Capturing the likeness of one of America’s most beloved and colorful founding fathers is no small task, but Cabot succeeds brilliantly by depicting Franklin through the eyes of his wife and fictional mistress in her fascinating debut. Though the mother of Franklin’s illegitimate son William is unknown, Cabot crafts a plausible, tough and sympathetic heroine in Anne. Cabot’s grasp of the era and thorough research is evident, but it never overwhelms her story, which at its heart is a poignant tale of love, survival, loyalty and the meaning of family.

Deborah Read is a teenager when the charming and handsome Benjamin Franklin comes to stay at her father’s inn and a whirlwind romance ensues. Meanwhile, Franklin seduces destitute Anne, who works in a tavern to support her struggling family. Before long, a son is born. Though Franklin is now married to Deborah, he takes the boy, William, and raises him as his legitimate son. As Franklin’s star continues to rise, Deborah, who is near illiterate and largely annoyed with Franklin’s “experiments,” struggles to keep her husband’s interest. Plagued by feelings of inadequacy, she often takes her resentment out on William. Anne, who works in an upholstery shop, gives her favors for a fee, but can never seem to give her heart. It is only the passage of time and the brewing Revolution, which pits William against his father, that teaches Anne what really matters. (MORROW, May, 368 pp., $25.99)
Reviewed by: 
Audrey Goodson Kingo