I just recently discovered Barbara Hamilton's mystery series featuring Abigail Adams, have read two of the first three books, and am enjoying them very much. Skimming the many reader reviews of the first title (The Ninth Daughter), I agreed with much of what was said -- both positive and negative. Yes, the plot is a bit over-complicated, the cast of characters is quite large, the characters often think in modern ways, etc. But her re-creations of 1770's Boston, pre-Revolutionary politics, Adams family life, and Abigail's character are colorful and engaging.
However, just as I was really enjoying the book, I began to notice what seems to me to be a huge historical blooper! (No, it's not important to the plot, and yes, I am a retired junior high history teacher, but come on, Hamilton, you obviously did a lot of historical research! How could you get this so wrong?)
The author falls into a common pattern of softening John Adams's rather thorny character (after all, he's Abigail's beloved) and exaggerating the equally thorny character of his cousin Sam Adams. Okay, I can live with that -- but I can't swallow Hamilton's making Sam Adams a slave owner -- and an owner who uses his slave Surry as his concubine to boot! [See pages 162 and 173 of the paperback edition.]
Quoting from the latest, extensively researched biography of Sam Adams (Samuel Adams, by John K. Alexander, a professor at the University of Cincinnati, 2011, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers) -- "One of his relatives recounted how Samuel responded in the mid-1760s when his wife received a young black female slave as a present. He said that no slave could live in his house; if Surry came, she must be free.... Surry entered the Adams home as a free woman, and, as another Adams relative testified, she lived as a servant in the Adams family for decades."
I really appreciate the Hamilton's inclusion of gender, class, and race in her narrative, but I think when an author uses historical characters in her novel, she has an obligation not to misrepresent them. Sam Adams might have been a radical revolutionary, but he was not a slave owner!