Defiant Brides

The Untold Story of Two Revolutionary-Era Women and the Radical Men They Married

A selection of the 2013 History Book Club, the Book-of-the-Month-2 Book Club (BOMC2) and the Military Book Club.

On April 16, 2021 the Wall Street Journal named DEFIANT BRIDES one of the five best books on Revolutionary-era women.

Now available in hardcover, paperback, audible and as an eBook.

Two wealthy Revolutionary-era teenagers defy their parents and marry political radicals. The first, the voluptuous Boston brunette, Lucy Flucker of Boston, wed poor bookbinder, Henry Knox. The second, the beautiful blonde Philadelphia belle, Peggy Shippen, weds military hero Benedict Arnold. Their lives are changed forever. One bride becomes a patriot – and the other, a spy.

Watch Nancy’s talk here on CSpan2’s BookTV

Praise from the Experts:

“…a lively story of how two strong Revolutinary-era women copied wtih the challenges that resulted from their unconventional marriages….a readabel and orignial work that is strong on incident and energy.”

— New England Quarterly, March 2014.

“This deftly written book seamlessly weaves historical fact with narrative…a highly recommended book that is at once as readable and interesting, as it is historical and fascinating.”

— Journal of the American Revolution

“Margaret “Peggy” Shippen Arnold and Lucy Flucker Knox have traditionally been treated as historical footnotes in relation to their more famous husbands, Benedict Arnold and Henry Knox. Nancy Rubin Stuart (The Muse of the Revolution) remedies this neglect in Defiant Brides, a double biography that examines these two women as individuals as well as influential players in the American Revolution…. Stuart’s thoughtful research and consideration brings each woman forward into her own spotlight, reflecting on the flaws and strengths that Peggy and Lucy brought to their marriages and to the events of their time. Defiant Brides is an effortless read and a fresh perspective on the American Revolution, featuring two women who defied their parents to marry into a conflict that shaped a nation.”

– Shelf – starred review April 23, 2013

“In Defiant Brides, the first dual biography of both Peggy Shippen Arnold and Lucy Flucker Knox, Stuart has crafted a rich portrait of two rebellious women who defied expectations and struggled—publicly and privately—in a volatile political moment in early America. …Drawing from never-before-published correspondence, Stuart traces the evolution of these women from passionate teenage brides to mature matrons, bringing both women from the sidelines of history to its vital center…Readers will be enthralled by Stuart’s dramatic account of the epic lives of these defiant brides, which begin with romance, are complicated by politics, and involve spies, disappointments, heroic deeds, tragedies, and personal triumphs.”

– Hartford April 25, 2013

“Lucy Knox, making a cameo in Revolutionary Mothers, takes center stage in Defiant Brides. Wife to lionized revolution General Henry Knox…Her counterpart: Peggy Shippen Arnold, the notorious, spit-upon wife to traitor Benedict Arnold. Their binary personalities are deconstructed early. Though the women are introduced with extreme contrast, it’s in order to “reveal how lapses in one… inadvertently highlighted admirable traits in the other. They’re both complex wartime game changers…In exploring issues of sacrifice, patriotism and the murkiness of loyalty, Stuart offers new depth in representing women in nonfiction.”

– BIBLIOGRAPHILE: April 23, 2013

“It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the stories of the women who played any part, not matter how big or small, in the founding of America, don’t get told often. Author Nancy Rubin Stuart has written a book… on two little-known, but fascinating, women from the Revolutionary War era entitled, Defiant Brides: The Untold Story of Two Revolutionary-Era Women and the Radical Men They Married, which shares the stories of the wives of Benedict Arnold and Henry Knox. Stuart provided this exclusive interview for The Broad Side. Q & A follows.”–Guest Post, The Broad Side: April 22, 2013”Stuart parallels the lives of Peggy Shippen Arnold, renowned for both her beauty and her unwavering support of her treasonous husband, and Lucy Flucker Knox, the well-heeled daughter of staunchly Loyalist parents who threw caution and politics to the wind to marry a radical patriot….With the seemingly endless parade of books devoted to both founding fathers and revolutionary rascals, it’s nice to see some attention paid to the fervor with which some remarkable women navigated the romantic, political, and wartime challenges of the era.”


“…in this heavily researched volume, Nancy Rubin Stuart succeeds in rendering a clear picture of the world in which the wives of mid-eighteenth-century leaders and military officers lived. … From the perspectives of these two distinctly different personalities, the author breathes life into a complex period of history as the reader watches an emerging nation take shape.”

— ForeWord Reviews

“Rubin Stuart skillfully showcases the strengths and weaknesses as well as the joys and disappointments of both women. Readers will admire the courage and loyalty displayed by each as they resolutely played out the marital hands they’d been dealt….Well researched and written in a compelling style, Defiant Brides is a work of history that reads like a novel,”

— Barnstable Patriot

“In this lively double-biography, Nancy Rubin Stuart reveals the resilient lives of a leading Patriot and a notorious Loyalist: both of them women. Lucy Flucker Knox and Peggy Shippen Arnold deftly performed the parlor politics that helped to shape the American Revolution in surprising ways.”

–Alan Taylor, author of The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies

“An ingenious means of bringing new life to the oldest story in our nation’s past: the American Revolution from the perspective of the young and clear-sighted wives of generals Benedict Arnold and Henry Knox. Tracing the parallel lives of two couples with conflicting loyalties, Nancy Rubin Stuart achieves a you-are-there verisimilitude in Defiant Brides that is rare and not to be missed.”

– Megan Marshall, author of The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism and Margaret Fuller: A New American Life

“By deftly drawing upon the rich private correspondence of two of the American Revolution’s best-known military families, Nancy Rubin Stuart offers a sure-footed and splendidly written page-turner of a book of interest to academic and general readers alike. I read it in one gulp and wished for more. “

– Margaret Conrad, Professor Emeritus of History, University of New Brunswick

“A captivating look at two marriages, marked by bold rebellion and fierce loyalty. The wives of traitor Benedict Arnold and Revolutionary hero Henry Knox never met, and died an ocean apart, but Stuart’s story of their marriages, full of love, passion, betrayal and disappointments, reads like a Hollywood script.”

— Betty Boyd Caroli, author, irst Ladies from Martha Washington to Michelle Obama

“A fascinating story of two extraordinary women whom Nancy Rubin Stuart has brought vividly to life”

–Katherine Field, British Editor, The Catalogue Raisonné of Works by Philip de László (1869-1937)

“A good read …firmly anchored in primary research, Defiant Brides offers a fascinating, in-depth look at Peggy Shippen Arnold and Lucy Flucker Knox—two surprisingly influential, but often overlooked, ladies of the American Revolution—and their illustrious husbands.”

— Nancy K. Loane, author Following the Drum: Women at the Valley Forge Encampment
Book cover for Defiant Brides

Buy the Book