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Defiant Brides: The Untold Story of Two Revolutionary-Era Women and the Radical Men They Married by Nancy Rubin Stuart

Parallel profiles of two wives on opposite sides of the American Revolution.

defiant

Margaret “Peggy” Shippen Arnold and Lucy Flucker Knox have traditionally been treated as historical footnotes in relation to their more famous husbands, Benedict Arnold and Henry Knox. Nancy Rubin Stuart (The Muse of the Revolution) remedies this neglect in Defiant Brides, a double biography that examines these two women as individuals as well as influential players in the American Revolution.

Peggy was a beautiful blonde belle of Philadelphia society, from a family that favored the British. Lucy was from a well-to-do, firmly Loyalist Boston family. The Shippens reluctantly admitted the political expediency of Peggy’s marriage to military hero Benedict Arnold; the Fluckers disowned Lucy for the sin of matrimony with patriot Henry Knox. Lucy supported her husband’s military and political careers in relative poverty and socialized with George and Martha Washington, even as she fretted over Knox’s long absences and missed the opulence of her youth. Peggy staunchly championed her husband through his treason and banishment and their subsequent financial difficulties in England and Canada; her part in Arnold’s betrayal at West Point, and her own possible role as a spy, remain controversial.

Stuart’s thoughtful research and consideration brings each woman forward into her own spotlight, reflecting on the flaws and strengths that Peggy and Lucy brought to their marriages and to the events of their time. Defiant Brides is an effortless read and a fresh perspective on the American Revolution, featuring two women who defied their parents to marry into a conflict that shaped a nation.


This review originally ran as a *starred review* in the April 23, 2013 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!


Rating: 7 degrees of loyalty.

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