BY SUSAN HIGGINBOTHAM
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
eBook & Paperback; 400 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
From the celebrated author Susan Higginbotham comes the incredible story of Lincoln’s First Lady
A Union’s First Lady
As the Civil War cracks the country in two, Mary Lincoln stands beside her husband praying for a swift Northern victory. But as the body count rises, Mary can’t help but fear each bloody gain. Because her beloved sister Emily is across party lines, fighting for the South, and Mary is at risk of losing both her country and her family in the tides of a brutal war.
A Confederate Rebel’s Wife
Emily Todd Helm has married the love of her life. But when her husband’s southern ties pull them into a war neither want to join, she must make a choice. Abandon the family she has built in the South or fight against the sister she has always loved best.
With a country’s legacy at stake, how will two sisters shape history?
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“Historical fiction at it best: A unique, intimate view of a character we thought we knew. The Civil War comes to life through two sisters on opposite sides, one the first lady of the not-so United States. And through it all, a fascinating family saga. I learned a lot and loved this book.” – Karen Harper, New York Times bestselling author of American Duchess
“Susan Higginbotham’s The First Lady and the Rebel is a meticulously researched and powerfully written account of the complicated and compelling relationship between the Todd sisters. Higginbotham’s two female protagonists are bonded by blood and love, but pulled apart by war. Set against the sweeping backdrop of our nation’s Civil War, this is the tragic and true story of human hearts both fierce and fallible, of deeply mixed loyalties, and of the imperfect but inspiring individuals who were asked to do the unimaginable. Moving and enlightening.” – Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Accidental Empress
“Susan Higginbotham has done it again-crafted a richly detailed novel that immerses readers in America’s Civil War. The First Lady and the Rebel explores the tragic story of a family and a nation torn apart, while shedding light on rarely reported events in the personal life of Abraham Lincoln. Mary Todd Lincoln, the President’s wife, and her sister, Emily Todd Helm, are devoted to their husbands and to each other, yet find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict as they face overwhelming grief and loss. The novel presents a devastating time and place rendered so vividly you’ll feel as if you’d lived through the war yourself. Higginbotham’s painstaking and extensive research is evident from the engaging first chapter to the novel’s moving conclusion. For those who like their historical novels based on real people, this book is a must-read.” – Amy Belding Brown, author of Flight of the Sparro
Mary Todd Lincoln and Emily Todd Helm are two strong willed sisters who happened to marry two men of equal conviction. Abraham Lincoln is elected to the presidency just as his nation begins to split. Mary is in support of his views for the nation, but finds that many of her family members are not. Emily encourages her husband, Benjamin to travel to Washington upon Lincoln's election and ask for a post within the government. Ben finds that he respects Lincoln deeply, but does not share his views and returns to his family. As war breaks out, Ben takes a post in the Confederate Army as Mary hopes for a speedy end to the conflict. While the North and South are divided the sisters can't directly communicate and feel the loss of the other in their lives as each woman champions for their own victory.
With astounding historical accuracy, the plight of the Todd family during the Civil War is brought to life. I always love when history is told from the woman's point of view and Emily and Mary have equally interesting stories. The point of view switches between Mary and Emily and begins with their courtships. I did find it harder to get into the story this early, but it did give some insight into their relationship. The pacing and interest picked up as the war began and the women were feeling the effects of having family on each side. While there was a lot of insight in the writing as to the impacts of the war and some of the decisions that Lincoln and Helm made, I really wanted to feel the emotional connection to each of the women and their direct impacts on the War through their husbands, I felt more of just a description of what happened around them. Overall, the strength of Mary and Emily shines through as well as their dedication to family in all forms.
This book was received in return for an honest review.
Susan Higginbotham is the author of seven historical novels, including Hanging Mary, The Stolen Crown, and The Queen of Last Hopes. The Traitor’s Wife, her first novel, was the winner of ForeWord Magazine’s 2005 Silver Award for historical fiction and was a Gold Medalist, Historical/Military Fiction, 2008 Independent Publisher Book wards. She writes her own historical fiction blog, History Refreshed. Higginbotham has worked as an editor and an attorney, and lives in Maryland with her family.
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