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The Secret Wife of Aaron Burr: A Riveting Untold Story of the American Revolution

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Inspired by a woman and events forgotten by history, bestselling author Susan Holloway Scott weaves together carefully researched fact and fiction to tell the story of Mary Emmons, and the place she held in the life--and the heart--of the notorious Aaron Burr. He was a hero of the Revolution, a brilliant politician, lawyer, and very nearly president; a skillful survivor Inspired by a woman and events forgotten by history, bestselling author Susan Holloway Scott weaves together carefully researched fact and fiction to tell the story of Mary Emmons, and the place she held in the life--and the heart--of the notorious Aaron Burr. He was a hero of the Revolution, a brilliant politician, lawyer, and very nearly president; a skillful survivor in a raw new country filled with constantly shifting loyalties. Today Aaron Burr is remembered more for the fatal duel that killed rival Alexander Hamilton. But long before that single shot destroyed Burr's political career, there were other dark whispers about him: that he was untrustworthy, a libertine, a man unafraid of claiming whatever he believed should be his. Sold into slavery as a child in India, Mary Emmons was brought to an America torn by war. Toughened by the experiences of her young life, Mary is intelligent, resourceful, and strong. She quickly gains the trust of her new mistress, Theodosia Prevost, and becomes indispensable in a complicated household filled with intrigue--especially when the now-widowed Theodosia marries Colonel Aaron Burr. As Theodosia sickens with the fatal disease that will finally kill her, Mary and Burr are drawn together into a private world of power and passion, and a secret, tangled union that would have shocked the nation . . . Praise for I, Eliza Hamilton "Scott's devotion to research is evident . . . a rewarding take on a fascinating historical couple." --Library Journal "Readers will be captivated." --Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Packed with political and historical as well as domestic details." --Booklist


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Inspired by a woman and events forgotten by history, bestselling author Susan Holloway Scott weaves together carefully researched fact and fiction to tell the story of Mary Emmons, and the place she held in the life--and the heart--of the notorious Aaron Burr. He was a hero of the Revolution, a brilliant politician, lawyer, and very nearly president; a skillful survivor Inspired by a woman and events forgotten by history, bestselling author Susan Holloway Scott weaves together carefully researched fact and fiction to tell the story of Mary Emmons, and the place she held in the life--and the heart--of the notorious Aaron Burr. He was a hero of the Revolution, a brilliant politician, lawyer, and very nearly president; a skillful survivor in a raw new country filled with constantly shifting loyalties. Today Aaron Burr is remembered more for the fatal duel that killed rival Alexander Hamilton. But long before that single shot destroyed Burr's political career, there were other dark whispers about him: that he was untrustworthy, a libertine, a man unafraid of claiming whatever he believed should be his. Sold into slavery as a child in India, Mary Emmons was brought to an America torn by war. Toughened by the experiences of her young life, Mary is intelligent, resourceful, and strong. She quickly gains the trust of her new mistress, Theodosia Prevost, and becomes indispensable in a complicated household filled with intrigue--especially when the now-widowed Theodosia marries Colonel Aaron Burr. As Theodosia sickens with the fatal disease that will finally kill her, Mary and Burr are drawn together into a private world of power and passion, and a secret, tangled union that would have shocked the nation . . . Praise for I, Eliza Hamilton "Scott's devotion to research is evident . . . a rewarding take on a fascinating historical couple." --Library Journal "Readers will be captivated." --Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Packed with political and historical as well as domestic details." --Booklist

30 review for The Secret Wife of Aaron Burr: A Riveting Untold Story of the American Revolution

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jessie

    From the first sentence, I was immediately invested in Mary’s story. Even now, weeks after finishing it, this book has not let me go. As soon as I met Mary, I felt a strong connection to her and concern for her. It never felt like she was just a character––she was a person who I truly cared about. Not only is Mary’s character beautifully written, but the other characters, such as Aaron Burr and his wife, Theodosia, are written in a way that truthfully depicts the complicated people they were. At From the first sentence, I was immediately invested in Mary’s story. Even now, weeks after finishing it, this book has not let me go. As soon as I met Mary, I felt a strong connection to her and concern for her. It never felt like she was just a character––she was a person who I truly cared about. Not only is Mary’s character beautifully written, but the other characters, such as Aaron Burr and his wife, Theodosia, are written in a way that truthfully depicts the complicated people they were. At times, I was drawn into Burr’s charm. At other times, I despised him. It’s nearly impossible to settle on a single feeling toward Burr throughout the course of the story, which is part of what makes the book so hard to put down. As someone who studies and interprets this era of American history on a daily basis, I truly appreciate and admire the thorough research that went into this book. With so few details known of Mary’s actual story, it’s really moving to see her come to life on these pages. This story offers a glimpse into the 18th century through the eyes of an enslaved woman––a perspective far too often ignored or relegated to the sidelines. This book will entirely change your view of the time period. I highly recommend this book! Look out for it this September, have a box of tissues ready, and set aside a weekend to read, read, read, because you will not be able to put it down! *I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.*

  2. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    I really enjoyed the life of Mary Emmons, but let's talk about Aaron Burr. My loyalty to the Hamiltons especially Eliza just cannot like him. But I digress.... A sweeping historical The Secret Life of Aaron Burr takes readers from India to Saint-Domingue and finally to the Thirteen Colonies. Susan Holloway Scott unravels the little told story of a woman whose descendants had a tremendous impact on the American nation. Scott didn't have a lot of written information about Mary, but she creates a r I really enjoyed the life of Mary Emmons, but let's talk about Aaron Burr. My loyalty to the Hamiltons especially Eliza just cannot like him. But I digress.... A sweeping historical The Secret Life of Aaron Burr takes readers from India to Saint-Domingue and finally to the Thirteen Colonies. Susan Holloway Scott unravels the little told story of a woman whose descendants had a tremendous impact on the American nation. Scott didn't have a lot of written information about Mary, but she creates a rich novel about a very strong woman. A good candidate for a bookclub Goodreads review published 10/09/19 Publication Date 24/09/19 Thanks to Netgalley and Kensinggton Books for a digital galley in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marialyce

    It must be extremely hard to balance what is known about an historical person as to what might be the proper way in which to both present them and put words into their mouths. It is historically true that Aaron Burr fathered two children, one of which while still married to his wife, Theodosia Bartow Prevost. While married to Jacques Marcus Prevost, Theodisia, carried on an affair with Aaron who was a notorious ladies man. Mary Eeamons, a slave to Theodisia, caught the eye of Aaron and we are le It must be extremely hard to balance what is known about an historical person as to what might be the proper way in which to both present them and put words into their mouths. It is historically true that Aaron Burr fathered two children, one of which while still married to his wife, Theodosia Bartow Prevost. While married to Jacques Marcus Prevost, Theodisia, carried on an affair with Aaron who was a notorious ladies man. Mary Eeamons, a slave to Theodisia, caught the eye of Aaron and we are led to believe that he was literally a rapist who took advantage of Mary's position in the household. At the same time as this affair was carried forth, Mr Burr also was attracted to Mary Eeamons, a mulatto slave in his soon to be wife's household. It is Mary who later bore Burr's children while it was unknown whether Theosisia had any knowledge of their paternity. The issue I had with this story, as in all historical fiction books lately is the focus on presenting the author's point of view. For there is little or nothing really known about Mary. However, through the use of DNA testing, there has been a scientific link to Aaron Burr having descendants of color. While I am sure that this book was well researched, it just didn't have the riveting factor that the author's previous book on Eliza Hamilton did. I often found it a bit tedious and long winded, but I did learn something about Burr, (other then that he killed Alexander Hamilton). He came off as less than a perfect man, in fact he more or less died in obscurity and never really reached that potential he seemed to have had. I do recognize the difficulty is presenting an historical character in terms of a world that might understand and learn of them today. These forerunners of our nation were not the "saints" that were often pictured in history books, but people who had human frailties and lived lives that were somewhat hidden and not of a caliber we were taught to expect. Sad to say, this book seems to be more fiction than historical fact.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Christina J.

    Last night, I finished The Secret Life of Aaron Burr ( my phone autocorrected that to Butt and I was half tempted to leave it that way). I have so many complicated feelings about this book. I loved Mary dearly. I disliked Theodosia. Full disclosure: I didn't love Aaron Burr the man before this book, but I definitely did not like Aaron Burr the character any more by the end of it. Susan Holloway Scott, I don't know how you do it but the complexity in this book was ever present. I understood Mary' Last night, I finished The Secret Life of Aaron Burr ( my phone autocorrected that to Butt and I was half tempted to leave it that way). I have so many complicated feelings about this book. I loved Mary dearly. I disliked Theodosia. Full disclosure: I didn't love Aaron Burr the man before this book, but I definitely did not like Aaron Burr the character any more by the end of it. Susan Holloway Scott, I don't know how you do it but the complexity in this book was ever present. I understood Mary's feelings but I hated that she felt them. I also kind of hated that Burr gets some kind of self absolution at the end when I don't think he deserved it from her. But I loved how she found peace and strength and in the end, for me, she wins. I hope she lived the rest of her life surrounded by love, life, and happiness. So yes. Definitely a good read but be ready for a lot of feels of all variety. *I received an advance copy from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.*

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ✨️ I yeet my books back and forth ✨️ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest Reading this book was kind of exhausting-- not because it was bad, but because so much bad stuff happens to the protagonist. THE SECRET WIFE OF AARON BURR reminded me a lot of those chunky doorstop epics from the 1970s and 1980s that follow a person, usually someone from a notable time period or was, themselves, notable, from childhood to old age. Instead of a "slice of life," these books gave you the whole dang orange. Mary Emmons is an Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest Reading this book was kind of exhausting-- not because it was bad, but because so much bad stuff happens to the protagonist. THE SECRET WIFE OF AARON BURR reminded me a lot of those chunky doorstop epics from the 1970s and 1980s that follow a person, usually someone from a notable time period or was, themselves, notable, from childhood to old age. Instead of a "slice of life," these books gave you the whole dang orange. Mary Emmons is an obscure but real historical figure who was described as being either mixed race or Indian. In this book, she is half-Indian, half-white. Although she is most famous for being the wife of Aaron Burr and the mother of John Pierre Burr, too obscure to even get a Wikipedia page to herself, this book attempts to tell her story. We see her in India as a young child, ostracized for the tragedy behind her parentage and ostracized for her biracial heritage, only to be sold to a privileged French family that thinks nothing of abuse, sexual or physical. In the midst of an attempted sexual assault, a Swiss Loyalist takes pity on her and buys her-- again-- to give to his own wife as a present. This wife of his is Theodosia, the woman who would later end up as Aaron Burr's first wife-- an intelligent, educated, but frail woman who, in the mentality of racists suffering from cognitive dissonance everywhere, considers herself a credit to progressivism while hurting those around her who don't fit in to what her ideas of progressivism looks like-- especially if it inconveniences herself. Poor Mary finds this out the hard way when Theodosia refuses to let her marry the man she loves, and won't hear of talking about her freedom because her unique talents would make her too hard to replace. When Aaron Burr enters their lives, Mary has hope again since he is so against slavery. But again, like Theodosia, Aaron is too concerned with what Mary can do for him and how much he needs and wants her to even consider setting her free, which breaks Mary's heart multiple times. I was very impressed with THE SECRET WIFE OF AARON BURR. I'm sorry to say this, but in my experience it's rare to see a book penned by a white author about slavery that takes such a hard and unforgiving look at the (white) people who were in power. Even the so-called good characters in this book do horrible, selfish things, and what makes it worse is that because of the rules of the times, they felt that they were in the moral right to do these things. Even historical figures who often end up deified, like George Washington, do not escape the fray, and their hypocrisies are laid out on the line. What makes this book even better, though, is Mary herself. She is such a strong, empowered character, and while some of her choices were hard to come to terms with, I get that she had limited opportunities at this time, and was forced to make the best of what she had. She is such an easy character to root for, and there was never a time in this book that I found myself not in her corner, cheering her on or booing her would-be oppressors. I've never heard of Susan Holloway Scott before, but her writing style was reminiscent of authors like Alyssa Cole or Margaret George, in that you can tell she really likes and respects strong women, and enjoys telling their life stories on the page. This was a really great book and I'd happily read more from this author. Now I really need to pick up Anya Seton's MY THEODOSIA and do a compare-and-contrast of the two books. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!  4 stars

  6. 4 out of 5

    Vivian

    Don't be fooled by the title. "The Secret Wife of Aaron Burr" isn't a romantic fantasy, but the saga of a young slave girl sold away from her homeland to the British colonies in America at the very dawn of the Revolution. Nor is this a traditional story of slavery on a big plantation, either. Mary is a slave on a farm owned by Theodosia Provost (who later marries Aaron Burr) in New Jersey. She is a first hand witness not only to the Revolution and the creation of the country, but also many of th Don't be fooled by the title. "The Secret Wife of Aaron Burr" isn't a romantic fantasy, but the saga of a young slave girl sold away from her homeland to the British colonies in America at the very dawn of the Revolution. Nor is this a traditional story of slavery on a big plantation, either. Mary is a slave on a farm owned by Theodosia Provost (who later marries Aaron Burr) in New Jersey. She is a first hand witness not only to the Revolution and the creation of the country, but also many of the Founding Fathers themselves. Her observations on the hypocrisy of famous men who preach freedom but owned slaves, are tart and poignant.But this isn't a book about politics. It's about Mary, a strong, smart woman who never gives up on her dreams, and how her life becomes tragically woven together with the people who own her. Not always an easy book to read, but it's worth every minute you give it. I guarantee this is one heroine you will remember. Highly recommended for book clubs because there's so much to discuss. Disclosure: I received this book in return for an honest review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Martie Nees Record

    Genre: Historical Fiction Publisher: Kensington Books Pub. Date: September 24, 2019 Susan Holloway Scott has written a well researched, epic tear-jerker novel that was inspired by a real-life enslaved woman, Mary Emmons. You will not find her in the many biographies of Aaron Burr. She has been forgotten by history. The author weaves together truth and fiction to tell her story and that of the American Revolution. The novel is told through Emmons’ voice to highlight the cruelty and hypocrisy of the Genre: Historical Fiction Publisher: Kensington Books Pub. Date: September 24, 2019 Susan Holloway Scott has written a well researched, epic tear-jerker novel that was inspired by a real-life enslaved woman, Mary Emmons. You will not find her in the many biographies of Aaron Burr. She has been forgotten by history. The author weaves together truth and fiction to tell her story and that of the American Revolution. The novel is told through Emmons’ voice to highlight the cruelty and hypocrisy of the founding fathers. They fought for liberty and freedom while they owned slaves and continued to own slaves even after they won their freedom from the English. This is not your typical slave story of life on a big plantation. We meet Mary when she is a child in India. At the age of eight, her uncle sells her to a French woman. Her owner is unbearably cruel. Holloway Scott’s writing will make you cringe for the child. She is whipped many times and wore a collar around her neck worthy of any instrument of torture. She is then bought by the husband of Theodosia Provost of New Jersey. This is how she came to live in the American colonies. Theodosia is a kinder, but not a kind owner. When Theodosia husband dies she later marries Aaron Burr. Mary is very bright and since she is brought to the colonies on the eve of revolution she becomes politically astute by reading the newspapers. She is taught to read by a black freeman friend who will later become more to her than a friend. The love between them is tender, sweet and sad as she is not a free woman. This is when she sides with the rebels over the loyalists because she longs for her own freedom believing their promise that if they win then all blacks will be freed. The reader will learn so much more about Burr then what most remember of him: the duel that killed his rival Alexander Hamilton and ended Burr’s political career. The author shows as many sides of Burr as she could find. This reviewer appreciated the length of pages in the endnotes. Burr was a very interesting man—loving, determined, unbending and most of all commanding. Holloway Scott also gives us much detail regarding the two children that he and Mary had together. The reason for this is that the author found more facts on them than she could find on their mother. Of course, the author takes liberties in Mary and Burr’s highly complicated relationship. He was her master and she was his slave. They loved one another in a way that is hard to understand. One immediately thinks of Thomas Jefferson and his relationship with Sally Hemings, his slave mistress of forty years. The author does a good job of showing how Mary and Aaron loved one another without minimizing the imbalance of power. If you enjoy romance in your history—maybe a tad too much for those who do not (such as myself)—you will enjoy “Secret Wife.” But make no mistake, you will experience the undeniable pain that comes with war. You will also feel as if you were part of the American Revolution, getting more than a glimpse into the personalities of the famous men behind the Boston Tea Party. You may also chuckle at these constantly bickering men who drafted the Constitution. They can remind you of current times in the White House. I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review. Preorder “The Secret Wife of Aaron Burr” on Amazon Find all my book reviews at: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list... https://books6259.wordpress.com/ https://www.barnesandnoble.com/review... https://www.facebook.com/martie.neesr... https://www.instagram.com/martie6947/ https://www.amazon.com/ https://twitter.com/NeesRecord

  8. 5 out of 5

    Beth Dunn

    I couldn’t put this book down once I’d started it — this book drew me in right away and kept me turning pages and starting new chapters long after bedtime. That’s partly (obviously) because it’s a truly gripping story that’s been deeply researched and sensitively told, and partly because (I suspect) I just really wanted to get to the part where things get better for Mary. But ignore that cover art — this isn’t a romance novel, and it doesn’t follow romance novel expectations and tropes. In the e I couldn’t put this book down once I’d started it — this book drew me in right away and kept me turning pages and starting new chapters long after bedtime. That’s partly (obviously) because it’s a truly gripping story that’s been deeply researched and sensitively told, and partly because (I suspect) I just really wanted to get to the part where things get better for Mary. But ignore that cover art — this isn’t a romance novel, and it doesn’t follow romance novel expectations and tropes. In the end, and long before that, I was glad and grateful for that. I spend enough time in this era to have already formed my own opinion about Burr (and long before certain delightful musicals tried to redeem him somewhat), and this book definitely didn’t do a thing to yank him up from the low rung I’ve got him hung on. The character of Theodosia is also pretty unlikable, despite all sorts of indications that she might be someone — were the story told in some other, less honest way — with whom I might feel I could connect. She’s smart, restless, well-read, daring, clever, and so on. Prime material for the usual heroine stuff. But this isn’t her story. It’s Mary’s story. And Mary, of course, isn’t even her name. Sold into slavery by an uncle at a very young age, things go badly and then get increasingly worse for our narrator. But as other reviewers have noted, her strength, self respect, and determination only grow over time, and help her navigate very treacherous waters throughout a difficult, often tragic life. But there are moments of light and love, and without the author ever once resorting to sugar coating or forgetting the realities of the tale. Susan Scott is very up front about how little about Mary’s life we actually know, but her obviously thorough primary research means that real, lived lives pulse through on every page. It’s a book rich with authentic voices and stories from the past that deserve to be heard. A very worthy addition to anyone’s shelf. Thoroughly researched, beautifully written, unflinchingly told. Don’t miss this one. It will stay with you long after the last page is read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    I really, really enjoyed reading this book. The story moves quickly and steadily. There is TONS of wonderful historical detail and a concerted effort to make sure the information is accurate, from clothing to actions to material culture. This is a book I would love to see made into a film. It's a story and perspective that needs to be told. The story follows Mary from her childhood into adulthood. Her perspective is eye opening; she is an enslaved woman, and the reader experiences everything as I really, really enjoyed reading this book. The story moves quickly and steadily. There is TONS of wonderful historical detail and a concerted effort to make sure the information is accurate, from clothing to actions to material culture. This is a book I would love to see made into a film. It's a story and perspective that needs to be told. The story follows Mary from her childhood into adulthood. Her perspective is eye opening; she is an enslaved woman, and the reader experiences everything as she is pushed along through her young life from one side of the world to quite literally the other. Susan Holloway Scott delves into the history of a woman who she admittedly had very little information to start with and created a character the reader immediately connects with. Mary is wickedly intelligent and yearns for a life of her own. Mary's story may be a tiny little blip in history, but the story Susan Holloway Scott builds for her is one that was probably similar to a good number of enslaved women throughout the 18th century. She does the character justice by not tip-toeing around controversial issues. This story might also be triggering for people who have experienced sexual violence, and the author does not shy away telling Mary's story of being a rape victim. Admittedly, I have never read much about Aaron Burr, aside from his clashes with Alexander Hamilton. (As another disclaimer, I am not a big fan of the whole Hamilton craze going on right now either.) But what is so artfully done with this book is the intertwining of historical occurrences and a story that draws the reader into that world, but all from the periphery as witnessed by Mary. Burr starts out almost as a secondary character who weasles his way into the story. The characterization of Burr ranges from enchanting and to him becoming the prime example of male toxicity, even by 18th century standards. He is a narcissist who manipulates people to his advantage. Meanwhile, due to Mary's station, she is trapped by her mistress, whom she is with long before Burr arrives on the scene - and eventually Burr. It's a long wait as you're reading to figure out the entire "Secret Wife" situation. This is by no means a romance and I was never really hoping that they'd all live happily ever after together. It's pretty clear that there's something a little sinister about being a secret wife to someone like Burr. I was extremely frustrated by the last five or so chapters, especially since I knew Burr's big mark on history was fast approaching as the years ticked down to 1804. BUT - it's worth it and explains a lot of the characters' actions in the last third of the book. (This book was an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    Historical fiction at its very best! So many historical fiction books I have read of late are lots of "fluff" and little history, but The Secret Wife of Aaron Burr is the crème de la crème! It is chock full of historical facts but is artfully weaved with just the right amount of fiction to create a masterpiece. I'll admit, going into the book, my knowledge of Aaron Burr was somewhat limited - I knew he had been a Revolutionary war hero, who was a rival of Alexander Hamilton and eventually fatall Historical fiction at its very best! So many historical fiction books I have read of late are lots of "fluff" and little history, but The Secret Wife of Aaron Burr is the crème de la crème! It is chock full of historical facts but is artfully weaved with just the right amount of fiction to create a masterpiece. I'll admit, going into the book, my knowledge of Aaron Burr was somewhat limited - I knew he had been a Revolutionary war hero, who was a rival of Alexander Hamilton and eventually fatally wounded Hamilton in a duel. I had never heard of Mary Emmons or of Theodosia Prevost, Burr's two wives. While I found the details of Aaron Burr and Theodosia Prevost's life to be intriguing, the story of Mary Emmons completely captivated me. From early on in the book, I felt a strong connection with the character of Mary and felt every emotion reading her story. Mary Emmons was sold into slavery as a child in India and was brought to America near the beginning of the Revolutionary War. Despite her gut-wrenching treatment as a young slave, she was strong, resourceful, and highly intelligent. In America, she becomes the servant girl of young mistress, Theodosia Prevost and quickly becomes indispensable in a complicated household that is full of scandal and intrigue - never more so then when Theodosia Prevost marries Aaron Burr. Holloway Scott is masterful in the way she expresses the complex feelings of the characters in a way that the reader feels every bit of those emotions and feelings - the romantic side of me could relate to Mary's feelings, but the practical side of me hated that she felt them. At times, I liked Aaron Burr and understood his actions, and at other times, I loathed him. I had similar feelings about Theodeosia Prevost, and at the end of the book, I wasn't sure how I felt about either one of them. All of these feelings are what embody a truly powerful work, and Holloway Scott hits every mark. The Secret Wife of Aaron Burr is a well-researched, fact-filled, historical saga, with a strong, determined protagonist, with whom you immediately fall in love. It is an inspiring, illuminating read that stays with you long after you finish it. Absolutely 5 star-worthy! Disclosure: I received an advance copy from a Goodreads giveaway, but that did not in any way affect my review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    L.M. Elliott

    I had the great fortune to read this marvelous book pre-publication and recommend it highly to any HAMILTON fan, any Revolutionary War buff, anyone with interest in honest and ultimately feminist historical fiction. Scott has taken an untold fact of history--that Aaron Burr fathered two children with a woman of color named Mary Emmons while he was married to his beloved Theodosia--and portrays that circumstance in the most painful and typical setting of the time, with an enslaved woman in Burr's I had the great fortune to read this marvelous book pre-publication and recommend it highly to any HAMILTON fan, any Revolutionary War buff, anyone with interest in honest and ultimately feminist historical fiction. Scott has taken an untold fact of history--that Aaron Burr fathered two children with a woman of color named Mary Emmons while he was married to his beloved Theodosia--and portrays that circumstance in the most painful and typical setting of the time, with an enslaved woman in Burr's household. Scott carefully uses non-hyped and sensitive prose to explore this deplorable situation, infusing Mary with dignity and agency. Scott's signature in-depth research permeates her novel with revealing details of little discussed aspects of 18th century life in the Caribbean as well as the extraordinary perils presented civilian women and children during the Revolutionary War as opposing armies crossed farms, demanded housing and food, plus scrutinized and often punished families' loyalties. In this regard, Theodosia is a particularly compelling and sympathetic character in Scott's gifted hands, surviving through her wit, gracious hostessing, and well-read intellectualism that drew respect from both sides. Scott also paints a poignant relationship between Burr's two wives. As Mary serves and nurses Theodosia Burr, we feel the terrible, gut-wrenching irony of her having to daily witness Theodosia's loving relationship with Burr and the heartbreaking deaths of their children, all while Burr also visits Mary's bed. Scott deftly depicts feelings of friendship between Burr and Mary while never letting us forget that as an enslaved woman no encounter between them was of her free will. Slave-owning patriot households were a schizophrenic and horrifying hypocrisy that we as a nation still struggle to comprehend about many of our founding fathers. This novel goes far to help in that awareness while gifting us a compassionate and frank portrait of being a woman during that time--the dangers of childbearing, being educated but not autonomous in a world where white man homeowners made decisions for everyone, and the oft staggering bravery and wisdom women needed to endure and aspire to their own dreams. In this gracefully written narrative, Mary's life story is an uplifting and inspiring one as her children thrive and achieve great successes in their own lifetimes. It can be hard to really care about the tragic lost potential in the charismatic and brilliant but deeply flawed and egotistical Aaron Burr, and yet Scott helps us feel for him, too. An adroit, full-bodied, illuminating and captivating read, not to be missed!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Loraine

    Intriguing from start to finish, this historical romance about a little known woman captivated me from start to finish. Mary Emmons started life in India as the Mulatto baby, Veeya, the child of an Indian woman raped by a British soldier. Her mother dies at birth, and Veeya is left with an uncle who despises her because of her mixed race. She is sold off at the age of 8 to a French lady and begins her life of servitude that takes her from India to Santo Domingo and finally to the United States w Intriguing from start to finish, this historical romance about a little known woman captivated me from start to finish. Mary Emmons started life in India as the Mulatto baby, Veeya, the child of an Indian woman raped by a British soldier. Her mother dies at birth, and Veeya is left with an uncle who despises her because of her mixed race. She is sold off at the age of 8 to a French lady and begins her life of servitude that takes her from India to Santo Domingo and finally to the United States where she becomes a slave to Major Provost and his wife with her name changing from Veeya to Eugenie, and finally to Mary. Mrs. Provost hosts many of the pre-Revolutionary greats from both sides while her husband is on assignment including Aaron Burr who weds Theodosia Burr after her husband's death and changes Mary's life forever. Aaron Burr often considered a villain for his slaying of Alexander Hamilton in a duel was also was a war hero, a brilliant lawyer, a devoted father, a skilled politician who very nearly was elected president, and became Jefferson's Vice President. But he led a secret life that has only come to light recently due to the new advances in DNA. Mary, who married Lucas Emmons who was one of the Black Americans who died in the Revolutionary war, became the love of Burr's life even while he was married to Theodosia Provost Burr. They shared two children a boy and a girl who both left a legacy of fighting for black rights. Mary Emmons was a survivor who learned to read and write and spoke English, French and Tamil and left a legacy that her descendants can be proud of. Scott brings her to life in this fascinating book along with the pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary era and all of the famous characters involved. **I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kensington Books through NetGalley. Opinions are mine alone. I was not compensated for this review.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Martinese

    I just finished an ARC of this book and it was so very interesting for me to read the authors most recent Historical Fiction novel that revolves a bit around Alexander Hamilton as I so enjoyed her last book, I, ELIZA HAMILTON. Though Hamilton’s nemesis is the featured male character in this particular book, Hamilton is featured in snippets throughout the book as he serves under Washington and then finds his way as a Lawyer like Mr. Burr after the war. Their rivalry deepens due to their opposing I just finished an ARC of this book and it was so very interesting for me to read the authors most recent Historical Fiction novel that revolves a bit around Alexander Hamilton as I so enjoyed her last book, I, ELIZA HAMILTON. Though Hamilton’s nemesis is the featured male character in this particular book, Hamilton is featured in snippets throughout the book as he serves under Washington and then finds his way as a Lawyer like Mr. Burr after the war. Their rivalry deepens due to their opposing viewpoint in politics as the book carries on, so if you’re a fan of the musical you will find out much more about the Protagonist Aaron Burr, his Dear Theodosia and so many more facts that will leave you feeling sorry for Mr. Burr at one turn, and then bitterly disliking his decision making process as the book moves on. The story begins in of all places, India, as our Storyteller and main character Veeya, (soon to become Mary) moves about being traded from one person to the next. We see her develop from a young girl, to a wisened woman in the pages of this book, a woman who maintains her quest quite diligently for her freedom. Mary is a very likable character which makes her highly relatable to the reader as she fights to stay alive, dodges unfortunate situations that a young girl should never have to face, and eventually loses her chance at love & freedom at a young age. Mary isn’t a quitter and she masterfully serves her Mistress while never giving up her dream. The many unexpected twists and turns throughout this book were fascinating, and the character portrayals provided by the author so realistic that I could feel myself upon a boat with the wind blowing through my hair, I could almost smell the special curry Mary learned to prepare, and I found myself wondering how uncomfortable it must’ve been to sleep on a pallet of straw in an attic. Mary is the true heroine of this book for she perseveres, always while keeping her guard up while remaining such a sympathetic character that you feel torn when she is concerned about making an important decision, feel cheated when she is wronged, and feel joy when good things come her way. I would highly recommend this book to all lovers of Historical fiction, not just Hamilton fans, for the Author weaves a tale here that is so interesting it’s hard to put down. Having spent much time as of late reading books about the Revolutionary War and our young nations history, I enjoyed how many figures Key to that time period appeared within the pages of this book. What more can I say except that this book will be a keeper on my shelf upon its release on 9/24/19 as the ARC Is heading to FL into the capable hands of my Mother, who has been waiting ever so patiently for me to finish this book and send it her way. Bravo Susan Holloway Scott on yet another winner!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Becca Hoskins

    This is my favorite heroine of the year so far! Mary is strong and unstoppable, no matter what life throws her way. I won't forget her, or this book either. I received this book in a contest in exchange for an honest review. I really did love this book! This is my favorite heroine of the year so far! Mary is strong and unstoppable, no matter what life throws her way. I won't forget her, or this book either. I received this book in a contest in exchange for an honest review. I really did love this book!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kate Baxter

    "Nil tam difficile est quin quaerendo investigari possit." "Nothing is so difficult but that it may be found out by seeking." -Terence- This is not the usual plantation slave story. It is a story of a real and once free woman of great courage, industry, and determination who thirsts for knowledge and yearns for freedom. She survived torture, abuse, abandonment and great loss. Yet, she faced her many challenges with determination, fortitude and an element of grace. Or so we imagine through author "Nil tam difficile est quin quaerendo investigari possit." "Nothing is so difficult but that it may be found out by seeking." -Terence- This is not the usual plantation slave story. It is a story of a real and once free woman of great courage, industry, and determination who thirsts for knowledge and yearns for freedom. She survived torture, abuse, abandonment and great loss. Yet, she faced her many challenges with determination, fortitude and an element of grace. Or so we imagine through author Susan Holloway Scott's tremendous fictional account based on limited facts of the life of Mary Emmons - "The Secret Wife of Aaron Burr". The amount of research which Ms. Scott must have gathered to find the few threads about Mrs. Emmons' life would have been daunting for most. Yet, in this wonderfully told tale, it is all spun together with imagined events and conversations to make the story appear brilliantly seamless. The historic events of the American Revolution provide a framework through which the stories are woven. We, the readers, greatly sense the anxiety, grief, despair and loss as well as occasional exuberance and joys of each of the characters. If this were only a fictional account, it would be an epic and satisfying story. The understanding that it is based on historic fact delivers a sense of gravitas and immense sadness regarding the people who had to endure such trials in life. Yet, in the end, there is the realization of dignity and immense hope. Ms. Scott is a truly gifted storyteller and writer. She deftly writes in a way which draws out the compassion and empathy of the readers for the many various characters. We view the story through Mary Emmons' eyes which are keen and just, yet still hold compassion for those whom she serves. We observe Mary's herculean strength of spirit and we gladly celebrate her victories. This is a story which needed the telling and we are the richer for it. I am grateful to author Susan Holloway Scott and publisher Kensington Books for having provided a free copy of this book. Their generosity, however, has not influenced this review - the words of which are mine alone.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Madison

    As I read the advance copy of this remarkable book, I thought, "People are either going to love this or hate it" and I see that the ratings here are either five-star or one-star. I'm not surprised. This heroine and her story will make some people uncomfortable in what they believe about the early days of American history. In some ways, it's a satisfying, old-fashioned historical saga, rich in well-researched historical detail and with a determined heroine. Unwanted and illegitimate, Mary is sold As I read the advance copy of this remarkable book, I thought, "People are either going to love this or hate it" and I see that the ratings here are either five-star or one-star. I'm not surprised. This heroine and her story will make some people uncomfortable in what they believe about the early days of American history. In some ways, it's a satisfying, old-fashioned historical saga, rich in well-researched historical detail and with a determined heroine. Unwanted and illegitimate, Mary is sold into slavery by her family in India. She is brought to Haiti and then to New Jersey, where she encounters some of the most famous people of the Revolutionary War. Among these are Aaron Burr, and it's to Scott's credit that I still don't know what to make of him. Was he the villain or a flawed and complicated hero? But then there aren't any pat answers in this book, or in Mary's story, either. Steadfastly determined to survive and be free, she endures where others around her falter, and against all odds, she succeeds. A truly wonderful book that will be a natural for bookclubs, and I can't recommend it enough. (Disclosure: I received an advance copy in return for this review.)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    I was drawn to this book’s cover. I thought this book was well written and well researched. It’s kinda a long book but it kept me glued to it from page one. I liked Mary and her story and couldn’t help but feel sadness at parts of her life. Now Aaron Burr might have gotten what he deserved. If you like historical fiction this one is definitely for you. Thanks to Netgalley for the early copy

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tanya

    I had a great week devouring this book! This is my first dive into Historical Fiction as an adult—and my whole heart is glad that I waited. Susan managed to spin herself a wonderful tale, full of historical detail and flourish and fancy. I learned *A LOT* while investing in this tale of the previously unknown Mary Emmons. This book was important to me, as a Philadelphian and lover of all history, and as a woman of color. Susan offered me an ARC and I cannot wait to physically buy this book and hav I had a great week devouring this book! This is my first dive into Historical Fiction as an adult—and my whole heart is glad that I waited. Susan managed to spin herself a wonderful tale, full of historical detail and flourish and fancy. I learned *A LOT* while investing in this tale of the previously unknown Mary Emmons. This book was important to me, as a Philadelphian and lover of all history, and as a woman of color. Susan offered me an ARC and I cannot wait to physically buy this book and have her actually sign it. Personally, I did at times find this book difficult to read—as with most literature albeit true or fiction—when involving slavery and issues of consent. These founding fathers are often idolized and in actuality, they were flawed beings who did terrible things. This book did not win me over in favor for her dear Aaron Burr, Sir. I don’t think anything will ever make me understand Burr, and I do find it mysterious that he never left behind any of his writings so we could understand him more. The historical research and time it must’ve took then, to weave this book together, is even more of an impressive feat. I’m hooked! Officially reading everything Susan publishes at this point.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Parkhurst

    If you love historical fiction, this is a great choice! Scott clearly did thorough research for every aspect of this story. The details are thoughtful and brought me as a reader into that time period. I learned a lot about a part of history I hadn’t previously know. It’s a dense book so don’t expect a quick read, but worth the time. I will definitely read other books from this author!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Missy

    This was an interesting read into the life of Aaron Burr and his wife's "slave" Mary Emmons. It gave a good insight to the life Mary may have come from, and how she came to live with Theodosia Prevost and become her closest friend really. How she was sold into slavery in India, saved from her rather dire life in Saint-Domingue, and raised through the ranks to become a highly respected housekeeper. But it was also the secret affair she had for many years with Aaron Burr, who would become the husb This was an interesting read into the life of Aaron Burr and his wife's "slave" Mary Emmons. It gave a good insight to the life Mary may have come from, and how she came to live with Theodosia Prevost and become her closest friend really. How she was sold into slavery in India, saved from her rather dire life in Saint-Domingue, and raised through the ranks to become a highly respected housekeeper. But it was also the secret affair she had for many years with Aaron Burr, who would become the husband of Theodosia Prevost, and the birth of her two children. Mary had a good heart, and seemed to be very educated and opinionated for the day, especially for her status. Once she got to America, she learned of freedom and began dreaming of being a free woman with her children. It was a good story, it was insightful as to what her life may have been like in those days. It was interesting how it really did a story of not only Mary Emmons, but also Aaron Burr during that time. I would recommend this book to others. I received a free copy from Kensignton Books and Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Janilyn Kocher

    Scott's book is a timely novel. She delves into a little known aspect of Aaron Burr's life, who remains an enigma in American history. The author showcases a woman, Mary, who hailed from India and whom played an integral role in Burr's life, although never acknowledged. I think the author did a masterful job with a difficult topic and captured the voice of Mary very well. I appreciated the afterward the author provided, that filled me in the information gaps. This is an excellent historical nove Scott's book is a timely novel. She delves into a little known aspect of Aaron Burr's life, who remains an enigma in American history. The author showcases a woman, Mary, who hailed from India and whom played an integral role in Burr's life, although never acknowledged. I think the author did a masterful job with a difficult topic and captured the voice of Mary very well. I appreciated the afterward the author provided, that filled me in the information gaps. This is an excellent historical novel. Thanks to NetGalley for the early read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ladybug Lynn

    if i could give this book 0 starts I would. No "romance" should start with the man repeatedly raping the woman. And a "romance" between an enslaved woman and her owner's husband is not a romance but a grand imbalance of power. How did this book ever get written in 2019???? I can see a writer from the 1950s thinking this was romance!! just so bad. if i could give this book 0 starts I would. No "romance" should start with the man repeatedly raping the woman. And a "romance" between an enslaved woman and her owner's husband is not a romance but a grand imbalance of power. How did this book ever get written in 2019???? I can see a writer from the 1950s thinking this was romance!! just so bad.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I liked this book but didn't love it. I respect all the research that went into this novel, and I'm so glad there wasn't any sugarcoating of how bad slavery is. Mary is wonderfully developed, and well worth following for 500+ pages. She's so quick-thinking; for example, I was in awe of the section where she makes sure to get her daughter baptized with the name she chose in order to improve her lot in life. Just hours after giving birth, even! Also- while some of her dialogue was clunky- the conc I liked this book but didn't love it. I respect all the research that went into this novel, and I'm so glad there wasn't any sugarcoating of how bad slavery is. Mary is wonderfully developed, and well worth following for 500+ pages. She's so quick-thinking; for example, I was in awe of the section where she makes sure to get her daughter baptized with the name she chose in order to improve her lot in life. Just hours after giving birth, even! Also- while some of her dialogue was clunky- the concept and overall portrayal of Theodosia is quite interesting. It was fascinating how enlightened she was in so many ways, while patting herself on the back for being a "good" slave owner. And yet ... this book takes on a number of psychologically dense/difficult topics and doesn't always stick the landing on them. (view spoiler)[I'm all for works that show the brutality of slavery/the depravity of those that practice it. However, portions of the beginning veered dangerously close to torture porn for me. I can't put my finger on what, exactly, made things unintentionally distasteful for me but I'll think on it. More prominently, this book shows Mary developing feelings for Aaron Burr, her rapist. This is something that can happen, however this concept needs to be approached with incredibly delicacy. And there was something off about this, too. Not sure what it was. The lingering over how great the sex was at several points? The gushing over Burr's looks? There's a lot of weight given to how great Burr is, and then a few paragraphs later you get incredibly unsubtle showing-not-telling about how HE'S STILL PRETTY AWFUL AND MARRY DOESN'T FORGIVE HIM. It doesn't feel like Mary going back and forth in her feelings. It feels like two different books jammed together at times. Finally, this book is quite long and yet it feels like it just ends because the author wanted to wrap things up. We completely skip over her time in Philadelphia; aka her first years as a free woman, completely independent of the Prevost/Burr extended family since being brought to America. We're told she also has to confront a lot of her Burr-related PTSD in this time period. It would have been lovely to see this. I know the book is called the Secret Wife of Aaron Burr and maybe one would argue we shouldn't spend that much time away from Aaron Burr. And yet we had all those chapters in the French family, and Burr doesn't enter the novel until quite far in. Maybe this is why I have mixed feelings ab out this book. It lingers a lot on Mary's torture/abuse , but pulls away during more triumphant moments for her. (hide spoiler)]

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sheena ☆ Oh, the Sheenanigans!

    I'd obviously wasn't in the right state of mind when picking up this up in which case revel the author decent writing style, well researched journey of Mary and Burr relations, long-winded and often times, tedious historical fiction novel. In overall, I've unfortunately decided to cut this short before one of our main protagonist even made an appearance. It just hurt too much to continue. I'd obviously wasn't in the right state of mind when picking up this up in which case revel the author decent writing style, well researched journey of Mary and Burr relations, long-winded and often times, tedious historical fiction novel. In overall, I've unfortunately decided to cut this short before one of our main protagonist even made an appearance. It just hurt too much to continue.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    Received an Advance Reader Copy from Goodreads. A compelling story of a woman lost to history but not to memory. I was inspired by this story of Mary Emmons and her struggle for a better life.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey

    This was an interesting book to read. Aaron Burr has become a bit of an infamous villain in recent years but historically, he was both someone who had somewhat progressive beliefs for the Colonial time period and was rather self-serving. This book starts with Mary, who was sold into slavery in India who comes to Burr in the form of being a servant to his wife Theodosia. The first part of the book tells Mary's story prior to meeting Burr and was well written with good research of the injustices o This was an interesting book to read. Aaron Burr has become a bit of an infamous villain in recent years but historically, he was both someone who had somewhat progressive beliefs for the Colonial time period and was rather self-serving. This book starts with Mary, who was sold into slavery in India who comes to Burr in the form of being a servant to his wife Theodosia. The first part of the book tells Mary's story prior to meeting Burr and was well written with good research of the injustices of the time period. I thought some of the initial interaction between Mary and Burr was a bit unrealistic but their later relationship seemed to be better plotted out. I also liked this fictional look into his marriage with Theodosia even if it wasn't a main plot line. Mary was an excellent, strong character and this humanizaed Aaron Burr. My only quibble with this book is the sometimes unrealistic too modern situations, mostly some of the conversations between characters, given that this was Colonial America.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Megan Capra

    Wonderful, engaging book with an amazing heroine. So much more than I was expecting. A complex story that keeps you turning the pages long into the night. Although it's set in the 1700s, there are many themes here that make this book so relevant for today. Perfect for book clubs. I received this book from the publisher in return for a fair review. Wonderful, engaging book with an amazing heroine. So much more than I was expecting. A complex story that keeps you turning the pages long into the night. Although it's set in the 1700s, there are many themes here that make this book so relevant for today. Perfect for book clubs. I received this book from the publisher in return for a fair review.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marilyn

    When a book offers a different view of an historical figure within the context of a novel, along with that figure having lived and "made history" in an era that I generally find interesting (sometimes even fascinating), it tweaks my interest re a possible read. When the story is told from the viewpoint of a person whose tale was silenced by historians, or lost because she or he was not considered worthy of documenting their story for further generations, and/or because there were no safe ways of When a book offers a different view of an historical figure within the context of a novel, along with that figure having lived and "made history" in an era that I generally find interesting (sometimes even fascinating), it tweaks my interest re a possible read. When the story is told from the viewpoint of a person whose tale was silenced by historians, or lost because she or he was not considered worthy of documenting their story for further generations, and/or because there were no safe ways of preserving her/his words - well, I am likely to be "hooked" into at least the possibility that I will read that book. THE SECRET LIFE OF AARON BURR by Susan Holloway Scott is such a book, and I am so glad that I chose to read it. Mary Emmons, born free, enslaved as a child, really walked this earth. This well-researched novel takes what little exists of the history of Mary Emmons' life story and weaves it into a "history" of a strong, skillful, intelligent, resourceful woman born in India, sold into slavery "in her eighth year" by a relative, eventually winding up in the American colonies (still enslaved but in somewhat better circumstances, continuing to desire freedom). By this time in the novel, revolutionary winds are stirring in the colonies... As usual with an historical novel, I found myself - about halfway into its story - seeking out the author's comments at the back of the book on what the facts of the story are and what Scott had to create from her imagination based on those facts. And almost any story about a person denied their voice/freedom in past time eras will not include an abundance of history that's easily uncovered. This is the case re Emmons' story in THE SECRET WIFE OF AARON BURR, and yet it rings true and courageous and understandable. Her desire for freedom never leaves her. Interwoven with Aaron Burr's story, it's intriguing and frustrating and a different view of that man's life, ambitions, and distrust of Alexander Hamilton - all from the fictional viewpoint of Emmons. Then I checked out what info shows up online re Mary Emmons and her descendants, which I expect most readers of this book will want to do as well! Not telling what I found out - but I will say that Mary E. would be proud. Excellent writing. A different view of Aaron Burr (not always a rosy one, but a human one based on his own history). I've read quite a bit re Hamilton (although not the huge tome of his bio), and I think this was a side of their rivalry worth seeing from another perspective. Fictional, but believable. And the struggles of a new country... comparing them to today's political rivalries... well, if you read the novel, you'll probably be comparing those issues too - what they've led to.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey

    This was a interesting story. With today's fascination with all things Hamilton, I found it refreshing to read about that same time period from the perspective of the Burr household, Hamilton's long-time rival and ultimate killer. The story of Mary Emmons really drew me in-Scott did a fantastic job portraying her as a sympathetic, smart woman trying to make the most out of what life chose to subject her to. Her existence in colonial America was an education for me. Previously, I had thought the This was a interesting story. With today's fascination with all things Hamilton, I found it refreshing to read about that same time period from the perspective of the Burr household, Hamilton's long-time rival and ultimate killer. The story of Mary Emmons really drew me in-Scott did a fantastic job portraying her as a sympathetic, smart woman trying to make the most out of what life chose to subject her to. Her existence in colonial America was an education for me. Previously, I had thought the slave trade was limited to Africa but Mary was an Indian woman sold into slavery while living in a part of India under French control. For the history alone, this story is a worthwhile read and one I would highly recommend. It didn't get 5 stars only because I really didn't like Aaron Burr and the way he constantly took advantage of Mary even after she was free.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Intriguing This book was very interesting. I didn’t know much about Burr, beyond his duel with Hamilton. This story was an interesting look into a man with so much potential. Learning about Mary and her story, as much as there is available, was fascinating. She was such a strong woman.

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