Rebecca Wentworth’s Distraction

Robert J. Begiebing

Hailed by Annie Proulx in the New York Times as “a gifted writer with an extraordinary feeling for the past,” Robert J. Begiebing now completes his trilogy of American historical novels that also includes The Strange Death of Mistress Coffin and The Adventures of Allegra Fullerton. Daniel Sanborn, trained in the academies of London, arrives in colonial Portsmouth, New Hampshire to establish himself as a portraitist. His very first commission, however—to paint the adopted daughter of a prominent local family—will challenge his most cherished beliefs about art and life. Mysterious and solemn, twelve-year-old Rebecca Wentworth reveals herself to be an artistic prodigy of incandescent genius, and the victim of bizarre, disturbing visions. Her family, confused and frightened by the girl’s uncanny talent and strange paintings, has decided to send her away for her own protection. Sanborn, however, becomes fascinated by Rebecca and her gifts. Confident, accomplished, and reassuringly conventional, Sanborn succeeds over time in establishing himself as painter to Portsmouth’s elite. But even as he cultivates his position as artistic entrepreneur—investing in land, furthering his business connections—he also conspires with Rebecca’s former governess to learn where the girl has been sent. Gradually yielding to his growing obsession, Sanborn tracks Rebecca to a frontier village in the interior of New Hampshire. His interference precipitates a family crisis concerning her ultimate fate, and Sanborn is made the agent for presenting Rebecca, now seventeen, with a stark and unappealing choice. The liberating potential of artistic expression clashes cruelly with social convention in a tale that masterfully evokes colonial New England.

E-book: $9.99
ISBN-13: 9781611683752
Pages: 284 | Size: 5.5 in. x 8.5 in.
Date Published: May 11, 2012


  • It's arresting enough to carry you through to the end. A truly creepy tale.

    Kirkus Reviews
  • Rebecca Wentworth's Distraction is a fine ending to a trilogy notable for its lively portrayal of a people and a culture.

    Valley News
  • Like Hawthorne, Begiebing has mastered the art of transforming a tale richly saturated with a specific time into a story that is timeless.

    University of New Hampshire Magazine
  • Robert Begiebing knows a great deal about 18th century artists...He catches the spirit of that exciting age a century before photography, when people had their children, their wives, themselves depicted, not to decorate their homes but to perpetuate their images for prosperity.

    Milford Cabinet

About the Author

Robert J. Begiebing

Robert J. Begiebing is the author of many articles and stories and ten books, including fiction, criticism, memoir, and collected journalism. His novels represent a historical tetralogy spanning the 1630s to the late 1800s. His first novel in the series, The Strange Death of Mistress Coffin, was chosen as a “Main Selection” for the Mystery and Literary Guild Book Clubs. The second novel in the series, Rebecca Wentworth’s Distraction, won the Langum Prize for Historical Fiction. All …

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