnold now.

Benedict Arnold betrayed America and fled to the British. His conspirator was Major John Andre. Those are the two well-known figures behind the betrayal. The lesser-known and the integral character in the plot was a charming young woman.

Peggy is spoiled and self-indulgent, which is very well-presented in this story. Her manipulative side comes through in the second part of the book. The first hundred pages are dedicated to two balls and the self-absorption of Peggy. There is a lot about her and her dresses. I wished that her cunning personality was the center of the story from the beginning.

The story is certainly written by a very talented writer. The prose is enjoyable, but I found the pace slow.

P.S. Highly recommend this author’s upcoming book The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post.
Profile Image for Historical Fiction.
919 reviews577 followers
February 17, 2014
Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

I was more than a little excited when I first stumbled across Allison Pataki's The Traitor's Wife. Though familiar with the story of Benedict Arnold's betrayal, I'd never read a fictional account of it and couldn't believe my luck when Howard Books approved my request for an ARC four months before its Feb. 2014 release date.

Looking back on that enthusiasm makes it hard admit, but I'm a reviewer and can't deny this debut wasn't as satisfying as I'd hoped it'd be. Though I enjoyed Pataki's keen understanding of the historic subject matter, the book itself left me confused and bewildered.

Peggy Shippen is the obvious center of this piece which is why I was disappointed with the lack of clarity in her character. There are a handful of moments in which she is as astute as Abigail Adams and as seductive as much speculated widow of Mount Holly, but these are largely overshadowed by episodes of spoiled self-indulgence and pathetically infantile outbursts. Maybe it is just me, but the inconsistency in her manner, personality and personal motivations undermined the authenticity of Pataki's portrayal and often left me wondering if the author had a definitive idea of who this woman was and the role she played in the conspiracy.

I had similar difficulty with Clara. I don't think the audience is ever afforded a real understanding of Peggy's confidant and that made it hard to connect with her on an emotional level. Perhaps I've been spoiled by maids such as Hannah in Philippa Gregory's The Queen's Fool or Barbara in Eva Stachniak's The Winter Palace, but I genuinely feel The Traitor's Wife would be a stronger piece if more effort had been put into developing Clara outside the Shippen and Arnold households.

Characterization issues plagued the supporting cast as well, but I think I've said enough on that particular subject and there is another aspect I want to touch on before wrapping up. The atmosphere, dialogue and values depicted in these pages did not feel authentic to colonial American culture. I don't know if this was an intentional decision meant to benefit Pataki's readers or indicative of the author's inexperience as a writer of historic fiction, but either way I didn't expect to this piece to be quite so theatrical and fluffy.

I recognize I read an ARC edition of The Traitor's Wife and that the finished publication may differ dramatically, but I'm not entirely convinced four months of spit and polish will rectify all of my concerns and though I certainly appreciate the book as light historic fiction, I'm not sure I would recommend it to those looking for a deeply compelling narrative of the conspiracy that might have crushed the revolution and the ambitious dreams of America's founding fathers.
Profile Image for Doris.
Author 26 books8 followers
April 7, 2014
I was particularly interested in reading this book as I live in the Hudson Valley region of NY, where part of the story takes place. And I've read some brilliant historical fiction; unfortunately, this book did not measure up.
I found the cast of characters to be two dimensional and quite dull (Peggy, on the other hand, was so colorful she strayed into the stereotypical). Clara's colorless persona set the tone (as first and third person narrator) and nearly all of the plot unfolded through her eyes (when they weren't downcast). But for some of Peggy's scheming dialogue, the majority of it lacked luster and was full of missed opportunities to add life and breadth and depth to the characters portrayed here.
The historical facts I found intriguing and thought the cover was fabulous but there was a lot of unmet potential in between.
Profile Image for Katherine.
768 reviews346 followers
December 6, 2017
”’If you can’t break the rules, you might as well seduce the man who makes them.’”

Synopsis: Never underestimate the power of a spoiled brat who doesn’t get what she wants.

Peggy, Please Throw Away Your Shot… and the Wine Bottle: Nothing like a glass of wine at breakfast to keep Peggy Shippen Arnold powered through the day. The aforementioned spoiled brat in the synopsis, she’s the daughter of a highly respected judge and future wife of Benedict Arnold (though she would really rather bone John Andre). Fanatically supportive of the Loyalist cause in the Revolutionary War, she marries Benedict Arnold as a means to an end in order to sway him to the Loyalist cause without him knowing it. Peggy is actually much more than a spoiled brat because while her intentions for the Loyalist cause are rather horrible in their reasoning, she’s actually quite a good strategist. She’s completely on par with her husband and if she had the chance, she would’ve been a great military commander. For all her spoiled ways and selfish endeavors, she’s deliciously conniving. Some readers may find her annoying, but the author made her fascinating to me.

Beware the Quiet Ones: Despite this novel being about Peggy Shippen, the author decided to tell her story from a fictional servant’s standpoint. And despite being given a name more fitting to a milk cow than an actual person, Clara Bell (yes, that’s her God given name), plays a pivotal, albeit fictional role, in the exposition of Benedict Arnold’s plan to betray the nation. I don’t know why people who have servants think that they’re invisible, but they aren’t. They actually kind of, ya know, hear everything you say, BELIEVE IT OR NOT. Clara probably had the most character development, with her starting as a meek, mild servant who probably couldn’t say boo to a goose to finally standing up for herself to the whiny entity that is Peggy. While I occasionally thought that Clara’s viewpoint was lacking and questioned whether or not it was necessarily needed, it did succeed in the author’s purpose of giving us an unbiased perspective of Peggy.

Do You Wanna Build a Spy Ring?: But just as Clara Bell was there to give us an unbiased viewpoint, I did feel that it took some things away from the novel. Such as the inner workings of the spy ring plot that consisted of John Andre, Benedict, and Peggy. We get a lot of upstairs/downstairs scenes, but not enough actual plotting out spying scenes, from my perspective. John Andre is given far too few scenes, which is kind of shame considering how important a role he played in Peggy’s mind and heart. The final act where they meet for the last time and the plot being foiled felt really rushed and pushed aside for more downstairs drama. The buildup to the actual treachery was done excellently. The final product, not so much.

Love and Seduction Are In the Air: And you thought those Revolutionaries were such prudes, didn’t you? There’s so much lurve in the air it’s a wonder there was any fighting to be had. Some of them were misplaced (what the heck was that ill-fated, totally misplaced flirtation/romance with Clara and Andre’s helper?), some of them misguided by ill-intentions (Peggy probably didn’t love Arnold for actually being him). And some of them are just plain sweet (Clara Bell and Caleb Little, if he ever managed to get the gerddarn stick of straw out of his mouth). Perhaps the two romances that are given the most time are Peggy and Benedict’s and Clara and Caleb’s. Clara and Caleb’s is a drawn out ‘will they or won’t they, please just tell him’ type of romance, but Caleb’s so damn likable that you’ll forgive Clara’s extremely feeble attempts to unjustify her feelings for him.

Men Never Cease to Amaze Me: In the sense that the Benedict Arnold in this book has been turned into a sniveling, groveling dish rag. At least here in America, he’s always been portrayed as this larger than life, charismatic man who just so happened to be a traitor. But here, he’s at the complete mercy of Peggy to the point where she almost breaks him down to nothing. It was startling to read, but may I confess that it was kind of nice to believe that, at least in this fictional sense, he got schooled. YAS.
For anyone still going through serious Hamilton withdrawals, this book should help ease the pain. With taut characters and an interesting perspective into a well-known yet seemingly archaic scandal, the story of the real traitor to the nation is told in a way that will have you flipping the pages long after told yourself you’d read just one more chapter

And just as Peggy seduced the general who made the rules, she'll seduce you with her seemingly selfish but deliciously wicked ways.
Profile Image for Tracy.
537 reviews44 followers
June 29, 2018
This was a fantastic book! I had never heard of Peggy Shippen and had no idea the part she played in Benedict Arnold's treason during the American Revolution.

This story was very well written and had me absorbed into it! I so wanted Peggy to get what she deserved, but at least her servants were able to break free in the end.

I appreciated the author's note at the end regarding what was historically accurate and what was fiction. Amazing how much of it was true!

This is my third book by this author and definitely a favorite! I look forward to more books by her!
Profile Image for Madilyn.
27 reviews3 followers
September 6, 2016
I was really disappointed in this book. I usually love historical fiction that is based off of real life events. I like getting a new perspective on the characters situation. But this book was one of those that I just couldn't wait to finish so that I could be done with it. I was expecting something a little less . . . vulgar. Though I didn't expect Peggy to be portrayed as a nice person, (she is the wife of a traitor, after all), I most certainly didn't expect to find such a tramp in the lead role of this novel. She had no shame! I'm not ashamed to admit that I flipped over a few pages to avoid some rather crude scenes. I will never read anything by this author in the future. Now, that being said, there were a few good things about this book. For one, I loved the historical aspect of it (I'm a sucker for historical fiction, as I mentioned earlier), and the second thing is that Peggy, although ruthless, selfish and bratty (amongst other things), had a soft spot for her maid, Clara. It seemed that the few scenes that I saw Peggy's "good side" were the ones that she shared with her maid/confident. It made her seem like there was a heart deep down in the abyss of her soul after all. Peggy really was a despicable character. If you want to draw in a reader, allow them to see things from a good guys perspective. I was miserable the entire time I spent reading this book because there was practically NO good in it! (Except towards the end where Clara gave Peggy what-for and held her accountable for her actions). I really can't think of anything else to say about this book. I'm sorry if this review offends anyone (sort of), but hey, it's my honest opinion. Bottom line: don't read this book. Ever.

~The Literary Maidens

Note: I was provided with a free copy of this book by Howard Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion, and I was not further reimbursed. All thoughts expressed above are completely my own and unbiased.

Profile Image for Lori Elliott (catching up).
724 reviews1,764 followers
April 15, 2014
I have to admit that I really didn't know much about Benedict Arnold except that he betrayed America in the Revolution... and whether this was entirely historically accurate it still peaked my interest in finding out more about Arnold and his wife!!! Loved Clara and was so glad the story was told from her point if view... no one sees and hears more than an 'invisible' person!!! I also really liked Peggy... she was a master manipulator and a really fun character to root against!!! I wonder how Old Benny would have fared if he'd never been smitten by 'Miss' Shippen... guess we'll never know!!! Overall, a very entertaining read!!!
Profile Image for Jocelyn Green.
Author 28 books1,187 followers
July 4, 2021
Well written and fascinating. The title's namesake, Peggy Shippen Arnold, seems to have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I disliked her immensely, but the character of her maid, Clara, helped balance her out in this reading experience. In fact, this book reminded me a little of Gone with the Wind in that I really don't like Scarlett O'Hara either, and yet these characters must be who they are. Especially in this case, since Peggy was a historical character. I sort of wish there was a sliver of her I could have related to, but I couldn't. She was just a hot mess.

But the book itself was interesting and worth reading for a better understanding of Benedict Arnold. In fact, Peggy may not be sympathetic, but the novel helps us at least understand where Benedict was coming from.
Profile Image for Linda.
1,192 reviews1,243 followers
January 25, 2016
I was really looking forward to reading The Traitor's Wife. I absolutely love historical fiction. This one seems to miss the mark. It's not that it isn't an entertaining read. I suppose it all depends on your expectations as you enter into the story. If you enjoy romance novels, then this one fits the bill for you. The depiction of Peggy Shippen as solely a spoiled, self-indulged, demanding woman makes for good copy, but it really doesn't hold enough interest. Peggy had to be far more than that to turn the heads of John Andre and Benedict Arnold. Beauty can only do so much. I wish that Allison Pataki would have delved into Peggy's manipulative intelligence and her crafty analytical skills. Peggy is painted as a whiney brat who always got her way. She, obviously, was far more than that. She was not a victim of her circumstances. She set up situations to benefit herself and her station in life. The character of Clara seemed too modern day in her thinking and her involvement in what seemed to be "double dating" with her mistress, Peggy. In using Clara's viewpoint, emotions, and observations, we lose the core of Peggy. And isn't that what we envisioned upon turning the first page of this novel?
Profile Image for Vaida.
121 reviews2 followers
March 20, 2023
Tikrais istoriniais faktais ir asmenybėmis besipuošianti knyga nukėlė mane į XVIII amžiaus Jungtines Amerikos valstijas. Knygos pagrindinė veikėja - Pegė Šipen-Arnold - vaizduojama kaip stipri, visuomet savo pasiekianti, aikštinga, drąsi viliokė, aplink pirštą apsukanti ne vieną vyrą. Jos didžiajai meilei - Džonui Andrė - pasitraukus į Niujorką, į valdžią ateina žymus karo dalyvis Benediktas Arnoldas. Kadangi Pegė siekė gyventi linksmai, smagiai ir prabangiai, greitai žymusis karininkas jai pasiperša. Tačiau aplinkybės susiklosto kitaip - ištekėjus už Benedikto, jų šeimą užklumpa negandos ir nepriteklius. Norėdama turtų ir linksmybių, Pegė paskatina vyrą imtis netikėtų veiksmų. Kadangi visas veiksmas vystomas per Pegės tarnaitės Klaros žvilgsnį, tai natūralu, kad šalia pagrindinės siužeto linijos yra vaizduojamas ir tarnų gyvenimas ir įvairūs vingiai.
Įdomiausia man buvo, kiek tikri yra šie knygoje aprašyti įvykiai, o knygos pabaigoje autorė savo interviu pabrėžia, kad tokia asmenybė - Pegė Šipen - tikrai gyveno ir įvairūs surinkti faktai liudija, kad tikrai ji galėjo būti panaši asmenybė, kokia ir yra vaizduojama knygoje. Teksto stilius - patiko. Man priminė „Džeinės Air“ ar „Puikybės ir prietarų“ formatus, o šie tekstai man paliko įspūdį.
Lengvas, istoriniais faktais pagrįstas kūrinys vis šviesėjantiems pavasario vakarams - pats tas.
Profile Image for Kathleen (Kat) Smith.
1,612 reviews81 followers
February 7, 2014
I remember reading about Benedict Arnold in high school and all I can remember even now was that he was a traitor to this country. I had forgotten the circumstances surrounding the details of his betrayal to this country during the American Revolution as we were fighting the British to declare our freedom from King George. What's even more remarkable is the novel from author Allison Pataki that takes all her research into the events surrounding Benedict Arnold and George Washington and filling in the rest with some amazing insight as told from the lady's maid perspective to Margaret Stippen-Arnold, Benedict's wife.

In this novel, we meet Clara Bell who is arriving at the Shippen household to serve as a lady's maid for the two daughters of Judge Stippen, Margaret, the youngest, and Betsy who is engaged to be married. Only Margaret, also known as Peggy believes that since Betsy is already engaged, she doesn't need the help to prepare for social outings as much as she does and commands that Clara work exclusively for her needs. Betsy doesn't seem to mind much and soon Peggy is the belle of the ball. Only her rival Meg Chew is vying for the attention of the same man she is interested in John Andrè, who likes playing them both against each other.

But Peggy believes she has the advantage on her side as long as she is willing to comprise some of her lady-like standards to keep Johnny interested in her much to the dismay of Clara and her parents. But when the war begins to move closer to home, and requires that John Andrè leave for the North, Peggy is heartbroken until she gains the attention of Major General Benedict Arnold who is completely captivated by this eighteen-year-old beauty. Peggy believes that in order to escape the confines of her restrictive household she will stop at nothing including attracting the attention of a man who is twice her age to get what she wants, money, power and a place above everyone else. With Benedict Arnold having closed all the stores in Philadelphia to prevent the goods that were shipped from London from being sold and the money going back to aid the King, he begins to smuggle the merchandise up North to make a tidy profit for himself.

Soon Clara finds herself in the middle of what could be considered treason but has no one to tell. She is just a servant in the household and who would believe her story over that of a decorated General and his soon to be wife. What's worse is the more Peggy tries to manipulate the situation with Arnold to gain what she believes she is due in the world, when things don't go her way, she takes her frustration out on Clara. But with no where to go if she leaves the household as a maid, she knows she must bide her time until she can find a way to help her country before she is found guilty of aiding in their treason attempts with what she knows.

I received The Traitor's Wife by Allison Pataki compliments of Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster Publishers for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own. Being a fan of Downton Abbey, I love how Allison chose to use the maid's perspective of the historical facts to bring this story to life in her debut novel. Interwoven beautifully into this story are the real facts about the betrayal of Arnold's service to this country as well as the role Margaret Shippen-Arnold truly played in this event. I applaud her diligence to the research it took to bring this into a masterful novel that keeps the reader both entertained and captivated by the events. There is even a discussion guide included in the back that is perfect for book clubs as well as the details and research it took in creating this novel. I easily give this novel at 5 out of 5 stars and will definitely be looking for more of Allison Pataki's novels in the future.
Profile Image for Paul Pessolano.
1,327 reviews39 followers
January 17, 2014
“The Traitor’s Wife” by Allison Pataki, published by Howard Books.

Category – Historical Fiction/Romance Publication Date – February 11, 2014.

“The Traitor’s Wife” is very low on historical accuracy but very high on romance. The story is based on Peggy Shippen who married Benedict Arnold and was able to convince him that his country had betrayed him and that he therefore should have no qualms about betraying his country.

Peggy Shippen was the daughter of Judge Shippen of Philadelphia, one would be better to say that she was the very spoiled daughter of Judge Shippen. Philadelphia, at the time, was under British control and Peggy was a top socialite who championed the British cause and was a favorite of Major John Andre.

The story is told through the eyes of Clara Belle (sorry could not help thinking of the clown on Howdy Doody) who was the maid to Miss Peggy (sorry but could not help thinking of Miss Piggy). Clara became such a part of Peggy and Benedict’s lives that she was privy to their plot to overthrow the fledging colonist movement. When the British abandoned Philadelphia the high society life enjoyed by Peggy came to an abrupt end, that is, until she sought the favor of General Benedict Arnold. Arnold, who came completely under the spell of Peggy, is convinced by her that his country had betrayed him and that he should betray his country. This, of course, was her scheme to improve her social status and get back in favor of the British.

Clara, who knows of the plot, confines in Caleb Little, a stable boy for the Shippens who has now become a colonial soldier, and possible beau to Clara.

A very good story for those looking for a romantic novel loosely based on historical fact.
Profile Image for Susanne.
361 reviews16 followers
January 17, 2016
I WANTED to like this book, because it was recommended by a person I like and admire -- but it was hard to get past the depiction of Benedict Arnold's wife as a patently cardboard villainess. Peggy Shippen Arnold was imagined to out-Scarlet Scarlet O'Hara -- has any character ever been more mean, petty, and self-centered than this? {Plus she likes sex and is immodest -- gasp. Author Pataki paints her with a VERY broad brush.) The actual facts of the tale of Benedict Arnold's duplicity seem to measure up pretty well with the historical record, but I surely wished for more nuance and subtlety than I got here.
Profile Image for Marlene.
2,842 reviews191 followers
February 2, 2014
Originally published at Reading Reality

The Traitor’s Wife is the best kind of historical fiction; the story feels true even though the reader knows that there isn’t any way to verify how people felt, or what they said in every conversation.

You end up wanting this to be the real story. And maybe it is.

History is so often written from the perspective of the men who seem to be the prime movers and shakers, but, history is written by the victors. For much of history, women were put on a pedestal and kept in their place. That place was not supposed to be in battle, in government or in writing the history books.

The Traitor’s Wife sees that key betrayal of the American Revolution from the point of view of the woman who caused it, and the woman who prevented it.

We all know the story of Benedict Arnold, and his betrayal of the Revolutionary cause. His name has become a byword for treachery. What makes The Traitor’s Wife such a fascinating story is that it isn’t Arnold’s story--it’s his wife’s story.

Also that it is not the tale of her view of her husband’s treason--it’s the story of how she encouraged and aided that treachery. Historical records show that Peggy Shippen Arnold was part of the plot, but they don’t tell us why.

This is a fascinating version of events, because it doesn’t just put Peggy Arnold at the center, but it explains why she did it. More than plausibly, and in a way that rivets the attention.

Peggy is seen through the eyes of her maid, Clara Bell. Clara may not have existed in real life, but she should have. She sees her mistress much more clearly than the men she manipulated.

Clara is the heroine of this tale. While the Arnolds and their conspirators forget that the maid is even in the room, Clara hears and sees everything, and risks her life to assist the Revolution.

So Clara is the person we follow. She starts out as a young woman awed by the splendor of the Shippen household after her impoverished childhood. She bears the brunt of Peggy Shippen’s cruelty, and quietly resists, until she can find a way to make her resistance count.

Escape Rating B+: There are two women at the center of this story; Peggy and Clara. They end up as counterpoint to one another; Peggy is cruel and manipulative to the point of being almost a caricature, and Clara seems to be a bit too good to be true.

It is easy to cast this tale as the fall of Peggy into the depths which we feel she deserves, and the rise of Clara to independence, freedom and true love. Poor Benedict Arnold ends up as the stock character of the foolish older husband manipulated by his beautiful and charismatic young wife.

Except for the introduction of Clara, that could be the true narrative. That’s what makes The Traitor’s Wife so compelling. It feels right.
Profile Image for Natasa.
1,178 reviews
July 3, 2020
This book is well researched, so if you enjoy historical fiction, you will probably find this an enjoyable read. It is written from the perspective of Peggy Arnold’s servant, Clara. It develops a fresh perspective on Benedict Arnold and why he became a traitor in the American Revolution, largely because of the demands and manipulation of his wife.
Profile Image for Caroline Wilson.
Author 1 book8 followers
February 3, 2014
**Appears in the February 2014 edition of the Historical Novel Review**

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.

For more reviews, please visit my website: www.carolinewilsonwrites.blogspot.com
Profile Image for Aimee.
457 reviews48 followers
August 14, 2016
Everyone knows the story of Benedict Arnold and I was thrilled to get to read this book and get a more detailed look at the events that turned this man into a traitor. Pataki did not disappoint with a great story that kept me reading well into the night.

The story is told through the eyes of Clara, the maid to Arnold's wife Peggy. Clara is strong, intelligent, and has the unenviable job of looking after one of the most selfish women I have ever read in a book. Pataki does a great job of bringing out Peggy's character, her ability to be deceptive or to play innocent, to be seductive or harsh, whatever the situation warranted for Peggy to get her way. I was fascinated with her ability to get Arnold to do anything she wanted.

The book is also filled with lots of historical details that really added to the book. There are great descriptions of the homes, the parties, the food served, and the clothes worn that really helped to put you in Revolutionary times.

If you are a historical fiction fan I would highly recommend this one. It is one of the better historical fiction books I have read recently. Even if you are not a big historical fiction reader I think this would still be an enjoyable read because of the great characters and an interesting story.
Profile Image for Jeannette Dilouie.
Author 16 books8 followers
May 17, 2015
I'm not trying to be a jerk, but the fact that this book has such a high rating doesn't say anything good about the educational levels of its readers.

I enjoyed myself well enough for the first half, despite how the characters use each other's names practically EVERY time they address someone... how small historical and character details were out of place (e.g. on one page, the love interest's hair color is described as "dark blond," while on the very next page, his hair is described as "light brown")... and how some of the characters' mood swings were intense, unrealistic and unexplained.

But by the time I was down to the last third, I was just reading to get it over with already. John Andre wasn't portrayed accurately at all. Nor was Benedict Arnold (the author could never decide whether he was an utter egomaniac or a clueless simpleton who could watch his wife and co-conspirator shamelessly flirt under his nose without getting suspicious). And heroine Clara Bell's involvement in the plot became more and more unbelievable with every new twist.

I'm pretty sure that any editors involved in this book were told to play nice instead of do their job since the author is the daughter of a former New York governor.
Profile Image for Lisa Johnson.
2,577 reviews37 followers
February 7, 2014
Title: The Traitor’s Wife
Author: Allison Pataki
Pages: 496
Year: 2014
Publisher: Howard Books
What a riveting, suspenseful and thoroughly entertaining novel! When I approach a historical novel of this magnitude, I usually read the author’s notes on the research that sometimes details which characters are from reality and those which are purely fiction. One reason I do that is so as I am reading, I can savor the richness of both the history shared along with the imagination of the writer. While I remember that Benedict Arnold was a traitor who was willing to hand over West Point to the British, there is more to the facts than I recalled.
Another reason I read the notes first is to attempt to glean the depth of the story based on the length the writer goes to in order to unearth fact. Finally, the last reason I read the back first is to see if there are other notable books I might desire to obtain on the subject matter. What Allison Pataki writes in the back is for the audience to read on their own time the knowledge and sources shared by Allison.
While many may approach this tale with more knowledge than I or less will in no way make the reading of the book less enjoyable. I spent hours just turning pages, trying to imagine what life was like in the past for both the servants and those of means. What was it like to have war on this soil in this country that I love with all my heart? What would it be like to be the maid in service of a self-absorbed woman who cared only for herself and not a whit about the men she claimed to love or the cost of freedom?
Part of the novel was just entrancing as I felt like an observer watching the main antagonist work cunningly to maneuver people to do the bidding necessary to bring to her what she wanted without care of family or friends. Then, I would come upon a scene and realize just how far removed the servants were thought to be from their masters and the many things they observed, heard or witnessed. Servants were treated as if they were property or merely shadows to do the master’s bidding. In this tale, Clara, the maid servant is becoming entangled in the treachery of her mistress.
The ending of the novel is bittersweet. For a debut novel, this author truly did her homework and took painstaking time paying attention to details of all different sorts related to this period of history. The details help the audience picture in their minds the setting and mannerisms of the era. It would indeed be a shame if anyone passed up reading a wonderful novel that reminds us all of how our choices not only affect the moment, but can have rippling consequences decades down the road.
My rating is 5 stars.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255. “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Other reviews can be read at http://seekingwithallyurheart.blogspo.... Also follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/lisa.johnson...
Profile Image for Sterlingcindysu.
1,314 reviews48 followers
October 23, 2017
2.5 rounded up. The good--great true-to-life characters, a beautiful cover and a relatively unknown bit of history. This was an extremely easy to read book and very little adult content, so it could have easily been classified as YA. (I put this in the good because it really boosted my yearly pages read stat.)

In historical fiction, the writer knows point A and point B, and the idea is to fill in the gap with what could have happened. Pataki (the daughter of NY governor George) writes a plot that has too many suspensions of disbelief and (I wish) lack of other historical facts...and that's too bad because there is a great story there. Pataki's afterword was more interesting than the novel.

The story is told through Clara, a new maid to Peggy Shippen and with her being a "ladies' maid" it's bogged down with way too many details of clothes and capital-C Champagne on every other page. Areas that just didn't make sense to me were

I would have liked much more military info, but I wonder if all the details on clothes and food were to bring in more female readers? I also would have liked more chapters of the life after, when they were in England, and information about BA's first marriage and children (which were never mentioned in the novel). Online I saw where BA may have had an illegitimate child later, in Canada. He may not have been the push-over we think he was!

I didn't realize her character was in Turn, Washington's Spies, so I may look for that series on demand.

Profile Image for Louise.
1,631 reviews284 followers
August 21, 2018
Allison Pataki re-invents the discovery and foil of Benedict Arnold’s treason plot by creating a role for a servant who observes all the planning. The plot is clever as are the descriptions of upstairs and downstairs life at the time.

The writing is simple, so it is easy to turn pages, which I did to see how Pataki would tie it all up.

Arnold is shown as sensitive and totally entranced by the young and beautiful Peggy Shippen. In his married life, there are glimmers of his differences with Peggy; but we do not see him turning back on the plot. Pataki holds Peggy as responsible for "Benny's" treason.

The irony of Major John Andre as the only one caught/punished is clearly shown.

To my knowledge, the book, with the exception of the insertion of the servants, follows the historical record.

The good points of the novel are poorly matched by the clichéd characters, the most stereotyped being the titled star: Peggy Shippen Arnold. She is haughty towards her sister, manipulates her parents, inconsiderate towards her servant(s), unabashedly flirts with whomever is available and lures her husband into great risk. Her looks and charms are praised continually which may be (or not) realistic for the chivalrous manners of the period, but it gets trite for the modern reader.

Clara, the Quigleys and Hannah are models servants and Caleb is a gallant suitor. Andre is a debonair soldier and a heart/breaking flirt.

Arnold has to be more complex than the man we see here. He was self-made, generous to his soldiers and a top notch strategic thinker. He is not shown as fully broken from the toll the Revolution took on his body, finances and pride. We see that he is souring on his wife. For the novel to fully work, the gap in Arnold's character as shown and the character's actions needs to be filled.
Profile Image for Jamie Lapeyrolerie .
517 reviews121 followers
February 24, 2016
It seems as though 2015 has been the year of “Let’s read and watch everything about the Revolutionary War.” From TURN on AMC (they changed the night it’s on, so sadly it doesn’t work to recap it on the blog) to books, to documentaries, seriously Internet, I feel like George and I are b/f/fs. This was a perfect read to feed my current obsession.

Peggy Shippen is awful in her treatment of other human beings. Spoiled, manipulative and caring only for herself, she’s one of those characters you truly want to slap. My book club had a fabulous discussion about her and I think it’s an accurate portrayal. People can really be that bad. I also believe there was more to Arnold becoming a turncoat and I wish more of that would have been in the book, but since this was a story about Peggy, I understand why the focus was on her role.

I thought Clara was an honest character as well. While it’s easy for me to think I would have gone all “guns a blazin” if I were her, I’m sitting in my comfy chair in 2015. Her struggle of what to do, in the place of a servant in a crazy time of change in our nation’s history would have been difficult, no doubt. I appreciated the struggle. Oh and I’m a fan of Cal. He’s an excellent character as well!

I’ve really enjoyed both her books (The Accidental Empress is her sophomore novel) and once again Pataki brings to life another woman who greatly impacted history.

Have you heard of Benedict Arnold and the infamous Peggy Shippen before? Do you watch TURN?

Originally posted at http://booksandbeverages.org/2015/06/...
Profile Image for Brandi (Rambles of a SAHM).
787 reviews30 followers
February 26, 2014
I am completely amazed that this is a first novel for Allison Pataki. She has taken a well known story and fleshed it out into an even more intriguing tale than we have all read about in our history textbooks.

When I think of Benedict Arnold it is often hard to fathom how he could be such a decorated war hero but in the end wind up being such a traitor to the country he fought so hard to defend. In The Traitor's Wife some of that mystery is revealed. Through the eyes of Clara, the trusted maid to Mrs. Peggy Arnold, we see just how much power a beloved wife can have over her husband.

Peggy is a very complex woman. On the outside she is very beautiful and alluring and knows exactly how to turn a head. On the inside she is scheming and deceitful and always plotting how to come out on top. The name Benedict Arnold may be synonymous with traitor, but the name of Peggy Arnold should hold equal weight.

For all lovers of historical fiction, this book is going to be a great delight. It is my hope that Ms. Pataki will continue to use her incredible talent to bring to light many more of our history's infamous characters and those that worked right along side them.

I received a copy of this book to facilitate my review.
Profile Image for Margaret.
1,150 reviews50 followers
June 20, 2019
I have had this book on my TBR pile since it was released back in 2014. Not knowing anything about Benedict Arnold I wanted to know his past and what he did to earn him the traitor title.

I have read the author’s subsequent books, The Accidentally Empress and Sisi both of which I enjoyed as well and her nonfiction Beauty in the Broken Places, as she talks candidly about her husband's stroke and the next year of their lives.

It’s 1778 when The Traitor’s Wife begins with a smattering of 1780 thrown in, told from the POV of Peggy Shippen’s maid/servant. If the author’s intent was to portray Peggy as a spoiled, self-indulgent immature girl (she was only 18 years old) then she did that spot on. I didn’t like her at all, her obsession with herself got on my nerves, as did the endless clothing discussions. The first 100 plus pages were devoted to 2 balls, making me glad I went the audio route - it might have been a dnf at that point. I know I am going against the flow with my feeling here but wouldn’t life be boring if we all shared the same thoughts.

While I did learn from this book, intrigued in the historical aspects and how it played out I felt it could have been a little shorter.

Profile Image for Magee.
21 reviews
June 11, 2015
The best thing I can say about this book is that I finished it, although there were plenty of times when I did not think I would. If you're a big fan of heady Historical Fiction full of facts and accurate portrayals of historical events, do not pick this book up. This book was short on historical facts, and long on cliches and heavy handed generalizations. Major characters had no depth; they were completely one dimensional (we get it, already, Peggy is the most cunning and the most beautiful and an utterly despicable, irredeemable human being, no gray area there). The narrator is almost without personality and vacillates between fretfulness, simpering subservience, and naivety. The dialogue was uneven and mostly unbelievable. The book does describe an actual, interesting historical event, and for me that was it's one saving grace and its probably the reason I finished it, but I would not recommend it.
Profile Image for Judith E.
531 reviews188 followers
January 28, 2018
A dialogue-heavy recounting of a 200 year old historical event, laden with silly romantic activities is too much to bear. It might appeal to a younger reader. DNF at 18%.
Profile Image for Julie.
841 reviews
November 14, 2021
Well, I waited a long time to read this and I kinda wished I waited some more. The whole storyline had so much promise. I just couldn’t get past the “oh me, oh my” constant tone of the writing. Clara shows herself to be strong, but spends so much of the time (frankly too repetitive) mooning over Cal, with his tousled blond hair and piece of straw hanging out of his mouth, he became a caricature for me. Peggy became a stereotype of the spoiled princess. It was just overdone and felt very surface, no depth.
Profile Image for Meg - A Bookish Affair.
2,444 reviews188 followers
November 29, 2018
"The Traitor's Wife" is the story of Clara, a maid to Peggy Shippen, who becomes Peggy Arnold, wife of Benedict Arnold, quite possibly the United States' greatest traitor. I hardly knew anything about Peggy Arnold and was intrigued about reading about what the wife of such an infamous man was like. Turns out, while she's fascinating, she is one of the "bad guys," too.

Peggy is pretty terrible but she's a character that you love to hate and this makes the book really entertaining. When we first meet her, Peggy isn't worried about the American Revolution. She really doesn't care about it but just hopes that it doesn't ruin all of the parties that she wants to go to. She's obsessed with minor things like the latest fashions and what handsome man she is going to sidle up to next. It was amazing how little she cared about the world around her, which makes it easy to see why she was so easily swayed to help Benedict do what he did.

The writing of the book was okay. I liked how it was written and I liked how the author foreshadowed the traitorous behavior to come later on in the book. I did have a bit of an issue with Clara, Peggy's maid. I understand the choice to tell the story through the eyes of Clara instead of perhaps the eyes of Peggy or Benedict. Clara is an innocuous character. She's nice enough but is a little bit flat throughout the book, which made it difficult to connect to her and care about her story outside of how it related to the Arnolds. She feels very much like only a conduit to telling the story rather than a stand alone character.
Profile Image for Emilee.
466 reviews88 followers
March 16, 2014
I really enjoyed reading this book. Early American history is fascinating. Pataki did a wonderful job bringing Peggy Shippen to life. She was a wicked women. She had a strong hold on her husband. I did feel a little sorry for Benedict Arnold but ultimately his own greed and lack of character took him down a very bad road. This is a fiction novel but many of the events in this book are true accounts. The story is told from the point of view of Peggy's maid, Clara. Her character was fun to follow. I appreciate that this was a "clean" book. I look forward to reading more historical fiction from Allison Pataki.
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