Book Review: Founding Father: A Novel By J. Kenneth Metz

***I received a free copy in exchange for a book review***

Unlike “Sally Hemmings: A Novel,” the leading man in “Founding Father: A Novel” is not Thomas Jefferson, but is Jefferson’s first law professor, George Walker. And “Founding Father’s” early 19th Century setting is not Jefferson’s Monticello, but is little more than a stone’s throw away in neighboring Richmond, Virginia. And the leading lady’s role is not played by Sally Hemmings, but is shared by several Southern belles in Walker‘s life.

It has been 25 years since George Walker signed the Declaration of Independence and 13 years since he helped frame the United States Constitution. He, the mentor to two U.S.presidents and to the Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court, has reached a point in his illustrious career where he can rest on his laurels. So George and his wife now have retreated to the sanctum sanctorum of their manor house among the gentry in the genteel City on the James.

But Lady Luck and Lady Karma will sling sand into the machine of Squire Walker’s comfortable, Old South paradise. Throwing grit into his squiredom’s hum drum, frictionless machinery will be a villainous arch-rival, who will cross swords with the “founding father,” a no-account nephew, who will manipulate his Uncle George’s bank account, a dancing girl, who will quicken George’s pulse to a fever pitch, and a femme fatale or two, who will lead George into temptation.

Can anyone deliver him from evil?

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I loved this 40 chapter book. Even though it wasn’t written in first person point of view, it felt like the characters were talking directly to the readers. The foreshadowing at the end of every chapter motivated me to continue reading. My favorite lines: 1) “Could she possibly be interested in me as a man? Interested enough to be teasing me?” 2) Now alone, George, perhaps for the first time in his life, realizes that he has never before spoken to a living soul about his desire for–his need for children. 3) “My empty heart isn’t the issue, more like my empty stomach, my empty pocketbook. All that I can think on is that she shall die regardless of what we do, so–“

My favorite characters were George, his wife, and Lydia. The setting was 1801 Richmond, Virginia, and I admired that the Walker family wasn’t prejudice. They believed in equality. I shed some tears when the groundskeeper, Russell, came up with the last name Walker to honor his former employers before they allowed him to retire and when George and his wife freed Lydia as a slave. They paid her to be their housekeeper. In their household, they didn’t mind sitting at the same table as their workers. It brought a smile to my face. If only the other characters felt that way…

It was sad that George and his wife couldn’t produce any children–they really wanted a family of their own. Unfortunately, George’s wife died from a terrible disease. I liked that he took the time to grieve for his wife. He considered finding a new wife because it was his former’s wife last wish. I loved George and Lydia’s interactions. It was cute the way he kept second-guessing himself about crossing the line between employee/employer, white man/black woman, older man/younger woman, etc.

Since it was historical fiction, it had to keep up with facts, but I cringed every time the ‘n’ word was used. I really enjoyed the ending, especially when a mystery was introduced. How ironic that George’s lawmaking was the one thing that guaranteed justice couldn’t be had. I frowned on that (in a good way–it brought tension), but I couldn’t stop smiling when Lydia reunited with her little boys and daughter.

I RECOMMEND this book to read.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

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