19 reviews

America's First Daughter: A Novel
by Stephanie Dray, Laura Kamoie

Published: 2016-03-01
Paperback : 587 pages
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76 clubs reading this now
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Recommended to book clubs by 15 of 19 members

In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson's eldest daughter, Martha "Patsy" ...
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In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson's eldest daughter, Martha "Patsy" Jefferson Randolph--a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.

From her earliest days, Patsy Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson's oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate, protector, and constant companion in the wake of her mother's death, traveling with him when he becomes American minister to France.

It is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of revolution, that fifteen-year-old Patsy learns about her father's troubling liaison with Sally Hemings, a slave girl her own age. Meanwhile, Patsy has fallen in love--with her father's protégé William Short, a staunch abolitionist and ambitious diplomat. Torn between love, principles, and the bonds of family, Patsy questions whether she can choose a life as William's wife and still be a devoted daughter.

Her choice will follow her in the years to come, to Virginia farmland, Monticello, and even the White House. And as scandal, tragedy, and poverty threaten her family, Patsy must decide how much she will sacrifice to protect her father's reputation, in the process defining not just his political legacy, but that of the nation he founded.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.



It was my haste that made me stumble halfway down the stairs. Only a wild, wrenching grasp at the carved wooden rail saved me from a broken neck. Alas, the heavy fall of my feet echoed up the staircase and drew my father from his rooms. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1) If Thomas Jefferson's wife hadn't died, how might he and his daughter have lived different lives?
2) Was Jefferson a good father?
3) In what way did Patsy shape her father's legacy and our own?

Suggested by Members

Would Patsy's life had been different if she would not have made the deathbed promise to her Mom?
How did you view Patsy's love/adoration toward her father?
If Patsy would have married Willian Short, would she have been able to mold his career to a higher standing?
by theghostcouple@yahoo.com (see profile) 09/20/16

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

“America’s First Daughter brings a turbulent era to vivid life. All the conflicts and complexities of the Early Republic are mirrored in Patsy’s story. It’s breathlessly exciting and heartbreaking by turns-a personal and political page-turner.” — Donna Thorland, author of The Turncoat

“Painstakingly researched, beautifully hewn, compulsively readable -- this enlightening literary journey takes us from Monticello to revolutionary Paris to the Jefferson White House, revealing remarkable historical details, dark family secrets, and bringing to life the colorful cast of characters who conceived of our new nation. A must read.” — Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Accidental Empress

“[A] triumphant, controversial, and fascinating plunge into the complexities of Revolutionary America, where women held power in subtle ways and men hid dangerous secrets. You’ll never look at Jefferson or his legacy the same way again.” — C.W. Gortner, bestselling author of Mademoiselle Chanel

“Authors Dray and Kamoie have performed tireless research. Whether it’s detailing Patsy’s life as a debutante in Paris, where she dances with Lafayette and witnesses the first flickers of the French Revolution, or recounting the world of a Virginia plantation, they’ve done their homework.” — Kirkus Reviews

“This is a stunning historical novel that will keep you up late, hoping the engaging story never ends. Highly, highly recommended!” — Historical Novel Society, Editor's Choice

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by acoleman (see profile) 09/21/17

by suemoros (see profile) 09/20/17

by Christie Lambert (see profile) 09/17/17

  "America's First Daughter"by spies8family (see profile) 09/07/17

Too much of a bodice-ripper for me. I wanted more historical information, less panting, gushing and bosom-heaving.

by hernanka (see profile) 07/31/17

  "America's First Daughter "by niferwolfe (see profile) 07/23/17

I couldn't put this book down! I learned so much and it sparked my passion for revolutionary history.

by devonspade1@yahoo.com (see profile) 06/23/17

by foster.marcie@gmail.com (see profile) 06/21/17

  "Conversations"by mel29 (see profile) 06/12/17

This book led our club to have a spirited and genuine conversation about race issues.

  "Americas First Daughter"by SUPERMOM2 (see profile) 05/21/17

I usually love historical romance but this was very slow for me for the first 250 pages. It took me a long time to get into the book and once I did, it was then quickly over.

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