The Secret Wife of Aaron Burr

Kensington. Sept. 2019. 400p. ISBN 9781496719188. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781496719195. F
Sold into slavery at a young age, Mary is transported from India to the New Jersey household of Theodosia Prevost, the wife of a British officer fighting in the Revolutionary War. Theodosia’s passionate adulterous affair with a young Aaron Burr has unexpected consequences for Mary when she becomes the target of his unwanted sexual advances. Over the next decades, Mary’s increasingly complicated relationship with Burr dominates her life. The author of more than 50 novels, including 2017’s I, Eliza Hamilton, Scott once again takes advantage of the craze for all things Hamilton and Hamilton-adjacent. Very little is actually known about the historical figure of Mary Emmons, but Scott has created a memorable protagonist whose persistence and courage are often inspiring. However, many readers may feel uneasy about the “romantic” relationship that begins with Burr repeatedly raping an enslaved woman. It is often unclear whether Mary’s subsequent actions are simply her trying to make the best of a bad situation or if she has actually fallen in love with her rapist, and the book would have benefited from spending more time exploring her inner life.
VERDICT Readers misled by the title to expect a less disturbing love story will certainly be disappointed.

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