The Power to Deny introduces the reader to one of the forgotten figures of the late colonial and revolutionary America. Elizabeth Graeme was a Philadelphia socialite and a poet in her own right who was friends with, and admired by, many in her day, including some of the men who went on to sign the Declaration of Independence.
Raised in the home of an affluent and well-connect physician father, Elizabeth seemingly had a bright future before her. She became engaged to the son of Benjamin Franklin, William. After the engagement was broken off, Elizabeth went on a tour of Great Britain and returned to the colonies to find them in the throes of a revolutionary fever. Soon, British and colonial forces were facing one another on battlefields, and families, including Elizabeth’s, become bitterly divided between loyalist and patriots.
One by one, Elizabeth’s sisters and parents pass away, and her comfortable life in Philadelphia and the country estate at Graeme Park recedes into the past. On impulse, Elizabeth, who is a patriot, marries a handsome Scot, Henry Fergusson, a staunch loyalist. Because under the law, a wife’s property becomes that of her husband, Fergusson’s intransigent stance almost costs Elizabeth her patrimony. She barely manages to hold on to the Graeme Park as her husband flees to England, never to return again.
Through the trials and tribulations of her life, Elizabeth Graeme was sustained by her art, her connection to other women, and the spirit of independence that was frowned upon during that era. In some ways, her story reminded me of the fictional protagonist of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with The Wind – a woman who experiences great loss and bitter disillusionment, but refuses to be broken by adversity.
The Power to Deny is superbly researched, with rich historical detail that brings to life the last decades of colonial America in a way I have not seen in a long time. I highly recommend it to lovers of American history and fans of strong women in historical narratives.
If you enjoy strong female characters in historical fiction, check out my novel The Greenest Branch, based on the life of Hildegard of Bingen, Germany’s first female physician. It is out now in ebook and paperback on Amazon US, Amazon UK, and several other Amazon marketplaces. It’s also FREE on Kindle Unlimited.