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A Most Clever Girl: A Novel of an American Spy (Paperback)
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A thrilling novel of love, loyalty, and espionage, based on the incredible true story of Elizabeth Bentley, a Cold War double agent spying for the Russians and the United States, from USA Today bestselling author Stephanie Marie Thornton.
1963: Reeling from the death of her mother and President Kennedy’s assassination, Catherine Gray shows up on Elizabeth Bentley’s doorstep demanding answers to the shocking mystery she just uncovered about her family. What she doesn’t expect is for Bentley to ensnare her in her own story of becoming a controversial World War II spy and Cold War informer…
Recruited by the American Communist Party to spy on fascists at the outbreak of World War II, a young Bentley—code name Clever Girl—finds she has an unexpected gift for espionage. But after falling desperately in love with her handler, Elizabeth makes another surprise discovery when she learns he is actually a Russian spy. Together, they will build the largest Soviet spy network in America and Elizabeth will become its uncrowned Red Spy Queen. However, once the war ends and the U.S. and U.S.S.R. become embroiled in the Cold War, it is Elizabeth who will dangerously clash with the NKVD, the brutal Soviet espionage agency.
As Catherine listens to Elizabeth's harrowing tale, she discovers that the women's lives are linked in shocking ways. Faced with the idea that her entire existence is based on a lie, Catherine realizes that only Elizabeth Bentley can tell her what the truth really is.
About the Author
Stephanie Marie Thornton is a USA Today bestselling author and a high school history teacher. She lives in Alaska with her husband and daughter.
“Thornton is a rare talent who always pairs fast-pace writing with excellent research, and A Most Clever Girl is a fascinating true Cold War story by a gifted storyteller.”
—Stephanie Dray, New York Times bestselling author of The Women of Chateau Lafayette
“Take a firecracker of a plot and add to it the true story of a female double agent and the result is one explosive and unforgettable story. Elizabeth Bentley is a complicated and absorbing woman and her life as a spy for both the Russians and the Americans makes for a fascinating tale, told with immense skill by Stephanie Marie Thornton.”
—Natasha Lester, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Seamstress
“Harrowing anecdotes and juicy spycraft will keep readers turning the pages.”
“Thornton’s latest blends Cold War espionage thriller and biographical fiction into an engaging, difficult-to-put down story that readers will savor. … Readers who enjoyed Lara Prescott’s The Secrets We Kept (2019) will be engrossed by this biographical novel about America’s Red Spy Queen.”
"This rich, captivating story of loyalty, love and espionage―based on true events!―takes place during WWII and the Cold War."
“John Le Carré has nothing on Stephanie Thornton. She takes the Cold War spy novel to a whole new level with this fast-paced, multifaceted drama about Elizabeth Bentley, the real-life Russian Spy turned FBI informant. Thornton gets to the heart of a woman seeking redemption after leading a tortured life of bad politics and impossible choices. I couldn’t put A Most Clever Girl down and now I can’t stop thinking about it. Bravo!”
—Renée Rosen, author of Park Avenue Summer
“Stephanie Marie Thornton’s A Most Clever Girl, the harrowing tale of an American Cold War spy, is as moving as it is thought provoking. Brimming with danger, unexpected twists, and heart-shattering love, the pages of this novel all but turned themselves. Nuanced, complicated characters not only kept me guessing until the very end, but stayed with me long after I finished the book. Captivating and unforgettable, this is a must read!”
—Kristin Beck, author of Courage, My Love
“Thornton’s novel hews closely to the factual details of Elizabeth’s life but adds the emotional underpinnings that make her more than a lurid headline.…The wily Elizabeth snatches center stage and propels readers through the Red Scare and the opening years of the Cold War. Even though fictional, Thornton’s interpretation rings true and tragic.”
“With meticulous research and a rare gift for breathing life into historical figures, Stephanie Marie Thornton follows the true story of a complex and fascinating woman—American spy Elizabeth Bentley. Filled with danger, intrigue, love and loss, A Most Clever Girl is a powerhouse novel, exquisitely written and utterly gripping.”
—Christine Wells, author of Sisters of the Resistance
“Twisty and well plotted, A Most Clever Girl…unravels the threads of love, espionage and complicated friendships in postwar New York.”
Praise for And They Called It Camelot
“And They Called It Camelot is the book club pick of the year. Stephanie Marie Thornton brings an American icon to life: Jackie the debutante, the First Lady, the survivor who at last becomes the heroine of her own story.”
—Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Huntress
“An extraordinary profile of the courage and grace of the indomitable Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, And They Called it Camelot is impeccably researched and richly drawn. Thornton celebrates the former First Lady’s life in a sweeping account filled with poignant intimacy. Readers are instantly transported to Jackie’s version of Camelot as they immerse themselves in the fascinating and tumultuous history of the times. An unputdownable, unforgettable read.”
—Chanel Cleeton, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Train to Key West
“Addictive, dishy, and emotionally haunting, this novel paints an intimate portrait of a tumultuous marriage that played out on the world's stage and ended in national tragedy. Loving and losing one of history's most charismatic American presidents marks Jaqueline Kennedy's life ever after, but oh, how she rises up from the ashes. Vivid, engrossing, and utterly unforgettable, And They Called It Camelot is Thornton's best work yet.”
—Stephanie Dray, New York Times bestselling co-author of America's First Daughter
“Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis leaves an enduring (and intimidating) legacy; for a writer, finding something new and meaningful to say about her is a daunting task. Thornton harnesses her immense talent for historical fiction and combines it with a biographer's immersive research to create a rich portrait that is both intimate and thoughtful while also wildly addictive. I tore through these pages and you will too. Thornton gifts her readers with a fresh appreciation for the indomitable woman behind the iconic sunglasses.”
—Steven Rowley, author of The Editor
"Stephanie Thornton has compellingly and sympathetically humanized an American icon. Well researched and beautifully written, And They Called It Camelot is compulsively readable historical fiction!"
—Laura Kamoie, New York Times bestselling co-author of My Dear Hamilton
"In her rich, fascinating account of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis’ life, author Stephanie Marie Thornton effortlessly transports us back in time….A powerful and uplifting portrayal.”
“Thornton captures a celebrity with whom the world mourned in November 1963, but her down-to-earth approach has given us the opportunity for a more intimate and less sensational look at Jackie, the wife and mother. Highly recommended.”
—Historical Novel Society
“Even if you think you know the story of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, you’re in for rare behind-the-scenes look at the former First Lady’s life. Stephanie Thornton has channeled this iconic woman and delivers such an intimate portrait, at times I had to remind myself that this is a novel and not Kennedy’s own memoir. Such an ambitious undertaking and Thornton not only pulls it off, she hits it out of the park. This book is nothing short of magical.”
—Renée Rosen, Author of Park Avenue Summer
“This book grabbed me from page one and wouldn’t let me go. A multi-dimensional imagining of the trials and triumphs of Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy, And They Called It Camelot will make you rethink everything you thought you knew about this remarkable First Lady. Full of glamour, scandal, and heartache, this is a novel you will want to discuss with all of your friends.”
—Kerri Maher, Author of The Girl in White Gloves
“Students of history will appreciate Thornton’s exacting research and convincing portrayal of the first lady and style icon, and Kennedy aficionados will feel as if they have an unparalleled access to Camelot. Thornton’s magnificent portrayal of Onassis will delight fans of Kennedy-related fiction.”
—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“And They Called It Camelot is a sumptuous, propulsive, scandal-filled peek behind the curtain of American royalty. Thornton gives the reader a fascinating look at the masks worn by those who live in the public life. One might not agree with all of Jackie’s choices, but the force of her instinct for survival cannot be denied.”
—Erika Robuck, National bestselling author of Hemingway’s Girl
“Her Jackie steps out of the pages a convincing, three-dimensional character, complete with contradictions and self-doubt. It’s like reading her private diary – witty, warm and full of color. The shining heart of the novel is her love for (and frustration with) Jack, who is described as a golden figure, so sexy any of us would swoon at his feet. Their attraction is tangible and sizzling hot. All the way through, Stephanie’s writing is vivid, with lots of memorable images (like those lemon-lipped Rah-Rah Sisters!). I’m going to have to go back and read it all again in a few weeks.”
—Gill Paul, Author of The Lost Daughter
“Lush, smart, and sumptuously elegant, Stephanie Marie Thornton’s And They Called It Camelot captures Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy’s life in all its many complexities, drawing back the curtain on a legend to reveal the all-too-human woman beneath. A beautiful portrait of an American icon.”
—Bryn Turnbull, Author of The Woman Before Wallis
“And They Called It Camelot, by Stephanie Marie Thornton, is simply spellbinding. This intimate story of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis portrays a woman finding her way in a landscape dominated by men, and, with grace and astounding resilience, forging an identity the world will never forget. A tale of love and devastation, greatness and sacrifice, this remarkable novel will grip readers until the last page.”
—Kristin Beck, Author of Courage, My Love
"Readers will enjoy this heartbreaking story of a wife’s fierce pride and loyalty to her president and country, despite years of marital loneliness and loss."
“Thornton brings Jackie’s compelling voice to life.”
“Tackling a larger-than-life person such as Jackie Kennedy is a daunting undertaking, and Stephanie Marie Thornton handles that challenge splendidly. Thornton’s decision to have Jackie narrate her own story lends an intimate feel to the tale…a fascinating and personal portrait of one of America’s most iconic women."
Praise for American Princess
“As juicy and enlightening as a page in Meghan Markle's diary.”
“A rare behind-the-scenes tale of a spunky woman who relies on her independent spirit to face down each challenge with courage and grace.”
“Readers who enjoy sweeping family sagas will devour this novel with its feisty protagonist and host of well-known historical figures. It comes highly recommended.”
—Historical Novel Reviews
“The wild, wonderful, outsize personality of presidential daughter Alice Roosevelt is on full and fantastic display in this lightly fictionalized take on her unapologetic, unconventional life….Alice herself would undoubtedly have loved this take on her unorthodox life—as will the many destined to read it.”
“An absorbing portrait of a woman who lived life on her own terms.”
“Readers will be enthralled by Alice’s wit and adventures...as Thornton expertly weaves the events of her life.”