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Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy
Cover of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy
Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy
Four Women Undercover in the Civil War
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Karen Abbott, the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and "pioneer of sizzle history" (USA Today), tells the spellbinding true story of four women who risked everything to...
Karen Abbott, the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and "pioneer of sizzle history" (USA Today), tells the spellbinding true story of four women who risked everything to...
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  • Karen Abbott, the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and "pioneer of sizzle history" (USA Today), tells the spellbinding true story of four women who risked everything to become spies during the Civil War.

    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.

About the Author-

  • Karen Abbott is the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City, American Rose, and, most recently, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy. She has written for the New York Times Book Review, Wall Street Journal, Smithsonian magazine, Salon, and other publications.

Reviews-

  • AudioFile Magazine Being involved in the Civil War proved to be a mental burden for two of the four women profiled in this history. One spent time in an asylum, and another was known postwar as "Crazy Bette." Karen White's gentle voice creates a contrast between the traditional roles expected of women and the actualities of these women's lives. The stories, such as a spy being taunted while in a prison cell and the daily anxiety of a Northern informer in Richmond, read almost like fiction or drama. White's voice becomes coquettish or tough, depending on the story. Although this work concentrates on four specific women and their heroic parts in the war, the account offers glimpses into the lives of women in general on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line. J.A.S. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from May 26, 2014
    In this gripping book, Abbott (Sin in the Second City) tells the moving and fascinating story of four women who played unconventional roles during the Civil War: Belle Boyd, a boisterous flirt and Confederate spy; Rose Greenhow, a seductive widow also spying for the South; Emma Edmondson, who disguised herself as a man and enlisted in the Union army; and Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy spinster in the Confederate capital with Unionist loyalties. Meticulously researched and fluidly written, this book draws the reader in and doesn’t let go until the four heroines draw their final breaths. Abbott provides an alternate view of this tumultuous time in history by featuring previously untold stories of the impact women and civilians had on the war effort, and she brings these individuals fully to life, with their passion for their causes (Elizabeth for abolitionism, Rose for the Confederacy), personal flaws (Rose was racist and self-involved, Belle was impulsive and vain), and heartbreak (Emma by two different men, Belle for an opposing spy). For example, in an era when men had trouble even picturing women in pants, Emma Edmondson enlisted as a man in the Union army and saw action in her roles as both spy and nurse. In the end, Abbott tells a remarkable story of passion, strength, and resilience.

  • Library Journal

    February 1, 2014

    Belle Boyd, courier and spy for the Confederate army. Emma Edmonds, who cut her hair and enlisted as a man in the Union Army. Beautiful widow Rose O'Neale Greenhow, whose affairs with Northern politicians helped her gather intelligence for the Confederacy. Wealthy Richmond abolitionist Elizabeth Van Lew, who ran a spy ring that outfoxed rebel detectives. All were women spies whose little-known stories are being disclosed by Abbott, New York Times best-selling author of Sin in the Second City. With a 50,000-copy first printing and big book club outreach.

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal

    September 15, 2014

    In this riveting work, Abbott (Sin in the Second City) tells the story of the Civil War through the eyes of four women who dared to risk everything to serve as spies for their respective causes. Unlike biographical works such as Larry G. Eggleston's Women in the Civil War that devote a chapter to each subject, these women's tales move from one account to the next throughout the years. The result is a highly entertaining narrative with the pace and tone of a novel, albeit one told from the singular viewpoint of women who had an unusual amount of access to both Union and Confederate military and political leaders. Of particular interest are references to Mary Bowser, whose placement inside Jefferson Davis's household by her employer Elizabeth Van Lew is a missed opportunity for a broader perspective on undercover activities. Extensive research drawn from analysis of personal papers, newspapers, and official records provides authentic dialog, and the author takes great care in noting discrepancies or questionable claims. VERDICT This fresh perspective on what is perhaps a familiar story will cause readers to ponder the fine line between traitors and patriots. [See Prepub Alert, 1/10/14.]--Barbara Ferrara, Chesterfield Cty. P.L., VA

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    June 15, 2014
    Four Civil War subversives-who happened to be women-garner a lively treatment.Having previously written on Gypsy Rose Lee (American Rose) and the Everleigh brothel in turn-of-the-century Chicago (Sin in the Second City), Abbott finds some sympathetic, fiery characters in these four women who managed to aid their causes, either North or South, in their own particular ways. Belle Boyd, a 17-year-old farmer's daughter from Martinsburg, Virginia, which had voted three to one against secession, declared her loyalty to the Southern cause by shooting a Yankee soldier who dared to touch her mother, and thereby took advantage of the confusion and movement of troops to slip through the lines and pass secrets; she was in and out of jail during the course of the war. Emma Edmonds, having left the family farm in 1859 to reinvent herself as a man selling Bibles door to door, offered herself to the Union cause two years later, serving mostly in a medical capacity. According to Abbott, Edmonds was one of 400 women, Northern and Southern, who posed as men. Rose Greenhow, a comely widow and grieving mother of some means in Washington, D.C., fashioned herself as a spy for the Southern cause, learning code, passing messages wound in her servants' hair and inviting all kinds of late-night gentlemen callers; Greenhow would eventually go abroad to drum up sympathy for the Confederacy in England and France, turning her charms on Napoleon III and others. A wealthy Richmond spinster, Elizabeth Van Lew had deep Yankee roots in her family and was unique in that she cultivated intricate subterfuge right under her Southern neighbors' noses-e.g., passing Confederate troops movements to Gen. Benjamin Butler. Abbott proceeds chronologically, navigating the historical record through quotes and personal detail.Remarkable, brave lives rendered in a fluidly readable, even romantic history lesson.

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    August 1, 2014
    Abbott (Sin in the Second City, 2007; American Rose, 2010) is attuned to women's social history. In her latest slice of female Americana, she tackles the Civil War. Not all females stayed put and kept the home fires burning as the U.S. disintegrated. Four extraordinary women, by dint of a combination of creativity, cunning, and chutzpah, bravely defied nineteenth-century gender norms and expectations, doing all they could do to support their chosen sides. Spitfire Emma Edwards disguised herself as a man and joined the Union Army. Belle Boyd became a teenage courier and a Confederate spy. Rose Greenhow, a Washington, D.C.based seductress, aided the rebel cause by using her feminine wiles to wrest secrets from unsuspecting males. Wealthy abolitionist Elizabeth Van Lew orchestrated an intricate network of Union spies. This inspiring collective biography reads like a novel while shedding some much-needed light on fascinating chapters in both Civil War and women's history.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2014, American Library Association.)

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