The Traitor's Wife

A Novel

The Traitor's Wife

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 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 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 love 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.

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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Traitor’s Wife includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Allison Pataki. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction

When turncoat Benedict Arnold aided the British during the Revolutionary War, he wasn’t acting alone. Orchestrating the espionage was his spouse, the beautiful socialite Peggy Shippen, whose treachery nearly cost the fledgling nation its fight for freedom. In The Traitor’s Wife, Allison Pataki brings to life an intriguing slice of American history, told from the perspective of Peggy’s maid, Clara Bell, who must decide where her own loyalties lie.  

Topics & Questions for Discussion 

1. Before moving to Philadelphia, Clara spent her entire life on a farm in the Pennsylvania countryside. How does Clara’s identity evolve throughout her years of service to Peggy and Benedict Arnold? What character traits does Clara retain? Discuss which characters have the greatest impact on Clara’s growth and development.
 
2. Why does Clara take a nearly instant dislike to Major John Andre? Why is she relieved when the Judge and M see more

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About the Author

Allison Pataki
Photograph © Tricia McCormack

Allison Pataki

Allison Pataki is the New York Times bestselling author of The Traitor’s Wife, The Accidental Empress, Sisi: Empress on Her Own, and her forthcoming novel, Where the Light Falls. Allison’s novels have been translated into more than a dozen languages. A former news writer and producer, Allison has written for The New York Times, ABC News, Huffington Post, USA TODAY, Fox News, and other outlets. She has appeared on the Today show, Fox & Friends, Good Day New York, Good Day Chicago, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Allison graduated Cum Laude from Yale University with a major in English and spent several years in journalism before switching to fiction writing. A member of The Historical Novel Society, Allison lives in Chicago with her husband and daughter. To learn more and connect with Allison, please visit AllisonPataki.com or Twitter @AllisonPataki.

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