cover image Patriot Hearts: A Novel of the Founding Mothers

Patriot Hearts: A Novel of the Founding Mothers

Barbara Hambly, . . Bantam, $25 (430pp) ISBN 978-0-553-80428-7

Hambly (The Emancipator's Wife ) showcases three wives and one concubine who kept the founding fathers happy at home and handled a gauntlet of crises with grace and fortitude. Martha Washington followed George to his Revolutionary War battlefield headquarters, used Southern hospitality to ease the political turf wars that dogged the nascent union and bolstered the charismatic general-turned-president as he united a squabbling nation. Formidable Abigail Adams could dissect the politics of the new republic and shoot the breeze about "Voltaire, Cicero, and Plutarch" with her husband, John, but had to endure long absences from her beloved and her son Charley's early death. When the invading British set fire to the capital in 1814, charming Dolley Madison rescued important cabinet papers. Slave Sally Hemings suffered the jealousies of Patsy, master and lover Thomas Jefferson's daughter. This is less a dramatically tense novel than a set of discrete fictionalized portraits designed to give history's women their due. Though it's likely too slow for fans of Revolutionary War fiction and not steamy enough for historical romance buffs, it'll find a niche among readers of women's fiction. (Jan.)