As part of the TLC Book Tour, I am giving away one copy of The Spymistress to one lucky Daily Mayo reader! Check out the bottom of the post for giveaway details.
Book: The Spymistress
Author: Jennifer Chiaverini
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Free from publisher, part of the TLC tour
Readability rating: 4 stars
Morality rating: PG
Target audience: Women interested in female influences from the past
Buy the book: Amazon
The Spymistress Book Summary
Elizabeth Van Lew was born to a slave-holding family in Virginia before the Civil War. But rather than determine to fight for her state, she chose to fight for the Union side. She became a spy and created the Richmond Underground and a massive spy ring to help the Union while under the guise of Confederate support. These accounts are true, but Jennifer mixes entertaining and life-like fiction within the threads of history to create a fictional Elizabeth that is more life-like and real than she has ever been since her death in 1900.
About Jennifer (from her website)
Jennifer Chiaverini is the New York Times bestselling author of several acclaimed historical novels and the beloved Elm Creek Quilts series, as well as six collections of quilt patterns inspired by her books. Her original quilt designs have been featured in Country Woman, Quiltmaker, Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks Volumes 3-5, and Quilt, and her short stories have appeared inQuiltmaker and Quilters Newsletter. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, she lives with her husband and two sons in Madison, Wisconsin. About her historical fiction, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes, “In addition to simply being fascinating stories, these novels go a long way in capturing the texture of life for women, rich and poor, black and white, in those perilous years.”
The Spymistress is a fictional account of a real person from history based heavily in fact. For this reason, it reminded me of the similarly-placed Killer Angels series, but much better done. Although some of the beauty and scene-setting that I admired in Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker were lacking, this is a solid historical novel that remains true to history while providing entertainment for the present.
Plot: Although The Spymistress is all about intrigue and spy work that James Bond would envy, the book has a surprisingly easy-going feel. I was expecting more high stakes suspense, but nothing felt quite as dramatic as I thought a book about spies would fell. But in all likelihood, it is a much more accurate portrayal of what real spy work looks and feels like.
Characters: Many of the people from history filling roles in Elizabeth’s life were eliminated from the story simply to make them easier to keep track of. This can only be expected, as someone in a book usually has 10 or fewer interactions with others. It is too hard to keep track of a book that has as many characters as real life. I loved that the characters fit their period well; one of my pet-peeves with historical novels is when they have modern opinions on life and society.
Setting: I felt that Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker had a fuller, richer setting, but it could be because clothing played a big role in the descriptions in that book. Obviously the setting of the Civil War comes through clearly in the Spymistress, but the setting didn’t quite draw me in as much.
Writing: Jennifer Chiaverini is an amazing writer, and it shows throughout her stories. She writes in this book more similarly to the way in which many historical romance novels are written (if you subtract the absurd), which I didn’t notice as much in Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker. I think it might be a larger amount of adverbs? At any rate, this book feels a little less formal than Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker.
I loved almost everything about The Spymistress. Any issues I had with it are only minor quirks at best, and nothing distracts from the true intention of the book- to celebrate an awesome woman from the past who made a difference. And Jennifer Chiaverini definitely success in bringing a person back to life who would otherwise be lost to the sands of time.
Who should read this book: Anyone who likes historical novels and learning about real characters from the past in an entertaining way.
Buy the book.
One lucky reader of Daily Mayo can win a copy of The Spymistress. The contest is open from today until June 15, 2014 at 12 AM Central. I will pick the winner randomly (see the widget below for how to enter) and s/he will have 2 days to respond before I pick a new winner! Open to US residents only.
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