The first thing that caught my eye about this book was its absolutely stunning cover, and it’s even more beautiful in person! I couldn’t take my eyes off of it and easily found room on my schedule to read it.
I also thought the time period and setting would be appealing as I am a Civil War historian, I couldn’t wait to crack it open and discover the story of two sisters on opposite sides of the Mason Dixon line!
The two sisters were none other than Mary Todd Lincoln, future first lady, and Emily Todd Helm. Right away I was curious to see how this one unfolded. There are often stories about brother versus brother in the Civil War but not many stories about sister versus sister, especially such a well known sister in history!
he story of Mary Todd Lincoln and Emily Todd Helm, two sisters on separate sides of history, fighting for the country they believe in against the people they love most
When the Civil War cracks the country in two, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln watches from the White House as the blows of a divided nation shake her people and her husband, President Lincoln, to their very core. As the news of wartime enter the Oval Office, Mary waits with bated breath, both for the hopes of a Northern victory as well as in distress of a bloody Southern defeat.
Mary, like many people during this time, have a family that is torn between North and South. her beloved sister Emily is across party lines, fighting for the Confederates, and Mary is at risk of losing both the country she loves and the family she has had to abandon in the tides of this brutal war (Summary from Goodreads).
What I think surprised me most about this one was how much I liked Emily. I was fully prepared to like Mary the best as she is the most well known and often most adored of the first ladies. But for me, I thought that Emily was much more relatable and I simply just liked her more. The biggest thing I thought this novel lacked was a true in-depth development of each characters. The story alternates between Mary and Emily and of the two, Emily was more developed in my opinion, which is why I think I liked her better, but I though that both characters could have done with a little more digging deeper into their characters.
That said, I did think this novel was interesting and had so much potential. I enjoyed the idea of two sisters being on the opposite sides of the battlefield as it were and I thought that even though they could have done with more development, I did like seeing how their relationship evolved over the course of the novel and thought it would intrigue readers—especially book clubs as there is sure to be a lot of interesting discussion to be had over the two sisters and their choices and how their relationships evolved throughout the war.
History buffs and historical fiction fans will enjoy a book like this. There are lots of historical bits about the war and for someone like me, I found it enjoyable and fun—a little on the long side—-but lots of facts added to its authenticity. I ended up giving this one 3.5 stars because I loved the history and the concept behind this book! If you love Civil War you will most assuredly enjoy this book!
Book Info and Rating
“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 Sparrow
About the Author
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.
Blog Tour Schedule
Tuesday, October 1
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books
Friday, October 4
Review at Donna’s Book Blog
Saturday, October 5
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Tuesday, October 8
Review at The Lit Bitch
Wednesday, October 9
Review at Just One More Chapter
Thursday, October 10
Review at Unabridged Chick
Saturday, October 12
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Tuesday, October 15
Review at Passages to the Past
During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a paperback copy of The First Lady and the Rebel! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on October 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
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– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.
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