I am very grateful for the opportunity to score a copy of and read Becoming Lady Washington by Betty Bolté in exchange for my honest review. Bolté truly writes historical fiction with heart. This novel was easy to follow, well-researched, and brought many historical figures, particularly the main character, to life.

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The summary, from Amazon:

Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense eighteenth-century plantation in the Virginia colony. But as a young widow she’s hard pressed to balance her business and to care for her two young children. They need a father and protector. She needs a husband and business partner…one she can trust, especially now as tensions rise between the motherland and the American colonies. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has so much more to learn.

Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her and she’s surprised to find him so sociable and appealing. They form an instant bond and she is certain he’ll be a likeable and loving husband and father figure for her children. She envisions a quiet life at Mount Vernon, working together to provide for their extended family.

But when trouble in the form of British oppression, taxes, and royal arrogance leads to revolt and revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, Martha must decide whether to remain where she belongs or go with her husband… no matter what the dangerous future may hold.

Buy Becoming Lady Washington here.

It took me some time to read Becoming Lady Washington just with everything going on in my life. But even if I went weeks between reads, every time I returned to it, I recalled exactly where I left off. This was an engaging, interesting read with a vast cast of characters. The author included a list of every historical figure mentioned in the back, which was especially helpful.
I knew Martha Washington was a widow before she married George Washington and that she outlived her second husband, but I had no idea the full extent of the sorrow this woman endured. She outlived all of her children and took in a number of relatives’ and friends’ children as her own. I learned a lot from this book, but in a different way than I could from a biography. Since this was from “Lady Washington’s” point of view, I felt like I was sitting down to interview her or, more realistically I suppose, sewing with her by the fire.
My only qualm with this one was the lack of clarity regarding slavery. I understand that Martha Washtington likely thought because she was “kind” to the people she enslaved, she wasn’t doing anything wrong. Writing a story from her point of view in this manner made sense. Nonetheless, I would’ve appreciated more of a comment on this in the afterward.
Overall, this was a solid, enjoyable, well-researched read. I would definitely read more historical fiction from this author again, particularly “real people” fiction.

Find out more about how I rate books here.

Becoming Lady WashingtonBecoming Lady Washington by Betty Bolté
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I learned so much about Martha Washington while reading this book! Betty Bolté’s author bio described her work as historical fiction with heart which is so true. She did a wonderful job of personifying this historical figure and I could tell she performed a wealth of research. It did take me some time to read the entirety of this book, just with everything going on in my life. However, whenever I picked it back up, I remember exactly where I had left off. It was incredibly easy to follow.

I felt like the thoughts and beliefs of Patsy Washington were realistic for her time. Nonetheless, I would’ve appreciated more clear delineation that just because she felt she was doing the right thing (for example, enslaving people but treating them “kindly”) didn’t mean she was. As a modern reader I have this nuance but sadly I don’t think all readers do.

Overall this was an enjoyable read. I thank Betty Bolté for giving me a copy in exchange for my honest review. Look out for my full review on https://bitchbookshelf.com in 2022 once I get my blog back underway.

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Book Club Questions

  1. What did you know about Martha Washington before reading this book?
  2. What did you learn about Martha Washington that surprised you?

Interested? Buy Becoming Lady Washington.
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