While talk of Tea Parties and founding fathers may be all the rage, the founding of the nation--as Paul's book makes delightfully clear--was far more complex, fragile, hard fought and exceptional than we ever knew. Indeed, this excellent and well-researched book should be mandatory reading for students of early American history. They'll not only encounter Revolutionary heroes far more heroic--and revolutionary--than those of the standard tale: a misunderstood and unjustly maligned patriot merchant who sacrificed all, a cross-dressing chevalier who dared blackmail a monarch, and a playwright who creates and is ultimately undone by Figaro. They'll also learn what "going rogue" really means.
Reviewers will no doubt offer well-deserved praise for Paul's engrossing narrative and masterful storytelling skills. Many writers attempt to bring history to life with gunpowder and battlefield maneuvers, but when was the last time you couldn't put down a history book out of sheer fascination? Perhaps that highlights the book's true genius. It not only inspires a deeper appreciation of the political complexities of its time and the personal determination of its characters--remove any one and American independence could have become just another unrealized idea--it does so through the most unlikely approach: simply telling the truth, the whole truth. Thanks to "Unlikely Allies", to borrow from the late Paul Harvey, now you know the rest of the story.
The title UnlikelyAllies: How a Merchant, a Playwright, and a Spy Save the AmericanRevolution is really a stretch of the imagination. To me the book was a disappointment after reading Silas Deane - Patriot or Traitor? by Coy Hilton James, Code Number 72 Ben Franklin: Patriot or Spy? by Cecil Currey, and Beaumarchais and the American Revolution by Brian Morton and Donald Spinelli. The book jacket includes endorsements from several well known authors, one of which is Gordon S. Wood whose books I have read with great appreciation. However, I cannot offer the same with Unlikely Allies. The author fails to create the environment in which his main characters must function. It appears to me that there is a lack of focus on how specifically each character played a pivotal role in saving the American Revolution. The role, if any, of D'Eon in the American Revolution must be seriously questioned. As did other reviewers, I found the time lines difficult to follow. Based on comments to this point a rating of three stars may be questioned. It is entertaining and did have points of interest. To readers who are in search of in depth knowledge of the American Revolution I recommend that you search elsewhere.
Many Americans are familiar with the fact that Benjamin Franklin, that wildly popular old patriot, spent years in France convincing the powers that were to support the Americans in their dispute with King George III. Most, however, are unaware that the role played by Silas Deane was even more important, and those who are, know that Deane was vilified as a embezzler of public funds, a traitor to the American cause, or both. At long last, someone has written the truth about the enormous service performed by Deane, who truly was one of the selfless men that saved the revolution from drowning in disaster.
Unlike some reviewers, I would hardly describe UnlikelyAllies as rollicking or wildly entertaining. There are a few humorous elements, mainly in the expose of cross-dresser Chevalier d'Eon, but the author fails to show what d'Eon's contribution was. There are some obvious lapses in Paul's research, as when he describes the 1781 Yorktown Conference as taking place in Deane's Wethersfield, CT house (it happened next door). With respect to Deane and Beaumarchais, however, Paul has done a creditable job, plowing through obscure records that few before him have studied. Deane's mission to Paris was truly impossible, and, unsupported by his own government, what he achieved was nothing less than amazing. In the process, betrayed by his friends, he lost his family, his fortune, and ultimately his life. Perhaps now Silas Deane will be granted his rightful place among America's founding fathers.
The reverently-named founding fathers have, post mortem, long been guilty of a different sort of tyranny: tyranny over America's early history. Here comes rebel Joel Richard Paul, a professor of international and constitutional law, wielding //UnlikelyAllies//, a shadier version of the forging of the French-American alliance, without which the United States might not exist.
Ambassador Benjamin Franklin's wily republican charm might have won over the French public and historical imagination, but in actuality, the treaty was only a lucky byproduct of a multinational group of ambitious opportunists, who schemed and lied in a struggle to triumph in a world of shifting fortunes, loyalties, and even genders. Oh, there were a few heroes; Silas Deane, a dedicated idealist whose impassioned efforts as ambassador to France have until now been buried in misinformation, and the comic playwright Beaumarchais, called "the only free man in France" for his flagrant contempt for monarchical authority.
Paul gleefully unfurls his story like a suspense thriller, dropping hints, angling cliffhangers, and too often barreling right over nuances and complexities. But lack of deeper analysis aside, //Unlikely Allies// is quick and fun, offering up a fresh take on a period which needs a little shaking up.
This is the never before told TRUE story of three historical figures who turned out to be indispensable in the formation of the United States of America: an Americanmerchant turned accidental diplomat, a famous French playwright turned arms dealer, and a mysterious French war hero turned ... well, frankly more mysterious than anyone could imagine. The story sounds almost too amazing to be true. Better yet, Professor Joel Paul is a master storyteller. It seems that he can take any apparently bland topic and weave it into a page turner. Professor Paul knows exactly how to build suspense, maintain a reader's interest, and make the reader form a bond with the characters. You'll absolutely love this book! And, better yet, after reading it, you will definitely become the focus of attention at your very next dinner party as you captivate your friends about this incredible tale. If you're looking for an easy, page turning, intelligent and creative read, this book is for you!
The gripping true story of how three men used espionage, betrayal, and sexual deception to help win the AmericanRevolution.
UnlikelyAllies is the story of three remarkable historical figures. Silas Deane was a Connecticut merchant and delegate to the Continental Congress as the American colonies struggled to break with England. Caron de Beaumarchais was a successful playwright who wrote The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro. And the flamboyant and mysterious Chevalier d'Eon -officer, diplomat, and sometime spy-was the talk of London and Paris. Is the Chevalier a man or a woman?
When Deane is sent to France to convince the French government to support the revolutionary cause, he enlists the help of Beaumarchais. Together, they successfully smuggle weapons, ammunition, and supplies to New England just in time for the crucial Battle of Saratoga, which turned the tide of the American Revolution. And the catalyst for Louis XVI's support of the Americans against England was the Chevalier d'Eon, whose decision to declare herself a woman helped to lead to the Franco-American alliance. These three people spin a fascinating web of political intrigue and international politics that stretches across oceans as they ricochet from Versailles to Georgian London to the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall) in Philadelphia. Each man has his own reasons for wanting to see America triumph over the British, and each contends daily with the certainty that no one is what they seem. The line between friends and enemies is blurred, spies lurk in every corner, and the only way to survive is to trust no one.
An edge-of-your-seat story full of fascinating characters and lavish with period detail and sense of place, Unlikely Allies is Revolutionary history in all of its juicy, lurid glory.