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 infamous 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 André, 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 and cunning 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 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 lover 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.
About Allison Pataki
ALLISON PATAKI grew up in upstate New York, in the same neighborhood where Benedict and Peggy Arnold once lived. Allison attended Yale University, where she graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor's Degree in English. While at Yale, Allison received Distinction in the Major from the English department and served as a campus reporter and news anchor for the student-run campus television program, YTV News.
The daughter of former New York State Governor George E. Pataki, Allison was inspired to write The Traitor’s Wife: A Novel of Benedict Arnold and the Plan to Betray America based on the rich Revolutionary War history of her hometown in New York State’s Hudson Highlands.
Allison spent several years writing for television and digital news outlets prior to transitioning to fiction. The Traitor’s Wife: A Novel of Benedict Arnold and the Plan to Betray America is Allison’s first novel.
Allison lives in Chicago with her husband.
Teaser: Small Excerpt from cliff-hanger passage
It was a staggering sight. Her mistress and Arnold, sitting opposite each other in the crowded, bubbly tub. Peggy, her breasts swollen from the pregnancy, swabbed warm, soapy water on her husband’s scruffy neck and cheeks. He looked terrible—exhausted and cold, and as if he hadn’t had a shave in weeks, but he seemed to be thawing under his wife’s tender ministrations.
“Now, my darling husband, you must tell me how the court-martial went.”
Clara poured the first bucket of steaming water over the tub, grateful for the heavy cover of the foamy, wildflower-scented bubbles.
“Oh, Peggy. My sweet Peggy. It was insufferable. The whole thing.” Arnold waved his hands in defeat, splashing the sudsy water over the surface of the tub. “My leg ached after the journey. And to see Washington’s face, Peggy. He looked at me, limping around, with such pity. It was just mortifying.”
“So, what did he say?” Peggy picked up a sponge and began scrubbing her husband’s thick arms.
“Well, first of all, Reed—for all his delaying and posturing, claiming he had damning evidence that would prove my corruption—the fool had absolutely no one to testify. And no proof,” Arnold growled, pulling on the hairs of his beard.
“As we knew would be the case.” Peggy ran her soapy fingers through the thick graying hairs on her husband’s chest. “So they cleared your name?” She spoke slowly, languidly, as if to calm her husband’s ire.
“On the contrary, my lady.” Arnold’s fist pounded the water again, this time splashing Clara’s petticoat as she stood there, refilling the tub water. “They threw out all the charges but three. That . . . court”—Arnold could not hide the thick contempt in his voice—“found me guilty of making a personal gain from selling private goods, using the public wagons for my personal use, and . . .” His voice trailed off.
“And?” Peggy prodded, her jaw clenched tightly.
Peggy nodded her head, absentmindedly weaving her finger through a loose curl. After a long pause, she asked, “The penalty?”
“Negligible. A light reprimand from Washington. But the in- dignity was enough to cause me to hate Reed and the entire Continental Congress forever; I might as well have been tarred and feathered. And by my own countrymen.”
“It’s not right.” Peggy looked fixedly toward the steamy windows. “It’s just not right. A reprimand from Washington, ha! You know how I feel about that tobacco planter.”
“I know, Peg, I know,” Arnold conceded. “But he is still our commander. And if I know Washington, he will refrain from issuing any reprimand. He will state publicly that he has, but he will not. He’s an honorable man, even if no one else is, and he knows that all I have left to me are my character and good name. He did seem to sympathize with me throughout the entirety of the trial.”
“Well, even so. You might think Washington has honor. But that damned Continental Congress. I’m guessing that they said nothing about reimbursing for you the thousands they still owe you?”
He looked down, silently shaking his head. “How can we go on, then?”
They sat in brooding silence for several minutes. Eventually, Peggy spoke. “Benny, I know you still feel fidelity to Washington.” She cocked her head. “Because you’re a good and loyal man. But I think Reed and the Pennsylvania Council, along with the whole Continental Congress, are a pack of lying criminals.”
“You’ll hear no argument from me on that score, Peg.”
“You know something, Benny?” Peggy took a long sip of rum. “The British have been offering peace since 1778. That’s two years of fighting that we’ve been forced to endure now, patriots being forced to kill their own brothers. And why?” Peggy leaned in, whispering now. “Because the Continental Congress wants to pro- long this war. All they care about is making a profit off this war. That is why they are coming after you like this—to distract the public. To make you the enemy, so that no one notices how corrupt they are!”
“Peggy.” Arnold looked at his wife, his cheeks rosy now from the warmth of the bath. “I had no idea you were such a little conspirator.”
“Benny, those are the facts, plain and simple.” Peggy spoke with a carefully spun nonchalance, but Clara detected the intensity lurking beneath her words.
Arnold sat opposite Peggy, uttering not a word as he stared at her—at her hair, which was even thicker with curls from the pregnancy, her cheeks flushed from the steam, the ripe and enchanting fullness of her face and figure. Peggy let him gawk, let the silence hang between them, heavy, like the fog of the steamy water.
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