The Traitor’s Wife

The Traitor's Wife: The Woman Behind Benedict Arnold and the Plan to Betray AmericaThe Traitor’s Wife: The Woman Behind Benedict Arnold and the Plan to Betray America by Allison Pataki

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m a bit torn in my review of this book. I enjoyed the historical background and the details of everyday life. The characters are well-done but a bit caricaturish. Peggy Shippen is portrayed as vain, shallow, and theatrical. I suspect the real Peggy Shippen had a lot more substance. Benedict Arnold is depicted as a besotted fool. Hard to believe this is the same man who was a true American hero, before his disillusionment and fall. Told from the point of view of Peggy’s maid, I enjoyed the upstairs/downstairs feel of the book, and the sweet love story that provides quite a contrast to the Arnold’s relationship. The plot points that make Clara into the heroine of the story were a bit contrived and unbelievable. But this is the kind of story I would have loved in high school or college. It would probably appeal to fans of Philippa Gregory. Great for period atmosphere and historical setting, but don’t mistake this for history. It celebrates modern patriotism, while glossing over the fact that the choices facing Benedict Arnold were not as black and white as they are portrayed.

Book Description: 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 André. 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.