Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop

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Welcome to the Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop, hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Stuck In Books!

What book have you been stuck in recently?

written in my own hearts blood by diana gabaldonEarlier this summer, I read the latest doorstop in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. (Of course there’s a review).

Like many readers, I love the series. As soon as I started the story, I was instantly swept away, and it felt like no time at all since the last book, five long years ago. (It probably helps that the action picked up just where the last one left off.)

But the Outlander saga is intense. Bad things happen to so many people that we have come to love, and it can be heart-wrenching to see the characters in pain or especially danger. This is a story that wraps around your heart.

As much as I was enthralled by every single page, I was also torn. There is so much trauma. I had to put the book aside for a day to let the events sink in before I could return and finish the story.

So I was stuck in the book in the middle, and then again at the end, not wanting to leave “my friends” behind. Book hangovers are marvelous (and frustrating)

I’m giving away a gift card to the winner’s choice of Amazon or B&N, so that the winner can help themselves to one or two more books that they can get “Stuck In”!

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For chances to win other prizes, visit the other stops on the Hop!



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Review: Must Love Fangs by Jessica Sims

Must Love Fangs by Jessica SimsFormat read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback, audiobook
Genre: paranormal romance
Series: Midnight Liaisons, #3
Length: 369 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books
Date Released: August 27, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

From the supernatural dating capital of the world, it’s the Midnight Liaisons Dating Game!

Let’s meet our eligible bachelors . . .

“Cold hands, warm heart” applies to Bachelor #1. He believes that nighttime is the right time. Welcome, Bert the vampire!

Bachelor #2 is an old soul—four hundred years old, to be exact. If you want someone to spend eternity with, choose Andre the vampire!

Dying to snuggle up with a strong, sexy were-cougar? Bachelor #3 is a real cat(ch) who will tail the woman of his dreams until his irresistible charm melts her heart. He’s Joshua Russell!

Who’s our lucky bachelorette?

Professional matchmaker Marie Bellavance has hooked up hundreds of were-things, harpies, faeries, and vamps. Now it’s her turn. This alluring human’s not afraid to break the rules. But when nature takes over, a forbidden romance could be her only chance to live a full, healthy life. If there’s a trick to getting turned, she needs to find it . . . fast.

My Review:

I picked this one up for pure fun. The whole concept of the supernatural dating agency was explored to marvelously snarky effect in Beauty Dates the Beast (reviewed here), and I keep following the series to see where it goes. The second book, Desperately Seeking Shapeshifter was still good, but didn’t quite match the sparkling banter of the first book. While there were story reasons why that happened, I missed the banter.

Midnight Liaisons is a dating agency for supernaturals. Since the shifters and the vamps haven’t come out of the coffin (or whatever) yet, everything about the agency is super secret. It was intended to be staffed by humans, but first the owner gets mated to a were-cougar, and her supposedly human sister turns out to secretly be a werewolf.

Marie-Pierre Bellavance may be human, but she’s a dying human, and no one knows about it. Marie suffers from Fatal Familial Insomnia, which really does exist, no matter how crazy it sounds. The short version is that the sufferer is incapable of sleeping, which eventually leads to panic attacks, hallucinations, dementia and death in just a couple of years. It’s also hereditary, but usually doesn’t strike until middle age, so Marie’s mother didn’t find out that she was a carrier until she herself was struck down, well into Marie’s teens.

Marie’s extreme anxiety seems to be bringing it on early, but Marie has a plan. She works at Midnight Liaisons, and it finally dawns on her that neither vampires nor shifters get diseases. All she has to do is convince one of the supes to turn her, and she’ll be cured.

Unfortunately, there’s a big scandal in the shifter community because some young idiot broke secrecy and turned his girlfriend against her will. Then he fell out of love with her, and she threatened to go to the newspapers. (As I said, he was a young idiot)

Marie starts secretly looking for a vampire. This is a problem. Vampires are secretive and dangerous, and Marie can’t afford to be picky. Even more troubling, Marie’s nemesis, the serial dater Josh Russell, keeps showing up at the agency and trying to get her to go out with him. Or treat him as anything other than an annoying brother. Or simply notice him in a positive way (other than checking out his gorgeous ass).

Josh is clearly panting after Marie for more than just possibly sex. No matter how much the two of them snark at each other, there’s real caring under the surface. So much real caring that when Marie finally confesses the reasons for her vampire pursuit, Josh helps her anyway. Even though the only thing he wants to do with Marie is take her for his mate.

And even though successfully turning her could result in a one-way exile to Greenland–for both of them. Josh has his work cut out for him to convince Marie to trust him; before she dies or is beyond his reach.

Escape Rating B-: This story felt like it had a slow middle. It starts out strong, with the sharp-tongued banter between Josh and Marie, but after Marie’s illness is revealed, it wallows in her increasing symptoms and incredibly desperate attempts to find someone to turn her a bit too long.

It isn’t obvious at the beginning that Josh really has a heart of gold under his playboy exterior. He dates tons of women, but only once. When he starts showing Marie that his playfulness hides a major white knight complex. the reader still ends up wondering about the hordes he’s run through on his way to true love. (I’d seriously doubt him too)

After Josh introduces Marie to just some of the people that he helps, most of them older women who enjoy his bad-boy charm, it’s still not 100% certain whether Josh is falling for her or just feels the need to save her, too. Some vamps are extremely shady characters, even (or especially) with each other. Marie definitely needs saving, or at least a bodyguard once she sets herself out as vampire bait.

In the last quarter of the book, when Josh has to rescue Marie from the inevitable vampire trap she falls into, the action moves fast and furious. Not just because they finally manage to admit that they love each other, but because Marie finally breaks the rules she should have all along, and then they have to deal with the messy fallout.

I see big changes for the shifter community on the horizon. I hope we have more fun along the way.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Review: Beyond Coincidence by Jacquie Underdown + Giveaway

beyond coincidence by jacquie underdownFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: paranormal romance
Length: 239 pages
Publisher: Escape Publishing
Date Released: September 1, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

In 2008, 250 Australian and British soldiers are uncovered in a mass grave in Fromelles, France, lost since the Great War. One soldier, bearing wounds of war so deep it scarred his soul, cannot be laid to rest just yet.

When Lucy bumps into the achingly sad soldier during a trip to France, she doesn’t, at first glance, realise what he is – a ghost who desperately needs her help. Lucy can’t turn away from someone who needs her, even someone non-corporeal, and they travel back together to Australia in search of answers and, hopefully, some peace.

This chance meeting and unexplainable relationship sets into motion a chain-reaction of delicate coincidences that affect the intertwined lives of family, friends, and lovers in unexpected, beautiful ways.

My Review:

Beyond Coincidence is a romance that requires that the reader throw their willing suspension of disbelief out the window, but the history behind the love story is based on actual events.

Let’s just say that the author has taken an extremely romantic perspective on a project that is both sad and moving, and uses the romance to personalize something important.

Fromelles6_460x306pxThe genesis of everything lies in the Battle of Fromelles, which took place in France in World War I. Fromelles wasn’t merely a disaster for the Allies, it was also one of the most costly battles in history for the Australian Army. Over 5,500 men were killed in 24 hours of fighting.

In 2008, a mass grave was found near Fromelles, containing the unidentified bodies of 250 of those Australian losses. In the intervening years, a project has been mounted to identify those remains and create closure for the families.

Beyond Coincidence is a romanticized, in some ways paranormally romanticized, story about the identification of the remains of one particular soldier.

Lucy sees the ghost of a man, in a WWI Australian Army uniform, visiting the gravesite in Fromelles. At first, she thinks he’s a reenactor. When he keeps turning up, she decides he’s a stalker. It’s only when he materializes in her car that she finally starts accepting that he’s a ghost.

Freddy Ormon is one of the unidentified soldiers from the battle. He convinces Lucy that he won’t be able to rest until his grave is properly marked and his remains are identified. He has no idea how this is supposed to happen, just that it has to happen and that there is a greater plan that has chosen Lucy as the one to bring it about.

So Lucy sets out on a quest to find Freddy’s possible descendants. He knows that his wife was pregnant when he left Australia, so it is possible that there is a great-grandson or granddaughter back home. Lucy just has to find him, or her.

Lucy heads back home, and hunts down Nate Ormon, Freddy’s great-grandson. Both Lucy and Nate are at career and romantic loose-ends, so when Freddy serves as unintentional matchmaker, they click. Nate even looks like Freddy, which is not a hardship for Lucy. She’s quite fond of her “friendly ghost”.

In spite of some ham-fisted interference from Lucy’s suddenly violent ex, Nate and Lucy discover that they have a lot in common beyond Nate’s interfering ancestor. But they have some deep-seated fears that almost drive them apart.

The story ends with the promise of one of the sweetest but most surprising second-chances at love that I’ve read in quite a while.

Escape Rating B: Although this is Lucy and Nate’s love story, Freddy feels like the most memorable character in the book. He is so confused by what has happened to him, and so frustrated at his inability to act for himself.

His grief over the death of his wife is fresh and new. She lived decades without him, but he’s just now confronted with both her death and that of the child he never got to see. The world is so different from what he knew.

At the same time, his interactions with Lucy are quite funny. Not because he doesn’t know the 21st century, but the way he adapts surprises and dellights her. You can see them becoming friends, no matter how unusual that friendship might be.

There’s a sense that Freddy is Lucy’s guardian angel in some way. He looks out for her, and he’s also pushing her life into a different but better track than she would have found on her own. Lucy and Nate do not “meet cute” and without a push, she probably would never have seen him again.

Freddy, or someone above him, are also manipulating events for their own ends. “This has all happened before and it will all happen again” as they say. And the set up between Lucy and Nate does feel contrived. As much as I liked Freddy as a character, I had to swallow my logic in order to enjoy the story.

But I certainly did enjoy it quite a bit. It’s sweet and romantic, and i loved the history angle.

~~~~~~TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

Jacquie is kindly giving a $30 gift card for Amazon! To enter, use the Rafflecopter below.

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TLC

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Review: Truth or Dare by Mira Lyn Kelly

truth or dare by mira lyn kellyFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: Dare to Love, #1
Length: 265 pages
Publisher: Loveswept
Date Released: September 16, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

After her one attempt at commitment ends in the worst kind of betrayal, Maggie Lawson vows that the only people she’ll love ’til death do they part will be her friends. Unfortunately that means Maggie letting her bestie rope her into a year-long dating dare: score a new date each month or pay a penalty. Seems doable—until Maggie’s date stands her up, leaving only one option: the sexy stud who just moved in upstairs. The problem? He and Maggie can’t stop fighting—and that’s just the beginning.

His name is Tyler Wells and the last thing he needs is his neighbor distracting him with her girl-next-door smile and sharp tongue. Tyler’s in Chicago for one reason: to woo back his selfish ex in order to reclaim the child he once thought was his—and that means keeping Maggie out of his bed. A tall order, since Maggie has become a bigger temptation than he ever expected to face. But before they can even consider leaving the past behind, Maggie and Tyler must accept a brand-new dare: real, forever love.

Truth or Dare is a frenemies into lovers story that somewhat stretches the willing suspension of disbelief about why these two people try so hard to stay at the frenemies stage.

Maggie Lawson has given up on any commitment deeper than friendship, not that she isn’t deeply committed to her best friends. The reason that this 20-something has not just sworn off relationships, but refuses to even date? Her wedding was interrupted by her groom-to-be’s pregnant wife and children! And she never had a clue that he was in another relationship, let alone that she was the other woman!

The scandal of being branded a homewrecker all over her Florida town sent Maggie scurrying off to Chicago to create a new life with her besties, and without even thinking about searching for love. Ever.

Tyler Daniels moves from New York to Chicago, and into Maggie’s building, because he’s being noble and self-sacrificing and “being there” for his ex-girlfriend, no matter how lonely “there” happens to be.

It’s not because he loves her. He doesn’t. But he does love the little boy that she let him think was his; and then took away when her baby daddy dropped back into her life again. She wants Tyler’s secure finances, and the emotional security he represents, but she can’t seem to resist her bad-boy rocker ex whenever he comes around.

So Tyler is swearing off relationships in the hope that when his ex comes to her selfish senses, she’ll see him for the security he represents, and he’ll get back into the kid’s life. If he has to take her to get the child he loves, he believes it’s a fair trade–but he can’t let himself get involved with another woman, because his ex will take the child away forever. She’s allowed to have a life, but she has to come first in his, whether they are together or not.

So Tyler comes to Chicago, meets Maggie, and acts like a complete jerk. Admittedly, his life is pretty jerky at the time. But Maggie takes his jerkiness and does him one better, she snarks off at him every chance she gets–every time they meet in the hallway, every time they run into each other in the laundry, every single time.

But the way that they exchange one-liners and one upmanship hides the truth, that what they really want is each other. As her friends become his friends, and he becomes part of her inner circle, they find each other more and more difficult to resist. Until it’s too late.

The question is, what exactly is it too late for?

Escape Rating B-: I had a lot of mixed feelings about this story. On the one hand, I enjoyed Maggie’s relationship with her friends a lot. Not just because they are in a Chicago lakefront area that I even recognized, but because it’s so rare to see a mixed-gender bunch of friends that so clearly really love each other and have fun together, among adults, that doesn’t devolve into a whole bunch of messy soap opera relationships within the group.

The only UST (unresolved sexual tension) in this flock is between Maggie and Tyler, and it is, after all, the point of the story.

While I understood Maggie’s desire to swear off romantic relationships on a temporary basis, as a permanent thing I found it a bit much. Or it might be that the triggering event was over the top. Certainly the reasons for Maggie’s public shaming were soap opera worthy. And Tyler’s equally self-sacrificing reasons were also soap opera worthy. Together they equalled too much past my willing suspension of disbelief. Your mileage may vary.

Although I found their reasons for avoiding relationships to be too much, the romantic and sexual tension between them was off-the-pages hot. It was so obvious (in a good way) that these two belonged together, that every time they resisted the pull just fueled the incredibly hot fire. I wanted them to finally figure it out. The push-pull between them was tormenting (again, in a very good way)

So, I felt for the characters, enjoyed them together and with her/their friends, and couldn’t quite get over their unbelievable backstories.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Review: Palmetto Moon by Kim Boykin

palmetto moon by kim boykinFormat read: paperback provided by the author
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: women’s fiction
Series: Lowcountry
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Date Released: August 5, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

June, 1947. Charleston is poised to celebrate the biggest wedding in high-society history, the joining of two of the oldest families in the city. Except the bride is nowhere to be found…

Unlike the rest of the debs she grew up with, Vada Hadley doesn’t see marrying Justin McLeod as a blessing—she sees it as a life sentence. So when she finds herself one day away from a wedding she doesn’t want, she’s left with no choice but to run away from the future her parents have so carefully planned for her.

In Round O, South Carolina, Vada finds independence in the unexpected friendships she forms at the boarding house where she stays, and a quiet yet fulfilling courtship with the local diner owner, Frank Darling. For the first time in her life, she finally feels like she’s where she’s meant to be. But when her dear friend Darby hunts her down, needing help, Vada will have to confront the life she gave up—and decide where her heart truly belongs.

My Review:

Palmetto Moon is a sweet, gentle and slow-building story about a young woman who seizes her life with her own two hands, no matter what it will cost her.

Vada Hadley’s transformation from obedient society child takes both courage and time; she is a child of extreme privilege in 1947. A young Southern woman in the years after World War II, a time when women in general were supposed to give up their jobs and independence and return to subservience to the men in their lives.

Vada has returned from college at Radcliffe College (Harvard’s college for women) with the idea that she should have some say in her own life. When her wealthy parents arrange her marriage to a young man in their class who philanders now, and plans to go right on doing it after their marriage, Vada rebels.

She doesn’t love Justin, and isn’t willing to be the kind of obedient wife and social ornament that her mother has been. She wants more. It takes her almost all the time she has, until the night before her misbegotten wedding, to pluck up her courage and run.

There’s a teaching position waiting for her in the small town of Round O, if she can just get there. The parents of her heart, her parents’ servants Rosa Lee and Desmond, risk their own jobs to help her get away.

In the little town of Round O, she hides who she is. Vada just plain hides from her previous life and hopes that no one will find her or betray the secret that she refuses to tell. It’s difficult to put ourselves in her shoes; the status of women has changed a lot since those post-war years. It’s not just that her father will track her down and force her to marry Justin, but that he has the legal right to threaten Rosa Lee and Desmond with the loss of their jobs and the threat that he will make sure his friends never employ them either. As a black couple, they have no practical recourse, especially in the South.

So Vada hides, and her father sends agents out to find her. Meanwhile, Vada makes a life of her own, a life that she finds precious and an independence that is rewarding. She makes friends, and finally falls in love.

But her would-be lover doesn’t know her truth, and makes serious mistakes in trying to do the best for her, whether it is a best that she wants or not. Frank Darling loves Vada so much that he has a difficult time letting Vada make her own mistakes. And in his attempt to fix things, he unintentionally takes away some of her agency.

All the secrets come out in one nasty confrontation, when Vada’s father and her erstwhile fiance roll into Round O to show off their wealth and privilege, and to expose Frank’s good-intentioned attempts to manipulate Vada.
Not that they are not manipulating her as well, but as they both say, they’ve never lied about it.

Vada is faced with a horrible choice; to return to her life of privilege out of spite and fear, or to take up the life that she has made for herself in Round O, with Frank.

Escape Rating B: Palmetto Moon is a slowly unwinding story. It takes place in the sweltering heat of a Lowcountry summer, and meanders into Vada and Frank’s life just like the sticky heat that surrounds Round O.

Although Vada (and Frank) do find true love, the story feels like it is about Vada’s search for independence and self-determination. At first, she is running away, from her parents, from society’s expectations, and also from herself.

While there are practical reasons for Vada’s desire to keep her background secret, her embracing of that secrecy feels like another version of running away. She is over 21, and while it would be difficult for her to separate completely from her parents, she can if she is willing to pay the price in loss of money, status and privilege.

Vada’s life is more “real” in Round O, but it is also based on a lie of omission. It isn’t until all the secrets come out that she has a chance at determining her own destiny.

The example of the awful choices that face her new friend Claire serve to point out just what she is giving up. Claire is a very young war widow with three small children, and her life choices consist of living in a boarding house and taking in mending; marrying one of the old bachelor boarders who has a pension but is an asshole; or finding a job as a menial with three children in tow. All her choices initially suck. That she gets lucky in the end doesn’t take away the initial suckage.

The way that Vada takes her life into her own hands was the perfect ending to the story. Although Frank wants to rescue her from the consequences of her own (and his) bad choices, he simply doesn’t need to. Vada rescues herself; as she should.

Palmetto Moon banner

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Review: Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott

liar temptress soldier spy by karen abbottFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, audiobook
Genre: history
Length: 533 pages
Publisher: Harper
Date Released: September 2, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Karen Abbott illuminates one of the most fascinating yet little known aspects of the Civil War: the stories of four courageous women—a socialite, a farmgirl, an abolitionist, and a widow—who were spies.

After shooting a Union soldier in her front hall with a pocket pistol, Belle Boyd became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her charms to seduce men on both sides. Emma Edmonds cut off her hair and assumed the identity of a man to enlist as a Union private, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The beautiful widow, Rose O’Neale Greenhow, engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians to gather intelligence for the Confederacy, and used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring, right under the noses of suspicious rebel detectives.

Using a wealth of primary source material and interviews with the spies’ descendants, Abbott seamlessly weaves the adventures of these four heroines throughout the tumultuous years of the war. With a cast of real-life characters including Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, General Stonewall Jackson, detective Allan Pinkerton, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, and Emperor Napoleon III, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy draws you into the war as these daring women lived it.

My Review:

“Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor” is the first line of a nursery rhyme that continues with “Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief.

Ironically, both the corruption of the rhyme, “Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy” and “Rich man, poor man” have been turned into novels. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy being the well-known Cold War espionage thriller by John le Carré.

At the time of the U.S. Civil War, women weren’t supposed to be any of those things. But of course, women have often taken up occupations and professions that they were supposedly incapable or unqualified for.

So goes this historical account of four women who were not merely active, but in some cases famous (or infamous) for being spies, which necessitated them also being liars, temptresses and/or soldiers in order to fulfill their clandestine duties.

In this story, we see the Civil War through their eyes, and their documented records, instead of the usual historical accounts written by men. Two of these women operated for the Union, and two for the Confederacy. Everybody spied.

spymistress by jennifer chiaveriniElizabeth Van Lew was a Richmond abolitionist, but also a rich woman from a prominent family. She remained at her family home in Richmond throughout the War, spying assiduously for the Union. She often sent her dispatches north with escaped Union soldiers who she had helped free from the Richmond POW prisons. While her wartime services was recently fictionalized in The Spymistress (reviewed here) it is even more harrowing in this non-fictional version.

Rose_O'Neal_Greenhow-altThe picture of the war is also made much fuller by the account of Van Lew’s Confederate counterpart, Rose Greenhow. Greenhow was an ardent secessionist, but her family home was in Washington D.C. When the Union split, Rose saw her opportunity to use her knowledge of the insiders in Washington government to seduce and suborn as many high-ranking officials as possible, sending her dispatches south in the hands of young women and slaves. Her information was credited with helping the Confederacy win the first battle at Bull Run.
220px-Belle_BoydBelle Boyd is possibly the most infamous spy in the Civil War, to the point where Cherie Priest co-opted her identity for use in her Boneshaker series. But the real life Boyd was even more sensational than the fictional one. Boyd starts as a willful and completely uncooperative (and very young) woman in Martinsburg, Virginia. An ardent secessionist, she openly flirted and courted every Union officer who came within her orbit. Belle didn’t merely send dispatches, she also ran them herself. Martinsburg became part of the new state of West Virginia during the war, but she continued to spy on the Union.

220px-Sarah_Edmonds_lg_sepiaLast, but not least, Sarah Emma Edmonds services from 1861 until 1863 as Frank Thompson. Not, as the romantic literature often has it, because she was following a sweetheart, but simply as a way to escape her overbearing father. Because of her slight stature and small frame, she was frequently asked to spy on nearby Confederate regiments while dressed as a woman. It was a double disguise; a woman, pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman. It worked.

Their four stories interweave to form a fascinating narrative of the war. Emma tells the soldier’s story as she served at both battles of Bull Run, Antietam, Vicksburg and the Peninsula Campaign, some of the bloodiest battles of the war. Greenhow covers politics in Washington, and the Confederate campaign in Europe to achieve recognition. Both Boyd and Greenhow were imprisoned multiple times for treason to the Union, but their gender and their powerful friends protected them from execution.

Van Lew completes the picture; her insider’s guide to running a spy ring, and life in the Confederacy as the outlook changed from hope to despair.

In addition to their service, they all share surprisingly similar fates. The war turns out to have been each of their shining moments; their pinnacle of achievement. Greenhow did not survive, but the others all fell from places of high recognition to obscure deaths. Post-war life was not kind to any of them, whether they traded on their notoriety or tried to slip back into “normal” life.

220px-ElizabethVanLewReality Rating B+: I preferred this account of Van Lew’s life to the fictional one; while the outline was the same, this one felt like it contained less melodrama. In fiction, she came across as slightly wooden, but in a more factual account her achievements shone through.

Although there is a popular image of female spies as femme fatales (i.e. Mata Hari) by showing four different women spies, we see the myriad possibilities that women had for espionage at a time when women’s roles were so prescribed. Boyd and Greenhow both acted the seductress; in fact, Boyd was referred to as the “Secesh Cleopatra” for her exploits. But Edmonds pretended to be a man, and was a successful soldier to the point that she was able to get her comrades in arms to testify sufficiently in her defense that she was awarded a military pension. Van Lew relied on her intelligence, and occasionally on family influence or downright smuggling, to get the information she needed. She acted the part of a Southern lady when required, but the emphasis would be on the “lady” part of that description.

Except for Greenhow, who died near the end of the war, the others all descended into obscurity. Both Boyd and Van Lew were considered crazy, to the point where Boyd ended in an asylum and Van Lew retreated into her house and her stories and seldom emerged.

While the use of the four women as points-of-view covered much of the action of the war on both the political and military fronts, it did occasionally jar as the perspective switched from one to another. Although the author’s technique of extrapolating what these women thought and felt made their narratives flow more smoothly, it did make me wonder whether the book veered a bit into fiction at those points. But it did make each of them come alive for the reader.

TLC

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 9-14-14

Sunday Post

The word for today is sleepy. I couldn’t sleep last night, and it seems that I can do nothing but sleep this afternoon. Which probably means that I’ll be up half the night again, reading a (hopefully) good book.

Current Giveaways:

Harbor Island by Carla Neggers

Winner Announcements:

The winner of No Limits by Lori Foster is Olivia B.

smoke gets in your eyes by caitlin doughtyBlog Recap:

B+ Review: Harbor Island by Carla Neggers + Giveaway
B+ Review: Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh
B- Review: Ménage with the Muse by Nico Rosso
A- Review: No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald
A Review: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty
Stacking the Shelves (104)

 

 

 

Coming Next Week:

StuckinaGoodBookLiar Temptress Soldier Spy by Karen Abbott (review)
Palmetto Moon by Kim Boykin (review)
Truth or Dare by Mira Lyn Kelly (review)
Beyond Coincidence by Jacquie Underdown (review + giveaway)
Must Love Fangs by Jessica Sims (review)
Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop

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