In today’s post-Hamilton-on-Broadway world, many are familiar with our nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, and his political opponent-turned-murderer, Aaron Burr. And while fans of the show may recall “Dear Theodosia,” Burr’s Act 1 lullaby to his infant daughter, other modern imaginings of Theodosia Burr Alston have been few and far between.
On November 1, however, local New York Times best-selling author Andra Watkins releases Hard to Die (Wood Hermit Press, $27 hardcover), a novel that revisits the wife of a South Carolina governor and her mysterious death. Historically, Burr Alston disappeared at sea en route from Georgetown to New York, perhaps at the hands of pirates or in a shipwreck. But in Watkins’s novel, “Theo” wakes up in the 1950s Hudson Valley as a captive of the limbo-esque state of “Nowhere” (a theme carried from her breakout novel, To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis) and entangled with General James Wilkinson, her father’s traitor. The tale also follows Richard Cox, a former spy who’s faced with a new, dangerous mission despite his attempts to leave his past behind.
In some ways, Watkins’s plot twists feel predictable and the story line shaky: The protagonist died in 1813, yet she’s accustomed to modern electricity and phones and even uses the word “nylon.” Still, the tale itself is so filled with deceit, double agents, unanswered questions, and passionate romance that readers remain rapt at each turn of the page, rooting for Theo and Richard to overcome their foes.